We have been in a season. (Then again, who hasn’t been lately right?)
It’s been so tiring and at times I have found myself questioning so many things about our homeschool journey, about all the changes we have been experiencing, and well, just about LIFE.
To say I am tired is an incredible understatement and yet through all that exhaustion and strain, I feel so incredibly blessed.
The last few months with Mister M have been such a very difficult navigation in regards to our homeschool. Between Mister O leaving for 30 days in February and then him coming home just as we are preparing our house to move and then us actually making that big move to a whole new state, city and life, our son has had a tremendously difficult time adjusting.
I should have anticipated it. I should have prepared myself for it. I should have been interceding in advance for it but I didn’t. I was consumed. I was overwhelmingly consumed with packing and planning and traveling and moving and adjusting all on my own. I was struggling physically, emotionally; I forgot all about the littlest member of my family and all that he was going to have to leave behind this time during a season of his life that he could actually understand and would remember. The impacts of that were profound. For the first time, he had developed real friendships. He had real communities of involvement. All of his known memories were from the place we had to leave behind and his heart was struggling and this Type A Mamma, in the midst of all she had to do and take care of, missed it.
So from February until the beginning of this month, we were barely able to get ANY school work done. We had to adjust our school calendar and add days. I know. I know. Most of you are saying, “You don’t have to do that. Just give him a break.” And the truth is, we did have a break. Almost two months of break. I couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do it. We were in burnout mode without either of us really understanding that was what it was. As we came into May, I was determined for us to be back on routine. I was determined for us to prevail and go back to life and all that we do. I was naive enough to think it was that simple.
So I dove head first; back to the grind and to all the worksheets, the projects, the reading. All of our rigid routines. I forced him into that classroom and I said, “We ARE doing this. No more excuses. Huge and pregnant and out of breath or not, we are FINISHING all of our school work and we will do it with determination.”
I am sure at this point, inside my sweet 7 year old’s mind, he was thinking, “Ughhhhh. Mommy, I need you. Can’t you see I need you to see that I literally cannot do this? I literally cannot handle one more thing? Don’t you see that I am hurting Mommy? You aren’t the only one who misses friends and feels lost and displaced. I miss my whole world. Why can’t you see that Mommy?”
But he didn’t speak those words out loud so I naively thought he was fine. After all, they say kids are resilient right?
They can be. They sometimes are but life affects them just as much as they do us and yes they are resilient over time but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they also hurt and feel and grieve just as we do. Sometimes they experience the same types of struggles and frustrations that we do so how is it we so easily forget and overlook that and just expect them to adapt and adjust without question or struggle?
So, with my determination we dove in and it was ROUGH. Every day was an exhausting struggle. We were schooling ALL day long because I, in my stubborn ways, refused to let him not complete EVERYTHING that was outlined for him to do. Some days I cried. Some days he probably cried too. It was bad. I mean REALLY bad.
And then it happened. He woke up one Friday morning that first week of May and everything came flowing from out of his mind, through his mouth and into my shocked world.
My precious little man woke up with tears and began to tell me how much he had been hurting. He missed his best friend. He missed our old house. He missed our old Co-op. He missed our life. Why did we have to move here? Why couldn’t we just have stayed and why, WHY, WHY, WHY did we have to have another baby and why did I have to have a GIRL!!!!!!!
And then it hit me like a tidal wave.
I had failed to see the single most important detail of them all. In the midst of already overwhelming situations and transitions, we were adding an entirely more intense change: we were bringing a little sister into this family.
Until this point, Mister M has been the baby and with his sisters staying in Arkansas, he has been an only child from age 3 to now. All of his memories are mostly compiled of him being the entire center of the universe. Every activity, every thing we do has been centered around his little world. How on earth had I not paused to think that while he said he was excited for a baby that he might also be so terrified of a baby coming?
I felt like such a failure in that moment. I was stunned and unsure of how to speak so instead, I sat down on the bed, I pulled him close and I let him cry for a moment. I let him get out all his thoughts which included asking me, “Will you still love me the same? Will you still have time for me? Do you still want me to be a part of the family?”
