We had a wonderful time last night! Who wouldn’t have fun with Strawberry Shortcake and feel super de-duperty safe with the Red Megaforce Ranger?!?! Shoooooooot…..
We’ve made some fun new friends through Quint’s soccer team, and as luck would have it – they live in our neighborhood (whoop!). For the first time in ten years of living here, we met lots new peeps, had delicious food at a block-style BBQ (maybe ate too much of the amazing pulled pork - ahem), and Trick-or-Treated until we dropped. (Maybe Mama and Daddy dropped, more than the kids so much).
*And, btw…shout out to our friends who hosted a really great “BOOgers and HalloWEENIES” for the whole neighborhood or anyone who wanted to come by. They stood outside their home, in the driveway and fed people. Parents walking by were handed fresh grilled hotdogs or BBQ pulled pork sandwiches right out of the smoker. There is just not enough of that anymore, friends. I don’t how many people they fed last night or managed to reach out to, in general – but it was just some kind of awesome. I’m so tired of living in a head down, cyber obsessed (writes the blogger…oy!) eyes averted society. This was so refreshing…we shared conversation with people we have never met, shook hands with people we’d like to get to know better, and ate a meal with friends we’re just learning about. It’s easy to forget how isolated some of us have become – until we step out and just do something different. Reminded me of all the get-togethers my parents used to host. Tons of people, even more food, and so much laughter and fun. This is what I remember. This is what I want my kids to remember!*
Back at home, candy was dumped unceremoniously into piles, sorted, and enjoyed. Until the sugar high turned into sugar coma and bedtime was calling. (I refer to myself, of course - ahem) I’m assuming this scenario played out in many houses across the miles…
Halloween just brings back some really fond memories for me as a kid. Shuffling around our neighborhood last night in the crisp Fall air, big groups of costumed kids running house to house shouting “this light’s ON!” and lugging overweight sacks of candy lower and lower to the ground…it just reminded me that even in the midst of heavy changes the world over, even while life moves on at rapid speed – some things, thankfully, remain very much the same.
Well, first let me just say this: I am not about to hate on the homeschooling mothers of America. No, I am certainly not. Indeed, I have many dear friends who home-school and love it! This is not an attack or a post about home-school vs. public school, or the families who choose one over the other. Homeschooling is a fantastic concept. Do you home-school? Yes? I’m a fan of you. I am. But sadly and most definitely in this lifetime, you will not catch me at the modern day home blackboard waxing any kind of “this plus this equals such and such”. No, you will not. So those who are able and do...you have my respect!
Still...I seem to be coming across many mothers from all different walks of life who share an ever increasing guilt about the growing popularity of home-schooling and their reluctance to take part in it. If you’re like me, home-school is just not happening en su casa. And we all have our own set of reasons, don’t we? Though admittedly – and increasingly – unpopular to admit or say in mixed mama company, I feel it's important to be my own voice for mothers like me. So I present...
5 reasons why it’s OK not to home-school
1. You work full or part-time. A lot of mothers work outside the home. Some inside. All day. Like all freaking day. And you come home (or step away from the home-office) and you're exhausted, and there’s laundry and cooking and bills and dishes and laundry and bath-time and….
I don’t mean this in a snarky way – but please Type A’s refrain from the “it only takes an hour a day” business. It may. For you. But for me and my house? It’s a miracle we even wear clothes in public, eat off of clean dishes ever, or sleep lying down. We have ZERO time. We just do not. And the time I do have with my babies? I seriously don’t want to spend working out how a fraction breaks down. Please and no.
2. You aren’t teacher material. Ok, maybe it’s only me – but I’m just keepin’ it real up here – barely. passed. school. I think. I mean, it was rough. Did not enjoy my school career. That whole “love to learn” and “reading rainbow” and “math-a-thon”? No. Stick a fork in me – because I was so done when I got my diploma. Even though in college I was pulling a 4.0 – seriously – still…forget it. Teaching for some comes naturally and easily. For me, it’s that whole “easier to run a camel through the eye of a needle” business. For reals. I did my “time” – and I have ZERO – mark that – NEGATIVE ZERO desire to repeat that, times 2, with my kids. The last thing I want to subject my poor children to is me…feebly attempting to teach them the square root of whatever….and spending more time trying to figure it out myself. I don’t want to become “mommy monster”. You know her. The one who loses all appearance of patience and turns into a raging loon while trying to explain proper nouns and adjectives and adverbs? Yeah her. And while we’re on it - what the freaking frig is an adverb anyway? Now I have to Google it. Argh! See!?!? Gah! Who cares? Let’s just talk and pretend we know what we’re talking about. Why do we have to label things verbs and adverbs.
