It’s All in How You Look at It

By Stephanie Elms, Annandale
Originally published in the July-August 2013 VaHomeschoolers Voice

IMG_0444-2012-12Last week, my youngest had trouble falling asleep and was up way later than usual. He slept in a bit the next morning and when he woke up, he came into my room to snuggle in bed with me for a little bit before going downstairs to start his day. While we lay comfortably talking about this and that, it hit me how stressful it would have been if I had to get him to school that morning and how grateful I was to instead enjoy some time together (and the fact that at 13 years old he still likes to hang out with me in the morning).

I took my shower and then started the process of getting my 16-year-old moving. He had also had a tough time falling asleep that night (was there something in the air?), on top of being a night owl by nature. Luckily we had a pretty low-key day planned—meeting up with our local homeschool group for a class at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum.

The truth is that homeschooling definitely comes with its own set of stresses (we are, after all, taking on full responsibility for our children’s education). So it can be very easy to get caught up in our day-to-day minutia and forget to appreciate the ways that homeschooling enriches our lives and, yes, even makes them less stressful.

If my kids were in school, I would need to get them up and ready for school every day regardless of what had gone on the day or night before. It is much harder to take “mental health days” when it comes to school. My child would need to be honestly sick and even then, I would have to debate whether he was “sick enough” to warrant “getting behind” if he missed a day.

If my kids were in school, I could not honor their natural daily rhythms. My early bird most likely would be okay (though doing his homework later in the evening might be tough), but my night owl would struggle trying to get his brain to focus too early in the morning.

If my kids were in school, I would have to try to cram all their extracurricular activities, plus homework time, plus dinner time, plus family time, into the few remaining “after school” and evening hours.

If my kids were in school, my educational goals would be “keeping them up” and not letting them fall behind. Or conversely, I would have to worry about how to keep a bored kid interested in school if he got “ahead.”

If my kids were in school, I would have to take vacations at the same time as everyone else because they can’t miss school in fear (again) of the whole “getting behind” thing.

If my kids were in school, I would not have any control over how they were being taught. They would have to use the curriculum that the school chooses and move at the pace of the class, even if there might be a different approach or timetable that would work better for them.

If my kids were in school, they would not have as much time to explore their interests for a variety of reasons (it is not covered in the curriculum, or we need to cover what is on the test, or we don’t cover that subject until a different grade, or we don’t have the time…) or conversely, they would have to do and study things that are completely irrelevant to them at the time because it is in the curriculum.

If my kids were in school, I would have to worry about advocating for special accommodations if they needed them. Instead of simply doing what works, I would need to convince a panel of teachers/administrators that their needs were real.

If my kids were in school, I would need to work very hard to combat the impression that education is all about competition and performance. I would need to counter the prevailing societal messages that education is all about SOL scores and getting good grades (without which you cannot get into a “good” college), which of course means that with each test and grade your entire future is at stake.

So yes, homeschooling does have its stressors. But parents with kids in school have their own stressors, even if they don’t fully recognize them because, since everyone else is subject to them, they seem normal. Homeschooling at least puts you in control of figuring out how you want to handle those issues that arise.

When I start feeling overwhelmed by this crazy lifestyle we have chosen (which does happen more than I would prefer), I try to remember the simple pleasures homeschooling affords us—those lazy, sleep-in mornings when I am reminded, as a friend of mine likes to say, that there are no educational emergencies and life is good.

About the Author

Stephanie Elms is constantly trying to find that elusive state of balance in her life while enjoying her two energetic yet vastly different boys. You can read about their ongoing exploits on her blog, Throwing Marshmallows. Stephanie also volunteers as a member of the VaHomeschoolers Board of Directors.

Originally published in the July-August 2013 VaHomeschoolers Voice.

VaHomeschoolers Voice Publication Information

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