by Stephanie Elms, Annandale
Originally published in the July-August 2015 VaHomeschoolers Voice
As homeschool parents, we have all struggled with that age-old question: “How in the heck do we get it all done?” After all, not only do we juggle the typical “life” stuff, which can be overwhelming by itself, but we have consciously chosen to add “take primary responsibility for our kids’ learning” to our already packed to-do list.
Speaking for myself, I winged it mostly. Some days I was better at it than others. Most times I felt like I was dropping the ball somewhere in my life. Over the years I have gotten more Zen about it (which is, if I am completely honest, more easily achieved once you have older kids.) Looking back, here are a few realizations that have helped me accept the messiness of our homeschool life over the years.
It is not a moral failing on my part or my kids’ part if they act like kids.
I made a conscious decision to do my best not to get angry at kids doing things that parents typically complain about … not wanting to clean, not caring about putting things back where they belong, getting distracted, not staying on task, not being “responsible,” you know the drill. These things will happen, because these are children (who by definition are immature) and because they are human. I realized that almost all families experience these behaviors from their kids (and I bet as children we exhibited them, too). Was it realistic to think that somehow my family was going to be the exception?
So I did my best to remember that my children were just kids being kids, not future deadbeats. Recognizing that theirs was completely normal behavior helped keep things in perspective and gave me more emotional space to find approaches that worked. Realizing that I was not solely responsible for my kids’ future work ethic helped take some of the pressure off.
There is no way to “do it all” every day. And admitting this fact is extremely freeing.
In addition to homeschooling, I volunteer for VaHomeschoolers (which ranges from a part-time to full-time job) and I am also divorced, so I don’t have another adult in the household to rely on. I have found it is nearly impossible to feel like I am giving everything my all every day. On the days that I am on top of my volunteer work, I feel guilty about the homeschooling that did not get done. On the days that I am on fire with our homeschooling and everything is clicking, the house winds up being a mess or dinner does not get made.
Things not getting done is just a fact of life. I try to look at the longer arc and realize that, on the whole, what needs to get done gets done. Yes, it looks a bit messy and chaotic at times, but if we are generally happy and the kids are alive and kicking, then we are good.
The messages that we get from society (and those uber moms/homeschoolers on Pinterest) is that we can do it all (after all, they seem to be doing so, right?) A friend once shared this quote with me: “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” I have found that perspective to be very helpful. That “perfect homeschooler” we idolize no doubt has her struggles, too, because she is also human. The more I can become okay with not doing it all each and every day, the easier my life becomes. Admitting that I am human and will sometimes drop the ball is remarkably freeing.
My to-do list is not my life.
Another thing I try to remember is that my relationship with my kids is more important than checking something off my to-do list. Sometimes slowing down is not possible and things just have to get done, but more often I do have the option to let myself off the hook, even if it means punting the “school work” or chores for a little while.
It is easy to start feeling like my days are made up of “checking things off a list” and there really is not much fun in that. Giving myself permission to add pleasurable things into my life without guilt, and not just as a “reward,” has improved our lives more than I had thought.
Looking back, there were many factors that went into my assessments of whether “enough” things were getting done. Shifting my expectations for the kids’ behavior relieved some self-induced pressure. Recognizing my own preconceptions helped me see things in a different light. Realizing that I was holding myself to an unrealistic standard allowed me to let things go.
Accepting that life will be messy, no matter how hard I try to make it otherwise, is not always easy. But when I can manage it, that acceptance makes a huge difference in how I experience my life. It seems that the more I trust that things will work out, the more they do.
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 2015 VaHomeschoolers Voice.
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