What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Heather Caliri.
If I tell you I home school, and you don’t, I can guess what you’ll say: “I could never do what you’re doing.” I want you to know something: You’re wrong. You could do what I’m doing. Let’s be clear. I’m not saying this in a judgy, “get with the program already” kind of way. I’m saying that I know mothers. And I know we do what needs doing. We get up each morning and serve and work and cook and clean bottoms and do the laundry when someone gets the stomach flu.
We do what needs doing, period. Whether it’s home school or public school or the NICU or the soccer team. So let’s get this straight: if you needed to, you could do what I do. And I could do what you do. I want to celebrate that, and affirm each of our paths. Sure, we might not prefer to switch places. Which is the second thing I want to say: That’s okay.
The idea of homeschooling make you want to run screaming? I get it. And that’s okay. I’ll be honest: the idea of school makes me want to do the same. And that’s okay too. But that doesn’t diminish our choices. That doesn’t take away from our freedom to live the life we need to live. That doesn’t mean we can’t lift each other up, affirm each other, and learn from each other. You keep doing things in that weird, broken, blessed way that makes you thrive. You keep doing the carpools and the PTA and the class mom gig. It’s hard, and blessing you, and it’s the right thing. Because I know that the day it’s not right for your family, you will make the hard choices necessary to change. I’m doing the same. I love our life right now, but I know each day brings manifold surprises. I know that if it’s necessary, I’ll be ready to make hard choices about our life too.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is what’s hard about homeschooling: people use “homeschool” as a cudgel—on themselves or other people. Somehow the choice to homeschool—or not--has become another place to feel less-than. It used to be “enough” to be a room mom and serve on the PTA. Or it was enough to have a kick-ass career and be empowered. Or—Wait. Was there ever a time when we were enough? Just as we are?
We have so many choices about our kids that it’s fairly dizzying. Parenting styles and work hours and toys to buy and BPA free sippy cups and extracurricular and media usage. And education: charter, public, private, and homeschool. It would be great if all this choice made us feel freer, but does it? It would be great if all this choice helped us learn from each other, but does it?
Look, the “mommy wars” are waaay overblown. Here’s what’s not: our awful internal dialogue, comparing ourselves negatively to everyone that seems fancy or intentional. And lest you think homeschooling would solve that inner chatter, it doesn’t. I feel intimidated by parents who seem to homeschool “better” than I do. I get all judgy and insecure over here too.
So let’s lay down our insecurities and decide that enough is enough, and that we, right now, are enough. Let’s affirm and lift each other up, and not be afraid of our differences. Let’s be easy and content with the life we choose, even if it doesn’t sound exotic. Let us never feel the need to apologize—to ourselves or anyone else—for the hard work we do as parents. Because we need all the energy and support we need to confront the challenges that life brings, each and every day.