I was reading another home schooler’s blog post the other day (we’ll call this blogger ‘B’). The main thrust of her blog entry was that we, as home schoolers, should take our position seriously, like a full-time job. The blog post rubbed me the wrong way. Early in her post, she quoted a home school mom who was asking for advice (we’ll call this flustered mom ‘FM’). FM sounded like an overwhelmed and poorly organized mom who just needed some tips and advice, and B was certainly not sympathetic or helpful. In fact, B seems to be pointing to this FM as an example of someone who shouldnt home school at all.
Of course, the real reason I didn’t like the blog post is because of my tendency to apply all criticism to myself.
Now, I have never been officially diagnosed with anything. After my son was diagnosed with adhd, autism and bipolar, I learned more about these conditions, and came to see that I have several traits of those as well. I can have a very hard time staying focussed, and I’m very forgetful. I am easily overwhelmed by too much incoming stimulation – noise, light, information – and when I feel overwhelmed, I withdraw in to myself to try to calm down. I also have widely variable moods – for example, I’ve had to come to accept that there are some weeks where I can’t wait to have the time to clean up these floors, and other weeks where my head is spinning and I can barely see the floors. My food allergies can exacerbate all of these issues, as well.
So home schooling can be very challenging for me. On weeks when nothing out of the ordinary happens, it goes pretty well. I understand what my boys want and need. I create weekly and daily schedules that we mostly follow, and by the end of the day I usually feel exhausted but accomplished.
But any little thing has the potential to totally throw me off. If we have one appointment to go to, or someone gets sick, I don’t feel like I can fit in a field trip that week. If we have three appointments in a week, or 2 people get sick, I feel like throwing up my hands and giving up. When my 17 yo daughter, who I am not home schooling, becomes acutely depressed again, after bad reactions to three different meds, and keeps vacillating between being angry, sad and scared, and needs me in unexpected ways . .. i have no idea what to do. Some weeks, all I can do is what I ABSOLUTELY must do . . . which for me is feed my family (multiple food allergies), make sure they have clean clothes to wear . . and get everyone to their appointments.
So does this look like I’m taking home schooling seriously like a full-time job? Actually . . . by my standards, it kinda does. When my son was being diagnosed and getting approved for services at school, I was working full-time. There were many days I came in to work unable to focus on my job at all. I rarely managed to work more than 30 hours a week, because of the doctor appointments and school meetings and picking him up on really bad days. And I frequently came home so stressed out that I screamed at anyone who came near me as I frantically tried to get dinner on the table before bedtime.
Is it better to be home schooling even if I dont have the time and the strength of character to make every day as predictable and enriching as a great private school? YES! My kids HATED school. My gifted son was in special ed classes and bored to tears. My 6 yo was learning to hate himself. Here, they are at least safe from the kids and teachers who are unsympathetic to mental illness and asynchronous development. When we DO focus on education, they are able to go at a pace they are comfortable with, instead of being bored or falling behind. And who wouldn’t rather have a mom who sometimes says ‘Ok, school’s over 2 hours early, its free time’, instead of a mom who regularly turns in to a screaming meanie!
I have to remind myself once again that there are no educational emergencies. My almost-14-yo special needs son already writes and does math as well as many community college freshman, although I plan to continue to teach him at home for now. And he’s working happily through a high school AP biology text-book. If we miss a week here and there . . . ok. So maybe he wont start at community college until he’s 17, and if there were no crises in our lives he could start at 16. Or maybe not . . . there’s no predicting the future.
Every day I have to do the best I can for my kids with the resources I have. And if the resources I have require 24 hours of recharging after every little crisis . . . ok. I have to trust myself and my own rhythms, and trust that I will do my best, because I love my children and want the best for them. And if my best isn’t as good as someone else’s best? Well that’s ok. After all, maybe my kids best isn’t as good as their kids best .. in some areas, at least. Thats ok too! It’s not a race . . . its life.