I realized recently that I have been grieving the loss of our homeschool. Not that we don't have a homeschool anymore, but I have been grieving the homeschool we used to have (or at least the one I 'remember' having.) You see, I aspire to a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, one that in my mind, includes lots of reading-aloud together, snuggled up on the sofa. The problem is that with several little people under 5 in our home, interruptions are nearly as abundant as the love and laughter we share, making reading-aloud next to impossible.
I realized that not only was I grieving, but my grief actually paralleled the 5 official stages of grieving associated with the death of a loved one:
At first, I didn't believe that this was actually true. How could it be possible that I could not spend an hour or more reading aloud to my children each day? No one else at my beloved Charlotte Mason study group seemed to be struggling with this. I kept thinking I just didn't have the children well-enough trained to stay quiet or play independently, that we just didn't have our routine together because I was too undisciplined, or even that my priorities must just be wrong (the folly of this is now evident -- to busy making healthy meals? tidying my home? nursing my baby??) Is there ever any end to a mother's ability to self-deprecate?
Next, I was mad. For heaven's sake, I am a veteran, experienced homeschooler, a current and past leader of several homeschooling groups, and even a homeschool conference speaker! It, therefore, could not be my fault that I couldn't read aloud for any length of time. Logically, the blame had to be someone else's. I continually blamed the children for the reading interruptions. The baby wouldn't focus on nursing, but would constantly grab the book...toddlers would pee their pants or need bum-wiping, sibling fights would break out, the phone would ring, and the children would, annoyingly, feel the need to constantly comment on the reading ("Oh, this is like in An Island Story when...") Can you even imagine a mother who would be annoyed at her children making connections with other readings!?!? My frustration level with the interruptions caused me to raise my voice more times than I care to remember, including my personal favourite, "Will you all sit still and BE QUIET!! For HEAVEN'S SAKE! I am TRYING to read the BIBLE!!!"
I started dreaming up what I could possibly trade off to acquire interruption-free reading time. I could get my oldest (and already over-burdened) daughter to take the littles elsewhere while I did some reading, I could send the littles off to the playroom with strict instructions not to open the door or ask me for anything, I could make convenience foods, or maybe we could even humanely sleep-train our baby. I even imagined that I could change my style of homeschooling and buy a new curriculum. (How often is buying something ever really the answer?)
Nothing was going to work. I was stuck with things the way they were. I couldn't figure out how to solve the problem and I couldn't think of who to ask who would really have answers for me. My children were doomed to educational mediocrity. Things in my home would never be like they are in the homeschools of the moms who have it together. I was anxious and sad day after day, always longing for the past when we would read chapter after chapter of a great book together. I felt like a hypocrite answering questions or speaking at homeschool meetings. I was like a financial-counselor facing personal bankruptcy. Fortunately, all the while, I continued to pray - sometimes asking, sometimes begging God to do something...anything!
Slowly, God began to whisper to me with the words of friends, with scripture, with books, with others blog-posts. This is my only life. It is a gift from God and abundant with ways to become more like Him. There is never a problem finding serving-opportunities around our home. Over the past few days, I have rediscovered the joy of simple homeschooling, of spending time enjoying and snuggling my sweet, chubby baby, of purposefully noticing the uniqueness of each of my children, of taking time to come alongside my children, assisting them in problem-solving, of each day doing my best and accepting it as such instead of continually berating myself with the "if-only's" ("If only I'd tried harder", "If only, I'd scheduled better", "If only I'd taken better advantage of a certain time") I am not only accepting and embracing my life, but I am learning the deeper lesson of contentment. Now that I have made the choice to accept the reality that I cannot read aloud much at all to my children, I am, oddly, filled with hope. Now I know my starting point and I can work with it. God is good. Can I inspire you with an article that really speaks to me? Perhaps you have already read it: The Baby is the Lesson.
Do you struggle with interruptions while reading aloud? I'd love it if you would encourage me by leaving a comment...I'm not alone here, right? :)
Next post: Our New Plan!