357 | Homeschool Nightmares and Insomnia: Laughs for the Like-Minded (Jennifer Cabrera)
Homeschool worries can keep parents up with insomnia or restless with nightmares of ruining their child. Listen and laugh as I recount a couple of restless nights of valid concerns and mostly ridiculous worries. Know you're not alone and that things look different in the morning.
Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.
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Jennifer Cabrera Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation inspiration, tips, tricks, and/or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling. But we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned, and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with Him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.
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Jennifer Cabrera Homeschool Nightmares: When Worries and Senseless Fears Collide to Sink Your Ship. And what is your ship called? Mine is called the U.S.S. Homeschooled, and I am the captain. Well, technically, my husband and I are co-captains, but we all know that the principal of the school is really more of a in-status-and-name-only--kind of like the now King of England--he has a little bit of power, but he can't just wield it all willy nilly throughout the day when he's not here to help. So as the captain of the U.S.S. Homeschooled, there are 7.2 billion concerns that I--and probably you as other homeschool parents--juggle as our kids progress from phonics to physics. And it can quickly lead to insomnia. Now, if you combine these worries with a dash of anxiety and a fatalistic imagination, you've got a recipe for homeschool nightmares. And maybe you've had one a time or two, where you wake up in a cold sweat thinking, "Oh, my goodness, why haven't we learned German yet?" Uh, what?! But with 3 a.m., nothing works correctly in your head anyway. And as headmistress and janitor of this ship, as well as captain, it is my duty to worry about everything from what order to teach the sciences to whether we will run out of toilet paper before Wednesday when I have that block of 87 minutes to myself and can actually run out and get some toilet paper...and a breath of fresh air and fresh coffee. Now, because you homeschool, you also know that it is possible to concoct new worries straight out of thin air, things that no one ever imagined to even worry about. And this is what I tell my husband, "You're welcome. You didn't think to worry about it because I did it for you." For instance, when your child asks you a question one day out of the blue, "Why do they ring bells in public school?" Which seems like a perfectly obvious answer, and then suddenly I realize my boys may never experience the anxiety of opening a combination lock in less than 30 seconds. And then suddenly you're worried, "Should I go by three combination locks?" I really asked my husband this in all seriousness, because what if they never learn from the anxiety of sweating down with a timer and trying to get down the hall to a classroom? Will they not be functioning adults if this scenario does not take place at some point in their life? Once I lost two hours of my life searching the web to determine if test anxiety was something I needed to try to induce sporadically, you know, so that my boys won't be blindsided with the need to breathe into a paper bag or call for medical aid when they go to take the SAT. But I am happy to announce that they took not only the SAT, the PACT, and the ACT two or three times--and not because I forced them to, but because I have some type-A children who just want to see how good they can get that score, which I will not tell you on this podcast, because I do not have their written permission. But we were very proud. But before we got to the point with two seniors and one half-a-freshmen this year, I used to worry about all kind of stuff that I no longer worry about. And now I've invented new things to worry about. So not to burst your bubble. The worrying continues. I really think it's just part of parenting. But I'd like to go back and let you take a peek into my mind, one very long night, at the kind of worries that I can concoct and that you might be able to concoct. And at least we can all laugh together and you can see that you're not alone. Or maybe Hifalutin Homeschooler is sincerely crazy, but that it's normal to have these kind of concerns, and the sun does rise the next morning and there is a light at the end of the tunnel--whichever cliche metaphor you'd like me to use. But your kids are not going to be ruined, and the fact that you worry so much about these things is probably proof that you're going to fix things before the school ever could.
