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Homeschooling in the Here and Now: Earning Your Stripes

Homeschooling in the Here and Now: Earning Your Stripes

For the homeschooling mother of many, there’s always more; more to organize and more to do. Always more little faces to wash, more nails to clip, more hair growing back into bright, smiling eyes, more boo-boos needing more band-aids and more baby teeth to brush.

There are always more diapers to change, each one a little reminder of that beach house we might have afforded had we not had, instead, Little Miss Giggles whose newest thing (in the case of my tot) is to exclaim loudly, “How dare you, apple pie!” She thinks this is completely hilarious and I have to admit, quite illogically, that it is.

Everywhere around, in our everyday houses, lay ever growing mounds of evidence for family life. Piles of toys. Piles of books. Piles of shoes: good shoes, bad shoes, clean shoes, smelly shoes, shoes that the kids can put on by themselves and shoes that we have to tie for them which we deeply regret having purchased.

Everywhere there are towering mounds of clothes in various sizes and condition which we moms must dutifully sort out every season, from warm to cold and then back again.

So the house smells like peanut butter and freshly sharpened pencils all the time. So? It’s not the end of the world. So we sometimes stand at the window in our fuzzy slippers, with our heads still blowsy from sleep and a steaming mug in our hands, to wistfully watch the school bus drive by.

And even if we do allow ourselves a moment to dreamily think, “… my kids could be going off to school now, right now… leaving me here… in the quiet… to breathe…” we don’t think these things because we are bad, or even because we hate homeschooling—which we do not!

We think it because we are moms who are homeschooling and as such, we are women bound in a complicated world that’s constantly expanding with need and expectation. There’s always more. More books, more tests and more worry that these children of ours might never make it to college because we might be accidentally flubbing it up along the way.

It’s scary! Even if we’re pretty sure we’re doing it well.

And there’s no pretending that coupling school life with family life isn’t overwhelming. It’s not impossible, but it is a monumental task. In our world, the mom duties and the teacher duties crowd in upon us and we sometimes wonder if we will make it through.

We go reeling through our day and we hear ourselves blurring the line between these two jobs as we say things like:

“Come into the kitchen and I’ll give you your spelling quiz while I truss the chicken.”

“Get back to your desk. You can’t play ping-pong until after you’ve finished your math.”

“The word is… the… THE! Stop trying to sound it out. Just remember that it’s… THE! Don’t give me that look and why are you wearing that shirt for the fifth day in a row? Go upstairs and change.”

“Yes, you do have to write another book report. I know you did one last month. You have to write ANOTHER one.”

Or even, perhaps, “I can’t figure it out. Call daddy.”

But in spite of it all, we never raise our voice so loudly that the neighbors might tattle on us and we never consider that maybe we should have been a contemplative nun.

Instead, we soldier on in our battle with the crumbs and the legos, the glitter and the glue, the school books and that voice in our head that tells us to hide in the nearest room that locks and eat some medicinal chocolate.

It’s so easy, caught up in the tangle of life, to forget who it was we were planning to be. It’s so easy to see heroic things in our future selves when we’re young and so easy to lose track of it all when we finally arrive there because now, we’re actually living it.

Now there is a white picket fence but the grass growing up around it always needs more trimming!

Now there are babies with adorable pink cheeks but they wake up screaming in the night with bulging, purple gums.

Now there are children’s birthdays to celebrate. . .endless, endless birthdays.

But we forgot to imagine, when we were young and delusional, that it would be us baking the cake…  remembering to buy the candles… setting up the table… washing the dishes… scouring the oven… cleaning the laundry… cursing the laundry… sobbing over the laundry.

But really, we shouldn’t be discouraged. Despite what we may wonder about ourselves, we’re still becoming that awesome person we knew that we could be. So maybe sometimes it’s all a little harder than we had imagined.

So maybe we don’t look quite the way we thought we would—seeing that we forgot to imagine the gray hair, stretch marks, flat feet, frown lines, the unanticipated post-baby rolls.

Never mind all that.

Clarity comes, I think, when we begin to lose ourselves a little. If we are forever young and free and beautiful, the likelihood of our turning to truth seems far more remote. We’re not that deep. We’re too busy being cool.

But when we are forced to see that life is fleeting because we are watching it fly by, then we begin to see everything much more straightforwardly. In our helpless yielding, we begin to discover that now’s our chance; our chance to be honestly selfless, to be brave, to be heroic, to be just a little bit humbled so that we can see God clear enough to serve Him really well.

And, in this light, the gift that is our family becomes a sudden wonderment.

We always planned on being saints. We did. We just didn’t realize that we’d need quite so much courage, so much energy, so much patience when playing Chutes and Ladders for the millionth time!

But despite it all, here we stand, we moms, earning our heavenly stripes at the kitchen sink and doing it splendidly, thank you very much.

Wonderful! Okay now, keep going.

by Alanna Smithee, a pseudonym for a homeschooling mother

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