M is for Mothering

ABCs of Homeschooling - Copy

M is for mothering. At times, I got so caught up in teaching my children math and reading that I became more teacher than mom. I had to learn that I’m always a mother first.

This means that when a child becomes impatient with a concept, instead of firmly repeating the lesson, it’s wise to take a good look at the child and consider whether he’s had enough sleep, or if he’s coming down with something, or if the concept is just a little too advanced for him right now and should be postponed for a few weeks or months, instead of thinking “But the curriculum schedule says we need to do this lesson this week!” Never be afraid to let your mothering instinct override your teacher mindset.

(Will your children be tech-savvy? Learn more: “Children, Computers and Time.”)

Making Time to be Alone

We all need time alone. We need time to think, to dream, and to create….without relentless interruptions from our children.

Finding time to be alone is especially difficult for those of us who homeschool, because we’re with our children so much. But we aren’t superhuman, no matter what outsiders may think. We need to be refreshed. The hard part is figuring out how to do that.

It sure gets easier once your children are older. I recently found that one of the quickest ways to find myself alone is to put on my DVD, Josh Groban’s “Live at the Greek” (or, as my husband calls it, “Live at the Geek.”) You should see my loved ones scatter when it comes on! Another surefire road to solitude is my collection of Doris Day movies. The opening credits of “That Touch of Mink” send my kids flying out of the room as if it were on fire.

Still, it wasn’t always so easy to find myself alone. There was a time when I was outnumbered 4 to 1, and I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without someone banging on the door with some real or imagined emergency. Back then, I truly believed I would never be alone again. If only I had bought those Doris Day videos sooner…..

My point here is that you must carve out some regular time alone for yourself to prevent homeschool burnout, a very real occurrence that you’ll want to avoid. Some homeschool moms feel guilty for wanting time to themselves. Don’t! Even Jesus took time to be alone and pray….it’s important to regroup when you need to.

Working moms have time alone while commuting and on their lunch breaks. Most stay-at-home moms experience time alone once they send their children off to school, which these days can be as early as age two. But those of us who homeschool are never alone, it seems, especially during the early years of raising our families. (I love sleep, but I actually enjoyed waking up for middle-of-the-night feedings of my third and fourth babies because the house was quiet and no one was talking to me!)

Believe it or not, there will come a time when you can be alone for minutes, even hours, at a time, on a regular basis! But if that’s far down the road for you, don’t wait that long. Try to schedule some time for yourself now, when you really need it. Snag your husband, a close friend or Grandma to keep track of the kids, and set a date for your time alone.

You can start small, by going for a walk alone. Doing the grocery shopping is much easier and quicker if you do it by yourself. Find a Ladies’ Bible study that keeps its meetings brief. (I joined my church’s hour-long evening class when my youngest was six months old—what a blessing! I ended up attending that class every week for 14 years.)

As your family becomes accustomed to Mom’s little breaks, stay out a little longer. Take an exercise class, or a crafts class. It’s a nice break to be the student instead of the teacher. Find another mom and go out for coffee and chat. The time will fly!

Whatever you do, try to enjoy yourself. Don’t feel guilty if there were tears when you left the house. They may cry, but the kids need a break from you, too. Besides, they’ll appreciate you more when you come back.

(Excerpted from Stages of Homeschooling (Book 1): Beginnings, available HERE.)

The Temptation to Create Mama’s Boys (and Girls)

Apparently there’s a new reality television show in the works called “Mama’s Boys of the Bronx.” It focuses on adult men who still live at home and allow their mothers to coddle them. According to this article,

The show follows the escapades of these men at work, at home or enjoying New York’s nightlife before they come home to their doting moms, who spend their days trying to keep tabs on the partying, dreaming and scheming of their sons.

It’s easy to poke fun at these men, and I’m sure most young women would look at them as poor marriage prospects. I mean, who wants to compete with a guy’s mother for his affection?

That said, I can see how a mom might end up in this position if she isn’t careful. It’s hard to let go of our kids, especially with so many dangers in the world that we hear about every day; it’s natural to want to keep our chicks safely tucked under our wings. Then there’s the fact that raising kids to adulthood means losing control of their lives. That’s how it should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

Those of us who homeschooled our kids to adulthood spent many years in control of our kids’ schedules, their meals, their activities…let’s face it, we were in charge of them 24/7. But once they become adults, we have to relinquish that control. (It’s easiest if you start letting go, little by little, when they’re in their early teens, but that still doesn’t make it pain-free for us moms.)

But if we don’t let go, if we spend our days “trying to keep tabs” on them, or even if we just try to weigh in on every decision they make, or prevent them from achieving independence by offering free room and board, free car use, and spending money, what we effectively do is cripple them, emotionally and financially. Doing so also keeps them from enjoying their freedom (hopefully in a God-pleasing way) before they start their own families. So even though it may go against our mama instincts, we need to cut them loose for their own good.

It’s also for our own good. Mothers who spend their time caring for adult children that are perfectly capable of life on their own are crippling themselves. Once the child-rearing years are over, it’s time for these women to go back to other productive pursuits in their lives. Perhaps coddling their adult children helps them avoid the reality that their day-to-day job is over and they need to figure out what’s next.

That’s a scary thought. It requires waiting on God to show us the next thing that “He planned in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). It also means letting go of our desire to control our own lives as we wait for our next assignment. As a recently retired homeschool mom, I struggle with this all the time.

Good Things Happen When We Let Go

Ten years ago next month, we went on our last big family vacation.

At that time, my kids were 7, 9, 15 and 16. The older kids were already so busy that we knew it would only get harder to fit in a big vacation before they went off to college or moved out on their own. It was a bittersweet feeling, knowing this would probably be our last family trip with all four kids together.

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The Other Side of the Story

Last week, I posted about the questions I’ve been getting lately having to do with surviving the homeschooling life. It occurs to me now that while I addressed some difficulties that come with homeschooling and how to handle them, I should also remind those newer to homeschooling of all the advantages of this lifestyle.

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