I was mouthing the words, “help me”, when the yellow schoolbus passed by…
Somewhere in my third year homeschooling, I was done.
In my heart, I was mouthing the words “help me” as the school bus drove by. I found myself reacting to kids’ squabbles or perpetually irritated that a child wouldn’t show interest in his studies, by saying, “If you don’t…then you’re getting on that bus Monday morning.”
I knew I didn’t actually want to research the local school’s telephone number, but I definitely didn’t know what else to do.
I was done.
I didn’t have time for me.
I didn’t feel good in my body.
I felt overwhelmed.
I was bored by yet another repeat of the same curriculum.
I did everything as perfectly as I could, but had this feeling it wasn’t good enough.
I wondered if I was doing right by my kids’ education.
Until I watched a Brene Brown TedX Talk and realized I didn’t even factor ME into my life. What did I need?
I learned I had to take care of ME to take care of my kids.
Alongside planning for your homeschool, you need to choose YOU too.
Whether you’ve been homeschooling for one month or twenty five years, you need to routinely practice taking care of you.
Welcome to the Homeschool Mama Self-Care Podcast. If you are a homeschool mama challenged by doubt, not sure if you can do this homeschool thing, if you are a Homeschool Mama challenged by overwhelm, there are just too many things to do, or if you are a Homeschool Mama looking for connection and encouragement, then this is the podcast for you.
I’m Teresa Wiedrick from capturingthecharmedlife.com, and I am here to encourage you in your homeschool journey. So, let’s turn our homeschool challenges into our homeschool charms.
Happy Mother’s Day, Homeschool Mamas. I hope you have been encouraged, inspired, and felt like somebody came alongside you to address the real homeschool mama needs that you have in our last week’s Instagram Live Homeschool Mama Mentor series.
I was so privileged to chat with these homeschool mama mentors that I have been getting to know through my podcast and also behind the scenes. Women inspire me and encourage me so that I feel not only supported but able to address real issues or concerns or needs that I have in my real homeschool. And I know that my experience and my needs as a homeschool mom for fifteen years are fairly reflective of the needs and concerns that you might have because I have been there, done that for about fifteen years. So let’s say fifteen years; I am going to hold that number for a while because I am going to forget how many years it actually is. If I can’t remember how old my actual children’s ages are at any given time, or even some days, their names, then I’ll just say fifteen years for a bit. But I know that who I am and that who you are isn’t the same.
We come to homeschooling for different reasons. We came to parenting for different reasons. We have different opinions about what an education is anyway. We have different opinions on how to engage our children when they are doing challenging things. We just don’t necessarily see the world the same way.
However, I wrote the book Homeschool Mama Self Care, Nurturing the Nurturer because I learned to pay attention to what I needed. And I discovered in my study along the way with a whole bunch of other homeschool mamas that we have some very common concerns.
We have common concerns like perfectionism! Some of us don’t feel like what we are doing is good enough. Surely whatever we see that is pretty on Pinterest or somebody else’s Instagram account is the best way to homeschool. Or surely the school system knows how to educate children, and we couldn’t possibly meet their standards or expectations. Wait! Are we supposed to want to?
Some of us have challenges with anger. We like to tell ourselves we are just not patient enough to homeschool, but the truth is I have yet to meet that mom that feels they are patient enough to homeschool. And if you are that mom, because I surely have just not met that mom yet, I know that the reason why you are patient isn’t that you’re necessarily self-controlled; rather, you have learned to understand your child. You simply understand who they really are where they are in their development.
There’s grace for understanding a child, but that discovery took many years, and I still engage in the challenge of learning to understand my children. And I hear so often that that is the case for you too.
Do you know what else I hear about? A common concern, understandable concern that you have, that of doubt. You are doubting that whether what you are doing is really doing right by your child. Does this education at home thing work? Oh, for so many reasons, it works. But how do I tell you that it will work without you seeing that it will work? Well, I have a few ways to address that doubt.
