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Homeschooling Destroying You? Tips from a Survivor

In the twenty years I have been homeschooling, I have seen plenty of moms who were unhappily forced to homeschool. Homeschooling is hard enough for those who choose to do it. If you are suddenly homeschooling due to a global pandemic – oh my God, may Allah preserve and bless you!

I hope these tips from my book, How to Survive Homeschooling: A selfcare guide for moms who loving do way too much, will ease some of the stress you must be undergoing.

How to Survive Homeschooling: Excerpt from Chapter Two

About a hundred or more times you’ve heard about putting your oxygen mask on before your child’s, right? Or the expression “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? If you are one of those rare versions of a mom who completely understood the need to take care of yourself from the day you first knew you were pregnant, then please skip this chapter. You have a workbench waiting for you and all those community center classes to attend.

If you are one of those ordinary moms currently or frequently somewhere too close to burnout, then please read on.

Early in my homeschooling journey, I took a Waldorf Parent-child course. There I was told about the need to have my own hobbies and to take care of myself, how I would be modeling these behaviors to my children. I got that message twisted. At that point I didn’t really have my own hobbies anymore.

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For me? Nope

I still loved to thrift shop, but no longer to coordinate quirky creative outfits; rather I was on the hunt for clothes for my growing little guys. I also still loved to go for walks. But I no longer did this in urban areas, happily taking photographs and seeing art along the way. Instead I did most of my walking in the form of hiking in natural, green areas. This was safer for children and healthier. When I did whip out my camera it focused on how cute they were and recording all their joys.

In that parenting class we learned how to knit so that we could teach our children to knit to build their focus stamina and other good things like that. Knitting is an immensely relaxing hobby for many people, but I never quite got to that level as I was always knitting cute things for my kids. I never once knitted anything for myself.

If you are thinking how great it was of me to be so selfless, stop it. I wasn’t really being selfless, I needed to see some productivity in my work, some value to it. It wasn’t selfless per se, just more busy work. And definitely not a hobby for me!

All business all the time

I’ve actually done this quite a bit during my adult life. For instance, after I left my job at our family business I was feeling a bit down that I didn’t have any cute new things in quite awhile. No accessories, no cute new skirt or shoes- nothing, as it goes when you’re in financial strains. So one afternoon I found myself strolling around Ebay, looking for some extremely cute new thing when I wound up in the wrong section, looking at jewelry supplies instead of finished jewelry, and I got the idea to make myself something.

That idea very quickly expanded into making somethings to sell, as in, I never made myself anything but bought supplies to start up a new business! This was not as hairbrained as it sounds. I did have loads of experience making jewelry in my teens, as well as a background in art and photography (very important for selling product). It was just the whole business thing that I needed to learn how to do. It turned out well.

I made a small but helpful profit for my family and learned a lot about selling and marketing online. But there is an ongoing problem I see here. Instead of doing something purely for me, I only do things that add a tangible, specific sort of value to my family. I had lost my own identity and appreciation for myself. 

So many women are this way that you may even be thinking along the lines I did, What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it good to be selfless for your family? Not to the point of martyrdom, which is what many women like myself are conditioned into doing. 

What are you modeling right now?

When we give everything to our children and our families, what is the message that our children receive? When we are out of balance like that it follows that our children go to extremes as well. They may end up feeling guilty and resenting us for sacrificing so much, for giving more than they would ever ask for of us. Or they go to the other end and become spoiled, entitled people who take so much more from this world than they give. 

Modeling is the best way for children to learn. Science has backed it up that “Do as I say, not as I do,” is not only hypocritical but it simply doesn’t work. How can we ask our children to learn so many new things and explore the world so thoroughly, when we are not doing that ourselves? This is a twisted, confusing message we give them. Unfortunately, many of the women I know, especially the homeschooling mamas, fall into this habit until their suffering becomes too great.

For me, this saw me putting on a lot of weight rather than enjoying physical activities the way I like to and eating sugar-filled junk in search of the energy boosts I craved. I also experienced several bouts of depression, which I think were brought on by my frustration with feeling stuck in roles and routines I did not want to be in.

I finally had to put myself first when I saw I was at risk of not being able to care for my children as best I could due to my health and emotional conditions. Will you be able to carry on with your mission and vision if you don’t care of yourself too?

Here’s what you need to take five whole minutes and do right now. Get pen and paper. A journal or notebook is best.

Hobbies, Activities, Joys

1 – What do you like to do? List a dozen activities.

2 – What did you like to do before you had children? List a dozen activities.

3 – What enjoyable activities can you do for now, with the resources and time you immediately have available? These can be small things, baby steps to get back in the habit of caring for yourself. List at least half a dozen things.

4 – What activities would you like to prioritize to be doing in the near future? Dream big, you do great things for others and can do them for yourself too. List at least half a dozen things.

Now start doing them! And be sure to keep a record of all the wonderful things you do for yourself. Otherwise you will forget when was the last time you x, y, zed and you will fall right back into the habit of self neglect!

Reprinted with kind permission from How to Survive Homeschooling: A selfcare guide for moms who loving do way too much. Brooke Benoit is also the editor of Fitra Journal, a collection of experiences and advice from Muslim homeschoolers across the globe.