Monday, November 4, 2013

When Homeschooling isn't really the issue

This seems to happen more than I'd like and I'm not yet sure how to remedy the problem, however, sometimes writing things out brings new perspective and clarity to my mind. So that's what I am attempting here: I am attempting to understand why when I get so completely mentally and physically burnt out, my thoughts linger obsessively on sending my children away to school....
First I start to fantasize about all the wonderful things I could get done during the day; I start to envision myself organizing, cleaning, and feeling completely relaxed and rejuvenated in the quiet of my home. I envision the long, peaceful hours I would spend doing things that I love such as sewing, writing, reading, zumba classes, trail running, planning my Primary singing time, prepping delicious meals and snacks for my family, and maybe even a trip to a local cafe where I would sip on some herbal tea and chat with other adults. 
In having the freedom to do these things I would feel more like myself, feel more on top of things, be more healthy and fit, and overall feel more fulfilled as a mother and person.  All these things start to sound so wonderful as I look around at the reality of the chaos around me. 

At least it feels like chaos all around me when I have reached this state of complete mental and physical burnout. I am on edge. I am grumpy. I am yelling at my kids for all the little things that annoy me. My family is starting to feel like a huge blockade; something I have to push against and break down in order to find my happy center again. 
The boys seem to be whining and arguing more than normal, the dishes are piling up faster than normal, the weight of my responsibilities are feeling heavier than normal, and I then I  start to feel old. And maybe even fat. And this suffocating feeling starts to consume me until I am sobbing desperately and helplessly to my husband, yelling about everything that is wrong in my life, the most crucial problem being homeschooling. "It is sucking the life out of me!" I sob.

It's in this moment of darkness and desperation that I forget about all the other factors affecting my life:
 I forget that I am really tired. My three year old has been skipping his naps during the day, throwing tantrums, and then waking me up a lot lately in the night wanting milk-milk.  It's hard for both of us. And I forget that I am exhausted. We've had something social to attend every single night this week, and  I am tired of getting people ready and hustling the kids out the door. I am more than ready for quiet nights at home. And I forget that I am overwhelmed. It seems I've put too much on my plate (again) and it's time to rethink and re prioritize my priorities. And I forget that we've just adopted 2 puppies and 2 abandoned kitties in the last 2 months. They are a lot of work and have required more of my attention and  energy than I realized. 
With all this running around and busy-ness, it's no wonder I am feeling burnt out!
 Last and most importantly, I forget that the master destroyer doesn't want me to be happy. Satan will take any chance he gets to instill fear and desperation into my heart, in his efforts to bring me down to his own level of misery.

The next morning after my meltdown it is a Saturday. I get up early with the kids and make waffles, and let my husband sleep in. However, several minutes into the waffles he appears upstairs, telling me that I should  go exercise. 
"But I'm in the middle of cooking breakfast," I start to argue.
"Just go exercise," he says again. "You need to."

Suddenly I am running fast towards the mountains, our house quickly fading into the distance. The crisp, Autumn air is kissing my nose, and the wind is pushing gently behind me. The red rock trails are a ten minute walk away so I run faster. I can't wait to be all alone with nothing but the silence of the sandstone canyon and Juniper trees. When I reach the canyon, I run fiercely up my favorite hillside trail until I reach the top, totally out of breath, totally exhilarated, and totally FREE. I can see the entire valley below. The sun is starting to illuminate the city. I can feel my sad and tired soul filling with energy and light.

I come home smiling to an empty house because my husband has taken the boys grocery shopping. As I'm still feeling the endorphin rush from my run, I take this opportunity to clean and organize the house. It is quiet, and peaceful, and I am happy with the end results. I also have a little time leftover to read, so I catch up on some articles I'd been saving. 
I read:
The Lazy Girls Guide to Home Education by Kari Patterson
The Road Less Traveled By, by Jamie Martin
The Moral Force of Women, by Elder Todd. D. Christofferson
We are going to homeschool our kids...because we hate education, by Matt Walsh
On Toddlers and Tantrums, by (my beautiful friend)  Arianne Cope