So let's go back in time to a particular homeschool nightmare that woke me up in a cold sweat: "What's a quad mom?," my son whispered into his phone so that his new roommate couldn't hear. "I met some new guys in my lit class this morning and I'm supposed to meet up with them on the quad at 1:00, I think. But I don't know what a quad is!" Now, I could hear the anger and accusation in his voice already. I began to sweat. "Calm down, honey." (I've never called him honey before. Remember, this is a nightmare. Where did that even come from?) "Dude, you've got this!" There, that sounds more like me. "Yet another thing you forgot to teach me, Mom," he snarled. Now, his words ripped through my veil of beautifully filtered and edited memories of our years of homeschooling together. "In world history, I asked the professor what he meant by a bell curve. And after, he told the entire class that I broke it. And when I apologize for breaking his stuff, everyone laughed at me." Oh, gosh. That's probably why they asked him to meet them on the quad. They're going to beat the snot out of him for being too smart. I've ruined him with good study habits and a lack of cliche teen social jargon. I wonder if anyone has shown him how to raise his hand before speaking out in class yet. "Okay, look, sweetie, the quad is just the center of campus where there's probably lots of benches and grass to sit and..." Well, I began this trying to explain when he interrupted with, "Forget it, Mom. I'll Google it if I can figure out how to use this smartphone you finally let me get last week. Really? There's so much I need to learn. And I have to try all these things, too, before...if, you know, if I'll ever fit in here." Wait. I was struck with horror. "Try, try what, Honey?" "I'll talk to you tomorrow when I get back from a lecture on masculinity this girl invited me to. I opened the door for her like you taught me, Mom, and then she told me to check myself. My shoes were tied and my fly was zipped, but apparently I offended her strength as a woman. See what you've done to me?" Click. The line went dead and panic reflux into my mouth, burning my throat. And then I woke up, covered in sweat. I sat right up in bed and smelled the coffee that my still young and homeschooled son was up and brewing for me in the kitchen. Oh, thank you, Jesus. It was just a dream. But maybe we should discuss quads, bell curves, and chivalry over breakfast. A certain amount of worrying is probably good for parents, especially homeschooling parents, since we're going to take on all the tasks and all the ridicule and the blame from whatever goes wrong. It's what keeps us from letting our kids freely roam the Internet, it reminds us to teach them to count, and puts up red flags before we let Bill Nye the Science Guy cover the basics of science. Ah hem.
What are some legitimate worries of home schoolers, though, and what is completely absurd to worry about? Well, I'll try and break it down for you. Here is a list of valid concerns versus ridiculous worries. A totally unprofessional analysis. Valid concerns: "Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much? Are we out of coffee? Will that one college accept my homeschool, homemade transcript with emojis? Will my eye always twitch like this? Where do you use sentence diagraming in the real world anyway? How are we going to pay for our family book addiction? Is my child overly accommodated? Under accommodated? Do we have the support from family and friends that we need? They've all graduated, now what do I do all day?"
Now you might be able to find a reason why all of those valid concerns I made were really not valid and ridiculous. We all have different lives that we lead and different worries and aims for our homeschool. But now hear me out on my list of ridiculous worries and see if you agree or disagree there. Ridiculous concerns include: "Should we do more worksheets? What if they aren't as smart as public-schooled kids? What if a plane crashes into the house? Should I hire someone to bully my children? What about prom? Why hasn't my kid invented anything yet? They'll never forgive me for letting them sleep til 10 a.m. instead of teaching them to use an alarm clock. I'm not patient enough for this gig. This can't be right, my child is teaching me math! My child will never graduate. Can a high school junior get an AARP card?".
So you get to decide what's ridiculous, ultimately, and what's valid, ultimately. But I have a good rule of thumb to follow when you're trying to decide, "Should I worry about this?" To decide if your concerns are worthy of the last of your youthful glow, say them out loud. I recommend doing so to other homeschool parents. Likely if it is a warranted fear, they will nod in empathy and possibly offer a solution or their favorite cocktail recipe. Conversely, if your worry sounds dumber and dumber as it slips from your mouth, it is probably completely baseless. No doubt your homeschool pal will still be able to commiserate, but mostly in the ridiculousness of the worry they too have felt. Most of these types of worries are based on society's expectations that we don't want to meet anyway. We mostly exceed those expectations in completely different, yet more effective ways. But when you