By Corey Heller
We homeschoolers tend to be a pretty upbeat bunch. We have to be. We don’t have the time or energy to be down. We are with our children 24/7. No breaks allowed. We worry that the minute we take our eyes off the ball, things will fall apart, which, by the way, does seem prone to happen. God forbid we should take a moment to actually look at ourselves from a distance: Aside from the gaggle of children hanging from us (who always have something to share, ask and discuss), we can’t even remember the last time we showered, let alone put on deodorant. Do I smell?
I’m exaggerating. A little.
The point is, even though it is exhausting at times, it is totally worth it. To be able to spend this precious time with our children is priceless. We get to share their daily experiences and realizations. We are the ones they turn to in delight when they finally solve a difficult math problem or see the connection between two seemingly unrelated historic events. We get to be there for all of it. Plus, we get to do all of this in more than one language (and in our pajamas if we want)!
There are times, however, when it becomes completely and utterly overwhelming.
There are those pivotal moments when you wonder what the hell you are doing. Throwing in the towel would be an understatement for what you’d like to do. You start to wonder if you made some big, really big, mistake somewhere along the way when you thought you could actually pull off this whole bilingual homeschooling thing. Language Arts? Who cares! Math? Overrated!
There are times when three children (still in pajamas) are asking for the third time where breakfast is and why on earth it has to be oatmeal again and I answer angrily, “Because we are poor now that mommy quit her job to stay at home with you (lovely, wonderful, sweet) kids and oatmeal is all we can afford. Plus, it helps protect against heart disease. So eat up! And then do something productive that’s quiet, very quiet.”
Adding a second language into the mix makes it a disaster waiting to happen, especially when the parent doing the homeschooling (me) in the second language doesn’t even speak it natively. What was I thinking! Let’s just say that there are times when the last thing on my mind is whether or not I am covering enough Language Arts in German. Heck, I’m happy to have even gotten to it in English! Or wait, did I?
Sure, we can call it bilingual homeschooling. Whatever. Just pass me that bottle of brandy, er, mug of coffee.
In fact, there are times when I honestly can’t handle it anymore and I lose it. Completely. Fully. I feel something inside me cry out, “Enough! Enough! Enough!” and I inadvertently end up yelling at one of my kids about something slightly worth yelling about (or maybe not at all). I start to feel the hot, steaming tears rise as I rush into my bedroom sobbing, “Mama needs a time out – right now!” I throw myself face-down on my bed and break out into tears.
I cry. I sob. I curl up in a ball and I whimper. My whole existence is on the line. I question everything. My whole life. All of it. From top to bottom, one end to the other. I focus on a whole litany of things to feel sorry for myself about: No one is supporting me. I’m all alone in this. My children never listen to me. Others are always judging me. Nothing ever works for me. My parents are dead. I need to lose weight. I am a horrible failure. My German sucks. On and on and on until I can’t stand it anymore. It takes a while but in the end it feels really good to feel sorry for myself for just a little while.
Whereas many may meditate or read a book or chat on the phone for their “me time,” homeschoolers have just enough time to cry, scream, yell, sob and rant before getting back to math, history and an analysis of Charlotte’s Web.
Eventually I get myself together and emerge from my self-inflicted time out. My pity-party is over and now it is time to face the music. I sit myself down on the sofa between my kids who are furiously doing something homeschool related. No one looks at me except for an occasional sideways glance. Silence. Pencils scratching furiously in workbooks.
I apologize. I explain that I’m feeling worn out and that even though it is no excuse for an outburst, Mama is having a tough day (week/month/year/life). Mama just needs to take a little break to put things into perspective again (i.e. cry her eyes out in the other room). You see, Mama did really want to quit her well-paying software job which helped keep her family living in relative financial security and exchange it for living on the edge financially and spending every single waking minute with her adoring kids and not an ounce of me time. Yes, Mama actually chose this. Mama begged for this. She dreamed of it. Mama couldn’t imagine anything better in life than this. Doesn’t Mama remember that?
I’m not sure, exactly, what follows but soon my children and I are laughing about the stupid things I yelled at them. They literally roll on the floor and we all have tears streaming down our faces from laughing so hard. They remind me of stupid things they said in the past and we all roar again with laughter. Eventually we calm down and we talk about how sometimes we say things that we don’t really mean and how we are sorry afterward. They remind me that things like that just happen sometimes. And they are exactly right. Somewhere along the way I forgot that I was a human being too.
Still feeling a little bruised and weak and guilty, by the time my children’s father comes home from work, we are all snuggled on the sofa reading books together. He steps in the door and my kids run to him to tell him all about Mama’s wild and crazy outburst and how they almost peed their pants laughing so hard.
My husband looks at me sympathetically. He knows what happened. It has happened before. He smiles at me and I say, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Glass of wine?”