Psychologists tell us that what we believe- really believe- affects the decisions we make and the direction of our lives. Effectively, core beliefs shape our reality. This has a tremendous impact when multiplied across my entire family. We are called by God to live wholehearted lives; to engage in our roles with intention, enthusiasm, and dedication. I want to be wholehearted and successful as a homeschooling mom. For this reason, examining what I believe matters. I can sidestep pitfalls and reinforce the strong, capable woman I know myself to be.
We have homeschooled our two teens, 13 and 17, since they were each in kindergarten. (I’m deeply grateful for the days… but they added up to years way too fast for my liking!) Here are 10 mental fires have I had to stomp out in order to advance:
1. I cannot do this —> I can and I will.
This first hurdle tempted me to quit before I even began. How grateful I am to have stomped this one out. The biggest key was to keep my eyes on one day at a time, building up to a week, and then a year at a time. Looking at the big picture too soon is like looking down when climbing a height. I focused on a series of mini-goals like enjoy the day with my kids, teach a new letter sound, and introduce addition, get to the park, join a field trip. Before I knew it, the days turned into semesters and now to years.
For 7 years straight, I freaked out during the planning stage every August until finally one day my husband said to me, “Do you realize you panic every summer and yet still crush it every single year?” Those words were powerful; I felt like a kid on a bike who discovered her parent had let go a block previously. I AM doing this.
2. I don’t know what I am doing —> I can figure this out.
Now, this one was actually correct at numerous points. I didn’t know how to teach reading. So I picked a decent curriculum and found a Kindergarten teacher to give me direction and tips. I didn’t know how to track and report school hours legally so I asked an older homeschooling mom for her method. (Other moms are the greatest resource of all. They have already been there, done that, and are more than happy to offer a hand up. My local support group membership is valuable.) I didn’t yet know how to make science captivating, so we bought a local museum pass and traveled to as many member museums as we could, year after year. (Years later, we are all museum aficionados.) I didn’t know how to articulate Algebra clearly, so I signed them up for local or online classes and more frequently handed the reins to my adept partner.
The bottom line, being a parent doesn’t make me instantly capable, and that’s okay. There are a plethora of resources at my fingertips (hello internet!) to address any shortcomings. The truth is, homeschooling has taught me equally as much as I’ve taught my kids, plus crafted us into a tight-knit family. (For the record, I still don’t know how to dissect a frog and I am just fine with that.)
3. I will fail and then my kids will fail because of me —> We are each fully capable.
Whenever I receive alarming feedback that points to a potential failure, I choose to be proactive and reach out for better resources. ( I do realize that certain types of failure can be important tools in their learning process.) As their educator, I do take my role seriously when it comes to equipping them for success. I will make the necessary adjustments in time.
When this is just a baseless wave of fear, I usually go to my husband and throw down all the thoughts coursing through my head, sometimes with tears. We are to the point now where it only takes a couple of sentences about his faith in me and my courage is good as new, all pumped up again. He believes in me, plus we both really do believe our kids are as resourceful and capable as their parents. Adrienne and Addison have proved themselves time and again to be equally devoted to their own education and success. We burst with pride because of that!
4. I have to be able to do this on my own —> I am part of a dynamic community.
I am notoriously independent and known for pushing myself harder than necessary, partly because I grew up feeling like no one would help me if I didn’t make it happen. This was actually more true than not, but… Fast forward through the years of emotional growth, both painful and joyful. Now I get energized by being with people, and my people are often other homeschooling families. They provide me with a sense of belonging, plus support that I choose never to forgo. Unfortunately, they won’t show up on Monday morning and fix my coffee or write my lesson plans, but they will give me resources and ideas about how to improve or succeed. I love them for it!
5. I should already know how to do this —> I have permission to start over.
Probably so, but I still have to exercise some self-compassion or we’ll never make it out alive. Starting high school with my oldest, Adrienne, was like being thrown in the deep end. It was unexpectedly, enormously hard. She and I both shed buckets of tears that first semester. Don’t believe that smiley mom on the ads for BJU online curriculum. She’s lying. (Okay, I’m kidding… but I still bare my teeth and spit every time the ad comes up.) I must exercise self-compassion so that I can extend it to my kids, their friends, and other mom friends who depend on me. It’s okay to flail, fail, and test out plans B-Z. No one is judging me- no one worthwhile at least.
6. I don’t have enough education —> I never stop learning.
Oh my gosh, does anyone? Educating mini-adults, while simultaneously feeding, clothing, and imparting discipline is a mind-bending challenge. It’s so hard! A master’s degree isn’t going to make or break me here. I have to remember what I constantly preach to Adrienne and Addison: education is a life-long process. There is no finish line, gang. I read lots of books, peruse help sites, binge documentaries on Curiosity Stream, plus take classes at UF online. I am slowly earning another degree, because why not- the time will pass one way or another. It’s a wonderful way to practice what I preach. I must say, I am shocked to discover that 40-year-old Melissa is highly competitive and totally nerds out over academia.
7. My kids cannot do this without me —> Their time is coming.
Either I or Steve has taught my kids just about everything. (Except my daughter still cannot whistle. I failed there, but I digress…) From us, they learned to read, ride bikes, write term papers, and be so curious about the world around them that their little heads explode. One of my baby birds is prepping to fly the coup in a year or so and my heart squeezes at the mere thought. I literally have to loosen my collar sometimes and practice calming breaths.
This reminds me of the time we had to lay her down to sleep all alone in a big ol’ crib all the way down the hall. I posted Psalm 4:8 over her bed. “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.” The pick-a-college-and-move-away scripture is Psalm 138:8. “The Lord will work out his plans for my life, for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.” And it does. God has even bigger plans for both Adrienne and our son Addison than Steve and I do. He is their patron and protector. …Deep breath in, 2-3-4, and out 5-6-7-8.
Homeschooling is a joyful journey because we believe it’s God’s intention for our family. I believe I have been gifted with all I need, both internally and externally, to succeed as a homeschooling mom. What I believe has brought me so far outside of my comfort zone, on adventures I would never have predicted. The challenges we face continue to foster robust family relationships, an absolute dream come true. I believe I can continue to thrive on our homeschooling journey- not alone, and not flawlessly- but with my whole heart engaged.
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