May 08, 2007

UNDERSTANDING HOMESCHOOL MOMS (...and what to give them for Mother's Day)


Tomorrow is National Teacher Day... and this coming Sunday is Mother's Day. I figured I would 'hit two birds with one stone' in this blog post.

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The article below is something I received via email from one of my favorite CRAZEE homeschool buddies who is teaching multiple ages (three boys and a girl). Here was the note she sent me when I got it:
"This was sent to me, and oh, how accurate it is!! If I could share a little bit of me with you, here’s a window into our lives…"
I have lots of homeschool buddies after homeschooling for over five years now... and just like Forest Gump says about life, homeschoolers are "like a box of chocolates" - you never know what you can expect until you really get to know them. There are conservatives and liberals, atheists and Christians, blacks and whites (red, yellow, tan, freckled and 'purple-people-eaters' too!), classical-led and unschoolers, preschool moms - teen moms - and moms with every age in-between (and pregnant, to bat!)! The great thing about them all is that 99% of them truly love their kids and love homeschooling. The other 1% is "on the fence" and not sure how to survive in this new lifestyle - dreaming of the days when the 'Magic' school bus whisked away the kiddies so they could watch daytime television and get pedicures. OK... so maybe we all have had those types of daydreams now and then (help me here!!!). Some only homeschool briefly and drop-out once they discover that it is truly HARD WORK. The rest of us are just hopelessly INSANE and pathetically MASOCHISTIC.

When I got this article via email, it had no title... so I made one up for you (don't you feel special?). I also felt like adding a few gift requests for Mother's Day notes of my own. This article talks a lot about the difficulties most homeschoolers face in the hours at home when they are trying to educate their brood. I can relate to these problems. Not that I begrudge them. Despite the bad days, I feel extremely blessed to be able to share my days with the two most brilliant and cute kids on the planet Earth. That doesn't mean we don't have our tears or trails... just that we have them all in perspective.

Are YOU a homeschooler who feels pretty misunderstood by your public school buddies? [Or more importantly... are you a homeschool DAD who's got a wad of cash in his wallet and are itching to buy some last-minute gift for your lovely stay-at-home sweetheart?] In case you wanted to share your "job description" with someone else and enlighten them on what to get you for Mother's Day... here's an interesting article (and notes by me) which has some groovy suggestions for "clutter-free" gifts (all italics notes are MINE):


If you are the mother, grandmother, sister, friend, father, or brother of a homeschooling mom, here are some things you should know:

1. Educating children at home is a full-time job. Don't get irritated if she consistently allows the answering machine to do its job. If she were a teacher in an institutional classroom, you probably wouldn't think of calling her during school hours, so try to realize that while still at home, she is keeping regular school hours, too.

Whatever 'regular school hours' is to her family, of course (my school hours are 1pm to 10pm with an hour break for dinner). Maybe you should ask your favorite homeschooler what her schedule is so you know when to call. ...and then go get her a Starbucks gift card or offer to take her to get coffee or tea when she's not teaching! Most homeschool moms really enjoy a weekly dose of adult conversation and friendship more than gifts! Maybe you could plan a weekly dollar-movie night with her?

2. Unlike homes in which the children are gone for eight straight hours, her home is in a constant state of activity. The children are not only home, they are home making messes. All day long. Their mother doesn't even have the opportunity to go into their rooms while they are at school and weed out the junk. And if she is like me, you might find odd homeschooly things lying around- like the month we had a dead turtle in the garage fridge.

Money to spend at Wal-Mart, Michaels, The Container Store, Hobby Lobby or other craft and organizing places are very handy to homeschooling moms (who also have to teach art and manage a place to keep supplies handy on top of regular household clutter)... better yet... ASK her what homeschool resource she would like for you to donate towards. She will be forever grateful and her children will be all the smarter and better-rounded people someday because of your donation!

3. Housekeeping and homeschooling are mutually exclusive. If she is doing her job educating her children academically, then her house is not being cleaned. If she takes the day to clean the house, then school will not be accomplished.

How about a maid service coupon (if you don't think she would let you come clean for her)? Most of us can't afford those types of luxuries and end up spending our "free time" scrubbing or folding...

4. Place realistic expectations on her- she cannot simultaneously teach school, make three square meals, keep a house that looks like it has sprung out of the pages of Architectural Digest, have her nails done, drive children to extracurricular activities, and have all the clothing laundered and pressed. Something's gotta give, and in my experience, it is usually her personal care (and her personal reading time). So don't expect her to don the latest styles, have her roots meticulously dyed at just the right moment, and her aforementioned nails filed and polished to perfection. And while most of us aren't slovenly, we just tend to put some superfluous aspects of personal care at the bottom of the to-do list.

While I might wear jeans and t-shirts a little too much, that doesn't mean I don't like to dress up for church or look nice when I eat out with my hubby. A gift certificate to a favorite clothing shop (Harold's and Old Navy are mine) or even a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant make much better presents for us 'down-to-earth' (beautifically-challenged) homeschoolish mamas than nail polish, make-up or chocolate. OK... maybe leave in the chocolate... (Raspberry-filled Godiva Dark Chocolate Bars, please).

