The first time I heard about homeschooling, I was spouseless, childless, and clueless about everything that I am now presumed to be an expert on. Fast forward the entire Matrix trilogy, 2 installments of Guardians of the Galaxy, all of the Harry Potter films, and this is where I now find myself - “A family of 8 and homeschooling?! You are amazing and your kids are great.” Other moms often confide in me that they don't think they could do it. The brave ones ask for advice on how to get started and the curious ones ask what my typical day looks like. The one thing they all have in common is the false idea that I am a perfect wife, mother, and teacher and that my children are excellent in just about every way (grades, talents, behavior, manners, etc.) The truth is, I am an excellent wife, teacher, and mother SOMETIMES. We all have our great days. Other times, my epic parenting fails, wifely misses, and teaching stumbles are embarrassing and I chalk them up as growth and learning opportunities (I’ll share them with you at a later date).
My kids are not perfect. Their mom is not perfect. My schedule is not even close to being perfect. And yet, as a homeschooling mom, I feel that if I open my mouth and confess that it’s crazy hard sometimes and I don’t know if I’m doing it right, I will let people down. Did I just let you down by saying that?
So here I am, dropping the veil on myself and my fellow homeschool hotties, on the quiet realities we homeschool moms often suffer alone. The list was supposed to be longer but my schedule’s kinda wonky as my kids recover from the flu so here goes...
7 UGLY TRUTHS ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING THAT HOMESCHOOLING MOMS NEVER TALK ABOUT
1. You secretly regret your decision to homeschool. Year one of homeschooling is the honeymoon phase and you feel like you’re changing the world, one precious heart at a time. You are totally in love with spending time with your child/children and enjoying the freedoms and independence of being your own ‘school’, choosing curriculum, projects, co-ops, activities, etc. - the world is your oyster. Everything is new, beautiful and exciting and the sky is the limit! Then year 3 hits and you have to make greater efforts to stave off stale routines and repeat visits to local spots lose their appeal. Maybe you have a new little one or two and they haven’t gotten the memo to respect the delicate science experiments and to not pull all the alphabetized books off the shelves during power reading hour. You don’t remember the last time you had a minute to yourself and self-care is a forgotten concept to you. You feel like you’ve lost your homeschool mojo and in your weaker moments, the grass starts looking greener at your local public school playground. I have had hard days and been overwhelmed and in those moments, I doubted myself and my choices. But by the end of each day, I remember why I do what I do and that the advantages and benefits far outweigh the most challenging times.
2. You are alienated from family members or friends. Beware. Extended family members and friends who have little to no experience with homeschooling can sometimes be the biggest opponents throughout your homeschooling journey. They warn against it because they fear your kids will never make friends or they’ll turn out weird. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know my views on both of those issues. Homeschool kids can indeed enjoy close friendships, just as some public school kids can be surrounded by thousands of other children and yet feel totally and utterly alone.
3. Homeschooling is hurting your marriage. Homeschooling and managing a household is a huge undertaking and the un-ending responsibilities can easily hurt your connection with your spouse, if you let it. The to-do lists grow ever longer and the ever-increasing new opportunities out there for homeschoolers: enrichment activities, college courses, co-ops, field trips, etc. can keep you and the kids so busy that you can actually schedule yourselves out of the home and away from your spouse every single day of the week, including weekends. Making clear boundaries, syncing calendars, and prioritizing each other can go a long way in keeping the marriage happy and romantic rather than a chore gathering dust at the bottom of your to-do list.
4. You find homeschooling personally unsatisfying. I have intensely busy days, every day. But sometimes they are unfulfilling and I miss the glamor and excitement of working an exec job, on Madison Avenue, wearing expensive dry clean clothes, and interacting with smart and eclectic New York clients. My awesome kids range in age from 18 months to 15 years old. In a day, I may cover making lap-folders, finger painting, skip-counting, phonics, math drills, flashcards, on-line science, U.S. history, physics, Japanese, nursery rhymes, literature, and grammar. Then the homemaker in me is texting the husband, shopping, doing dishes, preparing meals, cleaning, folding laundry, making appointments, fixing something, and checking up on my own mom to see how she’s doing. Then later in the evening, the mommy nurse in me is making the nearly empty Neosporin tube cry uncle as I squeeze out the dregs (in my attempt to avoid a Target run at 10 PM) to cover another boo-boo, running baths, reading stories, breaking up fights, soothing hurts, designating chores, etc. Raising a family and homeschooling are not glamorous but the time spent with the kids in those early years is priceless and the personal passions that they discover and the strides that they make towards EVERYTHING is a wonder to see and a privelege to be a part of.
