My Coffee Date with Me

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I occasionally have coffee with my younger self, and we compare homeschooling notes.

When we sat down last time, Past Sara was homeschooling four kids, ages 9 down to 1. It was hard to keep her focused on the conversation. One kid was crying over math, another one had “forgotten” to set his computer timer, the 4-year-old needed her at all times, and twice the toddler got into the bathroom and spooled toilet paper into the bowl. Despite her coffee, Past Sara kept looking at the clock to gauge how close she was to afternoon Quiet Time. “Not just for the kids. I still have to take a nap every day,” she reminded me.

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I could talk uninterrupted while the four kids, ages 16 down to 8, occupied themselves. They were all on electronics; I don’t fight that battle anymore. The school planner lay open in its accustomed spot, but all the kids ignored it because their attitude is “holiday until proven otherwise.” But I had to hurry through my coffee; we needed to get school done before I took two children to their outside classes—and be back in time to get the other two to our afternoon co-op. “Some days I hardly have time to think,” I said.

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In among the interruptions and time pressures, we compared our day-to-day homeschooling.

Past Sara reminded me that homeschooling younger children is more labor-intensive, but more flexible. The school day is short because they learn better in bite-sized lessons. But kids this age usually need an adult to sit down with them and guide them through the activity. “Okay, go on to the next one. Good. Let’s look at the next one. Great. What about number three?”

Well, Mom sits, anyway. Most of my kids wouldn’t sit for a lesson until about age 9. They bounced on the couch, stood on their heads, or ran in circles. Their energy was matched by their enthusiasm for new information. They didn’t like formal lessons or drills, but they couldn’t resist learning more about something—whether it was the planets, math tricks, or new vocabulary words. The best times were when we could make up games that they could win by using their new knowledge. They felt like champions, while it was easy for me to feel confident. At this stage, I knew all the answers.

“Wow,” I said, sipping my coffee. “Now I’m almost done with that stage completely. I feel a little nostalgic.”

Past Sara poured herself a little more coffee. “That’s because you’ve forgotten about the meltdowns. So many tears, for so many reasons, every day. What are your days like now?”

I thought about it. With two high schoolers, a middle schooler, and an upper elementary schooler, I’m more of a supervisor and chauffeur than a sit-down teacher. Older kids can handle independent work; my kids prefer to finish their assignments on their own schedule. The lessons are longer, and they sit still . . . usually with earbuds in and music going.

While I appreciate more space to myself, there’s not a lot of room for spontaneity and creativity. We are no longer coasting, trusting that they’ll pick up what they need. We’ve got to tackle the difficult subjects head-on. Or, in some cases, find a tutor or accommodating school who will tackle it for us.

At this stage, I don’t know all the answers anymore. I’ve had to get used to saying, “I don’t know. We have to look that up.” Or even, “Oh. You’re right. I’m wrong.” The kids’ literature and science reading has led to in-depth discussions—sometimes not even during the school day, but in the car or at supper. Their appreciation for learning is still there, and the fact that sometimes they “know” more than Mom or Dad is very motivating for them.

Past Sara paused to help the 4-year-old tie a ribbon around a stuffed cat, which took longer than it should have because the 4-year-old had extremely inflexible ideas about how it should look. “That sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to get to that stage.”

I caught a passing tween and directed her to the school planner. She scowled and complained about how boring school was. “Yeah,” I replied, “but I miss the days when we could work through a concept with a fun little game. There’s more pressure now.”

“I look forward to the days when I don’t need to nap.”

“I miss teaching kids to read.”

We agreed, “Guess we’ll just appreciate what we’ve got right now.”

And as we clinked our coffee mugs together, Future Sara poked her head into the dining room. “About time to go visit my kids! I miss having them around all the time.”



Photo Credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author. 

14 thoughts on “My Coffee Date with Me

  1. This is exactly where I am in homeschooling. I remember the days when there was so much enthusiasm for learning. Now, not so much. It has dragged me down too. I usually feel like I have failed in my pursuit for my daughters to love learning, this seems to be a fairy tale. However, I love the young women my daughters are becoming. So, I do not know that I really want to go back to when they were little and needed me nonstop. It seems to be a catch 22. Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m really, really sure I don’t want to go back to when they were little and needed me nonstop. 🙂

      I think one reason why we as parents feel like we’ve failed is that we expect “love of learning” to look one way, but then our kids grow up and it looks completely different. You love the young women your daughters are becoming, and I think that’s where your “victory” really lies.


  2. Wow, words so true! Thanks for reminding me to not despise the season I’m in with 9, 3 and a 1 year old! It really is fun and creative at this age!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am in all 3 stages at once. I don’t get to see my 24 & 22 year olds near enough. Trying to get my 17, 15, & 13 year olds to stop procrastinating & do their English (least favorite subject for all of them.) is exhausting. It seems like I am always solving some kind of minor domestic dispute between various children. My 11, 8 & 6 yr olds still want me to sit down & read to them in my “free time” between meal prep, dishes & laundry. . And the 6 yr old still asks me to tie cat ribbons, draw people, etc to the exacting standards possessed by children who still believe Mommies can do anything & everything they can just explain what they want. Somedays there isn’t enough of me to meet all their needs And just when I wish my house was filled with only 6 yr olds with simple needs, my 24 year old shows up & says “Hey Mom! How are you?.” and I realize he doesn’t need anything. He just stopped by because he loves us. And suddenly the world is ok again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article! It made me smile as I recognized myself and my experiences. Little by little I’m nearing empty nester status, and I am wistful for those days when I was needed so much there wasn’t enough of me to go around! I laughed as I was reminded of the days such as when my toddler daughter was upstairs descreetly dumping an entire pitcher of orange juice on the floor while I was occupied downstairs with schooling the two oldest, or when my youngest, as a three year old, dunked his hands into blue housepaint (again upstairs) and gleefully painted the walls, the dresser, the carpet while I worked with my 6th grader on discussion questions. Now my youngest is 13. I see these days of homeschooling drawing nearer to a close. Isn’t this what I looked forward to? My oldest and his wife are begging us to move where they are so we can homeschool their children! Yes, I am wistful for those days so full of homeschool madness, but gee, do I want to do it again?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did you ever read “Belles on Their Toes,” the sequel to “Cheaper by the Dozen”? At the end, when Mother is launching her very last daughter. the older children feel sorry that she won’t have children to raise anymore,, and invite her into their homes to help with their families. She laughs and declines, because she’s done all that once and is fine not doing it again. 🙂

      Homeschooling with toddlers just about cost me my sanity.


  5. I’m already at that “future mom” stage mostly. And I hate it. Because my two older boys, at the same time, moved out of home to live hundreds of miles away. I don’t have the finances to fly to see them at a whim. This post made me cry because I miss them so much. I still have a son who is entering 11th grade. A very challenging time getting him ready for college, especially since he is a completely different learner than his older siblings so I’ve been scrambling the last couple of years to figure out what will work for him. It’s finally coming together, so I’m thankful for that…but still crying missing my older boys.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know that stage of labor between the first contractions and the time to push? That really painful, hard stage? They call it transition, and ever since I learned that, I’ve realized how apt a picture it is. Transition is always hard, no matter what you’re doing. So grieve a little, but I think the New Normal will settle in. You may find these next two years with your last son a surprising change of pace.


  6. Very well-written and entertaining post! I’m a homeschooled high school student, and I’m quite surprised to find that college is just around the corner…ah, slightly scary. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

    Liked by 1 person

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