More than 15 years ago, when my hair was still big and my hips were still small, I started homeschooling my first child. Our family at the time wore our hair long and nappy in a cultural Rastafarian style, grew our own food and lived an eccentric, self-contained, hippie-esque lifestyle. It was ideal, we were free to do as we pleased and happy for a really long time and then I was a divorced mother of four with no immediate backup plan. When the lights and heat got cut and I was told I would not only have to vacate our home but be forced to put my kids in school, I knew I had to compartmentalize to survive. I didn’t know the term at the time or how handy it would come in as my coping mechanism.
Segmentation is not just for marketing
In separating the crises into priority and non–priority statuses in my mind, and by not allowing myself to be constantly dragged through the breakup or having to console another person who took our pain way too personally, I was able to focus on just one problem at a time. The rule became if no one was dying or in dire need of assistance, then I would move on to putting out the next fire. It was the opposite of how I’d live my life before, but I felt mentally diminished and forced to slow down. I realized also, that if I wasn’t calculated, homeschool, our only remaining semblance of stability would come under fire. And my boys, most of whom had never set foot inside a formal classroom, would lose their only remaining sense of stability.
Looking back, it seemed like my world was slowly coming apart at the seams and I was moving in slow motion, trying to patch one thing at a time, only to be disrupted by another fear-based issue, planted by a well-intentioned relative.
Finally, I decided to shut out the voices and focus on my reasons, my boys, and their future. I had desired joy-filled, caring children, who knew how to learn and apply the knowledge gained and so far I was certain they were good people, so I kept that in my focus. Our downsized resources meant we had to get really creative, and in the resourcefulness, we learned gratitude through application and experimentation. Whenever we’d fallen behind, things got out of hand or I felt overwhelmed, which was often, I would mutter to myself, “Nada, just keep calm and homeschool on,” it was my mantra of sorts and that’s exactly what I did.
Stay cool mama, not cold.
The move to shut down all the outside opinions was not an easy or peaceful one and I ended up very isolated in my struggles. The friends who still spoke to me, did so from a distance as if divorce was contagious and homeschooling groups weren’t many where I lived. Burdened by loneliness and the fear of making the wrong decision at a critical juncture, I got more focused on closing off emotions and focusing on logic. I delved deeply into action mode, making sure I could afford to keep homeschooling and provide for the family. Additionally, I had very few transferable skills and needed work flexibility, so it was an uphill battle ahead. So busy was I, trying to keep it all afloat that I didn’t notice how in embracing my masculine energy, I had restricted access to my nurturing emotional side which further alienated my kids.
The battle that love won.
It started small, a stinky attitude here, a mumbled response there and then it seemed like all my boys were rebelling at the same time. I was too caught up in activity to see that I was expecting something of them that I couldn’t deliver. Though our resources and circumstances had changed drastically, I anticipated the same focus, drive, and results we got when everything was whole. The night my son yelled at me about how angry he was, while hot tears poured down his 16-year-old face was one of the most important moments of my life. Never had my children raised their voices at me in anger and I wasn’t sure how to react. I stared at the child the neighbors had called an angel and wondered if I had lost him forever. That night, I made a critical decision, I canceled work, gathered my broken little family, with some popcorn and blankets and “storytime” was born, where I sit and listen to them talk about things from their perspective, without judgment or consequence. At first, it was all tears, nervousness, fears, losses, and pain, but, over time, it transformed into our family quality time.
.Four years ago, had you asked me about my future, I would have said the best days were behind us. I could not have known that this breaking apart would end up binding us so closely together. Our homeschool has slowly evolved, with the boys finding their way through much experimentation on their part and allowing on mine. Life certainly isn’t perfect these days, we still fall behind and fail courses and my youngest still thinks “school work sucks,” but we are stronger. The other day, my second son received some unfavorable news, as we discussed his options he said to me: “there’s a way mom, there’s always a way, we’ll find it.” While I’m not going to go so far as to say choosing to homeschool saved my life, I will say that it did save my family. My hair is thinner now, and worn in an afro and I still work too much trying to keep things afloat. We plant in containers and are still eclectic, but my eldest has completed college with honors. Our family is stable, loving and protective of each other and I am eternally grateful to the Divine for having led me to homeschool.
Nada is a freelance online marketer and copywriter. As a mompreneur, she serves by helping moms with the online portion of “having it all.” She is a homeschooling mom, avid runner, closet novelist and wine lover. Connect with Nada at Copy Write Brand.