Exhausted Mama

Dear Beautiful Blog Readers,

Some days I get tired.  Some days the overwhelming overwhelming-ness of being a mother (to both an adult and littles), a wife, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, a chauffeur, a supportive friend, a farmer, a homeschooler–a Woman of Many Title–is downright exhausting.  Sometimes there are so many things to be done in a single 15-minute period that I am literally flitting from one place to the next, one thought to the next, one Me to the next.  When I really want to do is close my eyes, have complete quiet, shut off my brain, and Just Be.


For half an hour.  Just be.  Just be KT.

Who has time for that?  I decided to write to you about it, because I have a feeling I am not alone in this.  I see posts that give suggestions such as Make Time For Yourself, Don’t Overschedule, Get Up Earlier To Have Quiet Time (or Go To Bed Later).

Um, I can’t make time.  It is humanly impossible.  Goes against the laws of physics.  I don’t really even get to make my schedule.   These things need done. They are not going to go away if I don’t schedule them into my day.  They will still need done tomorrow, and chances are I’ll only be piling on more for tomorrow if I skip something today.   Also, I already get up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning and can barely keep my eyes open till 10.  So…

My blog is meant to encourage other moms and dads who are on this journey.  But sometimes I don’t feel encouraging.  Sometimes you don’t want to be encouraged.  Sometimes, we just need to commiserate.  So here’s the thing.

I am having an exhausted week.  That’s honest.  Here’s a pic of my kitchen counter Right Now.  IMG_20150618_145652239_HDRThat’s honest.  I should be doing those dishes, but the truth is I ran out of dish soap this morning and I don’t have the energy (or the hour it would take) to go get more.  I haven’t worked on next year’s curriculum this week.  At All.  I haven’t been able to find the time.  My Littles are having so much fun with their summer science class that we are doing extra work every day, and even though it’s easier than any class we’ve ever done (since I didn’t have to write the class first), it is cutting into my chore, blogging, and business time.  I’ve barely spoken to my best friend this week.  I want to.  I just don’t have time.  I’m too tired to sleep.  I’m too tired to stay awake. You know that feeling, don’t you?

I don’t have any words of encouragement.  Let’s just commiserate.  We are parents and it is exhausting, and that is okay.  Tomorrow will be better.  It always is, isn’t it?  But for today… Let’s just own the exhaustion.  Let ourselves be overwhelmed.  There comes a time when we have to stop the denial.  For an hour, maybe.  Because denial (haha) is often what keeps us living this crazy, wonderful, beautiful life.  I’ll put on my big-girl boots in the morning, I swear.  But today, my friends, I Am Owning It.

I’m tired.  Are you?

Love wins,



Conquering Your Homeschool Fears

Our summer science begins next week, and it’s got me thinking about some people I know who are still trying to make the decision to homeschool.  It’s a hard decision and a scary one.  As parents, we believe we know what is best for our children.  We see the flaws in the public school system and hope a miracle occurs that will fix them.  We see the bureaucracy involved and know the miracle probably will not come.  At least not soon enough for our kids.  We do research and realize private schools and charter schools, while they may be trying, are really not much better.  We have to decide.  Send our kids to school?  Or take on that enormous responsibility for ourselves?

Native American Crafts for American History 2012

Native American Crafts for American History 2012

Knight and horse craft 2013

Knight and horse craft 2013

Homemade kites 2012

Homemade kites 2012

If you’ve never done it before, deciding to homeschool is downright terrifying.  I remember well how scared I was as my beautiful husband and I made the decision.  I remember going to my neighbor’s house.  She has nine kids (I’ve counted them!), and has now graduated 3 from homeschool.  She had been homeschooling for several years when I went to her for advice.  She said, as any experienced homeschooling mama generally says, “Absolutely! You should go for it.”  There was A Lot more to that conversation.  Mostly I needed someone to tell me I could do it.  That I wasn’t setting out to destroy my children and setting myself up for an Epic Fail.

Let me be the first to tell you, you can do it.

