Saturday, February 26, 2011

Regrets? I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention...

I'm often asked if I have any regrets from my homeschooling years.  Generally, the answer is "no".  I certainly don't regret having chosen that path, and I don't regret the relaxed environment in which we operated most of those years. So any regrets I do have are pretty specific.  Sometimes, we get a second chance to fix something we neglected in the early years.

My daughter is coming home for a couple of months, before moving to England, perhaps permanently.  I just spoke with her and asked her if she'd like me to help her learn to sew while she is here.  That was always one of my regrets.  I used to sew a lot when I was young, even sewing my husband's dress shirts, and all of the baby clothes for the first two babies.  Somewhere in the busy-ness of homeschooling, I stopped doing that.

When my girls were younger, they had no interest in sewing, other than an occasional fling with knitting or crocheting, mostly as a crafts project.  Then, when they got older and wanted to learn, life got in the way and we never had the time to "make time".  Luckily, I just got reminded of my own interest in sewing at the Austin Trust in Learning Conference.  The lady next to me had a booth showcasing the sewing classes she was teaching to homeschoolers.  I kept wandering over there whenever my own booth got slow.  So when I was thinking about how to spend this limited time with my daughter, sewing just naturally came to my mind.  I'm so excited to be getting back into this.  Of course, when I last sewed, patterns cost $1.75, and the last time I was at Jo Anne Fabrics, I saw a price tag of $16.95.  Things may have changed a bit....but the ability to sew comes in awfully handy, and I'm so glad to be getting a second chance at passing down my knowledge.  Anybody around here want some sewing lessons?  I might just decide to teach some other people once my daughter flies off for new adventures!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Preventing Meltdowns

This week a younger homeschooling mom called me in tears, feeling overwhelmed by the competing demands of homeschooling, the needs of her children, the needs of her husband, and the demands being placed on her at her part time job.  Notice that nowhere in the discussion did she even begin to consider her own needs....which had lead to her complete meltdown! 

Nowadays, I know that there are many reasons that can lead a mother to believe she needs to get out there and make money.  Some of these are genuine, like when a husband has lost his job and she needs to temporarily get out there and help out while he is looking for new employment.  Some are absolutely necessary, as might be the case with a single mom who is the only provider for the family.  However, sometimes, an adjustment in lifestyle might be the answer, so that her income is no longer required.  A lot of homeschooling families do this already, pinching pennies, buying bread at day-old stores, using coupons, etc.  This is all commendable, but in order to really be able to live on one income, bigger changes might be selling a large house and going to live in something more modest, or perhaps trying to make it with only one car.

Everybody has to make decisions like this on their own, because each family is different.  All I can share is my own experience.  Our family did its level best over the years to live within my husband's income.  Even now, I drive an older car I inherited from my mom, and we live in a house that many people would consider unacceptable...of course, others in third world countries would do anything for the luxury we enjoy within our four walls!  When I did do things to make some extra money, it was always something under my own control...things like teaching Lamaze classes as an independent contractor, starting my own dba to teach outside classes, switching to a non-profit corporation (with me still in control) when we grew too large.  Even today, I'm still an independent contractor working as an appraiser.

My point is simple, even though I feel like I'm beating around the bush a little...When a mom is considering employment outside the home, first consider if there is a way to make it unnecessary by cutting back.  Second, if a mom absolutely has to work, try to find some way to do it without having a "boss" other than yourself.  The reason is simple...women already have enough bosses without adding one more!  A woman is already accountable to God, to her husband, to her children, and to herself.  In addition, she may feel accountable (perhaps unnecessarily) to others outside the immediate family, like her parents, her in-laws, her friends, her homeschooling colleagues, or the evaluators in her school district.  It's no wonder we break down sometimes!  Adding in accountability to one more person, especially a boss at an outside job, might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Somewhere, somehow, homeschooling moms (and other moms, too!) have to stop and make some time for themselves.  Without having the time to re-center and re-energize, we have nothing left to give those who are depending on us everyday.   This is not selfish!  It is absolutely necessary for the family to function smoothly.  This includes things like eating right, exercising, getting fresh air every day, and finding time to learn things that you want to learn.  When you are planning activities for the year, throw yourself into the mix.  Also, remember that if every child in the family is "in balance", with just the right number of activities, and you add them all up and drive them there, you will be the one out of balance!  Don't feel like you need to spend every day doing things outside of the home in order to provide enough enrichment....spend some of your time "homeschooling"  actually being at home!  (And not necessarily hunched over schoolbooks, either!)  I feel like I'm preaching, but I get too many phone calls like this.  It shouldn't be this difficult to find the right mix.  Homeschooling can really be a relaxed, joyful experience.  If it isn't, figure out what needs to change in order to get that feeling back....Life is too short to spend it having meltdowns.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back from Austin Fair

