The past several months have been an amazing journey for me. I've been navigating the unfamiliar waters of homeschooling and a new network marketing business. To say I've been stretched would be a gross understatement, but I'm not sure I have the words to describe it all either.
It probably seems like learning to work a direct selling business and learning to homeschool my children don't have much of anything in common. But the one thing they do have in common matters. And it matters deeply. Perseverance matters.
When I started homeschooling I spent a lot of time worrying about which curriculum would be the best fit and working up a schedule that would fulfill all of our various needs. And I wouldn't go as far as to say that those things don't matter at all, but if you can't stick with it when all of your best laid plans are lying in a heap on the floor under 18 loads of unwashed laundry, then you're not going to make it.
I impulsively joined a network marketing company. Well, I shouldn't say impulsively because the reality was that I felt prompted to do so. I didn't know why then, but I understand it more now. The company I joined was a naturally-based, anti-aging hair care company called MONAT. I have struggled for years with hair loss and after my first wash I knew why I'd felt that prompting. My hair has done a complete turnaround. It's phenomenal really.
But it's not just my hair that's completely changed. When someone tells you that network marketing businesses are personal development businesses, they're telling you the truth. As an introvert who absolutely dreaded the idea of selling anything, I spent a lot of time worrying about what to say and how to "get comfortable" doing something that seemed so against my nature. And again, I wouldn't go as far as to say that those things don't matter at all, but if you can't stick with it when your excitement for a product leaves you throwing up ridiculous amounts of information all over unsuspecting friends and family, then you're not going to make it.
As I've stumbled further along the trail in both of these endeavors, my characteristic stubbornness has turned into perseverance. Suddenly my mindless inability to quit anything has taken on tremendous purpose. That, my friends, is perseverance. It is one of the lessons that has entered my soul with perfect clarity.
I screw up every, single day. I get frustrated with my kids' lack of cooperation and I respond poorly. I teach a lesson that totally rocked in my mind, but ends up being completely worthless. The routine slips and our day looks like an unmitigated disaster. I see a friend who could totally benefit from a MONAT business and I approach it all wrong. Sometimes I sample and sample and sample our products, but don't see equivalent results.
But here's the thing. The value I've found in both of these endeavors is perseverance. I've learned to just keep going because I see something in the future that is much greater than all of my mistakes. And guess what? Sometimes the brilliant lesson goes off just how I planned. And sometimes, others see the same value in my business or my products that I do. Sometimes I see MONAT change a life just like it changed mine. Sometimes all of the chores get done and the schoolwork gets done and everybody is still smiling.
We work for the sometimes because perfection isn't ours to own just yet. There is value in the doing and the believing. There is value in endurance and dedication. You don't have to have extraordinary talents to succeed in business or homeschooling or life. The only thing you need is perseverance. Loads and loads and loads of it. Commit and move your feet. You'll find happiness and success beyond your wildest dreams.
I was warned by numerous people that at first homeschooling would be hard. Words like detox and chaos and exhausting were thrown around. I felt like maybe the struggles with the transition period were slightly exaggerated. I felt like I was prepared for it. I wasn't.
I have pretty good kids. They're not perfect. Some days their energy levels are through the roof and sometimes they choose poorly. Sometimes they stress me out, but mostly life is good. So I was emotionally unprepared for the detox and the chaos and the exhaustion. By day three I felt nearly comatose.
Everybody was right about what they said. The warnings were appropriate. The truth is, I just couldn't have imagined it or prepared for it. I was surprised by the level of bickering, the complete lack of cooperation, and the deep down in my bones tired that I would feel. I felt like I was broadsided . . . by a barn.
This past week has taught me two very important things about our family's new homeschooling adventure.
We're doing the right thing. I felt we were doing the right thing when this decision was finally made and I'm even more certain of it now. The greatest opposition always precedes the greatest joy. The hardest battles fought lead us to the sweetest victories. I've been forced to remember that difficulty doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong. Difficulty teaches and it leads. Difficulty leads us to greater heights than where we originally stood.
We're going places. This family is on its way upward. I'm more certain than ever that this family will come through this more refined and more sacred. We'll swim through the chaos and the exhaustion, even if we just tread water for a while. We'll adjust and we'll change and we'll become better. We're on an uphill trek that will bless us on into the eternities.
So for those who have been asking how the first week went, the answer is probably hovering in the vicinity of awful and crazy. I will do things a little . . . or a lot . . . differently this week. My understanding of my purpose in all of this has deepened. My direction has shifted and my resolve has stiffened. Because even amidst the turmoil, I caught a glimpse of something that shows me exactly why I'm leading our family down this road.
