Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homeschooling and Selfishness

One of the helpers at Vacation Bible School this week asked me a great question about homeschooling, and I floundered a little bit, so I thought I would take the time to answer here, because I think it is a big one that people are scared to ask.

Don't you ever want time to yourself?

YES.  A hundred times, yes.  I am not a saint, not by any stretch of the imagination.  (By the way, based on how many times I have heard that lately, I think calling someone is a saint is the new polite way of saying "You are absolutely flipping crazy").

To be quite honest, I think I might want more "me" time than some other moms.  I NEED my kids to lay down for naps/quiet time, if for no other reason than for me to have an hour of silence.  I crave quiet and peacefulness.  That can be hard to come by with four homeschooled children.  Or any four children.

I tend to find my time to myself after the baby is down at night, when Seth is with the big girls.  I spend weekends away with my girlfriends, sometimes bringing the littlest baby at the time, sometimes alone....often pregnant!  I visit my parents in the city without the kids.  Compared to most moms, I probably take more overnight trips into Chicago or wherever, because both my sorority sisters and my parents still live there.  I make time with my girlfriends a priority, as much as I can with four kids and a husband who farms, because my friendships are so important to me.  One thing I know for sure is that my girlfriends make a me a better person, and therefore a better wife and mother.

That being said.....

Back when I only had one or two kids, I was more insistent about my time alone.  And then I realized that I often came back from my "me" time more frustrated and annoyed at the chaos and noise than ever.  Running away from my responsibilities didn't recharge me.  It just made me want to be more selfish.


Motherhood will stretch you, if you let it.  I think most moms would say that their families are their priority, and most of them would really mean it.  But actions and choices reveal true priorities, not just words.  I want my life to reflect that my joy is in my family!

I've learned that I really do have a lot of "me" time everyday, if I choose to stop thinking about my days in a such a one-sided way.  Time alone spending money on myself is not the only way to refuel for the harder parts of motherhood.  No.  I get a lot of pleasure from baking, which is something I get to do almost everyday.  Yes, I may have more helpers than I know what to do with, and there may well be a much bigger mess than I would like, but what better way is there for me to spend my time?

I find beauty in hanging the laundry out on the line to dry.  Yes, that is work.  But it is also peaceful and a chance to be out in the sun, doing something useful with my hands.  

Everyday the children and I walk around the gardens and the pastures.  Back when I worked in an office, I often complained that I went to work in the dark and came home in the dark, and that the nanny got to do all the fun discovery stuff outside with my baby.  Now I have the opportunity to be the one to examine the earthworms or show the girls how to pull weeds.  It's not a spa day, but these are real privileges that I am grateful to have.

That doesn't mean that I am giving up our occasional date nights, seeing friends, taking trips alone, reading a good book in peace.  Of course not!  I am person too, not just a wife and mother.  But it does mean that we don't make choices about our family life that don't line up with our real priorities. 

If my kids went to school, there is no doubt that I would have a lot more time to myself.  Absolutely.  And I would LOVE some time to do whatever I want everyday, to write, or shop, or work out.  Heck, I would love some time to do my work around the house in peace.  But at what cost?  This is the way of life that we think is best for our family.  If, knowing that, I sent my kids to school anyway, that would be the worst kind of selfishness.  It is my goal to die to self, to let go of the selfishness that we all have in order to be the best wife and mother I can be.  Do I fail at this?  But I have gotten better over the years, and I hope I can keep growing.  Silence and an immaculate house are not what I signed up for.  

I am not a perfect homeschooling mother, by any measurement out there.  I fight my selfishness every day.  But I have been given great gifts, as well as great responsibilities.  I will not ignore one for the other.

Friday, June 17, 2011


Anyone else remember Drop Everything And Read time?  No, just me?  Okay then.
I am the biggest book nerd ever.

That being true, here are some things I've been reading lately.  Let's play: Worth It or Not?

These is My Words by Nancy Turner

This is so, so good.  It really felt authentic.  Fiction in diary form, loosely based on the author's great-grandmother's diaries on frontier life.  The plot isn't so different from other pioneer stories out there, but the main character, Sarah's, attitude toward the hard stuff in her life is uplifting and thought-provoking.  (Thought: we are such wimps now!  We whine about things that our frontier ancestors would die laughing about).  There is a lot of common sense in this book, the kind that you never think of yourself, but when you see it, you want to write it down so you remember.  There are two other books in the series and I can't wait to read them.  If you want a grown up Little House on the Prairie, you will love this.
Worth it.

Grace-Based Parenting By Tim Kimmel

Not to be a cliche, but I think this is a life-changing book for parents.  It describes exactly the way we would want to raise our kids, and all the reasons and specific ways that good parents mess that up.  I nodded in recognition of myself several times reading his stories.  I LOVED this book.  I wrote notes all over it.  There is nothing I can say that the millions of other reviews out there did not, so I'll stop.  But go get this book, right now!  (This is an overtly Christian book, so if that isn't your thing, you may not get as much out of it.  I still think it would be worth the read).
SO SO Worth it.

Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson

I got on a big Sally Clarkson kick this month, so bear with me.  This was the first of her's that I read, and I loved it.  I really believe in professional, intentional motherhood, and that was what this was all about.  Sally is very sympathetic to a mother's thoughts and feelings, and she is very encouraging.  You don't need to be out in a third world country, building an orphanage, or running the UN to make a difference.  Your everyday, toliet-scrubbing, kid-correcting, meal-cooking work does make a difference, in building your family!  This is the most important work you could be doing.  (Also Christian.  And there are several comments in this book that may bother a working mom).
Worth It.

