Your Mental Health Is More Important Than Homeschool

Your Mental Health Is More Important Than Homeschool

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I work in public education and I am here to tell you – loud and clear – that your mental health is more important than homeschooling your kids. I work in public education and two of my own children are part of the same school system (part of the same elementary school, in fact) in which I work, and I’m here to shout from the rooftops that my mental health is more important than homeschooling my kids. I am a huge advocate for public education – for all education – and I’m saying that our collective mental health is more important than homeschooling right now.

We are experiencing a crisis like never before. We’ve lost jobs, income, and the ability to find diapers, baby formula, medicine. We’ve lost sleep. We’ve lost our babysitters, our daycares, and slumber parties with grandma. We’ve lost music class, library story time, preschool, and playdates. We’ve lost the ability to wander the aisles of Target just to get out of the house. We’ve lost our entire village. But we’ve gained the title of homeschool teacher.

Your mental health is more important than homeschooling your kids.

Maybe you are on the front lines (thank you!) and every day you’re terrified. Terrified of getting sick. Or terrified of carrying the virus home to loved ones. Maybe you or your spouse have had to quarantine in isolation, away from home and away from the rest of the family. You’re alone and terrified. But you know who’s not quarantined away from home? Your kids, who now need to be homeschooled. Presumably by you.

But your mental health is more important than homeschooling your kids.

Maybe you’re a parent who is now working full-time from home with one, two, three, four or more children whose diaper explosions, tantrums, or tattles don’t give two shits if you’re on a conference call or a Zoom meeting. Maybe your spouse or partner is essential and continues to report to work each day and it’s all on you. It’s on you to work, corral the kids, and now homeschool.

Maybe you suffer from a mental health condition and on a good day you’re barely holding on, but during a global pandemic? You’re losing your grip.

Maybe you feel like a shell of who you once were, and you’re starting to crack.

Your mental health is more important than homeschooling your kids.

I’m saying this as a mom who falls into a few of the aforementioned groups. My husband’s job, while not in health care, is considered essential, so he goes to work. I now work from home. Along with my four kids, who range in age from 16 months to 11 years. I have anxiety and depression. On a good day, my mental health is in a precarious place. And now, between Zoom meetings, parent phone calls, professional development, throwing snacks at the four-year-old, making sure my “tabie” (toddler/baby) doesn’t fall down the steps (because I’m the only one who remembers to close the gate), preparing and cleaning up five thousand meals a day (why do my kids eat so much?!), I am now a homeschool mom. I even have help during the day, and my head is still barely above water.

My mental health is more important than homeschooling my kids.

Am I saying to throw your hands in the air and tell the school to suck it? Of course not. Schools are offering distance learning because providing some continuity of education is important. It’s almost inevitable that children will start next school year having lost some knowledge and skills; distance learning is an attempt mitigate this slide. It’s also a way for schools to stay in touch with students and families so we can do our best to make sure they’re okay. Because we really do miss all of you and our hearts are broken that there was absolutely no closure for the students. One day we were at school, the next we were quarantined at home.

And oh my god – what schools have done in such a short time is nothing short of amazing. An entire educational system was completely reinvented overnight. As both an employee and a parent, I have the utmost respect for what my colleagues, who are also my boys’ teachers, have done and will continue to do.

However, homeschooling isn’t going to be the proverbial straw that breaks this camel’s back. Nor should it be yours.

If it is all too much – truly too much – I implore you to reach out to your child’s teacher. Let them know you’re struggling. Let them know you’re now solo parenting, or working from home, or God forbid caring for someone who is ill. Approach them with respect and a genuine appreciation for what they’re trying to do. Let them know it’s all too much and ask then what options you have. Let them see that you’re willing to try.

When my son was struggling with one of his online assignments and my nerves were reaching their breaking point because oh my god no one argues more than a first grader whose mom isn’t “teaching me the right way” I called his teacher. Through the tears (his and mine), I asked if he could write his work and I’d snap a picture as evidence instead of fighting with text box glitches on the technology platform. Her response? “Absolutely! You do what works for you.” God love her. When I just didn’t get around to helping him record himself singing for music class, I asked a different teacher if he could have an extension. “Of course, no rush!” God love her too.

Look, we’re all in uncharted waters. Parents, teachers, administrators. We’re taking it day by day, week by week. I don’t think anyone knows the right or best way to handle the situation we’re all in. But what I do know? We can’t parent our kids with the patience, kindness, safety, and love they need and deserve when our mental health is in the toilet.

We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our kids. And that might mean we homeschool a little less or a lot less. Maybe even not at all.

Right now, your mental health is priority. Take care of you, Mama.

You are more important than homeschool right now.