Day 24: Should We Change the Way We School? {Part 1} THREE Questions to Ask.

31 days final big button

As one who barely has enough confidence in her own decisions, I tremble at the very thought of this post. Who am I to tell you whether you should consider a change in your educational path?

Not an expert, that’s who.

But as one who clung tightly to a beautiful vision of homeschooling for nearly five years and then did the unthinkable by plopping my children down in public school, I’ve learned a thing or two. Along the way, I’ve talked with others who have struggled with the same issues and certain commonalities emerge.

And so I simply share what I’ve learned, personally and collectively, along this journey. Here you go, three questions to ask yourself. {I’ll offer three more tomorrow.} Only you can interpret and apply the answers. I’m just here to get you thinking in a fresh and honest direction.

1. Am I breaking down?

I can’t provide a clinical assessment. But ask yourself, your spouse, those closest to you — Is this taking too much out of me? If you homeschool, has drudgery replaced delight? Are your days marked by complete exhaustion? Are you depressed? Do you feel like you’re operating at about 20% capacity? If you’re kids are in school somewhere else, are there particular stresses that are consuming an inordinate amount of your physical and emotional energy and it’s showing up — inwardly and outwardly? If you answered yes to any of these, take some time to think, pray, and discuss the situation {and options} with your spouse.

2. Is my marriage suffering because of this?

Mine was. And that’s why I’m putting it out there. For me, homeschooling took so much out of me, there was little to no energy and resolve left for my marriage. There were other variables too. My husband worked all day and two to three nights a week during those years; the backdrop of our life was worn and threadbare. But when margin in your life is already thin and a crisis comes along, you’re left with deficit everywhere you look. Marriage can bear the heaviest burden.

Though the alternatives for your children may be less than ideal in your mind, if your marriage is teetering on the edge, it’s time to make first things first. This might sound impossible. I hear you. But take a step back and consider the alternatives: a broken family, devastated children, the practical and emotional baggage of a marriage on the rocks or busted up altogether. I don’t write these things to throw guilt around if this is your story. There is always redemption. I write these things because I’ve lived these realities. My marriage is here and my family intact by the grace of God alone.

I know this is heavy talk for a nice little series on educational choices. But none of our decisions happen within a vacuum. One part of life affects another part of life and always we must consider this.

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These first two questions deal with non-negotiable issues: your physical, mental, emotional health and your marriage. Call me harsh but your kids and their education don’t trump these. Here’s the last question for today.

3. Is life off-balance? For you, your child, or your family.

 

Homeschool, public school, and private school — there are specific ways each of these options can monopolize our time and energy to the point that balance is non-existent. Maybe the commute has taken its toll. Maybe the full-time mom + full-time teacher gig has taken over your sanity. Maybe the long school day + homework + after-school sports mean that you are never ever together as a family and that your child is exhausted. Maybe your finances are margin-less because of tuition and this affects everything else.

There are legit seasons of sacrifice and busy-ness. This is real life as a family. And as our kids get older and pursue their own endeavors — even when we impose limits — there’s still more on the calendar and less time together. Life gets a whole lot pricier too. These are normal expectations. But sometimes things heat up so gradually that we fail to notice the water is boiling and it’s time to get out. Quick. This is the off-balance I’m referring to.

Once again, take a giant step back. Remember your core values and priorities as a family. Consider the wholeness of each person and your wholeness as a family. Be brave and make the fruitful decisions that feel too hard, even if it feels like you’re the only family.

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Tomorrow we’ll continue this conversation with three more questions.

Have you switched educational paths with your own children? If so, what have you learned?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

Don’t want to miss a post in the series? You can subscribe and have each post delivered right to your inbox. As always, you may unsubscribe any time you like. {I promise not to sell your address to pirates, aliens, spammers, or The Gap.}

Day 23: 5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During a Difficult Season of School & Life

31 days final big button

Yesterday I wrote about the bossy-ness of difficult days and how a string of them can lead us to doubt, despair, and rash decisions.

Today I offer practical tips toward taking care of yourself as your persevere along your educational path during draining seasons. Maybe you’re adjusting to life with a recently diagnosed learning disability. Or you’re mired in the negativity and angst known as middle school. Perhaps you’re teaching multiple ages at home with a baby in tow or dealing with personal crisis as your manage your kids’ education.

Real life happens. And it’s important to take care of ourselves when our “normal” veers off onto a path that’s much more wearisome.

Do not confuse this with advice to “stay the course no matter what.” My own story doesn’t testify to that approach. But I did have days turned weeks of tough days as a homeschool mom and I experience them now as a public school mom too. That’s because there’s no perfect, problem-free way of doing school. Each approach has its vulnerabilities and every family throws its own variables into the mix.

While each day brings its own stress, there are times when it feels like we can’t get a break. I’m talking about those times. As I wrote yesterday,

Sometimes just one of these stressors hangs around day after day after day. And other times it’s a perfect storm of all the bad things, all at once. Negativity can wrap itself around you until you’re swaddled in a blanket of doubt and failure. You imagine that no one else is flailing and failing like you are.

Whether your kids do school at home or in a private or public school, here are ideas for sustainability during draining times.

1. Fight for rest.

Some of you are laughing already. Marian, you’ve got to be kidding me. There is no room for rest in my life, sister. You don’t know my circumstances. You’re right. I don’t. But I do know that there are ways to lighten your load. Takeout for dinner. Getting a babysitter so you can have a nap or have a Venti cup of reassurance from Starbucks. {Extra whip. Full fat.} Getting help with the housework — from your spouse, from your kids, from a professional. Or all of the above. {Yes please.}

2. Lower your standards.

It’s hard, but you may have to let go of certain expectations for a season. You can choose grace and rest or resentment and anxiety. Sometimes this means allowing your kids more screen time than you “should” for the sake of your own mental health and ability to care for them. It might mean choosing to be okay with undone laundry, a messy house, and convenience foods. Perhaps it means you stop obsessing about their grades and performance, especially if it’s only causing you stress. Always it means real prioritization and acceptance. Which brings us to the next point.