5. You feel like you’re losing yourself. When I threw myself into homeschooling, I found myself giving up all of my hobbies, not pursuing other personal goals, barely seeing my girlfriends, and even neglecting to take care of myself. It was all about the kids and homeschooling for a long time. I was exhausted, depressed and angry with myself and I wasn’t sure why. It was because I had lost myself in my quest to homeschool. I mistakenly thought I had to stop being 'me' and start being a 'proper' homeschooling mom. But I discovered that just being myself and homeschooling along the way is the best way to build a good life for myself and for my family. Don’t try to be the enviably perfect homeschool mom. Be the uniquely awesome you and make homeschooling one of the fantastic things you do, not the only thing you do. It’s a much healthier and happier approach.
6. Okay, this is what’s up - I know this post is titled 7 Ugly Truths but I could only come up with 5 because honestly, homeschooling is a pretty sweet gig and we homeschool mamas aren’t all that dark!
7. What’s one ugly truth about homeschooling that I missed? Fill in here: __________________________________
P.S. In case you’re wondering how a homeschool mom of 6 finds the time to blog - Right now, I am sitting at my messy kitchen table, feverishly typing out this post. My kids are loudly playing a game of dodgeball (yes, you read that correctly, "dodgeball") with the baby gleefully refereeing. And of course, this is all happening in my living room…
1. Homeschool moms don’t wear pants. Michelle Duggar, the most famous homeschool mom in America, has definitely influenced the way people view fashion styles of the homeschool mom. She adheres to a strict, modest dress code and that’s ok, but that is the exception, not the norm. Most of the homeschool hottie moms that I know rock pants, and even shorts. I have seen homeschool moms rock rainbow hair, tattoos, piercings, GunsNRoses tees, distressed jeans, and gasp, even makeup. On the other hand, like Michelle Duggar, some of our homeschool sisters rock long denim skirts and that fresh face glow. We are a diverse bunch of women and we proudly rock personal styles that range from conservative to “Rebel Yell” and everything in-between. That’s the beauty of homeschoolers - “you do you, babe.”
2. Homeschool moms are weird and so are their kids. I sure hope so! Who wants to be “normal” and “ordinary” and by whose standards are we measuring ourselves and one another, anyway? Often I think “normal” and “ordinary” can be substituted with “boring” and “common”. We want our kids to be “okay” and fit in and be accepted, appreciated and validated. There is nothing wrong with that except this - we should never compromise the core of who we are and what makes us joyful. And we should never give up or hide our passions for things that may be off the beaten path just so that others would be more comfortable and accepting of the blander version of ourselves.
3. Homeschool moms are super organized. Here’s a phenomena that I can’t quite explain but definitely experience whenever I meet a new mom. Upon learning that I am a homeschooling mom of 6, she’ll instantly assume that I possess epic skills in organization and just about everything else in the motherhood realm. And yes, sometimes I feel like Logistics Central - a 5’4” human hub where people gather around to get a quick snack and find out what’s what in the upcoming week. Our insane family calendar does not look pretty - it is not adorned with neatly bordered Target washi tape, seasonal stickers or flowery momligraphy. My family’s calendar is sticky, smells vaguely of peanut butter and pickles and the deeper in we are in a month, the more it resembles a war zone of multi-colored frantic cross-outs, potholes, illegible scrawl, and mysterious codes and hieroglyphics.
There are excellent days where everything is going great and my kids are those stereotypical homeschool kids and I am that mythically perfect homeschool mom racking up serious bonus points for punctuality, neatness, excellence, and achievement while also awesomely dropping a pound or two along the way (holla!). But the truth is, just like every other mom in the trenches, I also have my days of mild panic and chaos, wondering how my toothbrush could've disappeared between bedtime the night before and 5 am the next morning, and trying to solve the mystery of why there is a pair of black dress socks in the freezer. I navigate my world of large family living and homeschooling one day at a time and do my best to not be at my worst when it really counts (which is always... no pressure.)
