One of the hardest parts of homeschooling for me is having unrealistic expectations of what I should and should not be doing as a homeschooling mom. At least once each year, I feel myself running after this fad or that, copying this friend or that, seeking approval of this person or the other. When this happens, I need to go back to my goals for the year and remember why I’m homeschooling in the first place.
For instance, when should a homeschooling mother wake up in the morning? Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman was an early riser, but I need to remember the principle she illustrates, that I am to be industrious rather than lazy. I do not have to copy her life verbatim. You see, I’m not a public school teacher who shows up at school at 7:30 a.m. with an ample amount of time to prepare my brain, my room, and my supplies. Nor do I get a planning period during the day or quiet, uninterrupted time for planning and grading in the evening. No, I’m a mom to seven children, a wife, an author, and a pastor’s wife involved in my church — in addition to my “side job” of teaching for five hours a day. Oh, and did I mention that I’m currently teaching five grades simultaneously, as well as watching over an infant and a two-year-old? Yikes!
I need to learn to be realistic in my expectations. I need to learn to stick to the priorities God gave to my husband and me, instead of chasing after a homeschooling fantasy.
A realistic morning at my house begins with an alarm clock that isn’t always welcome. Yes, it’s 7:00 a.m. I’m aware that many homeschooling mothers are up much earlier than this, but if I want to spend some quality time with my husband in the evening, and still get enough sleep, this is the earliest I can get up and still stay awake during math class.
A realistic morning at my house means that I’d like to serve a nutritious breakfast to my husband and children. One of my priorities is to feed my children nutrient-rich food for breakfast. It would be faster and easier (although not cheaper) to buy cereal, orange juice, or Pop-Tarts. It’s a royal pain making omelets and porridge instead. But it’s a priority to me. The downside of this priority is that making a big breakfast is time consuming. Other moms might not make the same choices I make, but that’s okay. By the time we’ve made breakfast, eaten, and cleaned up the kitchen, it’s nearing 9:30. If someone were to visit my home this late, they might think I’m neglecting our schooling. But in my heart, I know that I’m not. Breakfast is part of our curriculum! I don’t need to please anyone else.
A realistic morning at my house means that I also need some time to grow as a mother. I need time to clean my own bedroom, to make my bed, and to start the laundry. I need a shower and some fresh lipstick! I need time to get with the Lord and read His Word and pray. I might even need to talk with my mother on the phone. These things keep me sweet and loving and gracious to my children. Of course, on some mornings, the clock might be reading 10:30.
A realistic morning at my house means that we start our homeschooling day with Scripture reading, prayer, stories out of picture books for the little ones, songs with clapping or reverent singing, and maybe a discussion of proper manners. We do some memory work and read aloud out of chapter books. These things keep us remembering that we are a family with common goals and love for the Lord, with compassion for young children, and with a joy for music and good literature.
A realistic morning at my house means that some mornings I don’t have enough energy for all the things in the last paragraph. Sometimes so much talking gives me a sore throat or a headache. Sometimes I fall asleep while reading out loud! Realistically, I know that I can’t do everything and be everything for my children. Only God can do that.
A realistic morning at my house means that while I love to discuss learning and to discover new methods, I also value having a teacher’s manual. I prefer having a teacher’s manual that I can open up each morning. Are we on Day 97 of our school year? What a relief to know that my day is planned for me. I can always change, delete, or add to the plans, based on the needs of my own children, but I enjoy have a basic framework from which to work. A Beka fills this need in our home, and we use workbooks and textbooks for several subjects over the next few hours of school.
A realistic morning at my house means that we won’t get all of our schoolwork done in the morning. We’ll take a restful lunch break. We’ll change the laundry, change lots of diapers, tuck little ones in for naps, and do work in preparation for supper. I’ll often stop to write on the computer (as I am right now) or to pay a bill. Sometimes I’m just pooped by now and need a nap myself. The day continues, naturally, not always predictably, but usually pleasantly.
Realistically, I don’t usually have a lot of extra time for myself, for hobbies or getting together often with friends. I can’t make a lot of trips to town for shopping or even field trips. But I’m slowly learning to be content as a stay-at-home mom. I’m certainly not a perfect mom, but if I learn to be content with a realistic life instead of a pretend, super-mom ideal, my children get a better education and a happier home.
This is good enough for me.