This is me, holding my niece, Eva. This is the first time since I had my own babies that holding a baby did not trigger my feelings of despair.
When I had babies I had no support system. My mom has borderline personality disorder, my dad has Aspergers, and my in-laws have (admittedly undiagnosed, but textbook) Aspergers, which explains why I was pretty much completely on my own the whole time I was taking care of babies even though I was living near the grandparents. At the time I was so overwhelmed that I didn't even realize how absurd it was that I had no support system. Once I realized it, I got sad. Very sad. I felt sorry for myself.
But I realized that I never really tried to create a support system for myself as a new mom. I thought a support system was just for the workplace. I had been so used to doing my personal life on my own.
So I got determined to never let myself get into such a lonely space again. I started building a support system for myself, and I know it's working, because holding Eva was a pleasure – no triggers for memories of loneliness.
The support system I've build for homeschooling has been methodical, probably because I've been so alone in the past. Here are the three best supports I have right now:
1. My husband
He's a great support not just because he understands why we're homeschooling, but also because I have both kids home with me all the time, but he is also home. He grew up farming, and farmers absolutely do not stop working to take care of kids. But he is doing that. He always tells me it's a huge shift for him and I need to appreciate it. I started understanding that when he took the kids to the town pool in the middle of the day and a woman from down the road asked if he stopped farming.
2. My friend Lisa Nielsen
Lisa has been pushing me to homeschool for years. She works for New York City public schools, and the more radical she got, the more I paid attention. (Her blog is The Innovative Educator.)She got me thinking in radical ways as well. When I started homeschooling, every time I thought I should quit, Lisa talked me out of it. She was so matter-of-fact—"Of course you have to homeschool"—that there was no arguing with her. She just always sounds right. For every question I've had, she had already written a post to answer it on her blog.
3. My friend Melissa
Melissa was homeschooled. It was totally unacceptable to homeschool when Melissa's mom did it, so they both had to fight hard to make it work. Melissa tells me the story about how she went back to school for high school and took an honors english class. The teacher kept saying to her, if you don't do this, you won't get an A. And Melissa kept saying to her, "That's okay, I'm here to learn." Melissa realized that the classroom was not set up for learning, it was set up for getting good grades. And the teacher didn't know what to do with a student who did all the work but was not motivated by grades. I get inspired thinking about Melissa's mom fighting the system for ten years so Melissa could learn on her own.
4. This blog.
Really. I have never felt alone since I started writing this blog. I never expected to become so attached to it. I have been blogging for ten years, and I've never been able to post four days a week. But for this homeschooling blog I can. Because I'm learning so much from the community here. I'm blown away by the insight and support you guys provide in the comments section. Some days I think I write just so I can hear you guys having a conversation.
5. The world around me.
Now that I have my kids with me all the time, New Yorker articles are way too long. (Actually, Melissa summarizes them for me, which is another way she supports my homeschooling.) So I read The Week. It's snippets of the news from weeks before. And it's all really short, so the kids don't interrupt me in the middle. The Week showed a Gallup Poll about education in the US. The question was, "Where do American kids get a good education?"
78% said private schools
69% said parochial schools
60% said homeschool
37% said public school
What this means to me is that most people are supportive of my decision to homeschool. There's no reason for me to feel defensive or unsupported. Homeschoolers are surrounded by support, if we make it a priority in our life to find it.