Slow and Steady

Time plays tricks on us. There are days that I feel the swift passing of time. I turned fifty recently, yet I hardly feel fifty. Well, maybe my aches and pains tell me I’m fifty, but all the memories from my life are stacked up neatly in my brain as if they happened yesterday. Something might trigger a forgotten memory, and it will come alive as if I just lived it.

My boys grow taller. They both have deeper voices now. Weren’t they just chubby cheeked and needing more hugs? Weren’t they just knee-deep in projects that created chaos on our activity room floor?

I am being swept away in this river of time, and I can never get to the shore.

On the other hand, when I think about homeschooling, I notice how this is a slow life. We tend to want to speed it up. We want our children to learn how to read so that we can tick that off our list of anxieties:

“Can I teach my kid how to read? I think I can, but I won’t know until they start reading. Lesson time, kids!” But maybe our child isn’t ready to read, so we reign in our impatience and go at their pace. Slow and steady.

“When will I get around to teaching a foreign language? I have so many other subjects I need to teach.”

“Why are they having trouble with math? They weren’t having trouble last week. Is it the curriculum? Is it me?”

There is so much about this life that we won’t be sure about until it’s all over. Tests don’t tell us everything we’d like to know. This can be hard. For most of my homeschooling-parenting life, I have had a good dose of confidence with a heaping spoonful of insecurity — perhaps just enough to keep me on my toes.

For anyone venturing onto this path of home education, I would say that if you’re reading this, you’re probably reading other materials on homeschooling too. You’re probably doing a lot of research about your options and any particular issues that you are dealing with. If you’re doing that, then I have confidence that you’re a good parent, and you’ll be just fine. You may have bad days. You may have years that aren’t the greatest. But this a slow road.

You build an education for a child bit by bit, according to what he/she/they can handle. You won’t notice the progress until one day something jumps out at you. Your child might say something very kind, they may do something generous, and you’ll be awash with relief — you fostered a nice person! Another day, your child may be presented with a challenge that you have no control over, and — bam — they handle it beautifully. Or you may get those standardized test results and — whoa!– your child scored in the 95th percentile! You weren’t expecting that, but now you’re a happy homeschooling mom.

You’re never expecting it, but time will take care of all your worries. If you feel you need to try something else, trust me, you have time. Kids unfold like flowers, one or two petals at a time, and you’ll know what you need to do when you need to do it. Enjoy being home with your kids. Enjoy the slowness of this path. Enjoy the uncertainty too because tomorrow that one will be gone and there may be a bigger uncertainty looming.

Nothing stays the same, and while it doesn’t always feel like it, this river of time is swift. I’m going to drift along and see where it takes me.

Is time going too fast or too slow for you today? Please answer in the comments section. And if you need any help with homeschooling, I hope you’ll check out my store. Thanks!

I Ain’t Perfect: Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom

I’ve been blogging for several years now.  I started when my eldest son was one-year-old, and the first “Mama of Letters” blog had nothing to do with homeschooling.  Back then I had more time for reading other blogs too.  I think “mommy blogging” is one of the reasons daytime soap operas have plummeted, don’t you?

While I don’t want to be placed in the same boat as a stay-at-home mom who watches soap operas all day, I don’t mind being considered a “mommy blogger.”  Whatever negative connotations it may carry, I think stay-at-home-moms are finding ways to be creative, make a little money and rear their children in a loving, stimulating environment.  I think moms have always done this, but the Internet has given us an outlet to share it.

Unfortunately, sharing on the Internet comes with limits.  Just like when we meet new people for the first time, we put our best face forward.  On the Internet, we do that all the time, and in fact, we need to in order to protect our privacy.

I find that when I read blogs too much, I start to second-guess myself.  Other moms seem to have it all together.  Their houses are beautiful, and they’re cooking healthy meals every night.  If they homeschool, they’re doing so many cool things that I can’t imagine keeping up!

However, having kept a blog for so long, I’ve realized that 1) in the right light, even messy houses can look pretty, and 2) when you write down what you’re doing, it sounds like a lot more than what it might feel like in reality! (This is why I advocate keeping a homeschool portfolio.)

