by Barbara Frank
The doctor found Jodi sitting in his office, sobbing quietly into a tissue.
“Why, Jodi,” he exclaimed. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, everything!” She began crying louder.
“Now, now…” the doctor soothed. “Tell me what’s made you so unhappy.”
“I’m just so tired all the time, and I feel so overwhelmed. Each day is harder than the last.”
The doctor’s look of concern eased a bit.
“Are you trying to do too many things? Many women today have that problem. Tell me, what’s a typical day like for you?”
“Well, I have three children, and I homeschool them. Every day we do school from 8 to noon, and then we grab a quick bite and head out to Spanish class, and then we go to…”
And Jodi spent the next five minutes describing her weekly schedule of soccer, co-op, music lessons, language classes and field trips. By the time she was finished, she was crying even harder, and the doctor looked somewhat distressed.
“Jodi, I’m afraid you’re on the verge of a nervous collapse. You need some rest, that’s for sure. You can’t keep on this way. I recommend that you put your children in school and get a job with far less stress than you’re used to…say, as a 911 operator or an air traffic controller.”
The good doctor has a point. Once we become slaves to an overscheduled homeschooling life, we’re living in a high-stress atmosphere. There really is no opportunity for us to rest.
Believe it or not, this wasn’t really a problem when I began homeschooling. For one thing, there weren’t nearly as many opportunities for outside activities. In some states, homeschooling parents were being put in jail, so we tended to stay at home a lot during school hours.
When we did venture out, it was often for field trips to plays and museums, places where people expect to see schoolchildren in the middle of a weekday.
As homeschooling became more accepted, parents began to feel more comfortable about going out and about during the day, and so we had weekly park days, where the kids played freely and the moms sat with their babies and ate and talked. It was all very low-key and relaxing. Occasionally, we’d gather at someone’s house for a visit, and once again, it was the kids’ job to find something to do while we relaxed and had our own “socialization time.”
There were few if any outside classes or lessons other than organized sports or swim lessons at the Y. And yet our kids did not grow up to be slackers. Almost every child my children knew back then turned out to be a responsible hard-working adult, at least that I’m aware of.
I look back very fondly on those days, because everyone was having such a good time. It made for a very nice lifestyle, one that I’ve tried to replicate with my younger kids. That’s not easy, because there are so many “enrichment” options today that weren’t available back then. But I’ve lived in that low-stress atmosphere so long that I’m not willing to give it up.
I just wish I could convey to some of the parents behind me on the homeschooling road that it can still be done. I get email from them about how stressed out they are, and how much trouble they’re having keeping up with everything, and I feel sorry for them. Some give up and send their kids to school. They can’t keep up the pace, or they’re tired of the responsibility of keeping their kids occupied 24/7.
We do our kids a disservice by keeping them busy all the time. They need to learn to keep themselves occupied. They’re completely capable of learning and playing freely, but they have to be given the opportunity. And when they are, we’re given a break, and that’s what parents like us need. Driving kids around all the time means you get very little free time for yourself, much less time to cook or pay the bills or touch base with extended family. Those things on your to-do list get pushed aside because there’s no time after the kids’ activities. Those neglected responsibilities weigh on your mind, adding to your stress level.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You’re in control of the family schedule. Unless you thrive on a very booked-up agenda, one with enough stress to wear out an air traffic controller at LAX, consider paring down the number of things your family is involved in, so that all of you can have a more relaxed way of life.