4. Homeschool moms are either tiger moms or unschooling hippies. Yes and yes. And some of us are both at the same time, depending on which of our children we are talking about. I have six children and each child likes to learn a little differently. One of my children loves workbooks and will probably marry one someday. Another of my children hates workbooks and will probably burn all of his someday. They are both smart, curious, and love to learn new things but they do it in very different ways and both styles are 100% ok and legit. Another of my children likes to push himself hard and wishes I had pushed him harder at a younger age. I birthed 6 babies and they all entered the world in a similar way but once they were out, they wasted no time letting me know they were unique people and teaching them and watching them learn on their own has been and continues to be a great adventure.
5. Homeschool moms never lose their cool. I really wish this were true. There’s a saying, “If you don’t yell at your kids, you’re not spending enough time with them.” I don’t support yelling but honestly, sometimes a good yell starts out as a tiny kernel at the back of my throat and when my attitude turns a little salty under pressure, it POPS! I would love to proclaim that I have the patience of Job and the demeanor of Kanga (Roo’s ever gracious mama) but alas that’s not the case. Typically, I have the urgency and impatience of a New Yorker (which I am) and most days, my house is bustling like Grand Central. Let’s just say that sometimes I have to turn up the volume just to be heard over the healthy din of 8 active bodies each doing their own thing.
6. Homeschool moms have lots of kids. Okay, some of us do indeed have a gaggle of kids and our tribe is strong in number. What can I say, we have lots of sex. Oh no I didn't... Oh yes I did.
7. Homeschool moms knit. All of them. All of the time. Okay, this myth definitely has some “truthiness” to it. Have you ever been in a waiting room and there’s a woman just chilling with a knitting project while her well-behaved children quietly occupy themselves with workbooks, iPads, or toys? Homeschoolers. How about a knitting mom perched on a folding chair in the hallway of a conservatory, with little ones in tow, while her prodigy (more on prodigies, later) has a music lesson? Homeschoolers. Knitting is so prevalent in the homeschool mom tribe that if you come across a non-knitter in our community, it’s like spotting a live unicorn in the middle of co-op.
8. Homeschool moms are all raising child prodigies. This myth is a common one that I hear often. The truth is, homeschooling affords families a more flexible schedule, allowing kids to pursue passions and interests at their own pace with fewer distractions. Sometimes that pace is accelerated by how very passionate they are about something that has piqued their interest and curiosity. Oftentimes creative and athletic pursuits such as music, art, writing, sports and drama hook a homeschool child’s interest and some of those kids successfully make a whole life and career out of it right from the get-go. That’s where the legend of the homeschool prodigy generates. But many more homeschoolers are like any other students meaning that they fall somewhere on the learning spectrum from struggling learners and average students to excellent achievers.
9. Homeschool moms are sheltered and submissive. Hella no.
10. Homeschool moms are super conservative. Guilty. I am ultra conservative in all aspects of my life. For instance, I like my thigh high boots in classic black suede and shun the flashier colors. And I play my savage EDM playlists at vulgar and unrelenting concert stadium volumes, like a proper lady (Steve Aoki! Cake Me!).
11. Homeschool moms are either good teachers or totally incompetent. Here’s the hard truth about being a “teacher” to my own kids - I am not really their teacher. You now have some serious insider information regarding homeschool mom intel. The truth is, they are their own teacher. It’s like this: Their life is Mt. Everest. My children are the adventurous climbers. And you guessed it, I am their sherpa. Their glorious successes are theirs to bask in and also, their failures are their own to hopefully learn and grow from. I am their guide - they do their own climbing, learning, and training. I help them with the logistics of education (finance, travel, equipment, teachers, resources and precious open and free time to explore and think and, if needed, I help structure their schedules). They do the actual learning and come up with their own passions to pursue and get excited about.
12. Homeschool moms hate their local schools. Admittedly, some of us are very anti-institutionalized schooling in all of it’s forms. But there are many of us that do not vilify one form of education to uplift another. I am what I call a “hybrid schooling” mom. I have a child who recently entered public school and is prospering. My other children are homeschooling with me as well as through co-ops and other academic communities. As I’ve said before, I believe each child has unique needs and personalities and styles of learning and embracing what they need individually is the absolute best course of action when it comes to education.
13. Homeschool moms all birth their babies in the middle of a serene forest wearing nothing but a crown of wildflowers. Yup. This one is 100% true.
Now that we've got that all straightened out, should I do a Truths About Homeschool Moms Blog? Send me your truths in the comments section and let's make an epic blog list together! Thanks for stopping by themomzoo. Hope to see you again, sister!