I am suddenly filled with inspiration, hope, happiness, and even excitement to start the next homeschooling week with my children. 
I love homeschooling. My mind is filled with all these great ideas I'd like to implement, and books I'd like to check out, and with all these wonderful things I know my children will love to learn! I want to provide access to resources, create more order in my home, and allow my children the freedom to learn! I want to keep traveling on the road less traveled and find the beauty ahead! I want to be the powerful, moral force my children need in their lives! I want to provide opportunities for my children to have the freedom to learn, to follow their passions, and to be free from the demands of an overly-structured, forced, government education! I want to be more patient with the growing needs of my toddler and spend more time  with him at home.
I believe in homeschooling. God has told me again and again in my heart that this is the best decision for my children's mental, physical, and spiritual growth in life. I believe that it will not only benefit them, but can also bring fulfillment and happiness to me as their mother. I love my children with all my heart and despite the whiny, argumentative days, they are a joy to be around!
That draining, desperate feeling is now completely gone. I kneel down and pray and ask God to keep filling me up with His light. I need Him to remind me that everytime I get burnt out like this I need to take an entire morning to myself to spiritually, mentally, and physically recharge.
 I know in my heart that it isn't homeschooling that is sucking the life out of me, it is the overwhelming demands of life that is sucking the life out of me. 
Because, when I am fully charged up with goodness and hope, I can effectively organize and plan my life to be balanced and to include all the things I love (zumba, running, writing, sewing, food prep, planning time, husband time, adult chatting time) in small, reasonable quantities, without feeling suffocated and blaming it all on my kids.

Furthermore, I think homeschooling itself gets the blame because it is uncharted territory for me. I am doing something that nobody in my family or my husband's family has ever done before and it is often scary and lonely to follow that road less traveled. But I know it is the right road, especially when I am feeling right in the head. I also know that I need a community of supportive homeschooling families around me. I need their insights, knowledge, and nurturing in my life. I feel like we are still searching for our niche here. I am praying daily that we can surround ourselves with the people we need and who might even need us, too.

Thank you my dear, thoughtful husband for pushing me out the door to take time for myself....literally. You were right, I sure needed it.
And thank you God for always pushing me to stretch myself, even when it is really hard. I know that He sees the growth inside me and knows what the outcome will be. I just need to keep trusting Him to guide me and fill me with His light.


arianne said...

I totally relate to this post. I think so much of it really comes from the fact that we are on the road less traveled. I don't have family or a larger community/society that supports my decision to homeschool. In a better world we'd have more support and it wouldn't be so draining. But we can find renewal. We can carve it out any place we can find it. We can do this! There may not be many of of us. But there are enough of us. We're not alone.

Anonymous said...

Lately I often feel overwhelmed but I am learning to prioritize things and let some things go. Having time for yourself brief pauses do help renew the soul.

RJ said...

I was cheering through all of this!

Maile said...

Wow! How interesting for me to read this right now. I was homeschooling until we moved to Utah just over a year ago. My husband and I felt that it was right to put our kids into public school to be part of the Chinese dual immersion program (we both learned Chinese later in life and know how much harder that is). It took me almost a full year to mourn the loss of homeschooling. And I always keep it as a backup plan - I know if I ever didn't feel comfortable with the education my kids are getting at school, I could pull them out and homeschool. And yet when I remember what it felt like to homeschool, I remember so much of what you talked about in this post. For me, I felt like I was really tapped out most of the time. I TOTALLY agree that it's not homeschooling itself that causes all this stress, but I do think it's more likely to happen while homeschooling. I don't say this to discourage you AT ALL. Rather, I want to reaffirm that you are spending your days doing very important work and it's totally normal to feel like you're at your end. Having my kids in public school turned out to be a great blessing last year as some unexpected health challenges descended on me. Having my older kids in school (I still have 2 younger ones at home during the day) gave me the space and time to work on recovering my health and putting myself as a priority. I enjoy some of the same things as you - zumba, running, food prep, etc. Having my kids in school has given me the chance to fit those into my life more easily and I've also had the chance to develop into a much more effective home manager. I think that's where a lot of my stress came from when I was homeschooling - I didn't have a good system for meal planning, cleaning, etc. so it always felt like my life was ruled by chaos. If I ever go back to homeschooling, I feel I will be so much calmer and peaceful because of this time to learn to incorporate these things that are so important to me. I hope all this makes sense...I am affirming that you are on the right path when you're trying to meet some of your needs so you can give to your family from a place of abundance instead of from a place of being completely burned out. Best of luck!

Sally Jackson said...

Sometimes it takes me forever to respond to comments but believe you this: I love them, I am thinking about them, and I am grateful for them!

Arianne-Your so right--There are enough of us and I can feel the support. Especially yours. I look to you for inspiration always! I wish we were neighbors.
Heather-Prioritizing is key. I hope you find your balance and renewal this week, too.
Rachel-YES! Thanks for the cheers!! I love the support. Love it!
Maile-Your words have been with me this week as I've been thinking about how to better incorporate the things that are important to me, too, without getting tapped out. I think there's a definite need to NOT let some things go--to hold onto the importnat things and make them work. Afterall, we are mothers but we are people, too. Good for you for allowing the time you need to develop these things into your life more completely.