Middle concentrating 2011- our first year

Middle concentrating 2011- our first year

As amazing as professional teachers are, each year they have 20-35 kids to look after and educate.  You only have a few, or maybe even just one.  So what you can give your kids that a public school teacher can’t is one-on-one.  Even when you’re unsure of your methods, that one-on-one training opens up so many possibilities.  When I first started, my homeschool looked very like public school–I taught the Littles according to their grade levels, gave them separate subjects, worked on a schedule much like a middle or high school is set up: certain subjects at certain times every day.  As that year progressed I realized my boys were far beyond what was considered their ‘grade level,’ so I upped the stakes and they followed along winningly.

Castle craft 2013

Castle craft 2013

Mayan temple craft 2011

Mayan temple craft 2011

The only thing I have kept from that first year is adherence to a schedule.  In my house, we all work better with structure so we keep it structured.  However, now the only subject they’re on different levels in is math, and they both learn science, history, art, language, geography, and music together.  It helps that the Littles are only two years apart.  Once they both had the basic understanding of a subject down, they could move on together without anyone feeling held back or left behind.  I do expect more from Middle when it comes to research, writing, and the like, but he is technically 2 grades ahead of Littlest so it’s only fair.

My point is, there are so many ways to homeschool and if you pick one no one is saying you have to continue with it.  You can change it up.  I do.  Every. Single. Year.  The Littles love not being boxed in to a certain type of learning or even a set number of subjects.  They give me input on how we should do things, and decide on their own electives.  They even help me decide what order we’ll do our schedule in.  That way, they are learning to make their own decisions about their education, which I hope will stead them well when the time comes for college.

Littlest with his Robinson Crusoe journal 2014

Littlest with his Robinson Crusoe journal 2014

The myriad options for approaching homeschool should erase at least some of your fears.  There are others, of course.  Like the whole, “Wow, if I do this, I am committed to doing this for 12-13 years.”  Well, yeah.  But you’re going to be raising them anyway, and it is kind of your job.  The one thing to keep in mind, though, is that if it all gets overwhelming or you find that homeschooling isn’t working for your family, you can send them to school.  As long as you have kept them at their grade level in work they should assimilate pretty easily.  So take that fear off the list.  You can homeschool for a year or until they graduate.  The option for change is always there.

Then there’s the financial question.  I’m not going to lie–there are months when we struggle a bit and I start thinking, “We wouldn’t have to worry about this if I just went back to work.”  In my case, my beautiful husband is always there to remind me why we made this decision and of the cost of child care and professional clothing and daily lunches and gas money.  And we remember we’d be giving up this wonderful opportunity to raise our kids ourselves in order to make an extra–what?–$50 dollars a week?  A hundred?  After we factor in the costs of me going back to work, it suddenly seems like a Really Bad Idea.  So we make it through and things get right again, and I am always grateful I didn’t cave.  If you decide to give up half the family’s income in order to homeschool, it’s going to be hard.  You’ll have to give up some luxuries and some social activities in order to afford books or paper and pencils.  Or a rocking printer like the one I finally invested in.  But the rewards are so numerous.  I promise you, getting to be the one who teaches your kids their values and ideals, sees every nuance of their growth, and witnesses all their firsts makes it worth it.  And as a good friend of mine says about the people you owe money to, “They can’t eat you.  What are you stressing about?”  Also, I know several families in which the primary homeschooler has a part-time or even a full-time job.  The options are there and apparently doable.

Scarecrow-building day with our homeschool friends 2013

Scarecrow-building day with our homeschool friends 2013

You might also be really scared of what will happen to your kids socially.  In our society, the public school system is where kids learn to interact with others, right?  It’s where they make friends.  Now, I know there are people out there who have been lifelong friends with people they met at school.  I am not one of them.  My circle these days is made up of people I’ve worked with, family, people I’ve met through my husband, people from all sorts of places… none of them people I knew in high school.  In fact, barring a couple of exceptions, I have never had a desire to remain friends with the people I went to high school with.  I had a lot of friends in high school.  I wasn’t comfortable around most of them.  I didn’t agree with the way they thought, the things they did, or the way they viewed the future.  I always felt like an oddball.  Why would I still want to feel like that as an adult?  I mean, think about it–public school throws us in with a bunch of other people our age that we don’t get to pick and we have to at least find one or two we can tolerate for the next 12 years.  In high school, most of my friends went to other schools and I only saw them on the weekends.  So technically, public school didn’t do much for me socially except teach me to hide who I really was.

