This is my daughter's hand reaching out to touch a thistle. It seemed strangely appropriate.
activism,  parenting,  politics

How does one homeschool, with all the intensity that involves, and be a compassionate, informed person at the same time?

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Sometimes it is really hard to keep balance. How does one balance parenting with everything else? I don’t want to undervalue my husband’s contribution to our family life – his is amazing – but I suspect I’m the support pole the children lean on and there are times when the burden of having them lean on me feels to tough. I feel all hollow and empty and like I have nothing to give them and then I’m so keenly aware of them pulling on me, talking to me, seeking approval and asking for attention and I don’t know what to do.

There are people in the world whose houses are being bombed. How does one hold that knowledge in her mind and still function on a day to day basis? To turn from reading about the deaths of children to playing with my own children feels strange. I have a choice either seeing the deaths as just stories, plots in some novel or television show, or I can let the reality seep into my mind and live with the mixture of guilt, confusion, and awe. Guilt because I know that my own government is involved in supporting the violence. Confusion because I’m scared of being wrong in how I understand the situation, in speaking out about it or saying the wrong thing. Awe because my life is so far apart, so separate from the violence.

The violence is real. I know it is. People are dying from acts of violence brought on by other people and as a functioning adult I’m supposed to somehow isolate this, recognize my distance from it and care but not really care. I’m supposed to care but not let it change my daily routine really. After all, if I do let it affect me, am I not somehow co-opting their suffering, making it somehow about me even when it isn’t? (There is something wrong, narcissistic, about writing any of this when how any of this affects me should not matter. It affects those really involved in such worse ways. I know that. Mine is a #firstworldproblem.)

What does it mean to be human? It means helplessness. There is this role I’m supposed to take being the center of the family here and being preoccupied in making things work here but how can I focus on that when there is so much wrong in the world and I know I’m powerless to change it anyway but it just seems so wrong to turn my back on everything and care about the kids.

It isn’t just the war on Gaza. There is a world of other things wrong too. The native people in Grassy Narrows, Ontario are being poisoned by mercury but the government insists on ignoring that so as not to have to put a stop to the clear cutting that is releasing the mercury into the water and yet politicians focus on the stupid things and pretend their hands are tied. All around the world there are injustices. Every day there are the pictures of sinkholes in Siberia and stories about the methane. Will our planet be liveable in ten years? Should I worry about the carbon dioxide released from my car driving to the grocery store or does that matter in the slightest now when scientists are talking of tipping points?

I must not talk about this with the kids around. I don’t want them worried and overwhelmed. So how does one shelter the children and still learn about scary things? Its been a week since I’ve had the house to myself and I can sit and type and cry without worrying about them walking in on me.

I’ve focused a lot of my energy this past two years on anti-poverty activism not necessarily because it is the most urgent of topics but because it was a relatively safe one for me to work on and still be able to talk about around the house. But my nine year old has come to me recently and said he’s concerned about what job he’ll be able to have when he grows up, given the economy the way it is. I try to comfort him but inside I tell myself “ten years.” Ten years till he’s officially an adult. When he was born I think I must have thought we’d fix the world by then somehow. Now I’m so much more doubtful.This is my daughter's hand reaching out to touch a thistle. It seemed strangely appropriate.

So tell me, how does one help one’s children deal with the little things of life, like negotiating the challenges of making friends? How does one listen to talk about minecraft and all these other things that seem so frivolous yet necessary for child to remain carefree and innocent?

I know that the good life I have here right now is a gift and I should not throw it away worrying about things beyond my little circle, but I cannot totally turn my eyes away from everything either.

This is made harder for me by homeschooling, because it is harder for me to have a separate space in which to try to take action on the things that matter to me. Homeschooling means the kids are so much more dependent upon me to be the stable strong support they can turn to for everything. They don’t have three other teachers and a classroom full of other children to turn to when their mom is worried about things. I can’t afford to be worried, not really, and yet I am.

For those of you who are doing this, how do you do it?

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  • mom4peaceuu

    Being compassionate and sensitive comes with a price. We don’t get a choice about the sensitive end — some combination of nature and nurture gives us our threshold for tears and pain. (And raising two kids who are markedly different on this characteristic, I think nature determines much sensitivity. Compassion we choose, and compassion can be taught. I can’t think of many virtues greater than compassion and not one that causes more tears.

    I’m prone to being overwhelmed by the news. I’ve not ever been regularly exposed to TV news, preferring instead NPR (which is less sensationalistic, IMO and is obviously graphic-free) and the newspaper. Lately, I can’t get beyond the headlines on the front page without feeling the tears start, however. When that becomes a daily problem, I step back a bit. I worry that my refusal at points to know every turn of every war is negligent and somehow thoughtless to those in pain, but I think it is the only way I avoid dipping into despair about this world we’re leaving our children.

    So talk about the Minecraft and the minutiae. Attend to the little hurts at home, because the compassion you model in those small moments are what teach your children to be compassionate for others. And I often think that’s all we have — compassion. The more of that we cultivate, the more people who do cry on the front page, the more people who are willing to act gently with those in front of them, reach out to the hurting around them, and work and vote to help those out of arm’s reach.

    May you find peace.

  • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom

    There’s no “break” for a homeschooling parent. You are parent and teacher. I struggled a lot last year when I dealt with two deaths within 3 months… homeschooling through grief is, well, tough.

    I am Christian, so much of my strength to move on, to continue comes from my faith. Other homeschoolers are a fabulous resource as well. I find as my “network” of homeschoolers grows, I’m gaining more confidence and momentum to navigate the “tricky” parts of homeschooling… the grief, the worries, and the anxiety.

    Thank you so much for sharing this post at my #Blirthdaybash – it means so much that you took the time to celebrate with me!

    Wishing you a lovely week.

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