Do you know why I’ve had to learn that? Because I doubted. Because I had a hard time believing coming from my perspective, my background, my educational background, my husband’s educational background, and the culture of what we were taught what an education is anyway.
I have had to learn to look into my child’s eyes, pay attention to my child in front of me rather than what I have been told on that, and believe that the way they learn is the way they learn. In fact, what they want to learn is what they need to learn that playing is learning. So sometimes I get to infuse their days with educational things that I really think are important for them to know, and that’s okay, too.
Doubt is not dispelled simply because I’ve determined I will now be confident. Frankly, I want to infuse you with confidence and just say, here’s your vaccination against doubt. But it doesn’t exist. Because you don’t need a vaccination for this one, you need muscle strengthening. You are going to learn how to be independent. You are going to think independently. You are going to think family-centric, your family. What does your family need? What does your child need?
Your goal is to help educate your children. And you, Mama, are your child’s greatest advocate. And as you do that, you will strengthen your independent muscle. You will see as you observe your children that they do indeed learn and grow up to be the people they were meant to be when that’s your goal.
Homeschool mamas struggle with boundaries. Are you surprised, no, not surprised? This discussion of boundaries is huge because what boundary you may feel is important might not be one that I think is important. But I guarantee you that whatever boundary issues you have in pretty much any relationship, it is baring out in your experience at home in your homeschool with how you approach your kids.
My exploration into boundaries began in my marriage, extended into my relationship with my parents, and in the church that I was attending, and into my friendship community that I had. And just like strengthening the muscle of independence, so I doubt much less than a homeschool mom.
Practicing and strengthening that muscle of boundaries influences my approach with my kids in my homeschool. And it also makes sure that I actually feel like I have time for myself. I have quiet. I have time to develop myself. I can recharge. I include activities in our homeschool days that are also mentally stimulating for me. But, equally, almost as equally a challenge for homeschool families, homeschool mamas in the beginning years of homeschooling, and on towards veteran homeschool years, if we don’t have this figured out, is how to deal with overwhelm in our home schools—overwhelmed with what you ask? Okay, the only person who is asking is the person who accidentally fell upon this podcast that isn’t a homeschool parent. But there are so many reasons to be homeschool overwhelmed, wouldn’t you say?
I got a Grappling with Overwhelm checklist, a free PDF for you available in my Homeschool group, the Homeschool Mama Support group on Facebook, and on the link in my bio on Instagram Homeschool Mama Self-Care. Definitely, a popular download for a reason. But once again, I can give you the checklist, you can check it once or twice every day, but you don’t have time? You can be reminded of what to do to address your overwhelm; it’s a muscle you need to strengthen. There are common reasons homeschool moms feel overwhelmed. Can we say unrealistic expectations? Maybe that needs to become a homeschool mom affirmation every morning. Be realistic with my expectations of my child because they are a child. P.S. I am speaking to me right now because when you are around your homeschool kids long enough, you kind of expect them to adultify. And frankly, that’s a useful tool because they should be growing up along the way, but also, they’re not grown up yet.
Those are two concepts that are challenging to meld in your mind that you want your child to adultify, to grow up and to be able to engage in relationships in a healthy way. Because they are taught, you have given them the tools, so why aren’t you doing it already? But also, they are children, and they aren’t grown up. It’s challenging to put the two ideas together, but the goal is to help them grow up and recognize that they’re not grown up.
Altering my expectations of how I actually do homeschool is a huge discussion. Frankly, the unschooling movement and the self-directed learning movement take on with fervour, as it should, and whether we choose to be unschooled or self-directed learners; I am not telling you how to homeschool, you do you I mean that. But, I do think that taking cues from our practical homeschool days and saying is what we are doing actually working? Do we enjoy it? Are our children learning? What do they think about this? Those are useful tools for us to determine whether we should shift in a direction that might work better.
