Just so you know, I am just like you.
I have my good days and my bad ones.
I hurt and feel utterly broken as a human at times.
I get disappointed, feel discouraged or let people down unintentionally.
Other times I'm on top of the world.
I feel grateful, joyful and content.
I don't always post when I'm at my worst nor do I when I'm on the heights.
Sometimes people have said to me that it looks like I do the whole homeschooling thing quite effortlessly.
Well, let me assure you that pretty much nothing to do with motherhood, including homeschooling, has come effortlessly to me.
Let's unpack this a little.
What I know people are trying to say is that I make homeschooling look easy/simple/fun but here's the thing you have to remember: I have been homeschooling now for 13 years (soon to head into our 14th year). I have had PRACTICE and TIME to understand myself. I've had time to get to know what we need, what makes my kids tick, how to let go of things that don't serve us well. It has taken time and intention to do this and it certainly WASN'T done effortlessly. When we were first married (nearly 21 years ago), I had no idea how to write a grocery list, let alone cook meals. I didn't do a load of washing for almost 3 years because I had no idea how to work our twin tub machine (and also because truth be told, Brett actually enjoys doing the washing - still does).
When I was a teen, my Mum had tried to teach me how to cook meals from scratch but I really just wasn't interested in learning and didn't think I'd need it. I used the old, "I'm too busy studying" line on Mum and the only person that suffered really was myself! I couldn't imagine that I'd be married at 21 and would need to know how to do adult things like shop, cook and organise a home.
Brett graciously and patiently taught me well. He shared his knowledge with me and we learned new skills together.
In quiet moments, I would also call my Mum and say, "Mum, I know you've told me before but I wasn't really paying attention. Can you please tell me again how to cook that spag bol I love that you make?" She was also patient with me and I would write down what she told me in a recipe book I bought (I still have these recipes). Mum would also write out recipes for me and send them to me in the mail. Just this past week she sent me one and I have these all kept in my family recipe planner (post to come on that another time). There's something so special about handwritten recipes I think, especially ones shared with love by your Mum.
When I held my first child who came 5 weeks before her due date, I hadn't finished taking antennal classes let alone held any new born babies. I had no first cousins in Australia and had never changed a nappy or bathed a baby. So it was quite a shock to then be a young married Mum in a new area (we had just moved to the Blue Mountains at that time) with a new baby. It was overwhelming to say the least. Add in the fact that, as newborns do, she screamed a lot and I felt like I was constantly feeding her and changing nappies. I went from being Valedictorian of my university to being completely consumed by exhaustion, motherhood and this whole new kind of life. Before our first was born, I had told my Mum (who had offered to come and stay with us) that I'd be quite capable (thanks anyway!) but after a few weeks, I was BEGGING her to come and help out. The 'I-can'-do-it-and-I-can-prove-it' attitude went flying out the window when sleep, energy and my self assurance left the building. I needed all the help I could get to navigate this new way. I was very fortunate to find an amazing Mother's Group at that time. We became as close as sisters and I love them (and their children) to this day. They helped me navigate a lot of those early years and I will forever be indebted to them for their encouragement and friendship. Over the years, we added more children in to the mix and my understanding of the realistic and natural limitations of motherhood and my own abilities grew. I became more aware of who I was and my own needs. Brett and I worked hard on our marriage, working through some big issues and setting aside time to be together (mostly date nights in and the odd one out). I started to hone my skills as a mother just like I would if I had had a career outside the home. I researched fresh approaches to things, learned how to cook meals that would feed our small army on a budget and taught myself how to clean. I wrote lists of cleaning tasks, laminated them and stuck them behind my doors. This I did until I no longer had to look at the task list and could remember automatically how to clean up a room at a time. This must sound ridiculous to many of you but it was like I had missed these steps somehow. I had to learn them as an adult and practice them until they became a habit. I created a family recipe folder. I worked out that meal planning was one way that my family would be able to function better and we put it into practice. Brett has ALWAYS been a equal partner in the running of our home (cleaning, cooking etc) and we both wanted our kids to partner with us in it too. We taught them from the earliest of times, how to have responsibilities in the home. They would set the table, pack away cutlery or sweep floors even when they were little. Now with 3 teens and 2 younger ones, I tell you this investment has really paid off. The house functions like a well oiled machine most days but that hasn't come without LOTS AND LOTS of reminding, encouraging and sometimes just getting upset about it all when those tasks haven't happened. And don't get me wrong. I'm not saying our home is perfect. We fight. We get overly dramatic about things. People are on medications for all sorts of things. Issues escalate quickly and end in tears often. Then we do the repair work. We apologise, acknowledge wrongs, forgive each other and commit to trying again.
I'm sharing these little examples with you of how nothing to do with motherhood has really come naturally to me. With intention and effort, and much Grace on God's part, I have learned how to acquire skills and know myself and my family well. I have adapted, been humbled many times over and have gotten up and tried again. Homeschooling has been the same for me. When we first started, I (like so many people I know) came to homeschooling with little to no experience of what homeschooling could look like. I had only my background of first-hand school experience (which was mostly good) and my efforts of playing schools as a child, to go off. I really had very little else. And although my experience of school had been mostly good, schooling at school and homeschooling at home are TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS. I had to unlearn a lot of school-associated habits. I had to learn new things. I had to work out what worked for OUR family (even though it might sound crazy to another homeschooling family). Together we worked out rhythms that suited us well. I had to let go of the notion that I was going to be some amazing homeschooling Mum who got up early every morning, had a devotional in the same chair each day and sipped on tea. That just isn't me. Sure I have done that at times but trying to MAKE myself do things (mostly just because I read of other people doing it) and trying to make myself fit the fantasy version of my homeschooling-self, just doesn't seem to stick. Maybe I'm too lazy. I don't know. All I know is that WHO I actually am is sometimes different to the fantasy-version of my homeschooling self and THAT'S OK. It's ok because THIS version of WHO I AM is authentic, is the ONLY real version of mother that my children have and is therefore the BEST ONE for them. Again, not that I'm perfect *because I AM NOT* but I am theirs and they are mine and we are all in this together, doing our best. So, if you are reading this and feeling like you are always looking at other people who make things look effortless, know that there was probably time and intention behind their journey. Know that along the way they have made mistakes, had many moments of humbling and have really hard days too. Know that YOU are the perfect parent for your kiddos. Know that NO ONE has it altogether all of the time and that seasons exist in life to teach us and help us grow.
Remember that we are all learning as we go. Give yourself time. Learn a new skill to challenge and extend yourself. It's never too late to learn. Do what is right for your family and for you without worrying how it compares to other people (even others walking a similar path to you). Learn how to fill your cup. Learn how to let go of things. Do you. And may peace reign in your hearts and minds as you continue to grow in grace with yourself and your family.
All my love, Lusi x