A few months into the pandemic, back in 2020, I finally made the decision to put our three oldest kids (9, 7, and 5) into the local elementary school.
What kind of mother am I, I thought, putting my kids in school when most parents are bringing them back home.
For years, I tried to make homeschooling work for us.
Every morning, I would rub the sleep from my eyes, shake my legs out on a long run, and start the day with what I thought was fresh energy and enthusiasm to be with my kids. I felt ready to teach them how to read, do basic math facts, and above all give them ample time to play and explore in nature.
I watched, through a screen, the lives of inspiring homeschool families on Instagram, reminding me both order and chaos were part of the deal. They made it look easy and not to mention beautiful with their fresh-baked muffin and colorful hands-on lessons. Surely I could do this too.
I collected curriculum, trying each one with high hopes it would unlock the secret to my homeschool dreams.
Then, I ditched curriculum for stretches of time and still felt like a floundering fish.
I used an assortment of teaching methods and philosophies but never found a satisfying flow.
Overall, I felt stifled, unmotivated, depressed, and anxious with the presence of my little chicks pecking around at my feet every day.
How can I not love being with my kids all the time? It seemed most mothers were begging to keep their children home with them as long as possible- crafting, cuddling, baking, and reading together, making memories to last a lifetime.
What’s wrong with me?
I was envious of the ease some mothers exuded around sending their kids to public school. While I found it difficult to let go of my idealistic, well-researched views of what childhood should be.
I wanted to give my kids more time to delve into art and creative projects, to tinker around with all their ideas and growing interests outside the rigors of a public school schedule, and to let them play outside all day long if they so desired.
Months before finally deciding to put them in school, I fought through my feelings of failure. I grieved having to put my children into a system designed to educate the artist out of them.
But didn’t I also need space to play and grow apart from my kids? Was it right to think about my needs as a human?
Shedding the homeschooling mom identity and enrolling them in public education for a time smelled like selfishness on my part. In fact, it still does.
Although I don’t know the specifics of what lies ahead for my children beyond the end of the school year, I am gripping tightly to a few valuable trinkets I’ve gathered along the way, perhaps there are one or two you need to take for yourself.
- I am not and don’t ever need to be “like most mothers”. We are all wired differently, and what makes one person come alive might be torture for another.
- There is nothing wrong with me. It is easy to feel like we are intrinsically flawed to the core, it is much more difficult to view ourselves as whole human beings who are simply in progress. Notice which one of these beliefs helps you take a deep breath.
- I am allowed to keep changing. It sounds basic, but what if we gave ourselves permission to frequently and unashamedly break our own self-imposed molds?
- My kids need a mother who has respects her dynamic design and unique needs. Contrary to making us more inwardly focused, we actually become people who are aware of others and make space for everyone to be themselves in the moment.
- Learning is a lifestyle more than it is a specific type of schooling. There are many paths to becoming a creative, curious, and critically thinking human being.