For these reasons, I wanted to write a post and let everyone know I ain’t perfect.  Don’t ever read my blog and think, “How does she do all that?”  “Maybe I should do that too.”  Or any other second-guessing.  Every parent needs to find what works for her family and child. 

You also should remember that family dynamics play a big part in what will work for you.  Personalities and priorities are different.  We can’t always choose to do exactly what we want.  We have our spouse’s desires to consider, and our children have unique needs and desires too.  To be part of a family is to compromise.

So I’m writing this post in hopes that it might help someone.  Perhaps you’re more organized or your priorities differ from mine.  That’s okay.  We’re all different, but we have one thing in common: none of us can do it all.

So here’s just a few things that I do and don’t do.  As you read my blog, you can keep these things in mind:

  1. I love to organize and mostly on paper.  As a writer, my best creative mind works with words and on paper.  Organizing my thoughts on homeschool is easy and fun, but organizing my kitchen isn’t.
  2. I’m still on a 10-year mission to declutter my house.  My house is cluttered.  If I had plenty of time, I would be able to sort through and organize it because I’m a fairly organized person, but it’s not a huge priority of mine.  So things like this take 10+ years to achieve.  I whack away at it a little at a time.
  3. My house isn’t super clean, but it’s livable.  I have two boys, a husband, two dogs, a (white) cat, and a fish tank.  (My husband cleans the fish tank every week, thankfully.)  We also have a big yard with lots of dirt.  Put these things together, and you might figure out that within one day of mopping my floors, I am once again walking on gritty floors.  That’s just life here.
  4. We don’t have a lot of closet space.  See #2.
  5. I don’t cook.  Okay, seriously, I do cook a little.  I cook a decent, homemade meal about once every week or two, and I try to eat leftovers for a while.  Other times I prepare a lot of salads, and we eat a lot of fruit, and I make ample use of frozen food, especially the healthier brands.  We also use pre-made meals from the grocery store or my favorite place, Trader Joe’s.  My husband fends for himself often.  He has allergies, I’m a vegetarian, and my kids are ultra picky, so we usually eat different meals.  Therefore, you will never see any cooking recipes on my blog or get advice on how to feed children from me.  I partly blame my kid’s picky eating on my lame cooking.  I’m trying to get better at this, and my five-year-old loves to cook with me, so that’s very motivating for me.
  6. My husband and I are both introverts, and we’re both writers.  I get my energy from sitting quietly at my computer, writing, reading, taking walks in nature and creating images.  I would rather do this than keep my calendar full of social calls or whipping up masterpieces in the kitchen.  Some people can’t stand this.  That’s okay.
  7. Sometimes I yell.  Thankfully I don’t do this often, but there have been plenty of times when I’ve gotten exhausted and broke down at the slightest mishap.  Or maybe I don’t yell, but I’m just grumpy all day.  Most of the time I love being with my kids, but I wouldn’t be human if it was easy all the time.  I’m not supermom, but frankly I don’t think that kids need perfect parents.
  8. Once in a while, I want to quit.  I want to quit writing my column, my blog and all my other personal projects.  I wonder if I’m getting ahead of myself in regards to homeschooling. Luckily these feelings don’t happen often, but if I get too busy, unorganized, or don’t take time for myself, it happens.
  9. While I don’t want to quit being a mom, sometimes I wish I could take a two-week vacation from it.
  10. I let my kids watch a good amount of T.V.  And soon I’ll follow-up with a post about that, but suffice it to say that I wouldn’t be as good of a mother as I am without the T.V.
  11. Finally, there are things I won’t write in my column or on my blog because I’m respecting the privacy of my children and my family.  I also made the decision to keep it fairly upbeat because I don’t think it’s wise to complain or be too negative online.  (Within limits, it’s okay, of course.  Otherwise, we might not seem authentic.)

So there are my confessions.  It makes me a little nervous sharing them with you, but I think it’s important for everyone to take what they read on the Internet with a grain of salt.  And since children don’t come with an instruction manual, it’s important that we use our hearts first when making a decision that impacts their lives.  Don’t let someone else’s rosy picture cloud yours.

Hmmm….Are there any confessions you wish to make?  😉