Renewed Joy in Homeschooling
I’ve found my way back to this blog, because I feel that I have more to say than an Instagram post can conveniently hold. If you follow me there, or know me in person, you likely know that we took five months off from homeschooling this year, from January through May. My 7- and 10-year-old boys attended the school around the corner from us—public school, for the first time in their lives.
The reasons were many, but in short: I was intensely overwhelmed. In the months before and after Ezra’s birth, I struggled a lot with the symptoms of Hashimoto’s and hormone imbalance, with some pretty intense anxiety and bouts of depression. That season stirred up a lot of undealt-with past trauma, which on some days rendered me fairly absent mentally from my present life. I was living in survival mode. And after our Christmas break, I began to essentially freak out at the idea of having to start homeschooling again. I had no idea how I’d manage that, as I felt like I was barely holding on with just the basics each day.
One day I just knew that something desperately needed to shift. The idea of sending them to school seemed out of the question, but I somehow couldn’t get it out of my mind. The more I thought and prayed about it, seeking advice from a few wise women who know me well, the more I knew that I had to do it. It was an excruciating choice to make, because I believe so wholeheartedly in the benefits of homeschooling for our family, but I knew that a season of change was what we needed. I didn’t know how long it would be, but in my mind I committed to finishing out the school year this way, and then evaluating from there.
My boys adjusted well to school—they made friends and adapted to the routines and academics there. We had frequent conversations about their experiences and feelings. The general consensus throughout the semester was that they liked it, but would still prefer to be homeschooled. I struggled with guilt frequently as I saw so many of the things I’d always wanted to avoid: mean kids, exposure to negative influences, enormous focus on standardized testing, excessive use of screen-based learning, and teachers who don’t have time to actually get to know individual children and their needs. It was an exercise in letting go and trusting that my kids would be okay despite it all. But it also showed me all the things I loved about homeschooling them. I missed them a lot each day, and the limited hours we had left together made it so hard to connect the way we were used to or incorporate many of the things we value. It felt like we’d separated our family, after being so used to living as a team, and after a while I felt deeply confident that the goal of this season was to become healthy enough to bring them back home.
My days were still full of caring for a baby and toddler, as well as spending quality time with the boys after school hours, but in the space that was created by the absence of teaching I tried to focus on getting better. I met with my EMDR therapist each week, and read and listened to quite a lot of material on healing and trauma. I spent long, focused time in prayer and study of the Bible, knowing that more than anything else I needed to draw near to God and allow him to mend all the broken places in my heart and mind.
Gradually, I found lightness again. I found peace and joy. Through the amazing science of the brain, through caring for my health with rest and nutrition, through learning so many new techniques and mindsets, through immersion in the living Word of God and surrendering to the work of his Spirit within me… I am doing so much better than I have in years. Probably ever in my life.
It isn’t that there is never any hint of anxiety, or that I never have a rough day. I still get a lot of headaches and motherhood can still feel overwhelming at times, and I deal with the emotions of hormone fluctuations throughout the month (still working on establishing better balance there). Sometimes I even experience hours or days of that depression again, and it can scare me until I remember that not it passes quickly—it won’t linger and drag me into a pit the way it used to. The gratitude I feel for all of this simply can’t be expressed.
The boys have been back at home for two months now. By the time their last day of 1st and 4th grade arrived, I knew I definitely wanted to homeschool again for the coming school year. I was ready to jump right in, with a clearer sense of why and how to do it. We started with a couple weeks of pure summer fun and plenty of time outside. In school, they had about 15-20 minutes outdoors a day during the 6 hours they spent there, and that pretty much broke my heart. So it was important to me to get them back out into the sunlight and nature!
Then we gradually added more reading time, and some math primarily in the form of games (we’re using Addition Facts that Stick and Multiplication Facts that Stick right now, to solidify these basics in their minds before moving back into the study of other concepts. I highly recommend this series!). We’ve been going to both the public library and our amazing local Living Learning Library on a regular basis, and stocking up on books that go with the things we’re studying in TruthQuest History and Eaden’s Gentle Classical Preschool program, along with any other interests they feel like exploring. Seth is doing a lot of writing, and just started this online creative writing course. Isaac is progressing well in his reading, and we’re currently working our way through some Dr. Seuss books to improve his fluency.
Our pace is steady and our plans are flexible (because there is still a baby in the house), and we’re enjoying all of it more than we ever have in the past. I really feel like we’ve found our love for homeschooling again. It’s important to note how much of that was dependent on my wellbeing. We mamas can all too often put our needs on the back burner, feeling like we’re being loving and selfless in doing so. We tell ourselves that we’ll be alright and can attend to those things when the kids are older. But our families suffer if we’re not well. It is possible, and critically necessary, to be healthy and joyful and balanced while raising and teaching our precious kids. And if that requires a step back, a change, a reevaluation of everything, therapy, or anything else, it is worth it.
I’m living proof.