Challenges of the home educating mother, Part 2
Following on from Part 1 of this series, this time we’ll address one of the other two challenges of homeschooling mothers: isolation (the feeling of inadequacy will be covered in the final article). These two things can feed each other and get you into a vicious cycle which hampers your journey, and your children’s education, but they are each large enough to warrant their own article space. There are several causes of isolation, and determining the reasons will help you choose a path to overcome it. Is it physical isolation caused by distance? Social isolation caused by lack of opportunity? Social isolation caused by your differing views on education or faith? Lack of contentment?
The tyranny of distance
You will need to work and plan deliberately with your husband on this one. Plan to meet up with other homeschoolers or families regularly even if it is only every two or three months. You might want to consider it a necessary family expense and budget for it so you can stay overnight if you need to, and schedule a rest day after you get home. Budgeting to prioritise your social needs is often something we never think about.
Take action: Plan a visit to some friends you haven’t seen for a while.
Social isolation caused by lack of opportunity
Though we didn’t have an official support group when we first started home educating, we had email and phone contact with many homeschoolers in our area (before the time of forums and Facebook). The pervading rule was that if you wanted to go somewhere or do something, then you organised it and let everyone else know. If you are a shy person, this is one really good way to get yourself out there – everyone always appreciates the work someone else is prepared to do for their benefit and will be grateful.
One particular thing we did was to organise a sports group at our local council recreation centre. They were very happy to create a program especially for us as we could come inside school hours. We had a varied program where the children learned different sporting skills almost every week. To my knowledge, this group is still operating (about 10 years on).
If you don’t have a support network then start one! There are many online groups you can be a part of, so there is bound to be an opportunity somewhere. Be the one to make things happen. Many homeschool mums lack the confidence to organise outings and get-togethers. Some newbies are full of enthusiasm and motivation, while others are very unsure of themselves. Some old timers are tired of it or have run out of ideas and need some fresh input. Don’t be the one to let things die.
Social isolation is definitely something you can do something about. If you are an introvert, you will find it hard work, though rewarding if you stick at it. The best remedy for this is to have an attitude of giving rather than receiving. If there really are not many homeschooling mums you can meet up with for encouragement, then look further afield. Find a person/s that you can give to. Yep, I hear you, you reckon that you are giving enough. This is a very valid point, but giving out will help you to keep your mind off yourself and your perceived woes.
If you do this, make sure you are clear in your own mind regarding your limitations, and that your husband supports you. By support I mean encourage you, but will draw the line if you can’t. At present my youngest daughter and I volunteer one day a week at a church playgroup for young asylum seeker mothers who can’t access English classes. This work is exciting and has many opportunities attached to it, and as such has the potential to take up a great deal of my time if I allow it to. Discipline is required to manage time and resources so you don’t over stretch yourself and begin to neglect your family.
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, try to find an older woman who will be an encouragement to you, and that you inspire – some older women wish they had have homeschooled their children but lacked opportunity in their day. Bring those women into your life.
Stop reading. Write down people you might be able to help or give some time to.
If you can’t think of anyone, ask the Lord to send someone.
Social isolation caused by your differing views
It will stand to reason that loneliness is a fact of life when you stand for what you believe. Remember that trailblazers always contend with fire. You feel misunderstood and it frustrates you to have to justify yourself to others all the time, when no one ever questions parents who send their children to school. Homeschooling can be a lonely road, but you don’t have to be prickly about it. Work out a strategy of diffusing difficult conversations by choosing words that allow yourself and the disagreeing party to maintain some dignity in your choices. It’s God’s road you are walking; he’s there, too. As a guide, choose words that are neutral and non-threatening. This does not mean you need to become cowardly in your convictions, but learning diplomacy will make a huge difference in the way you cope with opposition to them.
Take action: With the help of your husband, craft some phrases you can have up your sleeve
for all the naysayers that come across your path. Practice being diplomatic.
An even better and more natural way to socialise is with other whole families so that the dads are included. This is a vital factor to you and your family’s social and emotional well being. It makes a world of difference when husbands experience the homeschool world. If there was only one thing you could choose to overcome isolation as a homeschooler, it would be to include your husband in as much of your journey as possible. You are not meant to walk this road alone and his leadership, company and support is priceless. If he is indifferent or just accepting, but not proactive in your family’s decision to homeschool, then socialising with other whole families will provide him encouragement.
Lack of contentment
You may not recognise this reason in yourself straight away. None of us like to admit it and often try to justify ourselves in what we are “missing out on”. Do you feel down or experience a longing feeling when you see others who send their kids to school experiencing things that you just can’t (like going out for coffee – really?). The sure way to loneliness is looking at the greener grass on the other side. Don’t do it. It’s not all that green. Think of it this way: how long does grass stay green in this country? It’s brown far more than it’s green, if it’s there at all, right?
How green is this: you are free of an employer, you are your own boss, you have a fantastic opportunity with your children, your mind is active and you are free to learn pretty much whatever you want along with your children, you do not have a legal battle to homeschool, and the list can go on. Thankfulness is always the first step to overcoming any dilemma as it has the power to change our hearts and attitudes. Focusing on the benefits and long term rewards that are coming your way is good, but remembering that God himself sanctions your choice through his Word is the key thing here.
Isolation is something many mothers fear as they contemplate the decision to homeschool, but as you step out of the assembly-line education mold, and take your children into the real world with you, you will rediscover all the wonderful opportunities it has to offer. You will find that putting yourself in a giving situation will reap some unexpected rewards which will filter through to your children. Remember that it is not just your journey. You are not meant to do this homeschool thing alone, and working with your husband to provide mutual support and provide yourselves social opportunities, will be the main thing in overcoming isolation.
For more encouragement read our final article in this series in part 3.
Copyright Joelle Grubb 2016