A Rough Start

A Rough Start

Hi friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in, and I want to explain part of that.

The beginning of school was a *really* rough start for me and the kids this year. It’s my fourth year of homeschooling, so I’d like to think that I have at least some of it figured out by now.

My daughter entered kindergarten this year, which meant I was teaching two students instead of one, but kindergarten isn’t a huge challenge to teach–especially for my bright little pumpkin (yes, she was a pumpkin for Halloween) who already reads simple sentences and shows a bright eagerness for pretty much all forms of learning.

Playing “Store” to practice learning monetary amounts

The difficulty lay with my eldest, who’s entered third grade. His curriculum this year took a major jump in workload, especially the reading portion of it. I realized immediately that we weren’t going to be able to keep up without everyone’s brains frying out and at least Mama having regular emotional breakdowns. I started cutting back, but it still wasn’t enough.

I seriously felt like I was drowning.

Thoroughly exhausted when we finally finished at 3:30pm, I’d then collapse for a short nap, only to drag myself up afterward and start figuring out how to tidy the house, which was a disaster, and then onward to making dinner.

Puddle hunters!

One of the really bad signs: I had zero desire to go out and do anything fun in the evening. Not even hang out with friends for a drink and conversation, which is usually a huge joy for me. I was just. Too. Tired.

I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t find the solution. The signs of depression were all surfacing, but I hadn’t changed any of my vitamins, antidepressant meds, or anything like that. And yet I knew I couldn’t make it through the school year like this–unless I was going to title it The School Year From Hell–and…yeah…that didn’t sound doable.

So I sat on the couch one night, babbling my anxious thoughts and feelings to my dear husband and, even after I’d finished, I still didn’t have any dramatic insight. He said, “Is there anyone you can talk to?” And after thinking for a while, I remembered that my curriculum has a helpline with homeschool advisers who’ve been in the trenches like I have, and who are happy to help me brainstorm and troubleshoot.

I spoke the next morning to a wonderful, kind woman who’d homeschooled her two boys. She assured me that my son’s struggles and wandering attention were very normal for a nine-year-old and then told me that the curriculum we were using was recommended for 4th-7th grade. Even though it was the next step in the natural progression of the coursework we’d been doing at home, it was going to be a huge jump up from his previous year’s workload.

She suggested that we slow down our pace and allow ourselves 2 years to finish the work instead of one–and assured me that because it was so advanced for his grade level, we would not fall behind if we did this. I would maintain his regular schedule for his math, spelling, and handwriting, but I’d slow things down elsewhere.

You guys, I almost burst into tears when I got off the phone. It was basically life-changing.

It’s so hard to know what to do, to know that something is wrong but not understand how to fix it. I didn’t know the curriculum was advanced for his level. I just thought we were going so slowly and I didn’t see any other solution except to try harder.

I’m a completionist. The number of things I’ve quit could likely be counted on my ten fingers without using all the fingers. I don’t want to fail my kids in their education. I take it extremely seriously. So I asked for help.

And, thank God, there was a solution out there and a kind person to give me permission to take it.

He’s reading out loud to himself. I’ve waited 9 years for this.

Slowly and surely, I’m feeling more like myself again. The depression and bone-weary exhaustion have abated.

It took me six weeks of worrying and struggling and doubting and trying to white-knuckle my way into the new school year, but I can finally say I think we’ve hit our stride.

Sure, we still have days where the fractions don’t make any sense, when a spelling test is cause for a weeping tantrum, and when piano practice is so anger-inducing that someone is slamming the keys in dissonant, nerve-jangling cords, but I can say I’m enjoying it once more. And I feel like I have the capacity for joy and friendship again. I can’t thrive without those.

Cheers to you and yours who are in the throes of the school year. I’m there in the trenches with you!



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