Welcome. I’ve dabbled in homeschooling here and there. We are always adapting to meet what we perceive to be our children’s changing needs. We have public schooled, private schooled and homeschooled our children. Last year, we had five kids in public school and we were blessed they had great teachers and met some good friends. This year, we have six kids (ages 1-16(!!!)) home plus one in utero, adding to my utterly undeniable exhaustion. We also have a daughter in public high school who is currently home this month since our schools are closed in MN due to Coronavirus. It’s a lively household, to say the least.
At the beginning of this “school year,” we named our family’s homeschool, “Miserere Nobis” which is Latin for “Have Mercy on Us.” We start and end our days, asking for God to have mercy on us. Because Lord knows, we need it! When I’m feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, it becomes a mantra. I find myself muttering “Miserere Nobis” and hand control over to God.
Here are some ideas and questions for self reflection and guidance. I hope they help you and you know you’re not alone in any of this!
1. What is one thing you want your children to learn? If they could learn anything at home, what would it be?
Ideas: making broth, baking bread or cookies, doing laundry, writing in cursive, knitting, painting with watercolor, playing solitaire, praying the Lord’s Prayer, praying the rosary(!). The possibilities are endless but pick ONE thing to work on so you don’t get overwhelmed.
2. Start small AND slow for everything (whether it’s adding a new curriculum or adding a new prayer to your day). If it makes you crabby, take a step back from it. You’re setting your expectations too high and doing too much at once. Break everything down into baby steps.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. When Sally, Sue and Sam are posting the amazing Pinterest-perfect activities they’re doing with their kids on Facebook, it’s easy to feel inadequate. But please don’t. The Evil One wants you to feel inadequate and stress yourself out over all the things you’re NOT doing.
Maybe your friends are crafting with their kids, going on nature walks, teaching them calculus. Excellent!
Maybe their three year old is reading at a sixth grade level. Amazing!
It feels like everyone else is doing so much so well, and here you are at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with kids reminding you they haven’t eaten lunch yet. Get off Facebook if it’s causing you to feel inadequate and do NOT compare. You are doing great! Seriously! You are beloved, and God gave you these kids because He knew you could love and parent them.
4. Piggybacking on not comparing yourself, please don’t compare your kids to others. Don’t brag to your kids about little Jim or little June’s successes, because it will only make your kids feel compared and inadequate. Truly, it won’t do anything positive for you or your family and is likely to cause a lot of pain, brokenness and darkness. Instead, ask God to help you see what He sees. And remind your kids you love them, no matter what.
5. Practice an attitude of gratitude. Any and every time you fall into that trap of feeling like you’re not enough or your kids aren’t enough, stop, pray and think of one thing you’re grateful for in that moment. If you are annoyed with a particular child, think of one thing you like about them and if you feel up for it, tell them. Thank God for entrusting you with their life.
6. Do less, not more. Look for things to take off your list rather than things to add to it. Stop looking at what others are doing for what you *should* be doing. The only thing you should be doing is loving God, your spouse and kids. That’s what matters. Make a note for yourself. Write “love” or “patience” or one word that reminds me you to ground yourself and be present in living that virtue out in your daily life, even and especially when it’s hard.
7. Make a list. On my best days, I make a list of every little thing that needs to be done that day. I’m not talking about lofty or overwhelming goals here. I list little things like loading and unloading the dishwasher, sweeping, cleaning the table and countertops, making family meals. I delegate some of it, but it feels good to check items off a list and when at the end of the day, the house is a mess and the kids are hungry, rather than feeling like I didn’t do anything, I have a list of things I have done or delegated and that reminds me of how much I accomplished.
8. Look at this quarantine as a time to unschool and detox from the hustle and bustle of “normal” life. Kids today are more depressed, stressed and anxious than ever before. More than likely, our kids will grow up to lead busy lives, balancing work, family and whatever else you balance in your life now. So, think of this time as a sacred time to create tradition, strengthen your domestic church and say “no” to plans. Let the kids hang out at home without a plan. You might be surprised by their creative play OR you might find yourself on repeat saying, “Boredom never killed anyone.”
9. Exercise. A fifteen minute walk can really work wonders for the body and soul. When feeling overwhelmed, take a quick walk (or run). Do a workout a video, bust a move or do some leg lifts.
10. Pray. If there’s anything I would suggest adding to your day, it’s prayer. “Pray without ceasing,” as St. Paul suggests. Talk to God when you’re doing dishes, wiping a butt or playing with your kids. Ask for help and thank God for these moments.
I would also suggest praying the rosary every day if you don’t already. You can even start with a decade and build up to the full rosary. If you don’t know how, there are so many free resources online. My husband loves to YouTube the rosary daily, so he doesn’t get distracted. He started praying that way because he didn’t know how to pray the rosary and he would forget the mysteries. Now it has become a favorite part of his daily morning routine!
Lastly, remember you are loved and that this season is about survival. Being a military wife has taught me a lot. When my husband, Dylan, leaves for active army orders, I often go from brewing my own kombucha, fermenting cabbage, making bone broth, cooking wholesome meals, reading aloud to the kids, and composting to buying paper plates and frozen pizza, turning on the tv, allowing unlimited Minecraft, and doing whatever else takes stress off me. I drastically lower . . . ahem . . . Change my expectations and obligations. It’s about survival and recognizing I need to take care of myself in order to take care of others.
I need to take care of my own mental health to take care of my kids’ basic needs. And you do too.
If the plane is crashing, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. So, save yourself and you’ll be in a better place to save your children. And remember, you got this!