Dear Burned-Out Homeschool Mom

Help for Homeschool Burnout

Dear homeschool mom, are you hanging by a thread? Do you feel like you’re in a fog that seems so dense you can’t even see your hand in front of your face?

Overwhelm has settled in …

Voices of your loudest critics haunt you. For some of us, it’s family or close friends, making it even more difficult. You can see their faces and hear their voices loud and clear – even above the ninja sword fight and championship wrestling tournament unfolding in your living room.
“I’ve always known you couldn’t homeschool. I thought you’d put the kids in real school after kindergarten….they’d be much better off. Your 2nd grader isn’t reading yet….If she was in public school, she’d have been reading for 2 yrs. now. She’d know her multiplication tables and that there’s no “ee” in “pink.”

And the list goes on
and on ….
and on ……

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

You feel like a failure and that irreparable damage has been done to your children. I know…it FEELS that way. There may even be some temporary delay in learning but I can tell you from experience that if God has called you to the task, He will equip you to complete it. There’s nothing that should’ve been learned in the 2nd grade that can’t be learned even faster in the 3rd and beyond. This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced over and over from homeschooling our 7 children and always feeling “behind.”
Homeschooling is so intertwined with our lives that it’s difficult to go through challenging times without it affecting our school – having new babies, taking care of my mom with stage 4 breast cancer for 6 yrs., adjusting to life after our house was hit by a tornado that required 4 moves in 2 yrs. as well as the usual emotional ups an downs that are a part of life – financial pressures, death of parents, graduation of first child, etc…

When I hit complete overwhelm with homeschooling, here’s what I’ve found to be helpful:

1. I pinpoint exactly what is causing me to be overwhelmed.
After living awhile like a zombie with all of the negative talk blaring in my head however long it takes, at some point, I decide to take positive action. Pinpointing the root cause is easier said than done many times. I’m such a holistic thinker and a spider-webber that everything seems to be connected. Trying to untangle the web can be a huge challenge for me. Even finding the time to think rationally about it or anything else can be a huge challenge. I require large blocks of quiet time to focus and think….that’s a huge time challenge for any mom. When I can pinpoint the exact issues that are causing the stress and overwhelm, then I can begin to figure out a gameplan to deal with it.

2. I ask for help from my husband (and others) to think more objectively.
My husband is always the voice of reason I need to get me grounded again, but not until I’m ready. I’ve learned that I don’t tell him that anything is broken unless I want him to immediately fix it πŸ™‚ When I’m ready to be “fixed”, then I let him in. He talks me down from the cliff better than anyone else in my life and I’m so thankful for him. He helps me see things as they are and not only how I perceive them to be….good or bad. Together, we come up with an action plan based on facts and reality – not emotion.

Because I’ve pinpointed the precise problem, I can also ask others how they’ve dealt with a similar issue. This always open my eyes to new ways of creatively working toward a possible solution. Getting input from others is vital….as it usually ends up to be an encouragement session as well πŸ™‚

3. I reconnect with my “why I want to homeschool.”
Our decision to homeschool was actually a series of events over several years and my desire to do so was “kept in the closet” initially. Along our journey there were 2 books that played a huge role. First, the Bible. Deuteronomy talks about “teaching your children as you walk along the road and as you lie down.” I really couldn’t imagine how I’d have enough time for discipling my kids and doing life with them if they were away at school all day. I was a middle school teacher at the time and fully aware of the homework load they’d carry as well…I wondered when I would find time for teaching them the most important lessons of scripture.
Initially, “The Well-Trained Mind” played a huge role as to how I could practically pull this whole homeschool thing off. It was a road map…suggestions and ideas about how to teach every subject at every level. I strayed somewhat from the classical philosophy when I met my true love – Charlotte Mason. When I need to reconnect with my “why,” I Β Reconnecting with what truly motivated me in the beginning helps me realign my focus.
Overwhelm/burnout is a difficult place to be….for everyone. Sometimes, all I need is a date night with my hubs, but for prolonged overwhelm, the tips above have pulled me through. Maybe you’re going through a challenging time right now … or maybe you’ve just come out of one. I’d love to encourage you or hear how you battle burnout … leave a comment below!
Thanks for stopping by ~
becky πŸ™‚

Your Child’s Character – What’s it Worth?

What's your child's character worth

Several years ago, I ran across a book, Little Threads. It’s a beautiful story that parallels the lives of 2 mothers raising their only children. One daughter is the “perfect” child and the daughter of the other mother is … well, not so perfect.

Recently, I’ve been having some behavioral issues with one of my children that’s been very challenging. At times, the not-so-perfect daughter in this book would come to mind as a similar behavior was being displayed in my own child. I felt like I had to address it over and over again.

Every.

Single.

Day.

I tried to think of new ways to explain from different angles why this behavior was wrong, how it could be avoided, why it should be avoided, etc… But still getting nowhere.