Do you want that for your kids?  The thing is, as long as you don’t hole your kids up in your house 24/7, they’re going to make friends.  It’s what kids do.  It’s what humans do.  I’ve talked about this extensively in another post, so I’m just going to say, wipe that fear off your list.

Equinox lesson at local forestry's nature center 2013

Equinox lesson at local forestry’s nature center 2013

Listen, fear begets courage.  It’s healthy to have a little fear, because it helps you think things through.  It can even help you throw on your big-girl boots and tackle a problem head on.  If you’re still wavering about homeschool because of fear, take a deep breath.  Remember who you’ll be doing this for.  Contact someone with experience and let them encourage you.  Look at how happy my Littles look in all these photos.  Then look at your own kids.  And go for it.

Love wins,


What to Do When

I wish I had better advice for this topic.

It’s one thing when people pay a homeschooler those back-handed compliments.

“Oh, you must have your hands full.”  Accompanied by a sickly-sweet smile.

“I could never do that.”  Followed by, “I would kill my kids.”

“I wish I had time to homeschool my kids.”  Oblivious to the financial and social sacrifices we make in order to have the time.

But there’s something even worse, even more insidious.  See, I ran into an acquaintance the other day who is a professional and a mom.  During the ‘catching up’ phase of the conversation she asked what I’m doing now.  I told her I’m homeschooling my kids and her smile literally froze on her face (it’s cold outside, after all).  She hurriedly changed the topic back to herself: her busy days, her troublesome clients, how she can never quite find the time to blah blah blah.  Laughing with her, I concurred.  YOU know, fellow homeschool parent, just how busy I am.  Because you’re that busy.   Because even though we don’t get paid for this job, we are at work 24/7.  Our clients are just as demanding and we rarely get to leave them (not that we want to).  When we finally go to bed, exhausted, we are thinking of all the things we didn’t quite find the time to do, and all the things we have to do tomorrow.  We are Busy.

But this woman blew me off.  A chuckle.  A toss of the head.  “Well,” she said in a supremely condescending tone, “I mean, I’m Really busy.  I barely have time to look at my kids, let alone teach them anything.”

Lady, that’s your problem.

Is it guilt or jealousy that makes professional women automatically assume that a homemaker or homeschooler doesn’t have  a real life with real tasks to do and real rewards and real schedules?  Is it a true dislike of their homes and families that makes them cringe at the idea?  Is it meanness?

I just don’t know.  I try to put myself in other people’s shoes before I react to them; I really do.  But after that conversation I prompted several more with other people and I noticed it every time–that refusal to believe I could really be Busy, that my life isn’t a bowl of cherries and donuts because I don’t have a paying job.  I must just sit around all day watching (cringe) soap operas and eating bon-bons, the Peg Bundy of the 2010s.  I’m not busy.  I don’t even work.

So the worst back-handed compliment I’ve ever gotten is, “It must be so nice not to have to work every day.”

Are you kidding?  It must be nice to get to leave your job behind and have entire weekends where you don’t have to do it.   To take vacations that don’t incorporate major learning experiences into them.  To get breaks.

That’s what I want to say.  But I wouldn’t even mean it.  Because I’ve had jobs.  I had a career.  And the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done is teach my kids.

Just, if you run into me on the street, please don’t belittle me.  Please don’t act like I’m not busy just because no one sees fit to pay me for what I do.  Please don’t assume I’m Peg Bundy.  I don’t even have time to watch her reruns on TV, let alone BE her.

