I have homeschooled my son since he was in kindergarten. There have been many challenges, some of which I’ve documented, but overall, learning at home has helped my son thrive.
With so many changes this year, however, homeschooling began to feel impossible. Over the summer, I researched local school options heavily, asking questions and reading whatever I could get my hands on. Of course there would be trade-offs, but I had to be realistic. Working and homeschooling? I’m not Wonder Woman.
Learning the realities of the options I wanted for my son (a small, private school experienced in twice-exceptional kids) vs. what I could afford (the local public school and an IEP) was gutting. On top of that, my son was adamant about continuing to homeschool, no matter how much I explained that because I would be working in between teaching, we would not only have less frivolous time together during the week but he would also be more responsible for learning what was required of a 4th grader—and for keeping a good attitude toward schoolwork.
For me, working was no longer an option; it was a necessity. And we would both have to adjust accordingly.
We created pro/con lists, had discussions over dinner, and questioned friends and therapists. Ultimately, we decided to give it a try. We would work and homeschool for the whole of July.
If it worked, great. If it didn’t, we would still have time to sign up for school come August.
Honestly? I didn’t think it would work, but I was willing to try in order to give my son the empirical evidence he needed to become okay with the final decision, whatever that might be.
I never told him this, but the truth was, I didn’t want him to go to regular school any more than he did. Not yet. Not in the middle of all the other life changes. But I was also scared to death. I’d already taken on single parenting, and adding homeschooling on top of that seemed insane.
At the end of June, I made a sample schedule. What I saw finally settled my worries. Charting it out, I found that no matter whether my son went to regular school or continued homeschooling, I would have about five hours a day to work (seven if I really stretched myself).
I decided to continue my habit of getting up at 5:00 a.m. and working until 8:00 a.m., before our day started. I would then add an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. In between, I would teach, run errands, go outside, and generally spend as much time as possible with my son.
Something else that helped me feel settled was reading this post, which reminded me that there is more to traditional schooling than drop-off and pick-up: things like homework, after-school activities, and all the other little have-tos that come when you are no longer in charge of making your own schedule.
We began our experiment in July, adding homeschooling back into our schedule. I started out in a frenzy, trying to work seven hours a day, six days a week on top of everything else. It took about two weeks for me to realize that wouldn’t be possible. Mondays were okay, but the further into the week I got, the more my body rebelled. By Friday, I would be physically sick and bone-weary, which affected my ability to work, teach, and mother.
So I dialed it back. Since the third week of July, I have worked anywhere from four to five hours a day, every day but Sunday. Working smarter helps keep my productivity high and my nerves steady. (Note: If my son is at his dad’s house, and I have a project due, I might very well spend seven to eight hours working, because it doesn’t affect anyone but me, and I have a night or two to recover. That jump-start also gives me more time with my son when he gets home.)
If the above sounds exhausting, well . . . it is. Most of the time, one day ends up rolling into the next. But he is happy, he is learning, and he is growing. And so, we continue on.
There are days in between when the projects slow down, and I’m able to take a few hours away from the chaos to do little things that bring me back to being human: hiking, reading, drawing, or just snuggling on the couch with my son. We take at least one walk a day together, always eat our meals together, and read together every night before his bedtime. Why? Because these days are going by so quickly. And I don’t want to ever regret or feel like I missed them.
I find I’m more grateful for the slow days, because they are so rare. And I’m also learning how to make more time for them. It’s a process.
And before it begins to sound too magical, let me just assure you that meltdowns still happen: both mentally and bodily, both mother and child. Usually, taking an afternoon to read and nap, along with an early bedtime helps us both. And after a particularly difficult project, I usually take at least a full day off (sometimes two) to reconnect with myself and my kid.
Like I said: I’m not Wonder Woman. And when my body speaks, I am learning to listen.