5. For many of us, homeschooling isn't an option. Many believe it is not only the best way for their family, it is the only way. Many see homeschooling as a Scriptural directive. When sharing a particular struggle unique to homeschooling, comments like, "Well, why don't you consider putting them in school? Maybe homeschooling just isn't your thing" aren't helpful. Instead, offer a listening ear and your fervent prayers on her behalf.

Prayers are always good! Babysitting for date night is also a viable alternative.

6. If you are truly concerned about the state of her emotions, home, children, or marriage, offer practical help to ease her burden. Personal time is at a premium for her, so consider offering to take her kids for the day so she can recuperate. If you like to do laundry, offer to come over and get the loads going, fold, and/or iron. If you like to cook, consider putting together some meals that she can store in the freezer for days when time is at a premium. If she teaches a broad spectrum of ages and grades, consider offering to come in once a week or more to teach preschool to the little ones. One grandma I know created "Nana U" for her preschool grandson (number five of seven) and not only did it ease her homeshooling daughter's burden, it created a special bond between grandma and the child.

These are great ideas... priceless, really. Special 'Grandparent Days' (free time for mom), help with laundry, help with dinner or lunches... what could be better for a busy mom with multiple jobs (working for free)!?!
Another treat would be to call her and ask her what everyone wants for breakfast or lunch (if she likes fast food, that is: My personal favorite fast food place? CHIPOTLE!!!)... thereby getting her out of the kitchen and giving her some much-needed free time!
But there's a caveat here: ASK her what would be most helpful to her. Don't presume to know what would help her. Taking the oldest children for the day might be fun for you, but it's quite possibly not at all helpful to her. The living room might need to be vacuumed, but it's not helpful if she's trying to take a nap. Someone once told me, "If it's not wanted, it's not helpful."

Nap? What is a nap? Who wrote this article, anyway?

7. Think about what a financial burden homeschooling may be placing on the family. The loss of her possible income can be a real struggle nowadays, and you might be able to buoy her for another year by offering to purchase little things like simple school supplies. Gifts for the children like books on subjects of interest to the child, field trip fees, museum memberships, and the money to pay for music lessons or other extracurricular activities are the best thing you could give a homeschooling family. Not only does a homeschooling mom not need one more thing to manage or pick up, she would be thrilled to see you take an interest in the many academic items on her wish list.

Big one for us. I drool over the tables at the book fairs and weep over not being able to afford all of the extra curricular fun projects and field trips we sometimes have to pass up on. My kids had to stop taking piano when my mother suddenly was nine hours away from us (she was our FREE teacher). I keep an Amazon Wish list for this very reason... because the books on it are "wishes". Sadly, limited finances are a common issue among homeschool one-income families.

8. Simple questions like, "How can I pray for you?" and "Is there any way I can help you?" are like a cool breeze in her life. Don't assume you know her needs- ask.
You could just be the vessel God uses to carry her on through this very demanding and ultimately rewarding season of her life.
Oh, and how short the season is. If you are a homeschool mom... please do not forget to bask in the smell of fragrant roses in your garden of busyness. One day, the flowers will be gone and your butterflies will have flown away. Here's praying that you get the prayers you need to sustain you and the perfect gift this Mother's Day.

~ Author Unknown, Italics by Sprittibee

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Summer said...

I read this outloud to my husband. Hopefully he'll see that its not just me that can't do it all every day and look great doing it.

Kelly Curtis said...

THIS IS SO GOOD!!! Oh my gosh - I guess I'm not the only one;))

Plain and Simple said...

That was great. Lots of people need to read this. I have been convicted lately not to sweat the little things. It's the heart of our kids that really matter. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Great article and comments Sprittibee! Truly enjoyed reading it and felt it was very insightful! Thanks, Marisa

Cyndi said...

I might just print this out and leave it lying around the house... This was great! (And awesome gift ideas!)

Dianne - Bunny Trails said...

I knew there were similarities, but when I saw the raspberry/dark chocolate combo, that said it all - we are kindred spirits! :D

That was a super article - thanks for sharing!

Brenda said...

I really appreciate this! And, the pedicures sound good! :)

Sprittibee said...

Summer - :) Hopefully that will win him over, eh? I don't think men can fully understand until they have done it (therefore they can't fully understand). However, there are some guys out there (Like Mr. Danny Carlton of who are actually stay-at-home Dads that homeschool! Fancy that!

Kelly - ;) You too? I thought you had it all together?!!! ;)

Plain and Simple: Yes mam. Heart is what matters. Reminds me of Missy Grey of "Heartschooling" who died a year or so ago leaving her homeschooled kids and husband behind. We never know when our "time-card" will be punched and we'll be permanently "off-the-clock". Every second is so precious.

Marisa - :) HI YOU! You already gave me my mother's day gift. And fancy that... it was something on my list! Homeschool Resources!!! THANK YOU.

Cyndi - Yeah, mee too! I did get that chocolate bar I listed (my daughter is so thoughtful!).

Bunny Trails... I ate my Godiva Raspberry filled Dark Chocolate bar all up on Mother's Day. My little girl begged her Daddy for cash at the mall when we went to eat and surprised me with it. ;) Perfect mother's day gift. Now if I could only find a get skinny quick pill...

Brenda - Thanks for your comment. I thought the pedicure sounded wonderful... my feet have been really looking like they needed a good dose of TLC lately. I need to go take the sandal pledge and get those tootsies in shape. :) I did actually paint my toenails pink the other day... but it was a temporary fix.



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