And from experience, unschooling and self-directed learning movements and John Taylor Gatto are on hold to lead Bokat Judy. Millions of other people have given me loads of things to consider all about my child’s learning approach. And if they need to be learning what other people are saying, it is important to know how to learn and show that learning is learning versus just test-taking and grade making. Hmm, big discussion, but, oh, so overwhelming when our expectations are a school like homeschools.
It’s always been a challenge for homeschool moms dealing with loneliness. But no more than this year, this year has highlighted it for everybody in a different or unique way. But as homeschool moms, we homeschool moms have been challenged to create and enable a community that feels satisfying for us in our homeschooled kids. The notion that we’re actually alone, though, isn’t real. Yeah, we feel like we are, because why? We know there are seven billion other people on the planet, so surely somebody else thinks like us, or feels like us, or exists like us. But therein lies the challenge that we actually expect not to feel lonely; we must have other people who think like us and do things like us. Which might I add, if you have a partner or a best friend, you’ll know that no matter how much they love you and you love them, you don’t think the same way. You just don’t.
So how do we feel together, separately, independently? There are some ways that we can approach our loneliness or a sense of separateness or our lack of community. One is by showing up authentically. If Bené Brown told me anything, it was that I could not show up in a contrived way. Oh, yes, I could, and oh, yes, I did because I was afraid to show up any other way. I wanted to show up as a good, good person. I wanted to show up as a kind person. And though, of course, these things are valuable, there’s a whole different aspect of me. And I do not mean to be unkind and ungood. I need to show up like me, authentically, truly me. And when I show up like that, when I show up as me, if people like me, it’s because they like me. If I show up as inauthentic, my people will not like me; they might like me, but they don’t even know who I am, so they’re going to like something that isn’t really me.
And I know they don’t know the real me. So, then I feel kind of lonely because nobody knows me. So first and foremost, I must show up authentically, and if homeschooling taught me anything, it was that we homeschool moms are not homogenous. Our homeschool families in any community are not homogenous. We don’t think the same way; we don’t choose the same curriculum if we have one; we don’t choose the same approaches with our kids, with our values, even if we are attending the same church, we don’t think the same way. I learn from my homeschool world that I do not have to think identically in order to connect. And the thing that I have learned along the way entirely from my own experience is that the number one reason I feel lonely is because I’m not comfortable with just being with me.
I’ll let you think about that one. That one is one that many people say, “Say what?” If we are comfortable existing in solitude, we are comfortable being with other people that are different from us. We’re comfortable just being, and we don’t feel alone because we’re not alone; we’re with us. So be friends with yourself first.
Naturally, I think Brené Brown says it best in her book, Daring Greatly, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. She says belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to gain it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which is not only a hollow substitute for belonging but often a barrier to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our own level of self-acceptance.
These are just some of the challenges I’ve experienced in homeschooling, and I know that you also have other challenges.
This is the season where homeschool mamas start to plan for their next year. Well, it is for a lot of homeschool moms. If you’re one of those homeschool moms like me right now, that’s thinking, are you kidding? I am so done with homeschooling; I am absolutely not planning the next year. Then don’t worry, I’m with you.
But I know, based on what I’m seeing with others around me and online, that people are definitely beginning to plan their next home school years. And I know that in my early years, I most definitely was planning homeschooling in May.
In fact, I was often attending a homeschool conference which was really helpful for me to walk through different curriculum vendors and see what was offered. I was as excited as anyone to pull my rolling luggage along that giant hallway to see what was going to be my next homeschool year. So that’s how I approached it then. And boy did I put effort into it, just like you have. I had my coloured markers and my homeschool mamas daytimer. I had every subject planned. I had a little notebook where I kept ideas. I still do, but I followed them.
That would be the difference between then and now. I expected that if I wrote it down, I did it. Not so much anymore. I’m way more free-flowing now.
Way back then, I had the day scheduled. No surprise if you know me. I was an eight to three-thirty kind of gal because that’s what they’re doing in school. I followed religiously the Susan Wise Bowers timey, the well-trained mind that is filled with fabulous homeschool ideas. And fabulous ways to approach different aspects of an education, but I followed it to a T.
