Homeschooling is a rough journey: there are no familiar signposts, and so much of the time is spent either reinventing the wheel or blazing a trail, that it gets exhausting. I found that over the years it helped to have others, further on in their homeschooling journey, to talk to. These people as a rule have been doing it way longer than me, and have older kids, so they have been reassuring: I've been there, I know how frustrating it can get, and this stage will pass.
I have to acknowledge these amazing women, and all the hours they put in, listening to me, giving advice, and just being there.
J lives in New York and has five kids, all of them homeschooled. Her oldest is in college. For four years, when my oldest was just born, I homeschooled someone else's daughter, and we did recess together: J's kids, this girl, and my boy(s). I was following textbooks back then, mostly recommended by this girl's parents, and it is easier to get someone else's kid to mind you (no tantrums), so the conversations with J used to be more technical back then: how to memorize multiplication tables, what about writing, etc. A lot of time had passed since those days: I've moved twice to different cities, J embraced unschooling more fully, and I've got more sage advice from her. Now that I'm home with my own kids, more in charge of picking and choosing what we are doing, I have more existential issues: am I messing them up? What will happen if they will spend a whole week on DS? How much discipline is necessary? Time and again, I call or e-mail J, and every time I walk away feeling heard and reassured.
C was also part of our "recess" crowd in NY. My 9 yo and her daughter were born three weeks apart, and we lived in the same house back then: we had downstairs while C lived upstairs. C has five kids, and her oldest is highschool-age. Luckily for me, C right now lives in the same city that I live in. Unfortunately, between her babies' naps and my babies' naps, her schedule and my schedule, we do not get to see each other as often as we should. However, over the years, she has been there for me. Since our kids are very similar in age, it has been good to discuss whether a particular challenge that I'm having is something that she is experiencing too. C is also quick to point out how many of the issues that I am having now have to do with having a small baby thrown into the mix rather than inherent inability to get things done. Somehow I keep on forgetting how little people can suck up so much attention and energy. And, living in the same city, it is nice just to be able to get together, let the kids play, have a semi-adult conversation...
I stumbled upon S's blog when I was planning on pulling 9 yo out of school. S has four kids, and her oldest is post bar mitzvah. All of them have been homeschooled all along. When I was reading about her days, I walked away inspired. I got a sense of what homeschooling is really like rather than a glossy, picture- and project-heavy shell some bloggers throw out there. Those overly perfect blogs made me wonder whether I should be doing more, and left me feeling depressed. In contrast, S's life sounded so normal and doable. I've met S at homeschool conference in Baltimore and saw for myself how "real" she was. She has also hosted a few webinars. We've spoken a bit through Facebook, but what I really appreciated is when she got on the phone with me and really heard my more recent concerns about the boys. Since she has an older boy, I felt so reassured to hear that some of the behaviors and attitudes which got me so worried are possibly just a stage. S is also very realistic, and kept me grounded when I was talking about nearly impossible expectations that trickle down from the yeshiva system to our sons.
These busy women were willing and able to share some of their wisdom and insight with me. If I did not know that I have someone to guide me, I would not have courage and perspective to homeschool. So wherever you are on your homeschooling journey, seek out a mentor or mentors. When the going gets tough, you will need that voice of someone who's been there.