Over the past few months, I have been thinking—and thus writing—about some overarching principles in my life as a homeschooling parent. As you may have guessed, I’ve felt the need to renew my homeschooling vision and goals, or “plan and perspective” as I’ve been calling them. What I haven’t discussed much is why these subjects have been on my mind, and how they have played out in my school year so far. Let’s just say I didn’t learn these lessons the easy way…
In previous school years, I have not been very organized at all. There always seemed to be something going on to interrupt our year—from travel, to family weddings, to a new baby. Not that I didn’t put some effort into choosing my curriculum for the year, but when it came to scheduling, I mostly just played it by ear.
I suppose that method worked well enough for the time being, but this year, I was ready to move on to something more structured. I have always enjoyed writing up lists and schedules, but sadly, I am pretty terrible at sticking to them. Nervous that this school year would be the same, I tried to compensate by making even more lists and schedules. I wrote up a daily schedule for our school day. I made a week-to-week plan for my older girls’ science, history, and literature. I did the same for Five in a Row for my kindergartner. I even developed a plan for planning: a schedule for what I needed to plan in more detail each week. This was going to be great!
Then the school year started. The first few weeks went pretty well. My rambunctious 2-year-old was a bit more of a challenge than I’d hoped, but I was keeping mostly on track. All too soon, however, I noticed a flaw in my plan: the school was getting done, but I was getting behind in housework and seemed to be serving hot dogs and chicken nuggets for every meal. Oh, and I was exhausted.
Convinced that I was going to fail if I didn’t stick with the plan, I forged on ahead. I tried to catch up a bit on the cooking and cleaning, but then had to sacrifice a little on school. I couldn’t figure out how to juggle it all…It seemed that I was headed for failure no matter how hard I tried. I knew I probably needed to rework my plans, but felt that I would probably just fail at that, too. Despair settled in, and I tried to bury my head in the sand and pretend it would all figure itself out.
It took a couple of months and some long conversations with my hubby to start getting my head back on straight enough to see that I needed to slow down, let go of my guilt, and try to reevaluate my plan. For starters, we came up with an idea to rearrange part of the school day to help me get some of the problematic subjects done. I was not a huge fan of this Plan B, but I agreed to try it.
Oddly enough, it worked. We began to get more accomplished. Soon I was pretty much caught up in every subject with the older girls. We were still a bit behind in Five in a Row, but since it’s a flexible program anyway, I wasn’t too worried about it.
After our break for Christmas and New Years’, I was feeling a bit more energized and ready to get back to work. On the downside, my husband had been dealing for several months with recurrent digestive health problems that didn’t seem to be getting any better, despite multiple tests and treatments. With him often feeling sick multiple days out of the week, he was getting discouraged, plus not being as available to me for support around the house. It seemed he would never improve unless we both put some substantial effort into it. I knew what I had to do.
I had to accept the fact that I was not going to be able to finish everything with my girls in the time I had hoped. My seemingly doable plans, I finally realized, were over-ambitious from the start, at least for me. I decided to stick with the basics—dropping my Five in a Row plans and postponing the teacher-heavy subjects when needed. Yes, I would most likely have some catching up to do over the summer. But getting my husband healthy again needed to be a priority.
I began helping him experiment with some elimination diets. We had some limited successes, but the real breakthrough came within the last month or so. To make a long story short, we concluded that he might be helped by a diet free of all grains, starches, processed sugars, and most dairy products (similar to the Paleo diet). We are still in the early stages of the diet at this point, but so far it has helped more than anything else we have tried.
So where are we today overall? I am still figuring it out. It has been a challenge to suddenly alter a significant portion of my routine while also trying to wrap up our school year. But even as crazy as things have been, I think I’m finally beginning to learn more balance. My planning work was not a bad start, but I now know to leave more time for things like cooking and cleaning and rest. And if I need to start my plan over from scratch, so be it!
So, goodbye to both Plan A and Plan B for this school year. You were nice while you lasted, but next year I will be changing a few things…I’m sure it will not be the last time!