I apologize for a little bit of repetition in one paragraph, but didn't want to break the flow of the article.
From the Teachable Moment August 1999:
" 'How do you do it all?' is a frequent question I hear when meeting new acquaintances who discover what I do with my time. It sounds overwhelming to them; homeschooling four children, working a part time job that requires my husband and me to be on call 24 hours a day, and being very involved with church responsibilities. My answer for years was usually to the tune of how much I enjoyed all that I did. When asked about the balancing of it all, I half seriously, half jokingly replied I just picked something different to be behind on from week to week. If they really wanted to hear more, I could elaborate on a wonderful husband who took over most of the cooking our third year into homeschooling (we're now heading into year eight) and assigned chores that the children were fairly responsible about fulfilling. Somehow it all worked.
In addition, I would always share that every year was different as the children went through new stages of development. Now I would have to pause before blurting all of this out. I would have to add that this past year (number seven) was extremely different. This was the year when I would ask myself, 'How was I doing it all? What is it going to take to get back to that point again?' We had different dynamics this year and I was profoundly affected.
Two children in adolescence learning to drive and a preteen with her own set of challenges proved to be part of the dynamics. Bringing my grandmother into our home to nurse her through a gangrenous infection and amputation of her leg definitely added into the equation. Business and financial concerns reared their demanding heads. Continuing to work through extended family relationships and issues took their toll. Being a moderate perfectionist and desiring to do a good job in all areas of my life also factored in. Feeling the responsibility of four children's educations lay heavy on my emotional state.
As one challenge after another was met head on and successfully dealt with, it seems I would have felt on top of the world. Instead, the opposite occurred. I was feeling slower, heavier and more weighted down as the year went on. I was so relieved as summer vacation arrived and one area could be dispensed with for awhile. Just getting that relief from homeschooling has helped me to gain a clearer picture of the past year and the strain I had been under.
I have also realized that it is very likely our family would not have been able to make it through the challenges of the past year if we had not already been working as a team. The reality that everyone knew what jobs were expected of them and carried their own weight most of the time was important to our family carrying on through all of the many challenges, especially the challenge of Mom not functioning at the high level of productivity that she usually did. When we starting homeschooling eight years ago, did I even for one second consider that I might go through a time of struggle and would need my family to be functioning strongly? I can honestly say I never gave it a thought.
What I can share from this experience is that I wish I had given this some serious thought and would encourage all new homeschoolers to do just that. Maybe we would all try to work harder as a team with our families after that time of reflection. I am grateful for how well our family did function and for the insights we've gained. Even with hindsight, we would still take my grandmother in and help her. There was much we learned from that experience. Maybe with pondering in advance I would have been quicker to identify what was starting to happen to me emotionally and would have understood the need to take better care of myself. Taking time to exercise would have been a higher priority. Encouraging even more sharing of responsibilities would also have been on the list.
Challenge times will come to every family. We mothers tend to think that we will be able to pull out our strongest and best selves when the challenges come. Our family has learned we need to build and strengthen each individual member of the family since we don't know who will be feeling strong at any particular crisis. One friend quoted to me, 'The only certain thing in life is change.' I don't know who to credit that quote to, but it certainly applies to the homeschooling lifestyle.
Sometimes I fear we're all so busy trying to prove to ourselves and the world that homeschooling does work that we minimize the challenges and the struggles. I'm sharing here that I think it's okay to acknowledge that we are going to struggle at moments and that we may not be our best and strongest selves at all times. What a great concept for a family to function as a team! How much better if there's been some practice and training so that everyone doesn't struggle at once. Just as we homeschooling parents teach our children to utilize the resources around them for our learning experiences, our family had to identify what resources could help us with each of our situations. Taking time to identify resources before challenges hit can be a benefit.
Thank you for bearing with me and allowing me to use this forum to share these thoughts. I'm sure writing this article has also helped me to process through some areas. It is my hope that sharing these thoughts will help someone else too. Positive thinking includes not only the positive thoughts, but being able to look at situations and come up with solutions. May you also be able to arrive at solutions to your changes that occur in your homeschooling and family life journeys!"
2012 Followup: I would like to add a little more all these years later. Within the next year, we actually did something that many homeschoolers were horrified at. We put the younger two children into 3rd and 7th grade of public school respectively, as we finished up the older two children with their high school. I was very proud of how they both utilized skills learned at home and applied them to their new situations. By the next year, after reviewing everything and hearing their input, they resumed homeschooling. Sometimes you have to weigh everything out and in our family's situation, with much prayer, arrive at solutions that weren't even on the horizon a short time before.
Also, again in our situation, our church service was a big plus during this time. Getting out of your own home and serving others can help to keep the gloomies away. Much of what I was doing in the church setting was enhanced by our family's helping, such as them handling a nursery numerous times to allow the women to engage in enrichment and community service activities. I am grateful when I look back on those years. The children and my husband weren't grumbly about their assistance. They were glad to be helping the women who do so much to help our church to be effective. I respect my husband so much because he recognizes the value of women and their contributions to all aspects of life. I've often thought the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman had to have been the same type of man my husband is.