3. You live in a great school district. Or maybe just an “ok” one. That too. Some would heartily disagree with me and say this doesn’t matter one way or the other – but it’s my blog. We do have an amazing district, a wonderful elementary school with a multitude of resources, and a plethora of eager teachers who have taken gentle care of our boy since before school even began. Not every district has that, I understand. But here? We are so fortunate. Quint’s teacher “gets” him. And listen, I can’t – for my life – conceive of the concept that amidst working and not being teacher material (see 1 & 2) that I can even come CLOSE or hold a candle to the amazing things our school district has already offered Quint. Am I crafty? Yes. Do I want to be crafty every. single. day? No. But I tell you what - every day, my little man comes home with art projects, wonderful creations, and science experiments, letter charts, reading books, and math journals. People, I can barely SHOWER daily, let alone meet and match the amount of creativity he is getting at school. The amount of play-time, social time, learning time, reading time, library time, math, reading, science and P.E. time my boy gets at school? Well, it puts my wonky ABC fridge magnets to shame. And I’m ok with that. Amen.
4. Your child has special needs. I know I’m not alone on this one. If you do not have a child with special needs, I just cannot explain the depth of this statement: we need help. Some might say “all the more reason to home-school, so you can be sure…blah blah.” No listen to me: I don’t know about you – but I didn’t get any special training to raise a special needs child. I didn’t get a special education degree. I didn’t take extensive classes about how to handle or deal with extreme ADHD, Oppositional Defiance, Asperger's, RAD…or a whole host of other issues. I just didn’t. Guess what? Most of us didn’t. And like me, you might have spent hours and hours pouring over resources and methods and therapies and spending your heart and soul doing anything and everything you could get your hands on to help your sweetheart. Still? You do not possess ALL the tools to help your child along this path of need. You just don’t. No mom is an island. I walked into that school ready to go to battle for Quint. And guess what? Turns out, I didn’t need to. Turns out school has come a long way from when I was a kid. I was met with warm and caring people who WERE trained specifically to work with kiddos who struggle like Quint does. Who DO understand ODD, ADHD, Autism and a whole host of other issues. Who were ready to help him meet his goals and exceed his own expectations. Who integrated him into a class seamlessly and work every day to make sure he doesn’t feel “different” from his peers. Who DO have a plan of action, tons of resources and tools to help him, and the stamina to do it day after day after day. No matter what. That is priceless. That is more than I could do for him – not for lack of trying – but because, it’s exhausting. We need help. I needed help. And that brings me to #5…
5. You love them to the moon and back, but GOOD HEAVENS – you need a break. Enter angry people here who are outraged anyone would need a break from their own children. Yes, sound the alarm! God forbid mothers need to BREATHE or refresh or…you know, sleep? Have a cohesive thought or go to the bathroom uninterrupted or eat a meal that’s still warm. Shower, wear what I like to call “outside” clothes, or even have a freaking clue what current events are. I have always – always – on this blog been very proud to stand up for the tired and broken mothers of the world. Those of us who admit that it’s the hardest job EVER and not always enjoyable. Sorry. It’s just not. Are children a blessing? Yes. But be honest with yourself – they won’t remember MOST of this experience. Collectively – yes. But individually? No. Guess who will? You will. And I for one – would NOT like to remember myself as a tired, cranky, irritable shell of a woman who could not feel good about any one thing without feeling incredibly guilty about another.
I am proud to say that I need a break. I am, after all – one person, one woman, one human being – responsible for raising TWO other human beings (that brings the total humans I’m responsible for to THREE, including myself). That is a monumental task. In order to be up for said task – I’m going to require more than 3 hours sleep and some chocolate chips from the Nestle bag in the freezer. Next year, both of my children will be in school. Please don’t make me feel bad for celebrating the fact that I…. we….all of us…survived the baby/toddler years intact. Please. Mother to mother…let me have just a moment where I sigh and tell myself “we made it”. Don’t fret – I still cry over all those pictures and videos of years past. Honest I do! But I need this moment. I waited for this moment for 6 years. Some of you waited even longer. Much longer. I’m so proud of my kids and I’m excited that they are privileged enough to be able to go somewhere safe every single day and learn from a gifted group of dedicated people. And yes, admittedly – a big part of me is glad that said dedicated people will not be me for a few hours a day. So shoot me.
