Only three weeks into our homeschool year and I am feeling quite overwhelmed. Well, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s usually these periods of “getting things going” that require most of our energies. Once we gain momentum, things will hopefully run with less effort.
Three new scenarios I find myself in this year:
- taking on even the 2 subjects (history and worldview) my husband used to handle for our two high schoolers (he is hoping to do some studying himself)
- adding a new dialectic (6th grader) student to our Tapestry of Grace discussions
- adding a kindergartener (5th child) officially into our homeschool (in other words, I have to teach someone how to READ and WRITE again)
Apart from these long term changes, there has been an unexpected issue I’ve had to contend with. My 4 year old is diagnosed with a movement disorder or what is commonly called “tics”. Apparently this neurological syndrome is inherited and common in boys around this age. Anxiety, stress, and boredom are usually the context in which these tics occur. Consequently, we are advised to help our little boy handle his “stresses” (e.g. driven parents, first day of school, changes in school or family life, negative/embarrassing situations, upcoming big events).
The first couple of weeks of school, everybody is eager as expected. I realise now this drains me more than anything. My middle graders are really into their readings. They want to do every single craft in their suggested fine arts assignments. Needless to say, my K-er takes his cue from his older siblings. He extends the time I spend with him by exhausting everything he finds in his shelf. It doesn’t help that, in the back of my mind, I also want to manage this little guy’s condition.
“Why haven’t we been doing experiments for awhile now?” “Can we do art now?” “Let’s do writing and spelling, Mom?.” “Here, Mom, check my math.” “I have to do oral practice for grammar!” The mornings do really tend to be dizzying. I am quite spent in the afternoons and it is a good thing read-alouds, notebooking and/or more relaxing arts and crafts are reserved for this time of the day.
That is why prior to the flurry, when my mind is still clear, I spend time before everyone is wide awake reading my teacher’s notes for history, literature, and worldview to prepare for class discussions. In the evening, I flip through Algebra books or Psychology curricula to familiarize myself with how much work my high schoolers need to do to complete their programs and also to make sure I got the grading scheme for the subject all figured out. There is still my 11th grader’s writing program I have to catch up with and the issue with my 9th grader’s Latin I have to determine (she’s suggesting we study Latin together). I resolve to work on these things slowly throughout our school year so I don’t find myself cramming again.
To add to this, my husband is feeling neglected these days. Really, homeschooling can be a black hole. As Todd Wilson writes in How to be a Great Wife Even Though You Homeschool, “It (homeschooling) demands everything. If allowed to go unchecked, it will suck up your strength, hobbies, free time, friendships, and tragically, even your marriage.”
So, when I wake up early one morning (my mind already thinking through what I had to do that day) after sleeping quite past my bedtime the night before (working on the stuff I mentioned above), I feel like I didn’t sleep at all. Making sure I didn’t wake anybody up, I pick up my Bible to start to read where my bookmark was (May 27th reading in the beginning of Sept already). God spoke to me audibly (it seemed) that day,
Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labours;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. (In other versions, “for he grants sleep to those he loves”)
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127)
My desire to take control of my situation became evident in my “sleeping late” and “rising early”. When in fact, God gives “even in his sleep”. Or God would have granted me sleep if I “keep in perfect peace because my trust is in Him” (Isa 26:3). It is futile when we do not heed the exhortation to “be still and know that I am God.”
Surely, prioritising the homeschooling of our five children is not wrong. It is part of being a good steward of these “gifts”. And surely, this endeavor will take up a lot of my time and energies. Letting God be the builder so that I do not build in vain is something I must constantly set before me though. I do this by drawing my strength (to carry the load) and wisdom (to be a good judge of the use of my time when a lot of things need my attention) in Him daily rather than relying on my own (which is my natural inclination). This may also mean doing my best even if it that translates to not being able to do everything. Besides, I have to model this to my children (they can only do so much).
All of us are prone to expecting too much of ourselves. Even my youngest is prey to this and this is probably the reason for his movement disorder. I’ve been puzzling about the cause of his anxiety since he was not in any of the scenarios the neurologist enumerated. I see it now. Our second son is born into a family with four siblings so much older than him. He and his youngest sister are four years apart in age. At home, he is the only one who cannot read, write, bike, swim, bath himself, or even reach the sink/countertop. Since he is quite clever (he taught himself the rules of chess and plays Monopoly Deal, a game I still cannot understand, with his siblings), we take it for granted that he is still so much younger than the rest.
His condition surfaced probably to help me understand what it is like to be in his shoes. Being the eldest child in a not-so big family, I had no clue what it must be like for him. Now I see it clearly and this has sparked meaningful discussions with his older siblings on competitiveness, pressuring yourself beyond what you can do, feeling you are in control when you can only do so much, being sensitive to each others’ position in the family vs. yes, “being still and knowing that He is God.”
Indeed, this lesson here is definitely from K to mom!