My eight-year-old and six-year-old at the time most definitely remember that I did that. And even the most academic of them didn’t think it was fun. But I did it, and I planned every read-aloud, and I planned every history reading, and I planned every morning read aloud, and poetry, and Latin, and French, and Italian, and economics and logic, and history, and science, and chemistry, and biology, and geology. And I could continue. I did it all. I planned it all. I don’t know how you are planning it, and maybe you’re not doing anything about what I’ve done. That’s okay because however you do it, I genuinely think you should do it the way that works for you and your kids.
And to even go with the flow of how you’ve traditionally been taught, but gradually pay attention so closely to your children. Observe how your children learn. Observe what they do when they are left to their own devices that they actually teach you what learning really is and how you should be homeschooling. Then gradually let go of your ideas of how you’re supposed to do it, and you’re doing it how your family needs to do it. But you are doing all that planning for your homeschooled kids, and you’re doing all of it would be expected.
Of course, you are doing that, but are you planning for you? So, I’m a homeschool mom of four, and somewhere in my third homeschool year, about January or February, the slump month, that season where most homeschool moms are ready to find the yellow bus and put their kids on it, well, I was done. In my heart, I was mouthing the words, “Help me,” as the school bus drove past. I reacted to the kid’s squabbles more intensely, or there I was, finding myself perpetually irritated that a child wouldn’t show interest in her studies. I’d say something like, “If you don’t…” then you are getting on that bus.
Now, I knew I didn’t actually want to research the local school telephone number, but I definitely didn’t know what else to do. I was definitely done. I did not have time for me. I didn’t feel good in my body, and I felt overwhelmed, of course. I was bored by yet another repeat of the same curriculum.
I did everything as perfectly as I could, but I had this feeling it wasn’t good enough. I wondered if I was doing right by my kids until a friend of mine, a non-homeschool mom friend, had suggested that I watch a Brené Brown TED X talk. In that moment of a discussion on authenticity and vulnerability, I realized I was not factoring me in my homeschool at all. I don’t think I even knew who I was or what my interests were, or how I would want to do things for me. I don’t think I had a facial moisturizer. I might have been brushing my teeth, but that was about it. I definitely was not taking care of myself and time for me or doing something interesting that stimulated my mind. Umm, what I did not have time for that, when something in that moment clicked and said, take care of yourself so that you can take care of your kids.
And I say that to you too. It’s not an option. It’s not just about filling up a pitcher so that you can pour out a cup of whatever you need so you can pour out some stuff for your kids, though there’s truth in that. You literally embody the atmosphere and the energy of your homeschool.
You have the biggest influence in your home. And I’m not saying that to make you feel bad or feel pressured because you are not going to show up authentically, perfectly, ideally, exactly as you want to all the days of your life. That’s not a thing. You’re a human being with human needs, with human feelings, and with human challenges. And you are not going to do it right all the time.
But at the same time, you are growing, and you want to do right by them, and you want to show up for them in a way that will really benefit them; that’s why you started this thing.
So, if that’s the case, then I ask you, how are you planning for you? Whether you have been homeschooling for just a month or even twenty-five years, you need to continually practice taking care of yourself to nurture the nurturer.
I wrote a book; I don’t know if you heard about that; I got a Homeschool Mamas Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer, and I tell you that this book is written to encourage you, to take care of you and to plan for you. And it was absolutely a book that was born out of me, enabling me to continue to take care of me so that I could take care of my kids.
On the back of my book, the publisher wrote, “You grapple with overwhelm, doubt, perfectionism, anger, boredom, and impatience. It’s easy to overlook basic self-nurturing when faced with a steady stream of childhood needs. Learn how to reframe those uncomfortable feelings and develop the perspective that implementing self-care practices brings. Teresa delivers that and more in the book that addresses what real Homeschool Mamas need.”
Though I offer you encouragement in a book, I am also offering you a Homeschool Mama Retreat.