My heart was crushing a little more with each question and I lovingly and calmly shed some of my own tears as we talked about what bringing Little Miss M into the family would be like. We talked about fears. We talked about changes. We talked about what might happen and what to expect. We also talked about how hard it might be but how good it would be. And then I did something I never do. I did what I honestly never thought I would be able to do given my issue with needing routines and plans and schedules.
I looked at my little guy and said, “How about we set aside school today and we just spend some time doing whatever it is YOU want to do today.”
His look of total shock said it all. “Really?? But what about my worksheets? What about my reading? Won’t Daddy get mad at me?” To which I shockingly (to both myself and him) responded, “It all can wait. Today, we just need to enjoy being together.”
So, that’s exactly what we did. I put aside my routine and our schedule and we spent the day curled up under blankets watching movies and reading together and playing Uno. We laughed and we talked about lots of things and we got through the meltdown and by the end of the day, I had a different little guy.
The next week, we went back to homeschool but I approached it all with a different mindset. I approached it from the mindset of what does my SON need to take from today and how does he need to take it in his current season. I tweaked how we are doing our schedule and began to incorporate breaks where we pause and play games or watch an educational show. I began to evaluate all his busy work because honestly, my son was doing SO much written work and worksheets that he made public school homework and classwork look like nothing. I asked myself what is most important? I shifted my focus and BAM.
We overcame and we began to flow into our beautiful routine again. Don’t get me wrong, he still has a workload because that’s just how we work things, what his curriculum requires and he does so well with it. But we changed HOW we are doing the work and HOW we approach it and it has been so freeing. Some days we do his writing worksheets while other days I have him write letters to a friend or family member or write a story of his choosing in his writing journal. We did away with our Arithmetic Speed Drill worksheets and started doing flashcards together instead. Trust me when I tell you this made a big difference. He does two sheets of Math a day for his lessons and then when you add a 60 second timed Speed Drill worksheet on top of it, you find yourself with a kid who isn’t so much loving Math that day. We started doing reading first thing in the mornings because he loves to read and I changed the order of what we do when and it has been so refreshing.
While I know deep down, this won’t mean that he isn’t feeling the sting of his homesickness still, I know that he sees that I can recognize when he needs a time out. He knows I see that he isn’t just some robot that can handle and do whatever we say without any emotion or feeling. I know he knows how much I care because I cared enough to finally say, “Okay. Maybe I need to change things. Maybe you need a MOM right now, more than a teacher.” And suddenly, he is back to loving his learning experiences and being determined to keep his “straight A” status.
We have to school until almost July this year and then will take our “Summer break” until the beginning of September and that’s okay. We will finish our work. We will learn and laugh and we will do it all together. Taking those months off during all those changes wasn’t something I planned, it wasn’t something I wanted but I believe with all my heart and soul it was exactly what God had planned because He knew what was coming and how it was going to affect our little guy.
Life is hard. Sometimes, we miss things but it teaches us that sometimes, we have to stop long enough to see that something isn’t quite working and we need to readjust our focus. Homeschool is a beautiful journey for so many reasons but one of the very most important ones that I can think of is that it gives us the ability to see when our children are hurting, to allow ourselves grace to say that we need a break and to take it. Right then and there. We aren’t having to pace it just like everyone else. We can and if it works we do but sometimes, life happens and we need to let ourselves deal with it.
I am so thankful for a God who always reveals in the perfect time what is needed and helps us to realign our priorities and our life. I love that He gives us teachable moments when we least expect them even if they aren’t always easy or fun but most of all, I love that I get to have this journey. I love that I get to love my children all day every day, that I get to be both their Mom and their educator and that I get to do it in a way that impacts them in every way possible.
This journey is beautiful and it is a blessing but sometimes I just have to take a deep breath, pause and remember that I am first a Mom and second a teacher.
We all are.
In Christ’s Love,