don't have a good homeschool friend to bounce your worries and ideas off of, you need another effective way to decide when to chill and when to freak out. And we should listen to our worries. They are like little Post-it notes from our own little Jiminy Cricket that sits on our shoulder--or maybe one of those little angels...the devil's on the other side, you know. But whatever little talking point that sits on your shoulder that you like to imagine, the one that will make the most sense will usually arrive when we are sort of rested. (Are we ever well-rested? I don't know.) Or we're thinking clearly and in a mostly pleasant mood. Our more harebrained fears tend to turn up after about a 1 a.m. insomnia fear fest, before big changes in our schedule and our family life, or after we've been inquisition to by an opinionated stranger at breakfast out on a Tuesday, or after a particularly long day homeschooling a dictator in training. (Check out my website. Look it up: "Homeschooling a Hardheaded Child: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly Stuff No One Talks About." But I digress.) On those particular hard days, we can actually come up with ridiculous worries. But worrying never fix anything. But I am a professional at it. It is what I do. And I'll probably still find myself lying in bed at 3 a.m. some night pondering the kids ability to manage a credit card ten years from now. I'll slip off to sleep and dream that he's been repossessed and I owe 45% interest to get him out of the public school pond. But when the sun rises, I'll wake from that homeschool nightmare, take a deep breath and chill. Maybe roll my eyes at my silliness. And then I'll throw my feet on the ground and start the day with a lesson in borrowing and lending. And there is the real answer, because anything that we worry about, or things we think we need to touch on, you know, it's our schedule, we get to decide what we're going to learn. We're in control. When things are going the wrong direction, we can steer them back where they need to go. We can go out and buy three combination locks if we feel that that's something necessary for them to be able to handle stress later in life. And that's just one exercise of things you can go through. If you really want to bully your kids, you can. You can lock them out of the cafeteria. I mean, the kitchen. You can hide their favorite snacks and eat them while you sit in the closet looking up curriculum. But basically our schedule, our prerogative. And so all of those worries that we have, just to be truthful and honest out there, we've all had some of those crazy ideas. And in the morning sometimes we clear ahead and think, "I don't really know what I was worrying about." But sometimes we see that, "Hey, that was a valid concern. I'm glad I thought of that at 2 a.m." And we can address it immediately because we don't have to go through a whole lot of red tape and bureaucracy and collect library fines and permission slips to right that ship, the U.S.S. Homeschooled. We can steer it away from the icebergs, but there's a lot of them out there. And then ultimately you probably need to get some more sleep. So you need to go to bed the next night.
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Jennifer Cabrera But what happens when we can't sleep and we're up with insomnia and worries? So we're not imagining or having crazy dreams that are meshing all of these worries together into completely Hollywood versions of homeschool worries. But we're actually awake and we can't sleep through the worries? Well, let me take you on one of those particular night journeys that I had. And just feel free to laugh right along, because when I go back and read this out loud, it's probably going to crack me up. But at the time it was not funny: So starts at about 10:28 p.m.. It's bedtime, right? Well, that's what we like to call it when we just want to like get between the sheets and grab a great book--the moment all moms are waiting for it. (Well, if you're a mom like me.) Kids are tucked in bed under threat. Hubs is already working on a soft, growling snore. It's me time--i.e. the twilight zone--for everything in the world forgot to worry about today. I've got my pillows fluffed, the TV volume low on a movie I've seen at least 3000 times, I'm nibbling something chocolate while simultaneously reading the book that has waved at me from the nightstand each time I hurried past earlier that day. Now my little six pound dog is sitting at the end of the bed. He knows to pretend to be a stuffed animal and look away if I eat the whole sleeve of cookie dough, if he wants to remain in this exhausted mom's personal space and time. Oh, yeah. Now. 11:04 p.m.. Who am I kidding? My book falls on my face, my face yells in pain. Hubs just kind of snorts and rolls over, completely unbothered. But dang it, I'm too tired to read another page. In fact, I'll probably have to read the last two pages again tomorrow because either this book is going to be horrifically realistic, or I just dreamed that my husband bought a haunted estate in the North Country, which I am now struggling to turn into a B&B after mysteriously losing my position at the bank and changing my identity. Either way, I clearly need to grab a Topo Chico and keep