3. Prioritize. Prioritize. And repeat.

Every season won’t be like this one, whether it’s a 5-week window or a 5-year window. There are certain non-negotiables, though the world around you screams that everything is important and also that you’re indispensable. It’s not and you’re not. You are finite. Your years with your kids in this stage is not forever. Your life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

Put all of this together and what do you have? The permission and courage to say no and to ruthlessly prune the extras in your life that are only adding to your stress. It might mean you let go of their music lessons or sport for a time. You may disappoint your kids, yourself, and others by saying no for now. {Not forever.} Just last week I did this and it hurt a little. It’s not easy in the short-run, but it’s fruitful in the long-run.

4. Find perspective.

A wise friend who understands. Your spouse. Prayer and time alone. A counselor. An episode of Hoarders.

Left to ourselves, we’ll suffocate under the load and subjectivity of a draining season. We’ll imagine we’re the only ones struggling in this way. We’ll sink into a pit of shame and discouragement. Let truth and community pull you out and pour you a cup of coffee instead.

Mlo & CJ

A couple of years ago I was in the trenches of exhaustion and emotional recovery. I had a weekly date with a wise and older friend and she poured life-giving Gospel truth into my soul week after week. It was a means of grace, one that kept me out of the pit and moving forward.

5. Compensate.

This is really an umbrella for all the other points. If it looks like things may remain difficult for an extended time, adjust your life accordingly. I can’t say what that will look like for you but we can’t run on adrenaline forever. We’re not machines, we’re people. And we need to care for ourselves and our primary relationships in ways that are wise and gentle.

You might think this is too complicated and indulgent. But I’m not talking about days at the spa or hiring a cook and a nanny. {Full disclosure: I long for all of the above.} I’m talking about real-life ways that we can make it through tough times with intention, strength, and realistic expectations. It’s possible. But you have to start thinking outside the box of your own idealism. If this feels impossible, enlist your spouse, a counselor, or a close and honest friend — people who will tell you the truth and have your best interests in mind.

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Friday and Saturday we’ll talk about a complicated subject : Switching educational paths. How do we know when it’s a valid consideration?

What are some ways you’ve learned to compensate and care for yourself and your family during difficult seasons?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

Don’t want to miss a post in the series? You can subscribe and have each post delivered right to your inbox. As always, you may unsubscribe any time you like. {I promise not to sell your address to pirates, aliens, spammers, or The Gap.}

 

Day 22: Don’t Let Difficult Days Boss You Around.

31 days final big button

It’s all too easy to let a string of hard days make you want to jump ship. Back when we homeschooled, I experienced difficult days that dragged into difficult weeks and it made me question everything, including my worth as a human being. Days without a shower will do that to an overwhelmed mom.

The tears over grammar every. single. day. 

The toddler filling the toilet with shoes, hair bows, and trash while I tried to teach the big kids.

The house in a constant state of disaster + the dailyness of dinner + the kids who were still in pajamas at 3 pm + my own exhaustion and showerlessness. 

And let’s not forget that time I was handcuffed out of my own bathroom. 

handcuff

Now that we do public school, we still experience difficult days that drag into difficult weeks that can also make me question everything.

The late nights and early mornings of homework after cheering for football games.

The lack of my child’s enthusiasm for certain subjects because of a teacher’s lack of enthusiasm.

The many miles I put on our van every day + the exposure to less-than-ideal cultural trends + the early-morning stress of getting everyone where they need to be. 

Sometimes just one of these stressors hangs around day after day. And other times it’s a perfect storm of all the bad things, all at once. Negativity can wrap itself around you until you’re swaddled in a blanket of doubt and failure. You imagine that no one else is flailing and failing like you are.

What if we’ve gotten this all wrong?!?

It’s a familiar refrain. And if we hear it enough times, the question turns from inquisition to accusation.

You HAVE gotten this all wrong.

But accusation never has a place in these decisions. It is okay to question, to evaluate, and to reevaluate. It is even okay to let a season of very difficult days re-route your path, even if the re-routing is only temporary. But it’s not okay to internalize accusations, whether the condemnation comes from you or comes from others. When we allow accusations to boss us around, we’re prone to rash decisions and a despair that sucks the perseverance right out of us. We’re dead in the water before a new day even begins.

When you and your spouse have made your decision out of love, out of what you believe is fruitful for your children, for your family, and for yourself — you can rest.

For those who are in Christ, we know all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We trust that the hard days are ultimately a gift if they show us how much we need a source of strength, wisdom, and comfort that’s beyond ourselves. These days invite us to lean into humility and grace.

Yes, many hard days in a row may eventually lead us to a different path, but not always. Don’t allow doubt, comparison, and accusation to sabotage your patience and perspective.

Just do today. We’re promised difficulty in this world. But we’re also promised a source of strength who has overcome it.  

Tomorrow we’ll talk about taking care of ourselves and our families in the process. A season of difficult days is draining but the only one who expects you to be a martyr is probably you.

And Friday’s post will go a step further and delve into the question: How do we know when it’s time to let a good thing go and switch educational paths?

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How has a season of difficult days caused you to doubt your own path?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

Don’t want to miss a post in the series? You can subscribe and have each post delivered right to your inbox. As always, you may unsubscribe any time you like. {I promise not to sell your address to pirates, aliens, spammers, or The Gap.}