Kristen pre-kids was definitely a bit more physically-adventurous than Kristen post-kids. I used to do things like mountain climb, trek through rain forests, jump out of airplanes, volunteer in third world countries, go cave diving– the more exotic sounding, the more alluring to me. Basically, if there was something I wanted to do I saved up and did it. Now it’s not so easy. Saving up takes a heck of a lot more time, and some risks just aren’t worth taking when you have dependents. Literally little tiny people depending on you. You reevaluate everything and the word adventure takes on a new meaning.
For me, homeschooling is my greatest adventure.
Sure, I was intimated when I stared up at Huayna Potosí the first time. The summit seemed so unbelievably far away; I wondered how to start, let alone tackle it’s summit. It’s a daunting and humbling feeling that’s very similar to the overwhelming sensation that frequently washes over me when I ponder educating my children.
I find myself reflecting on memories of my past adventures to guide me through this arduous yet rewarding trek into homeschooling.
In sharing, I hope my reflections can help bolster you to keep trekking on.
- When mountain climbing you must pay close attention to YOUR body- physically and mentally. You need to be in tune with yourself and honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. If one hopes to summit and return home successfully from the mountain, you have to be realistic with yourself at all times. This is the bedrock foundation to homeschooling. Remain truthful to yourself. Know where your strengths and weaknesses lie- use your strengths to diminish the effects of any weakness. Like the old airplane oxygen mask analogy- you must take care of yourself first. Only then can you successfully take care of, and happily homeschool your children.
- You must be acutely observant to the subtlest changes in your environment. Don’t be caught off guard by a storm or step precariously close to a crevasse. Work with what nature has given you to increase your chances of survival and success. When homeschooling, make sure to consistently take note of your “surroundings”. Your mountain- your environment- is your children. Take your cue from them. See what makes them thrive and what causes them to struggle. Help them find THEIR strengths and work to triumph (or adapt) over their weaknesses. Stay aware. Don’t get caught up in some checklist in the back of a curriculum book, or fall into the trap of comparing your homeschool to what the Jones’ are doing- you might as well drop yourself into a crevasse. It’s a hole not easily dug out from.
- When you find yourself overwhelmed or at a dead-end - Reflect and Readjust. Find a way around obstacles. Don’t give up! Sometimes “homeschooling” and all it encompasses feels just too much- too overwhelming, too pressuring, too tough. Some days it’s like I’m down at base camp looking up at that faraway peak wondering how the hell I’ll ever make it that far. Luckily, my time on the mountain serves as a reminder to me that even slow, small steps are progress. Moving forward is key. Maybe you need to readjust and find an alternate route instead of vainly struggling with the path you originally envisioned. Yes, homeschooling still freaks me out sometimes (oftentimes). All that pressure- my children’s education and childhood ALL IN MY HANDS!! But then I think of the mountain and place one metaphorical foot in front of other. Keep calm and trek on.
- On a mountain, more often then not, you’re exhausted. The air’s thin, the food is crap, and there isn’t a private bathroom for miles. Sometimes. you. just. need. a. break. You know what to do then? TAKE IT! Sit down, take a load off, and give yourself and your team a chance to catch it’s breath. A group huddle (or homeschool cuddle) can do wonders to revitalize weary trekkers.
- Whether it’s during a rest or in the middle of the climb, be sure to routinely pause (even if only momentarily) to look around and enjoy the scenery. SEE your teammates and appreciate the act of trekking itself. Try not to get so focused on the placement of your feet that you forget to look up. Whether it’s the view of an ocean of clouds at your feet or your child’s breathless exclamation of “Look what I did!”- either way, it’s pretty damn awe-inspiring and so worth taking note of. It’s the real fuel that will keep you trekking on. Seep it in often.
There was one other skill I picked up on some of my past adventures that isn’t necessarily mountain climbing related but is one I call upon from time to time on now. That was the thrill of just letting go while sky diving. The first time I went solo sky diving, I was terrified when the plane’s door whooshed open and I stared at 14,000 feet of air between myself and the ground and wondered how exactly I would get up the nerve to fling my little body out into that great expanse of sky. My time free falling taught me that sometimes being in control means letting go of it.
All my crazy adventures helped prep me for life raising my children. Sure, some may not find teaching reading to a 5 year old as intimidating as jumping from an airplane or as daunting as scaling a wall of ice; but the summit I’ve got my eye on requires a much longer trek and is unquestionably more rewarding for me now.
Edmund Hilary was once quoted as saying “I’ve always hated the danger part of climbing, and it’s great to come down again because it’s safe … But there is something about building up a comradeship — that I still believe is the greatest of all feats — and sharing in the dangers with your company of peers. It’s the intense effort, the giving of everything you’ve got. It’s really a very pleasant sensation.”
In that vein, there are certain things I don’t enjoy about homeschoooling- like the dangers inherent in climbing, homeschooling itself comes with its share of drudgery. But the comradeship I’m building is with my children-- and really, they’re the best rope-team of all. We’re trekking together daily and bear witness to the blood, sweat, and tears everyone invests into this magnificent feat of education.
We’re in it for the long-haul. Together.