I can smell it already – pumpkin spice threatening to invade every cell of my body: The scent of candles and flavored lattes; the repetitive globes of orange in front of every home and store; my calendar filling up with holiday gatherings; my stomach already expanding as I begin to fill it with treats… It all happens so fast!
I often fall into the trap of seeing the Thanksgiving season as nothing more than a celebration of abundance and indulgence, or just a lackluster prelude to Christmas. The excesses of the entire holiday season from October through New Year’s Day can be so overwhelming, and can affect every area of our lives. From our mental health to our physical well being, to our parenting and homeschool journey, the impact is widespread. But I think it’s a mistake to let this season pass by with nothing more to show for it than leftover turkey sandwiches and an increase in cortisol levels. In between all the hustle and bustle, I encourage you to find a quiet moment to connect with the excess of blessings and the abundance of time we are given with our children as homeschooling moms.
Maybe you’ve had a difficult homeschool day recently where you started feeling a little bit jealous of those enjoying independence and freedom from their children while they were off at school. I admit, when I’m trying to get my house ready for company or wanting to head to the stores to do some Christmas shopping, it can seem pretty appealing! But, when I watch parents trudging past my house toward school just after sunrise while my kids are still sleeping peacefully, I don’t feel envious. I feel grateful. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to try to mold my children’s biology and circadian rhythms into cookie cutter molds. When they’re sick, or we are busy, or they are passing through a growth milestone, I have the blessing of being able to allow their bodies to instinctively get the extra rest that they need.
This blessing of going at the child’s own pace extends beyond biology and physical wellbeing. The ability to spend more time and offer more support in areas where our children are struggling academically is priceless! Most homeschooling parents find that their children rarely follow the pace set at public school. Children are often “ahead” in one area and “behind” in another. What a blessing it is to be able to skip forward in areas that our children grasp on the first try, and linger in those areas our children aren’t fully understanding! In the public school setting, we would likely find “holes” in our children’s education where they were pushed past the areas they didn’t get, or we might see behavioral problems when our kids become bored by the lack of challenge in their stronger areas.
I would consider it a blessing, in fact, that we even get to be involved in how they are doing and what they are learning at all! You might have to wait half a year for a parent/teacher conference or report card to find out that your child is struggling at school. And you might never know exactly what they are being taught. News stories abound today with examples of parents who are upset and fighting the school system to have a say in what their kids are learning. The threats come from all sides: problematic curriculum and instruction, the wildcard of each teacher’s personality and worldview, and bullying or negative peer influence. As homeschooling parents, we don’t have to worry about that! We have the ability to direct our children’s learning and encourage a worldview that aligns with our values as a family. We get to be a part of their lives and education, and we get to know our children deeply. We have the ability to step in and protect our children the moment we sense trouble.
But we aren’t the only ones who get a say in our children’s education as homeschoolers. Our children have the freedom to direct their education as well! Homeschooling kids and teens have the ability to pursue their dreams, ideas, and passions in a way that is just not possible for those in an institutional setting. In addition, they also get to practice their critical thinking skills. Most homeschools involve much more discussion and reflection than public or even private schools. Homeschoolers can wrestle with the “why?” question – which might drive us crazy at times – but ultimately leads to more integrated and long-lasting learning, and encourages character development.
Curiosity, humility, gentleness, introspection, reverence, meekness – these important character traits are often steamrolled by the culture of the education system. Those who are loud, forceful, and self-serving are those who are rewarded. I’m so thankful that I can encourage these valuable character attributes that are often overlooked in a loud, chaotic, and merit-based learning environment. For those who are sensitive, the sensory overload of the indoor, institutional setting can often be too much to tune out.
I love that we can step outdoors at any moment and reflect in wonder at the beauty of creation. I’m thankful that our family remains together, as a unit, growing and learning and complementing each other, rather than fragmented into separate buildings and classrooms. I’m incredibly grateful that I am there to hear all the laughs and shouts of joy, to wipe away the tears, and to experience both the sunshine and the rain with my family. I am in awe of the abundance of freedoms, joys, and the depth of meaning that I have been gifted as a homeschooling mother.
So, as our lives begin to condense and explode with the must-haves and must-dos of the holiday season, remember to first stop and consider these blessings. As we prepare to celebrate with friends and family and refute or dodge questions about our choices, let’s prepare to respond this time not with defensive arguments about what we are learning and teaching our kids, but with a long list of the abundance of blessings we have been afforded by our decision to homeschool. Hopefully, you are surrounded by friends and family who support and encourage your homeschool journey, rather than question or doubt your choices. In that case, you’ve got one more blessing to count.