Now obviously, at this time, I can’t give you a real-life retreat though I intend to because I am a bed and breakfast owner, eager to get back into the business when I’m able, and I would love to meet you in person at my homestead bed and breakfast.
I would love to spend a weekend with you where we had times of just chatting about the most core important aspects of taking care of ourselves. Maybe enjoying a homemade breakfast in the morning, definitely enjoying coffee by the riverside, having afternoons of canoeing, or hiking, or paddleboarding, or zip-lining if you feel.
We could do all sorts of things in real-time. And I would definitely take you in the evening around a campfire with a glass of wine and just chat real-time; you, me, and a few other mammas encourage each other and nurture each other.
But in the meantime, I am offering a Homeschool Mama Retreat virtually. The goal of this homeschool retreat is to reassess your homeschool vision and ask yourself why are you homeschooling any way? What’s keeping you going? Do you have a vision? Do you need to recreate that vision?
I’ll talk about releasing your mindset, talking about the practicalities of homeschooling, like, what is an education anyway. And how are you to show up? Are you showing up as a teacher, learning consultant, or facilitator? Is there a myth in multitasking? Honestly, is there a homeschool mama out there that doesn’t become incredibly proficient at multitasking? Naturally, of course, but it turns out it’s not always a happy-making multitasking path. It is always a kind of agitated state of getting it all done but not feeling very good at the end of the day when you do.
I am definitely going to encourage you to read beyond this retreat; to read a whole lot about homeschooling. Because even if you don’t agree with what the author thinks of their philosophy or their approach, you will always feel you were with another seasoned homeschool parent that was willing to structure their thoughts in a book and give you loads of ideas about how you could approach your homeschooling and your children and all this stuff.
I’m going to talk about what makes homeschooling hard, but I’m guessing you already know. Then I am going to encourage you to reimagine how you show up in your own homeschool family. Because, like I said, you set the atmosphere.
When you understand yourself, when you have on the regular observed yourself, when you have assessed yourself in how you show up, like actually how you show up, not how you want to show up, not how you ideally show up, or on the best of days, but how you truly show up, you help to unravel the internal challenges you have so that you can choose to show up the way that you want to show up.
Because who you are, impacts your family. I wish it weren’t true, but more is caught than taught, and that is actually true.
A truth universally acknowledged is that a homeschool mama will always infuse her children with the core of who she really is, more than the core of what she says. Thank you, Jane Austen. Actually, Jane Austen did not say that.
Understand your identity outside your homeschool mama identity. It might not actually feel pertinent right now for you to explore your identity when you are in the thick of homeschooling. You got a lot of demands on you.
Why are you focusing on who you are? Well, besides the fact that one day you won’t be homeschooling, the kids actually grow up; that’s the goal. You also nurture you all along the way so that when that day comes, you’ll know what to do. And also, for twenty years, you don’t have to put yourself on hold.
So, what are the steps to you becoming you? I talk about that, about where I’ve come from and how I’ve done that because I definitely didn’t start that way in homeschooling. How about you becoming you while you live with others? Really that’s encapsulated in a counselling word called self-differentiation. And it might be the most difficult aspect of being part of a family is you fully acknowledging who you are, and you doing you, but also still coexisting with other people and affirm them to do them.
I am always going to direct you back to doing your own homeschool mama daily affirmations. You may or may not have downloaded my free PDF of Homeschool Mama Daily Affirmations, but I am going to tell you daily affirmations each morning that remind you how you want to show up in your home school. No magic sauce there. You will not always follow through just because you said those affirmations in the morning, but it will gradually seep into your soul gradually.
We will talk about renovating your health care strategies you thought about when I first told you I had a book on homeschool mamas health care, renovating your morning routine, creating a routine, not a schedule even for you—feeding your brain, taking care of the physical health care needs, and creating a regular self-nurturing routine.
