This is what no one told me before we started homeschooling – and I wish they would’ve said something!
Being a working mom, outside our home, was difficult. Like, really, really difficult.
Working outside the home in an executive level, management position meant every single day felt like a mad dash to achieve, perform, manage, and mother – all at the same time.
But the truth is, working outside the home was predictable. It was steady. It was dependable.
Before We Started Homeschooling
Monday through Friday, with very little variation, my working days looked a lot like this:
5:30 AM: Wake up to a blaring alarm. Tiptoe around so as to not wake the boys while I fumbled to get coffee and get ready for the day.
6:30 AM: Get the boys up, dressed, fed, lunches and backpacks ready.
7:15 AM: Drop my boys at ‘early care’ and head to the office.
8:00 AM: Start my day, at my desk, in silence. Look over the day’s agenda, prep for any important meetings, have another cup of coffee and stop in to say good morning to my team.
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Follow the agenda for the day.
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM: Lunch meeting often complete with a glass of wine.
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Follow the agenda for the day.
5:00 PM – 5:30 PM: Clean-up desk. Jot down notes for the next day.
6:15 PM: Pick-up boys from ‘aftercare’ and head home.
6:30 PM: Start dinner, homework, baths and reading time.
8:30 PM: Bedtime for the boys. (not that they went to sleep… but 8:30 was bedtime)
10:00 PM: Clean-up the dishes and pick-up house.
10:30 PM: Bedtime for me.
It was exhausting. It was stressful. I felt like I was letting everyone down all the time.
What No One Told Me Before We Started Homeschooling
When we made the decision to have me stay home, I was so relieved. I knew it was the best thing for my children. Although we did not have any diagnoses at the time, it was abundantly clear that school, and the lifestyle we had been living, were not working out for either one of them.
And to be 100% honest, before we started homeschooling, I thought that by eliminating the pressures of working, I was going to knock this homeschooling mom thing out of the park.
How hard could it be, now that I did not have the external pressures of work and could just focus on my boys (bless my naive little heart)?
My last of day of work was in mid-May. The kids were out of school in June, so at first, it was like an amazing summer vacation. We slept in. We ate whenever we wanted to. We played, saw friends and even traveled a little.
Then, the next school year rolled around. My heart was already aching for structure, routine and dependability, and I was excited to get us on a schedule that made sense.
What has absolutely floored me about being home is that the routine and schedule for the day is 100% totally dependent on me. Not only that, but it never, ever, no matter how hard I try, goes the way I plan.
That’s it. The hardest part for me is not the cleaning, or the whining, or the teaching, or the lack of adult lunches with wine (although, don’t get me wrong, I miss those too), or the not wearing cute, sassy clothes, or the messes, or the constant clamor for the next meal.
Nope. I can handle all of that. What I wish I knew when I became a stay at home mom is that creating an organized day, without any external factors to determine start times, end times, meal times, and tasks, is really, really difficult. Sometimes, it feels almost impossible.
No one told me to expect the randomness, before we started homeschooling.
Now That We Are Homeschooling
Here is what any given day now looks like for us (I say random because ten years later, there is still not much of an average day):
7:00 AM: I get up 30 minutes late. I really don’t have to get up at all. Everyone is still asleep, and we have nowhere to be, but I need some time to myself.
8:30 AM: The boys wake up. They immediately both ask for me to snuggle with them. I can’t be in two places at once, so I tell one to watch a You Tube video and I will be in after I am finished up with his brother. I already feel guilty about the screen time.
9:30 AM – 6:00 PM: Who knows how it will go. It is a mix of reading, school, food, messes, screen time, more food, boys fighting, boys playing, a trip anywhere to get out of the house, more food, more screen time, more messes, more reading.
6:00 PM: Maybe prep dinner. Maybe serve eggs.
8:00 PM: Try to get everyone settled down. We all pile on the couch and watch a Mythbusters.
9:00 PM: Baths, maybe.
9:30 PM: Bedtime, maybe. (And what I mean by bedtime is time to start moving towards the beds)
10:30 PM: Actual bedtime, after whining, a few arguments, me giving in and letting them play one more level of something, more screen time guilt, praying for patience, talking the little one down off the anxiety ledge, and praying some more.
It is exhausting. It is stressful. I feel like I am letting everyone down all the time.
So although everything about the two days is completely different, the end result is the same. I am tired, stressed and pretty sure I am failing. Good times.
“Is it time for me to pony up and make changes?”.
I have decided that the answer is yes and no.
The truth is, I could be a lot more diligent about bedtime routines and hard starts and stops in our day.
But when I really assess the flow of our days, the reality is that it is working for us. My children are thriving. They are learning. The progress they have made in the last year, despite their unique challenges, floors me.
Am I tired? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Could I do some things differently? Yes.
But at the end of the day, this is kinda how we roll now. We do have unique circumstances that make every day a little bit of a surprise ( i.e. sleep problems, meltdowns, sensory issues, eating issues, a dyslexic brain trying to learn sight words, mom needing another cup of coffee, and then another before we can do one more thing).
I am beginning to learn that being home with these children means embracing the chaos and the crazy. It means planning for the plan to always flex and change. It means learning to live with a schedule that isn’t really a schedule but a nice suggestion.
It means shaking off the familiar feeling of failure, instead of looking at all the good that is happening all around me.
It means acknowledging that a controlled, predictable schedule and life, was painful for my children and for me.
It means remembering how grateful I am to be with these guys, every day, no matter what the day brings.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.