Let me kiss the boo-boos, read the bedtime stories, share the family days, sleepy eyes over breakfast and chatty conversations over dinner, the prayers, the church time, the couch time watching family movies, the crafts we do together, the playtime, the game time, the life-guiding, the spiritual training, the teeth brushing and bath-times, and yes – even the homework time. That job is a big one all by itself. It just is.
All the reasons on this list can be perceived as selfish, ridiculous, and “missing the bigger picture”. Still, I choose to make peace with all of the above. There is A LOT of pressure to be ALL to our kids. To pick up any slack and work our fingers down to nothing to make sure we fill those gaps for them. There is so much insane pressure to get this parenting gig “right”. To not miss a step among the millions. To be the great all-knowing “mama in the sky” through thick and thin.
And, there is tremendous and growing pressure to home-school. Not from the home-schooling mothers themselves - that's the interesting point. Actually, I believe it stems from a false perception from within each of us...that somehow it means we must love our kids more if we home-school. (And alternately - less if we do not.) But the fact remains - there are those of us for whom home-school is truly NOT the better option. Not better for us and not better for our kids. It’s not just that it terrifies us. No. It goes way deeper than that. It goes to the core of who we are and what each of us are capable of. And newsflash – we are NOT all capable of homeschooling. If there is no one right way to raise kids, or one right way to teach children – then there is no one right way in which to see to their education. Not every child is a candidate for home-school in the same way not every parent – HEAVENS NO – is a candidate to facilitate a home-school environment.
Short and sweet: it’s not for everyone. And I know the pressure I have felt and many of you have felt. In some circles, I hesitate to say it – but it’s almost become the “trendy” thing to do.
Still, I’ll say it again: it’s not for everyone.
And it doesn’t make you “less than” if you send your kids off on the bus every morning. Say it with me: it’s not for everyone.
For the record: Quint loves school. I mean…l.o.v.e.s. He doesn’t appreciate there is a two day gap called “the weekend” wherein he has to stay with us boring people and miss out on playing and seeing his best buddies. He enjoys going and loves his teacher. All my initial worry and fear of failure and guilt and self-induced shame…for what? I have a happy boy who is learning, changing, and growing. And I’m OK – check that, my own ego and mama status are not threatened in any way that many careful hands are to thank for that.
As a woman married to a public school teacher – friends, I tell you right now: not every public school is bad. Not every teacher unqualified. Not every public school experience dastardly.
Absolutes have no place here in this arena. You cannot be ALL to your children. Even if it were emotionally possible (P.s. it’s not) it wouldn’t be physically possible. Or vice-versa. We are responsible for so much as mothers and parents. Listen to yourself. If like me you find that letting go of some expectations to make room to be your best in other ways is what’s necessary for you and your kids – give yourself the freedom to embrace that.
Be honest with yourself and do what feels right for your family, your children, and yes – even for you. If that's home-school - go for it! But if not? Don’t let yourself swim in guilt. It’s ok. Deep breaths. You’re still a good mama. It’s ok and good to take care of yourself. That’s all I got…
This is my living room/office/dining room/main living area. I know…hush.
I will not lie and say that it usually never looks like this. Actually, I won’t insult either of our highly intelligent minds by saying anything other than: it looks like this most days. Truth. In fact, I’ll go so far as to add that when my home is clean and tidy, we almost don’t know what to do or where to sit. For real. As in “don’t you dare sit there, I just fluffed all those couch pillows” or “don’t even think about taking crackers out of this kitchen!” Look, keeping it super real over here - I don’t have a very good gauge for how to have a happy-medium in all this. I just know that my house runs two temps and two temps only: Company Ready or Hazmat Zone. Ok? Ok.
I keep reading a lot of blogs and articles about this very topic. Lately I’ve seen a lot of people gently massaging various ideas into our heads about homemaker/motherhood stuff. The clean house vs. spending time with your kids vs. free play vs. organized structured life living. It’s all very sweet. Nice thoughts about how the motherhood struggles are “holy ground” or that it's a holy experience raising kids and keeping house and all that. How “chores can wait because blink and your children will be gone”. I’ve read posts meant to placate your guilty mothers hearts out of the kitchen and onto the floor for a game of Twister. Want to bond with your kids? Garden together. Bake together. Pinterest 5,000 ideas to make you feel inferior and then do none of them and feel even worse. I’ve read articles claiming that if I would just organize a chart into four even sections and assign duties accordingly, reward judiciously, and praise abundantly – then I would find my home tidy, my children obedient, and my heart happier.