We’ll talk about recognizing your emotional landscape, which I think is one of the biggest aspects of self-car, is really identifying how you engage certain feelings. What makes you feel filled with doubt or overwhelm or lonely or failure or impatience? How do you handle pressure cooker days or stressful times? Is there such a thing as homeschool balance? How do you deal with those days? How do you show up to them? How do you feel about the feelings that are not comfortable? And what do you do with them? That is a very big discussion in the homeschool mama retreat for probably obvious reasons; it infuses your homeschool atmosphere.
And let’s talk recharging, intentionally, mentally recharging, enabling quiet time. Am I joking? No, I’m not. Yes, it can be done, but do not lock yourself in a bathroom. You’re guaranteed to have a child knock on the door. How about keeping alone time or practicing fun time that you think is fun, not just what the kids think is fun, creating learning time for you? I’m going to share with you the steps I’ve taken to help me nurture me, so I can help you nurture you to nurture those in your homeschool. If you’re interested in this homeschool mama retreat, contact me at Homeschool Mama Self-Care on Facebook or Instagram. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a final letter to you, homeschool mama. “Once upon a time, you likely told yourself you have one of the best jobs in the world, you took on this job with fervour, and no one expected you to. You get to watch your kids grow up right before your eyes. You get to watch them learn chess moves when they’re three, win chess games with dad at eight, and create their own Minecraft servers, or at least that was my experience. You get to see their vivacious animated personality create a successful YouTube channel with 50,000 viewers? You get to watch their fascination with dolphins turn into an aquatic online science class. You get to watch them dance in a cute pink tutu and enter ballet. You get to observe their people-watching passions turn into a social science degree. Watch their preoccupation with history? Reading on their bed, turn into a Greek and Latin history minor. You get to see them develop their interests as they grow into adulthood. You get to develop your interest too. If you’re interested in Greek mythology, you can buy a book, read the book with the kids, take courses online, build Greek columns from sugar cubes, wrap yourself in white sheets, make a crown of grape leaves, and have your kids feed you grapes, olives, and wine on the living room floor. And call that social studies. You get to dabble in your interest, just like you encourage your kids to dabble in theirs. You get to do the homeschool Hyuga. Isn’t it funny how outsiders think we’re tethered to all things uncomfortable? Meanwhile, we steadily move toward all things Hyuga.
Do they not know we can choose to let the kids sleep in if they want? Do they know we don’t feel pressured toward cultural trends? Nor do we know about them a lot of the time. Do they not know we get to move at the flow of our family and influence the flow of our family to fit our needs too. We get chocolate chip cookies with cursive workbooks. We get family room fires with afternoon reading, tea and essential oils throughout school days, and candlelight, just because.
Mama, has anyone told you that you have one of the best jobs in the world? Homeschooling can be a challenge to maintain mamas self-care. No doubt.
But the homeschool lifestyle can also be a charmed one that encourages mama self-care. It’s a challenge to build on your needs, it’s a challenge to build directly on your needs, your wants, and your personality into your homeschool world, but it can be done. And it will be done as you continue moving forward into habits and practices that take care of you.
So, let’s keep working towards turning our challenges into our charms. I wish you and your family health and happiness as you learn to go beyond surviving to thriving, as you learn to nurture the nurturer.”
I would love to learn more about who you are, so come on over to our Facebook Group, the Homeschool Mamas Support Group, or the Homeschool Mamas Self-Care Instagram page so that we can support and encourage each other in our homeschool challenges.
While you are there, you can check out my book on homeschool encouragement, Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer. If you are a homeschool mama looking for extra support, ask me about the homeschool mama retreat.
All the show notes and links of this episode will be found at www.capturingthecharmedlife.com. Please subscribe to this podcast and post a review. Because when you do, you help other homeschool moms learn more about how to take care of them to nurture the nurturer.
Until next time, I hope you and your kids have a charmed week. And if you are having one of those days, I hope you can reframe your challenges into your homeschool charms.
Get more encouragement in the book: Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer
Order my book Homeschool Mama Self-Care: Nurturing the Nurturer
Call to Adventure by Kevin MacLeod