I left that woman on the street with a polite (perhaps frozen?) smile without even bothering to contradict her.  Sometimes it’s just not worth it.  I probably won’t see her again for another 5 years.  Maybe I should have spoken up.  Asked her to spend her next vacation at my house and see just how busy I am.  Said something scathing about her lack of interaction with her precious littles.  But as I walked away from her, I smiled.  Because, busy as I am, I’m happy.  Her?  Not so much.

My only advice in the face of such ignorance is to keep that smile plastered on.  Remember why you do this and how most days are blissful no matter how busy.  Remember that your littles know they are what matters to you most.  And remember… She really is busy.  Her life is just as harried as yours.  You be the compassionate one.  Because it has to start somewhere, and it may as well start with us.

Has this ever happened to you?  If so, how did you handle it?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Happy New Year

I am not a person who makes resolutions.  Not the ‘this year will be different’ kind, anyway.  For one thing, I am so blessed in my life there is not much I would resolve to change.  I am grateful every day for all I have.

However, since we are not schooling this week, I am doing prep work for the coming semester, and sometimes that is a new years’ resolution in itself.  By this time, I had better know what’s working and what’s not working this school year.  I’ve ordered yet another chemistry book and I think we’re going to be very happy with it.  The geography binders are working wonderfully.  Art history, though I’m still working on it week by week, is teaching the boys lots about both theory and history.  We’re actually reading music, something I never thought I would get to learn to do.  And I think I’ve mentioned our reading of Oliver Twist enough for you all to know how superbly that is going.

Still, I’m not finished with the study guide.  (Oh, Procrastination, you are my friend.)  And I really do need to spend some time coming up with experiments to augment our chemistry lessons.  And it’d probably be a good idea to get a couple weeks ahead in art.  So, as always, my work is never done.

But that’s okay.  It is the job we take on when we decide to homeschool. And even for that I am grateful.  Not only do I get to teach my kids with a depth they would never receive in public school, but my own brain is constantly working, constantly learning–going, going, going.  My sister would say I am staving off Alzheimer’s.

Don’t fret if instead of getting downtime in this post-Christmas period you are working harder than ever.  It’s the mark of a good parent, a good homeschooler.  Be thankful you have the option and always, always remember why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for.  And don’t resolve to be better or different next year.  Keep doing what your doing and your children will excel because of it.  And be safe and happy and grateful no matter what year it is.

Love wins,


Reading is Everything

You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story.

The Littles and I started back to school last week and after five days we’ve started hitting our groove. A flexible schedule that we stick to as much as we can helps. Usually the first few days take a couple hours longer than the rest of the year. It takes a while to figure out how the new schedule each year is going to work. This year we switched things up quite a bit. Instead of doing every subject every day, we do grammar, math, and guided reading five days a week. On Mondays and Wednesdays we do U.S. geography. Tuesdays are for reading comp units and chemistry. Thursdays are art history. Fridays we do Spanish, music reading, and nature study. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we throw in creative writing to cement our grammar and vocabulary. This gives us a chance to really get into the larger subjects. We took two hours to do chemistry and art history last week. It was fabulous.

Now let me explain our favorite class. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, and a full understanding of what we’ve read. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist. Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world?

Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just English, history, and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.

We’re reading A.A. Milne’s books about Winnie-the-Pooh first this year. When I tell friends and colleagues they usually chuckle. The Littles are in the 4th and 6th grade; aren’t they a little old for Pooh?   Well, no. Even I am reminded of some very nice things while we read. Friendship, loyalty, tolerance, kindness, bravely facing one’s fears… these are invaluable lessons. Perhaps we should all read these books every few years to remember how we should treat others. Also, the Littles are old enough now to understand some of Milne’s tongue-in-cheek humor. They’re enjoying Pooh even more than when I read him aloud to them as pre-schoolers.   Plus, it’s a nice, easy read before we dive into Oliver Twist in November. And I love Pooh. I love his simple kindheartedness. I hope my boys pick up a thing or two from him before we’re done. With daily guided reading, I think they will.

Love wins,


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