Homeschooling my kids during COVID-19 has been a bit like living with the worst version of myself constantly and inescapably.
When my husband and I first started dating, I told him two things: One, I was pretty sure I wanted to be in Boston long-term (check). And two, I had no intention of homeschooling my future children (still check).
Lest you find this stipulation completely out of the blue, I should clarify: Both my husband and I were homeschooled from birth until college. We both received stellar educations, and he had a very positive experience with it. I struggled a lot with the relationship with my teacher-parent because of a less-than-healthy power dynamic and literally no breaks from one another. While my education was excellent, I didn’t want to replicate the unhealthy relational patterns I had experienced. I knew I was, by nature, not patient, I struggled with anger, and I could spiral quickly into despair or unrealistically high standards and fail to see the growth that was in process.
I knew that for me, the healthiest mother-child relationship would come from maintaining my own identity, giving my kids breaks from me being their only authority, and having the opportunity to see others’ perspectives on their growth and goals. (Homeschool friends, I’m not afraid, nor am I broken. Can we not mom shame, please?)
For years now, I have been so thankful to be able to send them to an amazing private school and see the benefits to our relationship, as well as the ways my children are thriving academically. I’ve gotten to focus on my littles while they’re home, as well as grow my own business and focus on things that make me a better human/mom. I’ve gotten to advocate for them, add to their education in fun ways, and bless them to be passionate about the things they’re passionate about.
And then came COVID-19.
Now, I know this isn’t “real” homeschooling. I was expertly homeschooled for twelve years, remember? I’m thankful for the skills and flexibility that experience taught me; it certainly helps now. But all of a sudden, my kids and I are in each other’s hair 100% of the time. I get to help teach phonics and handwriting and math and break up fights ALL DAY LONG. My own temper and impatience flair up, and it affects how they learn. I wish I could opt out of homeschooling, but my personality (and my kids’) won’t allow that.
Holding in my frustration at the kids, I end up taking it out on the only other grown-up in the house (sorry, hubby), which doesn’t help relieve any of the stress. I see my kids’ frustration grow as I snap. I feel the tension in our relationship, with me feeling responsible for every aspect of their lives right now. I see the ways my youngest isn’t getting the attention she needs because her school-aged brothers require more time and focus. I feel the exhaustion as my own work and the things I’m good at suffer because I am juggling everything. I hate that by the end of the day, I don’t want to spend another waking moment with them because I’m just done.
This is not a judgment on homeschooling — it’s absolutely the right fit for some families. It’s just not the right fit for me.
But I don’t have a choice in the matter right now… so every day, I have to wrestle with the worst parts of myself.
My kids are fine — they’re adjusting better than I am. We’re making the best of our situation, but it’s a daily struggle against myself. And to think that we might have to do this again in the fall! It just feels like too much.
I’d love to end this post with an optimistic, action-oriented plan. But the reality is that I don’t have one. I guess all I can say is, if you’re here also, please know you’re not alone. It’s OK if this situation is leading you to wrestle with the worst parts of yourself and feel frustrated constantly. This is hard and abnormal and is forcing all of us to adapt in ways we’ve never had to before. It’s bringing out the worst in some of us.
Find healthy outlets for the frustration so you don’t take it out on your kids or your spouse. For me, that’s running and exercise and letting my husband handle things in the morning before he “goes” to work. Reach out to a friend if you’re in the dark place — or maybe even try a virtual counseling appointment. Know that even in (maybe especially in) a crisis, your mental health matters.