Homeschool superstars. They're all over the blogosphere: wildly inspiring women with endless stores of energy and beautifully written lesson plans. Their kids make elaborate lapbooks, go on exciting field trips, are involved in oodles of extracurricular clubs and activities. Their blog posts are full of glitter and paint, cutting and pasting, and no end of ambitious mama-led activities that make most of us shut our browsers with a whimper, wondering how they manage to do more in a single week than we do in an entire year.
Even though I'm not one of them, I don't mind their glorious blogs. I don't think they should keep their thoughts to themselves or hide their family's lifestyle for fear that others will read them and then be consumed with self-doubt. If all that busyness works for them, why shouldn't they share the overflow? Why not give us a glimpse into their joy?
The other day, Kate got me thinking with her latest quick takes post, where she wrote:I’m curious if there are any other homeschooling moms who are too tired (lazy?) to do lots of crafts and/or science experiments. Are my kids missing out? I’m clearly just looking for more affirmation (I’m a junkie for it, I’m afraid) that I’m not ruining my kids by not sending them to school where they’d be sure to build igloos with sugar cubes and do all sorts of cool stuff besides spend their days (and sometimes nights) reading books.
"Me!" I shouted into the screen. "I'm that too-lazy homeschool mom!!!"
But I don't really think it's laziness, not really. It's more like... "otherness". I'm too busy with other things to be spending all of my free time planning and carrying out elaborate homeschooling plans. There are babies to grow! Meals to prepare! Photographs to take! Books to be read! Shoot ladies, there's chocolate to be eaten, and one cannot eat sufficient quantities of chocolate if she's all wrapped up in being SuperHomeschooler of the Year.
Several years ago I was told by a lady that she could never homeschool because she wasn't a salt-dough-map-making kind of mom. Oh, but I am so not a salt-dough-map-making kind of mom. Nothing makes me groan so loud as to read, in a set of lesson plans, a complex set of instructions telling me how to mummify a chicken or create a raised relief depiction of Egypt.
I mean, it's just not going to happen. And truth be told, I'm not all that convinced that homeschooling mothers need to engage in such elaborate activities to make learning worthwhile. Mama needs to be peaceful and happy! I don't know about you, but I'm not very peaceful or happy when I'm running around like a madwoman, trying to find enough baking soda or vinegar for the next amazing science experiment.
I have become convinced that a peaceful and happy mother is the real key to successful homeschooling. Choosing excellent materials is important, of course. Establishing a healthy daily routine is enormously helpful. Developing an active social life is essential. We can read up on every curriculum on the market, listen to webcasts, devour articles, attend conferences, participate in co-ops or support groups, and otherwise get our ducks in a perfect little row, but none of this will have the same impact on the life of a homeschooling family as a peaceful and happy mother.
To become peaceful and happy, you've got to figure out what's true about you. What creates an environment where you can be thrive? How can you work with your own innate strengths and weaknesses so that your homeschool will be happy and humming, even if you never construct a sugar cube igloo or help your kids put together a single diorama?
Yes, there are oodles of blogs where crafty moms showcase all the incredibly wonderful things they are doing with their kids. Good for them! I don't mean that sarcastically at all, I really do mean, good for them. What a beautiful life they live! But if you aren't a crafty mama, if the thought of letting your five-year-old loose with a can of glitter and a bottle of glue makes you break out in hives, then shut your internet browser and quit looking at that lady's pictures long enough to figure out what would make your family thrive.
You don't have to be a homeschooling superstar to feel good about the kind of education your kids are getting. Just be yourself. Embrace who you are. A reading mama? A knitting mama? A super-social mama? A mama who's always whipping something tasty up in the kitchen or one who's constantly on the prowl for interesting places to visit? Figure out what drives you and then let your kids shine within that capacity. Trying to be something you're not, trying hard to provide your kids with the education that the blogger-next-door is giving hers will just burn you out and inspire you to quit the whole project entirely.
February is classic Burnout month (and if you find yourself in the throes of burnout, check out the Loveliness Fair we held a couple of years ago- there's loads of inspiration and encouragement there). This year, I'm not anywhere near burnout. Why? Grace, I would bet. But I also think there's something to the fact that I'm doing what works for me this year. We aren't doing elaborate science experiments, aren't making lapbooks, aren't enrolled in a hundred activities.
Instead, we're reading aloud a lot. The kids are doing as much independent work as possible, and we're using checklists. I gave up, for the most part, on complicated art projects. I opted not to use very much curriculum that required a lot of teacher-prep; in fact, I opted not to use curriculum that required very much teacher. We cut back to the basics, so that even though our coursework is more rigorous than it has ever been, the doing of "school" takes very little time. That leaves much more time for all the other living we love to do around here. And you know? Everyone is thriving.
I became a peaceful and happy homeschooling mama when I learned to be content with my own preferences, and no longer strove to be like the uber-blogging women whose strengths are different from my own.
That's why I'm not a Homeschool Superstar. Because superstardom isn't authentic to who I am and to how my family functions best. So instead? I'm just me. And that's just the kind of homeschooling mama I want to be.