Just Breathe

Guest Blogger: Meagan, Homeschool Mom

There was a social media meme making its way around the internet a few months back where a homeschooling mom was complaining to her friend about her day.

“There was yelling and screaming. The kids were crying, I was crying…” said the mother.

“Maybe you could start your day with Bible time?” suggested her friend, to which the mom replied, “That was Bible time!”

I remember laughing and shaking my head while reading this, because in more ways than one I connect with that crying, screaming, yelling mama and her kids. More often than not our day starts out with good intentions but then I get caught scrubbing the breakfast dishes or my daughter drags her feet while tidying her room. Before we know it the baby is up from his nap and we are still only three problems into our math work. At six years old my daughter still needs me to sit next to her for most of her work, but with her little brother trying to grab her paper, screeching because mama had the nerve to set him down to help Sissy with a problem, or crying because he’s hungry and mama just isn’t feeding him fast enough. Well, it’s hard to concentrate under those conditions.

Before you know it that 6 year old can’t hold her emotions in any longer. Suddenly, 2+3=____ is too hard for her little mind to grasp when ten minutes prior we were subtracting 7 from 20 without a problem. She cries and pouts, doesn’t want to write, doesn’t want to sit in the chair, or even in the room. It isn’t long and this mama is ready to cry and pout too!

I have found that this situation is not a unique one, in fact every homeschool mom I have talked to has been in one exactly like it or very similar. But what’s next? What do you do when you want to throw in the towel and tell the little guy to pack it up, they are going to ‘real’ school tomorrow? Do you yell and scream, and stomp your foot? Do you slam the workbook shut, grab Sissy by the collar, and stick her in the corner until she is ready to do her work without complaint?

Ephesians 6:4 tells us ‘provoke not your children to wrath but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ So no, you don’t let your anger swell up and crash around you. But what do you do instead? You take a break. You separate yourself from the situation and have your own little timeout. In my house that means putting the baby in his crib with a distracting toy and sending my daughter to her room to read; then mama grabs a cup of coffee and just breathes.

Sometimes I open my Bible and read a passage, sometimes I pray, sometimes I even cry and wonder if I am really cut out for this homeschooling thing. But more often than not I just sit with my coffee in my hands and breathe. After a few minutes my thoughts start to become clearer and I can look at the situation for what it really was. I can think about what I can do to make this situation easier, and I go from there. I call my daughter back into the room and we talk about what we both did wrong. That’s right, I admit my mistakes! I feel it’s important for kids to know that parents are not perfect; it makes them feel less pressure to be perfect themselves.   Then we talk about how we can fix it the situation.   Sometimes she will ask me to write down some of the answers for her, she knows the answer but she hates to write and her hand gets tired. I will ask her to vocalize with me when her hand gets tired or she is feeling frustrated, because it’s easier to solve a problem when we are both calm and collected. This goes back and forth until we both feel that we have said our peace; then we always end our talks with a hug and a prayer.

After I have talked with my daughter and developed our game plan we go get her brother out of his crib. We’ll spend a few minutes playing as a family and get back to work. We start over and forget that the prior meltdown even happened. We move on, we don’t dwell on the negative, because if we don’t allow ourselves to move forward we will always be stuck.

Homeschooling is hard. As parents we are taking on the job of not only the parent, but also the teacher, mentor, counselor, lunch lady, janitor, principal…the list goes on! I wonder if I am messing up my children and their futures at least 50 times a day, and if we go two days in a week without having to take one of our little breaks I feel like we have accomplished something great! Yes, what we are doing is hard, but it is vital not to forget that it is also important. We are taking on all these roles because we love our children, and we want to give them the best we possibly can. We want to and we are. So next time you feel like the stress is getting too great, simply step back and take a break. Just breathe. Remember, even public school teachers get lunch and conference breaks throughout the day; and sometimes the best way to nurture our children is to nurture ourselves.

-Meagan

Bon-Bons Calling

“Are you busy?”

I’m sure it is my over-sensitive nature that feels like answering that question with sarcastic sweetness, “No, I am just sitting around snacking on bon-bons.  What could I do for you?”

I’m not really unkind and I do love to help folks.  I just resent the thought that a homeschooling mother is ever NOT busy.  In fact, I am delighted to have control over our schedule and be able to readjust activities to help others.  It is a part of the homeschool lifestyle that teaches all of us (children and adult) that life is about loving others.  I am willing, and actually desire, to sacrifice my plans for God’s plans, but I am not willing to de-prioritize our school time.  It is a challenge most home educating families will encounter.

Establishing school as a priority and implementing boundaries to protect your schooling time are vital aspects of controlling your schedule.  The telephone is not a crisis line—although sometimes crisis arise.  Screening calls—and being upfront about that—is not rude.  During our school year, our phone message typically states, ‘If we are home and not answering, we are in the middle of learning.  If this is an emergency, speak up and we’ll change our plans.  If it is not, we’ll call you later.’  There have indeed been times when school needed to stop—but not that many.

Drop-in guests are another common potential school de-railment.  Even when I am not actively ‘teaching’ the children, guests are a distraction.  Over the years we have chosen different ways to handle such interruptions.  It has been our goal to remember that our home is truly the Lord’s.  It is His to use as He sees fit.  That said, He is also the Superintendent of Schools.  The responsibility of home education is not a small one.  One welcoming but restraining way of enjoying guests is to state, ‘Oh, it is good to see you.  Come in.  We are doing school, but we would enjoy taking a short break to chat with you.’  Folks will usually sit but remain mindful that work is on hold during their visit.  On very rare occasions, I found it necessary to clearly state time boundaries to drop-in guests.

There are certainly needs that will arise in your own family—and others—that will create time stressors on your homeschool.  Some of our richest times came as we wove education into meeting those needs.  Aging parents with medical appointments, friends with publicly schooled children who need help when emergencies arise…those are God-given burden privileges that we can embrace.  Being a good time steward is a life lesson that will bear eternal fruit.  Our homeschool days do not need bells to move us from activity to activity—but they need the guidance and peace of following the leading of the Holy Spirit!  He is willing and able.

– Billie Jo