Ok, I promised one blog a week this year, but I just got back from the Austin, TX fair, I'm tired, and this will be short!  We had a good time at the Trust in Learning conference there.  I stayed with an old-timey homeschooler, and we had a lot of good conversations.  One of them was about field trips.  We both reminisced about some great bonding times we had with our children doing field trips.  In one long trip, she and her kids went to all of the missions in California. (Note: She recommends not EVER doing that.) Still, after all these years, even though it was kind of hard, she remembers those times with her kids....I remember the time I went across country with Steve, who was then about 13, and we camped all the way there and all the way back.  We saw the Grand Canyon, and camped out beneath the beautiful New Mexico sky.  One night we camped beside a swamp in Mississippi, and even though there was no rain at all, we woke up to having everything in our campsite soaked to the gills.  Two nights later, in the hill country of New Mexico, it rained directly into the tent, which had an open screen top, and nothing got wet at all! 

Those are the best field trips, in my opinion, the ones with just you and your kids, or you and a single kid, when not everything is planned in advance and there is all kinds of room for serendipity.  The big planned ones can be nice, too, but these family trips will be remembered forever!  Take the initiative and go somewhere fun this year!   Mary

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Overcoming (or not!) Frustration

I said at the beginning of the year that, barring almost anything, I would make a post on here once a week, usually on Saturday mornings.  Yesterday, though, I just couldn't get myself to share...I kept thinking, "You know, I should really get on and vent just so everybody could see that  Mary Hood has bad days,too!"  It was just one of those days when everything that could go wrong, did!  My husband was getting ready to leave for three weeks on a work assignment, my car was acting up,  and the work I was supposed to be doing as an appraiser was incredibly frustrating.  

I know, though, that my real frustration is that I feel like I'm wasting valuable time doing all this real estate work.  I know in my heart that my destiny is still in the field of parent education, that I have a lot of important things left to accomplish helping homeschooling families, and that I'm not a spring chicken anymore...Once you hit 60, which I did last year, you start feeling the clock ticking.  I just can't understand why God seems to be keeping me marching in place right now when I so much want to be charging ahead.  I can visualize so clearly the place we're trying to create, a conference center in the Georgia Mountains....I can see the children putting on plays on the porch of the log cabin, the moms having fellowship around the campfire, the teens making memories at summer camps...but, right now it seems  that, in the words of the song, "Only trouble is, gee whiz, I'm dreaming my life away."

I wish I had some miraculous concluding paragraph that sums up how I found peace and contentment in the midst of it all...but I'm afraid those aren't really my strong suits, especially right now! Oh, I can QUOTE it...(Philippians 4:11...for I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content."  Living that statement out isn't always quite that easy.

The one thing I have learned, over the years, is that sometimes God just does that...stops us in our tracks for awhile, perhaps confined to a bed, perhaps sick and pregant, perhaps fighting emotional problems, maybe just wrestling with a third grade who can't learn her multiplication facts. Whatever he has us going through, it usually turns out to be some kind of a learning experience, or maybe even a blessing in disguise.  I've also learned that I can try to figure out the reason until the cows come home, but sometimes, it is just isn't going to happen.  Then all any of us can do is to try to trust God, hope for the future, and keep sloshing through the present, one foot ahead of the other, until we come out on the other side.

I do have one thing to look forward to this weekend...whatever happens the next three days, on Thursday I'm headed off to Austin to speak at a fair and meet some of you!  I'm really looking forward to that, and hope the snow and ice go away so all you Texans can come out and enjoy it with me.  For info, go to  Hope to see you there!