Written by Heather Caliri of A Little Yes.
Can I make a really weird confession to you?
I love books. And sometimes I feel anxiety about them.
I was an English major, and I’m a writer.
My love of books is a huge part of why I started homeschooling. We check out dozens of books at a time from the library. We are awash in books.
So no one was more surprised to me to realize that they caused me shame.
If I got too few books, I felt guilty for not keeping my kids in reading material.
If I got too many, I worried that we didn’t read everything.
I fretted that I wasn’t getting the right books. When my kids weren’t interested in my selections, I lambasted myself for choosing poorly.
When they loved them, and wanted to read them AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN I felt selfish for getting bored.
Photo by Takuma Kimura
When I saw other homeschool bloggers wax poetic about their favorite authors, and blithely recommend new titles that I’d never heard of before, and suggest season-specific ideas, and be conversant in trends in children’s literature, I hated my sense of incompetence.
Everyone else knows what they’re doing, I thought.
Everyone else does a better job at this.
The thought was so internal and quiet that I didn’t really examine it. I just pushed it down, and went to the library website and ordered more titles, hoping it would make me feel better.
Here’s the funny thing about shame: it doesn’t just magically go away. No, it tends to lurk like a toddler outside your bathroom door.
But a month ago, when shame started its whine of everyone else does better, I stopped. I examined my thought. (Are you surprised that I’ve been in therapy recently?)
Okay, then, I told myself. If everyone else knows what they’re doing, then maybe I should go ask for help.
I got on Facebook. In my post, I admitted my feeling of incompetence and asked for some recommendations. I wasn’t surprised to have two of my closest, book-loving mommy friends chime back graciously with suggestions.
Their graciousness made me feel a lot better.
My honesty made me feel a lot better.
But something flummoxed me.
Most of their book ideas? I’d already read them with my kids. I was bewildered. I’d been expecting a secret invitation to the Club of the Good Book Pickers. I’d been expecting them to blow me away.
Instead, I got a list I could have made myself. This frustrated me. I know that, I wanted to say. Give me better suggestions!
Instead, I turned over this information in my head for a few days, wondering what to make of it. Finally, I realized two things:
- I had grossly exaggerated my own incompetence.
- I had assumed that my friends came up with book ideas magically, without struggle, thought or hard work.
When I looked closely at the books on their lists, I saw that I indeed had things to learn. I didn’t often look for the backlists of authors we enjoyed. I didn’t subscribe to any blogs about books. And I also needed to relax.
This is the crux of how I drive myself crazy as a homeschooling mother. I stay quiet about my fears, shame, and anxiety because I am sure I’m alone.
Surely everyone else wheels along blissfully with their children, having one educational high-jink after another. They don’t have to work at it, because they just get it. And if I don’t just get it, magically, then I’m a failure.
Let’s stop for a moment here.
How did I end up defining success as achievement without trying? That’s about the worst interpretation ever.
Photo by Sean Dreilinger
I’m getting better about stopping and reframing these automatic thoughts. Every time I do, I feel freed.
Even so, it surprises me that shame can lurk in the areas of our life we most love. I love books. I love homeschooling. I didn’t want to admit I felt anxious about the intersection between them.
I’m trying to hold the books we read lightly in my hands. To see them as portals of delight again, instead of a yardstick of my success.
And to anticipate going with my kids into that delight on every single page.
Do you ever share your homeschooling fears? Who do you turn to when you need support?