I thought maybe it could be a good time to whip out this precious book … Surely this story would teach without having to be confrontational. The back-door approach πŸ™‚ So, I began reading. Much detail is given in the first few chapters about little Tangle Thread – the daughter whose behavior is extremely difficult from the moment she’s born. As I’m reading, I’m thinking, “surely my child will see how horrible this little girl’s behavior is, will draw the parallel and make the necessary changes.”

I know … I’m funny like that πŸ™‚

As I’m reading along, trying to “fix” my sweet child, I come to this passage in the book, speaking about the dear mother of the willful child.

She was so troubled with her child’s conduct that when she tried to read, she often did not know what book she held in her hand. When she tried to draw or paint, her hand would tremble so that she had no pleasure in what she was doing. By degrees, the piano was opened less and less frequently, the portfolio of drawing began to be neglected and new books and magazines lie with uncut leaves upon the table. What she studied now was the character of her child, and how best to mold and fashion it into the likeness of Christ.

Wherever she went or whatever she did, there was always a secret care gnawing at her heart.
“… there was always a secret care gnawing at her heart.” As moms, we carry the burden of our children because nobody knows them like we do. We know when their character is in crisis and in need of intervention and the longer it goes unresolved, the longer we have the “gnawing at our hearts.” Β We carry it with us everywhere … secretly.

Am I willing to sacrifice?

The mother in this story found little time for her own pleasures – piano playing, reading, drawing. She willingly laid these things aside so that she could intervene in the life of her daughter. It wasn’t easy. It seemed a hopeless challenge and she felt totally helpless as her daughter’s behavior was relentlessly bad.

Day after day. For years.

As I was trying to “fix” my daughter, I realized that maybe I needed a fix as well. This mother models what I’m not always willing to do – give up my own pleasures. When WW III is in full-swing in the game room again just as I’m about to finally have some “me” time, I have a choice. Deal with character issues of my kids at that moment or let it slide and fulfill my own pleasure.

There are seasons of my life as a mom where I’ve not been as available to my friends. Maintaining my own social life has been put on the back burner at times in order to deal with issues at home. With a large family, sometimes this has been longer than I’d prefer, but necessary.

Becoming a student of my kids

This mom sacrificed her own pleasures in order to invest the time into learning how best to train her daughter’s character. She became a student of her daughter. I can’t call myself a foreign language student if I only hop on DuoLingo occasionally while waiting for a Dr. appointment or ball practice. If I truly want to learn it, I must schedule the time and make it a priority or I’ll never get beyond “Hola! Como estas?”
I must ask myself how important is my child’s character? What’s it worth to me? Am I willing to sacrifice my own pleasures for a time – maybe longer than I’d like – in order to determine the best way to deal with character issues of my children?

Character training goes deeper than dealing with the crisis of the moment. It’s about being consistent and intentional … anticipating the wrong behavior or attitudes in our kids and intervening before it becomes their new normal.

The time that we spend training our children is not “spent.” It’s invested. We’re actually making an investment in their lives that will pay off … and just like a monetary investment, it takes time … but it’s worth it.

What I Learned During My Son’s First Semester at College

What I learned during my son's first semester in college

My oldest son finished his first semester away at college. He’s been challenged in ways that make my mom heart sad. Ways that were initially our reasons – reasons for ever starting this crazy journey we call homeschool. He’s learned many things this semester, but much of his education took place outside the classroom.

I’m pretty sure I learned even more…

1. I can trust God with him.
I know this now more than ever before. When our kids live under our roof, it’s a little easier to help God out with this. πŸ™‚ News flash! God really doesn’t need me to help Him figure things out. If He knows the stars by name, I know that He hasn’t forgotten my boy and will take care of him.
Nothing will catch Him by surprise. He will even help him find his keys again. And again. And trust me … that is something that only God can do! Above all else, my mom heart just wants to know that he’s ok.
I can trust God with that.

2. “Letting go” allows our relationship to grow.
Prior to my son leaving for college, I cried at the thought of having to drop him off … and leave him there. While it was very difficult to drive away, leaving him behind alone with no friends in a room that his roommate had tastefully decorated with a skull head and a buddha was crazy hard. I knew I had to “let go” but my mom heart hurt so bad that I gripped tighter.
Over the next few days/weeks, I texted. I called. Too much.
He needed space.
He needed room … to breathe.
Finally, I let days go by without attempts to reach him and it got a little easier. Then days turned to (gasp) a week! I have 6 other kiddos at home which helped the time zoom – God have mercy on my youngest son!
Amazingly, I’ve found that he’s much more free to share his life when I’m not strangling it right out of him πŸ™‚ The more I let go, the stronger our relationship grows. So counter-intuitive to my mom heart….

3. I must put my big girl panties on and deal with it.
It’s just kind of a saying we have in our home. Dinner isn’t your favorite? Deal with it. You’re tired of your chores? Deal with it. Your house was hit by a tornado requiring 4 moves? Deal with it. And so on. There’s times when we just have to deal with it.
Yes, I’ve cried many tears. My feelings have been hurt. My expectations went unmet and I’ve questioned the seemingly rude and unthoughtful human being that just flew out of my nest.
While I’m throwing a pity party and wondering why he hasn’t answered my text from 3 days ago, he’s trying to figure out how to survive multiple professors, where to find food, how to get to class, where to find food, make friends, figure out how to maneuver a 25,000-person campus, where to find more food as well as hold down a part-time job as well!

