Dusting off the blog to delve in to new territory, thanks to COVID-19. If you are new to my corner of the interweb and only found this post for homeschooling advice, consider yourself warned and to proceed with caution when perusing other posts. Female reproductive conversations tend to dominate this blog.
But, aside from teaching fertility awareness, I homeschool. And many who have stumbled upon this post have also found yourself as temporary homeschoolers— only with a lot less say in the whole matter.
Many of us homeschool moms spent months, if not years, picking the brains of senior homeschoolers. We read the books, listened to the podcasts, attended the conventions. As much as we could, we planned and prepared.
For you, this may be an unwelcome consequence of a pandemic. And you’ll make the best of it, because that what mothers do, but you have no idea what to expect.
I know there are parents out there excited to have more forced family time. You may have spent this weekend thinking of projects and tasks you’ve wanted to accomplish but could never find the time. There are countless resources being shared to suggest schedules, activities, virtual resources, and advice. You’ve probably already found them, but let me know if you need a few suggestions.
And then there are others who are struggling with how you’ll survive weeks with your kids. Don’t get me wrong, you love your children. But you have no idea how to be around them and don’t particularly like spending multiple days in a row with them.
How can I say that? Because I’ve been that mom.
When we embarked on our homeschool journey, I was always looking for an escape from my children and my home. I was just holding on until the next babysitter was scheduled to give me a break for a few hours. Or until my husband was home and would take over child-supervision duty.
I survived my children by focusing on one escape and then the next. But when you homeschool, the escapes are less. So it’s not a feasible way to live.
I had to create a life with my children from which I didn’t (constantly) want to escape. They had behaviors we needed to address. I had behaviors we needed to address. Our house needed an element of order to allow us all to thrive. And little by little, my world became one that I (overall) enjoyed.
My birthday was a few days ago. Earlier that week, we traveled to IL for my husband’s grandfather’s funeral. Post travel days are hard on kids. And this one happened to fall on “my day.” In previous years, I would have felt like I needed all of the time away from my kids for it to be a good day. I never understood the mothers who wanted to spend all day with their small children. Frankly, I’d rather do work validated by adults, partake in adult conversations, and have 2 hours at the end of the day to love on and adore my children. That was (is?) my idea of a fulfilling day. But that’s not the life we’ve chosen at this point in our parenting journey.
On this year’s birthday, the slow change in my attitude (thanks to homeschooling) became obvious.
I wasn‘t desperate for a break from my kids because we have built in breaks throughout our day. Every morning, the boys wake up, get a granola bar, and watch an episode of Wild Kratts while I have a cup of coffee, morning prayer, and look over the plan for our day. I don’t thrive on a rushed morning, so we try to limit early morning appointments.
I’ve learned what works for me, as a mom and primary educator of my children, and what doesn’t.
I enjoy reading a few interesting books with them. Overall, I’m a homeschooling mom who doesn’t love reading aloud. Yep, we exist. My oldest can read independently. We talk about his books, listen to audiobooks together, and do some read aloud by me. The younger two require more reading on my part— but again, we utilize audiobooks and electronic reader books they can follow along with. We don’t spend every afternoon reading for hours on the couch together. That doesn’t work for me.
We connect in other ways. Board games, cooking together, and walks outside. I make a point to smile at them throughout the day when they walk in to a room— just to convey that I enjoy their presence. A hug, a touch on the shoulder, anything to say “I see you. And I’m glad you’re here.” When you’re with them all day, you get to sneak in these moments. They may feel forced, at first, but when you see them smile back— and the joy in their little heart radiates at knowing their mom delights in them— it’s a moment that trumps any planned activity, schedule, or mastered task. If you have one focus during these weeks of time together, let it be relationship. We are a distracted, busy society. If you can focus these weeks on relationships, it will be time well spent. Truly, this was the entire focus our first year of homeschooling, because it was needed for that long.
That said— I need a tidy home. My mind is anxious enough. I don’t need my environment contributing. It makes me an impatient wife and mother when I am living in physical chaos.
They have a few daily chores to help our day run smoothly (emptying the dishwasher is one).
I’ve had to adjust expectations, change layouts of certain rooms, and determine priority tasks each day. One room can be messy at a time (preferably one with a door that I can shut, like their play room). The state of our home is allowed to be a priority because it’s important to me.
Take breaks. Throughout the day and potentially at the end of the day. I mostly enjoy our days. We still have bad ones. (Remember the trip I mentioned last week? The same week as daylight savings?) On more than one occasion, I’ve taken 20 minutes to go for a drive once my husband was home. Sometimes blaring gangster rap. Sometimes in utter silence. In the beginning of our homeschool journey, I took these end-of-the-day breaks at least once each week. If not twice. And out of pure desperation. Now, they pop up about once a month. It takes time.
Put down your phone. I zone out on my phone when I’m overwhelmed. Then I’m more irritated when my child interrupts the VERY IMPORTANT article I’m reading about nostalgic 90s memorabilia. Set screen time limits and stick to them. The days I feel like we had no time to do anything productive are often the days when I waste the most time with cellular distraction.
If you are unsure about these weeks at home (or straight up dreading it), that’s ok. I hope it turns into a time that allows you to see what changes need to be made to love your home, your kids, and your life as their mom. It took me about a year and a half— so don’t expect miracles in 2-8 weeks. But as much as you can, lean in. Correct the behavior that drives you crazy (they’ll be way more enjoyable to be around once that is mostly dealt with), own up to your own behavior that hurts your relationships (ahem, smart phones), and make your home a place where you feel at peace. Then this inconvenient crisis can bring more joy to your family than you could imagine. And you may find yourself less irritated or fearful when next year’s snow day or summer vacation arrives.
You’ve got this. Be gentle with yourself and your kids. You were thrown in to this, and it will take some adjusting. Focus on relationships. (Schoolwork takes way less time at home— don’t stress about that. It’ll get done.)
Most importantly, stock up on coffee. And nice chocolate for a mid-afternoon mommy tea time. Justin’s peanut butter cups are always my fave.