Ministry of Motherhood, also by Sally Clarkson

I had read a review that said that this book was a practical guide for implementing a lot of the things that Sally described in Mission of Motherhood.  It really wasn't, and I was disappointed.  To me, it seemed like more of the same.  It's not a bad book, just not what I was hoping for.


Seasons of a Mother's Heart by Sally Clarkson

Yet another Sally Clarkson book.  Also very encouraging, but really nothing very new, if you've just read the others.  You could probably pick one of these three above and be fine.


A Love that Multiples by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar

I was so excited to read this!  Seth and I LOVE the Duggars.  We have their first book, and both of us have found it super helpful on a practical level, and encouraging about family life overall.  The Duggars have really put a lot of time thinking about parenting issues and how to handle them, and it shows.

This book tells a little bit more of the Duggar story, especially about their new preemie baby Josie.  Then it continues like their first book, mixing personal stories with their philosophies on all kinds of family issues, like dating, clothes, marriage, sibling relationships, etc.  Michelle and Jim Bob also use this book to answer a bunch of emails that she has gotten from readers.  I loved the whole thing, I couldn't put it down.  Even Seth picked it up and started reading the day it came in the mail.  (Of course, we don't necessarily agree with everything the Duggars believe, but it is fascinating reading all the same, especially if this is not at all how you grew up).
Worth it.

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy

If you like Maeve Binchy, you'll like this one too.  (Definitely not as good as my very favorite-Circle of Friends-though).  Similar to a lot of her other novels, set in modern Dublin, it brings back a lot of former characters.  It did make me wish that I had read those books more recently, so I could remember who all these people were, but it wasn't really a problem in understanding the plot.
Worth it, for a fun, quick read.

There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene

This (non-fiction) book broke my heart, to be honest.  The author, who had adopted from Ethiopia, writes about a middle class Ethiopian woman who started taking in orphans when there was no place else for them to go, despite the fact that it led her into poverty.  When she accepted HIV+ children (at a time when no one else would), she became her own orphanage, with dozens (hundreds?) of children, virtually overnight.  The book gives a good background into the AIDS crisis in Africa, and the orphan crisis that is partially a direct result of that.  If you already have a heart for adoption, you are going to want to run out and bring all these kids home as soon as possible.  If you've never considered international adoption before, you may after reading this.  (To be fair, the author does state that adoption cannot solve this problem, but I couldn't stop thinking that it won't hurt either!)  Despite the fact that I cried reading this, it is somehow not depressing.  It will inspire you about the difference one average person can make, if they care enough.
Worth it.  But exactly the kind of book hubby hopes you never read, so as to save him from your very expensive idea to adopt six more kids.

No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, also by Melissa Fay Greene

This is a personal adoption memoir by the same author.  In it, she describes her family's (which already included four children) decision to adopt.  She and her husband eventually adopted a total of five, one from Bulgaria, and four from Ethiopia.  The book was very, very funny.  I laughed out loud several times, and I am a hard sell, humor-wise.  It is also very honest, about what it is like to be the middle of the adoption process, and about how difficult it can be to integrate new family members through adoption.  That being true, she doesn't talk much about the financial side of adopting, which leads me to believe that their family is very comfortable.  Great for them, but a little discouraging for those of us who are wondering how to make adoption work for our average family.

I really enjoyed their family's stories.  She handled some parenting issues in ways that I would have never even thought of, and I always like to see things from a different perspective.

Again....if you already want to adopt and have a big family, this isn't going to help change your mind.
Worth it.

Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman

This is a great organization book for moms with big families and/or homeschooling moms.  She has figured out how to be most efficient at her housework, homeschooling, etc., and she will tell you exactly how she does it all.  Throughout the book, she says that if you already have a system that is working for you, use it!  If not, try her ideas.  She is both encouraging and tough....she will remind you that this is your work, no one else is going to show up to do it, so stop daydreaming about back when you went to the office all day and came home to a clean house, and get to it.  (Some of us need a little lecture now and then to remember that we are the grown-ups here).  Also, it is a beautiful, huge hardcover book, more like a coffee-table book than your average hardcover.
Worth it, if you need the help or motivation

Bossypants by Tina Fey

As a preface, I have to confess that I was not necessarily a die-hard Tina Fey fan before this book.  I liked her on SNL, but I don't watch 30 Rock at all.

That being said, I DIED laughing reading this.  It is humor, yes, but it is smart humor.  I'm sure a lot of you have read her Mother's Prayer for her Daughter online somewhere (which is what sold me on buying the book in the first place).  Parts of it are a lot like that, and they are spot-on (I especially enjoyed her advice for young working women).  Other parts are more about her life, working on SNL and 30 Rock, which I didn't care about at all, but they still weren't boring.  Everything she said about motherhood cracked me up.
Totally worth reading.

The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

If you're a homeschooling mom, you've already heard all about this book.  It lays out the Classical Theory of education, both the philosophy and the nitty-gritty, what-to-teach-when stuff.  It will tell you exactly what curriculum resources the authors like for every year from Preschool-12th Grade.  Some people find that overwhelming, but I loved it.  Of course, our family won't do all of it, but it great to see it all laid out like that.  I was already a big Susan Wise Bauer fan (we use several of her curriculum products already, and we have found them to be very effective), so it makes sense that her ideas worked for me.
Worth it, if you're interested in homeschooling.