It seems like everywhere we go the questions are the same. Kids are spoken to in terms of their grade level. People wonder if they're excited to go back to school. They always want to know which school they attend. Random strangers in public settings seem to always approach my children this way. I'm pretty sure it's always one of my first questions to new children I've met too. A child's education is such a huge part of their life that that's how we identify them and classify them. It's a conversation piece because they spend so much of their lives in an educational setting.
Lately we're fielding questions about who our kids' teachers are going to be this coming school year as well. Their friends want to know if they'll see them in class. I figured I should probably make some sort of formal announcement.
So the answer is me. This year, I'm their teacher.
I have enough reasons for this that I could write a novel. That list of reasons has grown and grown over the years. I've wanted to homeschool for a long time. Kyle hasn't had such a favorable opinion of the whole thing. Finally, he's agreed to let me go for it. He'd be the first to tell you that he's still not in love with the idea, but out of respect for me, he's letting my mom heart take a stab at it this year.
I know I don't owe anybody an explanation as to why we've chosen to educate our kids at home this year, but I also know that questions will still inevitably come. I'll spare you from the aforementioned novel's worth of reasons and just share with you my main one.
Every year when I would drive my kids to school on their first day, we would have a similar conversation. I would tell them that I didn't care what their grades were. As long as they did their best, that was enough for me. I cared about whether or not they were kind. Period. That's it. I never wanted to hear that they had made any other kid feel like less than they were. I never wanted them to participate in bullying another child or hurting another child. I never wanted to hear that they had been disrespectful to their teachers or anything less than polite. I wanted them to be honest, helpful, decent, and above all, kind. I care about my children's characters more than I care about calculus or reading fluency or social studies.
We are a busy family. We have five children with a broad range of interests. The majority of my children are gifted athletically. They love to play sports and I love to watch them to play. Because of those interests and talents, a typical day at our house looked exactly like this last year: bus ride, school, bus ride, sports, homework, and bedtime. That was it. No family dinner. No time to spend talking individually with my kids about their day. No time to build those characters I'm always so concerned about.
We've become a culture that worships busyness. We feel like the more activities we involve our kids in, the more opportunities they have for success. The time kids used to have to run wild and free, to explore, and to create are all but a memory.
We are also a family that believes in and worships a loving God. In this home we pray and read scriptures. In this home we learn about the character of the Savior of mankind and we try to instill those traits in our children and ourselves. We try to serve and to lift and to leave this world better than we found it.
So in a nutshell, we're homeschooling this year because I want our family life to look differently than it does. I want time to spend with my children teaching them about integrity, goodness, and kindness. I want to instill in them a love for God and the rest of humankind. I want them to have time to run around being silly and enjoying nature. I want baseball games that interrupt dinnertime to be irrelevant because we had breakfast and lunch together already. I want my kids to learn that when they encounter struggles academically or in any other way, that they have a family of supporters here to help and to lift. I want my children to know that in their mother they will find someone in their corner who cares an infinite amount about who they are and what they choose to do with their lives.
Although it's not really a secret, I don't think it's necessarily "out there" that my husband and I have been debating homeschooling our kids. We go back and forth on the issue and still haven't really decided. There are a lot of factors to consider and honestly, it's a big decision.
Of all the issues that I've considered, not once have I ever thought that having my kids home with me all day would be a challenge. I mean, sure, they can be a challenge, but it's nothing I haven't dealt with before and nothing that really drives me to madness or anything.
Well, I've changed my mind. After this week, that is suddenly an issue. And before you label me as the type of mother who would knowingly dump her children and their "issues" off on innocent teachers in the public school system, let me assure you that my children only act like this at home. "Angelic" and "ideal" and "wonderful" are the typical words used to describe their presence in a classroom setting. I'm not sure whether to be happy that they show their best selves in public places or mad that they don't extend me the same courtesy.
So, while the jury deliberates my mental health, I'm just going to tell you about my week. Writing clears my mind, confession is therapeutic, and truthfully, I'm hoping someone will tell me they had it much worse because I'm totally the type of person who would feel better about that sort of thing (Don't be shy. Helping my sanity is practically as important as promoting world peace.).
It's been a crazy week . . . well, month . . . but I like to narrow my focus. Things started out fine. I mean, we had enough sickness in this house to fill an entire wing in a major hospital, but it seemed in control at least. My last kid was starting to recover from the virus that plagued each of us for an average of 10 days. Yeah, I said ten. It was horrible. Tanner was put on an antibiotic for what the doctor was sure was a staph infection (in the form of a rash looking very much like the last stage of chicken pox). He was sent back to school and blah, blah, blah.
Well, imagine my surprise when Tanner came home from school on Tuesday with twice the amount of spots. What the heck!? And I'll be honest, these spots in their beginning stage looked exactly like scabies. It was my first thought. And no, I'm not a doctor, but I had those dang bugs burrowing under my skin in the fourth grade and I know what they look like.
