Wow! I got lots of private emails about my last post. I'm afraid that my poor attempt at self-effacing humor in the exaggerated style of Erma Bombeck when I referred to myself as a burnt-out-shell-geriatric mom fell a little flat for some readers.
It's not that the pendulum has swung, and I've gone from supermom to slacker mom! I'm not burnt out when it comes to my children. I love being a mom, and I think that after nearly twenty-six years of motherhood, I've finally managed to find the right balance. I'm enjoying this stage of my life more than any other time, and I'm enjoying my kids more than ever. I'm just a slacker mom when it comes to attempting to please everyone, volunteer for everything, participate in every activity, worry about what everyone thinks and set my goals so high they are unattainable.
There are definitely things I no longer do. I no longer participate in activities just because others try to convince me that I should. I'm no longer the most active music mom or soccer mom or church mom. We no longer attend every homeschool group field trip and function. I've learned to say no when I feel like the time spent at home together as a family is more beneficial than the activity.
I no longer feel like I have to do everything. My children need me to be a good mom, not a perfect mom. Perfect mom is too hard on the children. I have used disposable diapers for quite awhile now. I still enjoy baking bread, canning and smocking dresses, but I do those things when I have time as an enjoyable hobby. Those things are no longer an obligation. I no longer feel like the kids have to have homemade bread every morning and a closetful of handmade clothes.
Some days I feel badly that the younger children aren't involved in music or sports, but then I remember the hours upon hours of commuting and hanging out in the car with bored and cranky babies and toddlers waiting for lessons or orchestra rehearsals for the older children to end, and I don't miss that. I have decided our time together as a family is more important than the skills they are missing. Life is more laid back and fun. We're not spending each day meeting schedules, rushing around hunting for lost shoes, sitting in traffic and stressed out.
I simply placed too many demands on myself when I was a young mother. Many of those demands were in my pursuit to be the best mother I could be, but I have to admit that some of those self-imposed demands were because of my worry about what other people thought about my parenting ability. Now I'm not so concerned about what other people think. I'm more comfortable in my own skin.
I've also learned that it's not always best for my children for me to be in their faces twenty-four hours a day. Sometimes I'm a better mom after giving myself a little break by popping in a video for my kids while I read a book, take a long bath or play on the computer.
I think with age and experience, I have better learned what is important and what is just a time killer and frustration creator. I don't try to potty train or teach the children to read or drill them on their multiplication tables before they are physically or mentally ready. Otherwise it's just a lesson in futility.
When I first started homeschooling, I used some poor curriculum that required way too much teacher preparation time, was too time intensive for the benefit gained, or the kids and I simply hated. There was not so much curriculum available back in the 1980's, but also if I spent the money on a book I didn't like, I felt I couldn't waste it by throwing the book away. Since that time I have found that my time and the kids' time is too precious to waste on anything but the best materials, and it can be more effective to cut our losses and start over. I have now found homeschool curriculum that I love, the kids love, has minimal preparation time and is simply more efficient. That way I can teach more effectively, and our school days are no longer so long.
After more than twenty years of homeschooling, I have learned to pare things down to what is important and to quit sweating the small stuff that won't matter a year from now, much less twenty years from now. I have also learned tricks to overcome learning bumps in the road, and I have learned when to push and when to back off. That learning curve when I first started homeschooling was stressful. I wasn't confident in my skills. Now I can see the results in my grown children and am more confident ... and less stressed.
I've learned that some days we just need to take a break. Maybe I'm in a bad mood or the kids are tired and school just isn't clicking. Maybe we need an hour to chill; maybe we need to take the rest of the day off. Maybe I'm trying to teach them a skill they just aren't ready for, and we need to put that book back on the shelf for a week ... or a month ... or a year. Maybe the book that worked like a dream for big sister just isn't right for little brother.
I started changing my teaching style (backing off) when Ben went into private practice, and I had to manage the business aspect of the practice. It was no longer possible to do everything I had been doing with the kids, and I found out that the kids kept right on learning even though I was no longer breathing down their necks ... and they were having more fun. On days that I was busy billing and couldn't get to school, I would find the kids reading a novel, writing a story or pulling out the field guides reading about a really cool bug they found on the windowsill. They might be reading the baby a book, playing school with the dog, learning how to program the calculator, or playing an educational computer game. Our house was suddenly filled with art projects, Lego creations, building projects and science experiments. The children were learning to teach themselves, and they were pretty darn good at it!
That's not to say that every day is a party. Math facts have to be memorized, long division has to be learned, and the Krebs cycle has to be understood. But if history can be learned with an interesting novel, why use a boring textbook? Why not study chemistry by blowing up something rather than reading about chemical reactions?
In the long run I think the younger children will be every bit as successful in school if not more so because they enjoy learning just for the sake of learning. Many nights I find the eleven year old hiding under the covers finishing up her history novel because she can't wait to find out how it ends. The six and seven year olds beg for us to let them read us just one more library book. With the older kids, I pushed them many times past the point where it was fun. I've learned with the younger kids you leave them always wanting more.
I'm a work-at-home mom of thirteen children ranging in age from twenty-six years old to five months old. Eight are home grown and five were adopted internationally (Russia, Guatemala, Vietnam and Ethiopia). We live on an 85-acre farm, and we have home schooled since 1986. My husband is a family physician in solo practice. I manage his practice and file the insurance claims.