Unthoughtful and rude? No. He’s trying to figure it out. He’s moved on. We all do it. We fly out of the nest. We’re all transitioning. It’s a normal, natural progression of life.
While I miss his late-night, daily download of life, his frequent hugs, his piles, his funny laugh, his political rants, his hair and his 10-egg omelets and deep philosophical conversations post-midnight … I must deal with it, even when sometimes I’d rather clip his wings.
I’m.
Trying.
And I’m certain that he is too …
XOXO

Why I Will Never Make Another New Year’s Resolution

why i will never make another new year' s resolution

I know, that sounds kinda harsh, doesn’t it?? No New Year’s resolution? Actually, it’s been many years since I’ve even thought about making one. This is probably due to the fact that for decades I made them and felt like a major loser when I couldn’t keep them.

Usually my resolutions went something like this: “I want to lose weight this year” or “I want to be a better mom” or “I want to go to Disney World.” Vague mutterings about something I wanted but had absolutely NO idea HOW I would go about making it happen. This doesn’t only happen with New Year’s resolutions, it can also happen with goal-setting. You can read more about goal-setting in the post here.

This is why we set ourselves up for failure with New Year’s Resolutions. We throw our over-generalized statements out there for the world to hear and haven’t thought about the steps necessary to make it happen. I can want to lose weight until the cows come home, but until I put some mental energy into the process and consider how my eating habits will have to change, where/when I will exercise, and the extra plan/prep time for healthy meals, I can guarantee you that I will not lose weight. Unless I have a baby πŸ™‚

I’ve made this mistake SO many times that it’s embarrassing to even remember. Finally, I decided that I just couldn’t keep a New Year’s resolution, so I stopped making them to avoid the humiliation.

Dream + Time = Goal

That’s when I discovered the book, One Word. It simplifies the whole concept of making New Year’s resolutions. Instead of choosing a bad habit to fix or a good habit to acquire, you choose one word that speaks to every area of your life. It’s a word that will be used as a filter when making decisions about your personal life, family life, professional life, etc. It has to be a word that is broad enough to encompass all areas yet will also be able to adequately filter decisions made in all of them.

Here’s a few possible “One Words:” growth, intentional, rest, meaningful, integrity, joy, contentment, generosity. The list is endless. When making decisions you will run it through your “one word” filter. So, if you have a new job offer and your “one word” is “growth”, you would ask yourself, “Will this new job allow me to grow and sharpen my skills, opportunities, etc. in my business?”

If overspending is an obstacle for you – something you believe needs to change in the new year, then maybe your “one word” could be “frugal.” Then every decision made would have to be run through the frugal filter – making sure that your decisions about lifestyle, education choices, eating habits, travel, etc. would lead you closer to a frugal lifestyle.

I’m so glad I don’t feel the dread of creating a New Year’s resolution that I know I won’t keep. However, figuring out my “one word” is always something I look forward to and spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ll share my “one word” for 2016 in my next post.

 

How to Make Christmas Meaningful – Beautiful Simplicity (Part 2)

There’s 20-ish days until Christmas. I’m hitting the java a little harder, scurrying around like a crazy woman trying to find the perfect decorations, gifts and holiday clothes for the parties. Not to mention, taking my children to all of the perfect events, plays and concerts so they can experience a perfect Christmas. Sound familiar?

The Perfect Christmas

After all, we moms know, it’s up to us to pull this whole Christmas thing off for our kids. Right?
We create the perfect back drop …
christmas house
to showcase the perfect tree …

perfect tree

 

for the perfect family gathering …
family gathering

with those we may only see once a year …

griswold cousin eddie

We share a feast …
christmas turkey

and make memories to last for many Christmases to come.
Griswold tree

Perfect, right??!!
Just like Clark Griswold, The “Perfect Christmas” monster consumes me at times. There is no way that I can create a perfect Christmas … for my kids, myself or anyone else. No matter how hard I try, someone will always have more, better, bigger, faster. If I focus on the stuff, I will continue to have the same empty feeling as soon as the wrapping paper and ribbons cover the den floor.

The only perfect Christmas was the first one.
One word comes to mind …. S.I.M.P.L.E.
A father,
a mother,
and a baby lying in a feeding trough.
Unfancy. Simple.

The mother, father and the visitors that would arrive within the next months/years had one goal at this time…one focus…this baby born under the stars in obscurity.
The focus and desire of my heart is what matters during this season. If I allow the “Perfect Christmas” monster to reign, then it’s meaningless. If my heart is bent toward remembering the baby and the significance of His birth in my own life and how that spills out of me during this season, then Christmas wins.
It’s simply beautiful….

Our family celebrates Advent which has proved to anchor me during this over-stressed season. You can read about how we do that in this post.
I’d love to hear how you battle the “Perfect Christmas” monster. Leave a comment below …

Striving for a simple Christmas ~
Becky πŸ™‚