Panic set in. But my panic made no logical sense. His spots didn't even itch. And if my six year old had had scabies for the past TWO WEEKS then surely, the rest of us would have it. Those things breed like rabbits. Or head lice, but no need to be particular in a moment like this.
I called the doctor immediately. The results of his swab were back. He was negative for staph or any other bacteria. Oh crap. "Well, the antibiotic he's been on for a week isn't working and his spots have doubled, so that makes sense," I lamented to the nurse. She said they'd see him first thing in the morning.
I arranged a babysitter for my two dramatic monsters princesses and we were set. Everyone is showered, dressed, presentable, bundled up (it was 15 degrees out) and out the door we go . . . only to see antifreeze pouring out of the bottom of my Durango. I just stared at it, only semi-aware that if I didn't blink it was likely my eyeballs would freeze. I herded the mob back into the house and turned off my car. Then I called the babysitter and the doctor.
Oh, sure! We can totally switch your appointment to tomorrow morning! I wouldn't send him to school though. Well, no kidding. Not like I could if I wanted to. The bus has long since come to pick up Hunter and my car is nonoperational until Kyle can fix it tonight.
Something about staying home from school when he felt perfectly fine morphed Tanner into a raging beast. Seriously. If I told him 'no' about anything, he went from my totally sweet boy to a Gremlin (not the fuzzy cute kind, but the ones that came in contact with water) in two seconds flat. Screaming, kicking, pounding his head, slamming things, hysterical crying . . . you name it, he did it.
In between one of these episodes, he decided to use all of my stamps as name tags for him and his sisters. He wrote their names across the front with a Sharpie (which he obtained by scaling the refrigerator . . . I know this because I asked. He scales walls too if you were wondering) and then stuck them to their shirts . . . and their walls . . . and their doors. I'll tell you what, there wasn't one stamp left on that sheet. My son is thorough if nothing else. Of course, my explanation that stamps are not stickers for playing with, but actually representations of money and are used for mailing things was the equivalent of splashing water on my furry friend. Oh. My. Gosh. I suddenly had an image in my mind of me trying to help him with his reading and my Gremlin-fearing knees got weak.
He went to bed at 6:45. Not that it helped.
Oh, yay! It's Thursday! I mixed up my weeks and thought that my husband was off, so I told my friend that I didn't need her to watch the girls. I almost cried when I realized my error, but oh well, too late. I'm sure I can threaten good behavior. Or bribe it. The bribe is what ultimately worked if you were wondering.
So there we are, sitting in the doctor's office again, explaining to the doctor the weirdness of Tanner's situation. He was baffled. So was I. In the end he decided we were going to treat him for scabies. The fact that he didn't itch and that none of us had gotten it, made him think that we might be in the clear, but better safe than sorry he said. I started to itch instantly, of course. Hearing that your child might have scabies is no different than seeing a photo of 800 baby spiders on the internet. Trust me.
Then the doctor dropped the bomb. Well, we won't know if it's actually scabies for 3 or 4 days until we see if the treatment worked, so call me Monday and we'll go from there. Wait, best case scenario is that Tanner can't go to school until Tuesday? I remained passive.
We got in the car where Tanner proceeded to whip Haylee with her scarf until she was screaming bloody murder. When I made him stop he took Avery's book and threw it into the back so he could listen to her scream too. When I said that his behavior just lost him his chance to play his race car game on my phone, the beast came out. And I was still in the parking lot.
The words repeated in my mind, Tanner can't go to school until Tuesday at least. Should I feel this panicked!?
I got home to start the mound of laundry and sheets that would have to be washed AGAIN in hot water. I told Tanner and Haylee to take the load out of the dryer that I'd put there last night. It was one of those important loads. You know, it had things like Haylee's Christmas dress, my boys' white shirts, every white t-shirt the kids own, mounds of kiddie socks. I started laundry and came out to the couch to fold that white load.
Maybe my current mental instability was making me see spots. I blinked. Nope. Mental clarity is stellar. Those are orange spots all over every single item of clothing in that load. Orange what!? It looked like marker. I went to the laundry room to search and there it was. An orange crayon wrapper, perfectly in tact, yet completely empty of any residue of crayon that should have been there. Oh dear wrapper, if only that wax possessed your fortitude.
So I start scouring the internet and find what I'm hoping will be my miracle cure. Well, I'm on round two of that miracle cure and so far it's not working. There's still orange. Everywhere. I guess it's a good thing that we are confined to this house Sunday because that way I won't have to buy new white shirts for my boys' suits until next week. What a thrill.
And hey, her dress might be horrifically ruined, but Haylee loves polka dot socks. I might be able to squeeze mom of the year out of this week after all. I also think I'm going to start watching horror movies until I find something to replace my fear of Gremlins. That way if we decide not to homeschool it won't be because I'm terrified of my own children.