reading. Or maybe turn the lamp off already. But it's me time. I can't just give this up! Though tomorrow is another day, and we are trying to keep a more scheduled homeschooling morning this year. Yep. Time for sleep. Blasted! But let me just check that I set my alarm. Wait. What do we have planned tomorrow? I better check my calendar too. And Facebook and Instagram and my three email accounts. Great. Just homeschool lessons at home, and then maybe we'll go to the gym. Oh, good. We canceled the meeting for the thing that my son decided he'd rather not do. Okay. Lamp off. Roll over. Sigh. Close my eyes. 11:05 p.m.. Wait. What? My eyes burst wide open. Why does he not want to do the thing? Is he being lazy, hard headed, or is he truly not interested? Am I being lazy and a cheap, introverted pushover of a mom by letting him out of this commitment that he beg me to sign him up for less than a week ago? I'm not sure he is involved in enough stuff outside of this house, at least not enough to pad his transcript. Well, he does have... (And I sat there and I ticked off current extracurricular activities on one hand above my head in the dark.) Well, and he needs to focus most of his time on academics and SAT hacks if he wants to get a scholarship to that competitive university that we can't afford because we like to eat and accrue barely-used sporting equipment. Still, he would make more friends if he joined this thing that he now doesn't want to do... Which is something else he's been bugging me about! Though he is genetically introverted and should face the fact that he is his own hurdle. Hmm. Okay. (Then I grab the phone and reread info on activity in question.) Well, I'll project my worries. I mean, I'll ask him about it again in the morning. All right. Sleep. Now. Okay. Think about nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Stern voice of God breaks into my thoughts. Excuse me, it's Hubbs. "What is wrong with you?" Me. Everything, and no one cares. I'm sorry. I try counting sheep. 12:17 a.m.. Sheep Spread Disease: Complete Mental List of Pros and Cons for Raising Farm Animals and Joining 4H. This is what I'm doing at 12:17 a.m.. Even though we live in a gated neighborhood with an HOA that barely allows children, and doesn't even allow wooden fences that face the road, much less black Sumatra roosters--which are a thing that I've just discovered while Googling fancy chickens. Will the U.S. Air Force Academy and Rice University be equally impressed with my twins ability to decipher animal scat and lead a goat around an arena? Oh, holy homeschool hell, how did we end up here tonight?! Lord, send an intervention, I've contracted Little House on the Prairie Disease. Okay. I'll go pee and get a sip of water. And then it's off to Bedfordshire. (I think to myself with a perfect British inflection.} 12:58 a.m. Sleepless in France: Raving Head Case has Relocated to the Couch to Peruse Foreign Language Curriculum. Obviously, Spanish makes the most sense since their father is basically ESL and they could eavesdrop on the in-laws for me. I mean, communicate with their grandmother. But German would be fun for the boys, what with all that hocking and spitting. Oh, but we could learn French. And we could make, I mean, eat croissants, crepes and french fries. French fries aren't actually French, are they? I love that movie in France about that lady who opens a chocolatier with hot chocolate thick enough to spread on a toothbrush. What was it called? Now I'm going to turn on Netflix for research purposes. Right. "Chocolat". 2:46 a.m. Making lists. Movies played on mute: 2. Movies watched: 0. Games of spider solitaire: 71. Manic mental to do list: Print and assemble last six years of family photo albums. Check. Clean out gift wrap, costumes, stuff-we-might-need-during-the-apocalypse closet. Check. Have kids pick science fair topics five months in advance. Check. Schedule four-year SAT Prep Plan. Check Schedule doctor's appointments to determine why I'm always tired. Minutes of sleep: 0. Bored with own thoughts and worn out from mental worry-a-thon. Maybe if I get back in bed I'll just complete my descent into madness. Or crash. 2:55 a.m.. Acceptance. Still awake, but back in bed. No longer fighting psychosis trying to fall asleep. Enjoying life as a barn owl. Considering just getting up for the day. Making coffee and writing all my thoughts down in a hilarious post. Or a podcast, like this one. Lesson plans and tackling recently imagined 2 a.m. to do lists. But if I wake the kids we'll be done with school by 7 a.m., tired, cranky and ready to set each other on fire by noon. 3 a.m.. Final analysis. I have analyzed and diagnosed all personality disorders of first-degree relatives and their pets. The doorbell rings. The neighbor came over in a snowsuit to borrow a cup of fertilizer and ask about socialization. I think I might be asleep. [Shakes self awake.] Yep. I was asleep. The air is stuffy. I began sweating for no apparent reason. Great, I'll be found dead of perimenopause in the morning. One leg out of the covers for temperature regulation. Maybe I should read about the symptoms of...zzzzzzz. 8:37 a.m. The next morning, waking up loopy. I'm annoyingly tapped awake by a child who is oblivious that I just came off a 12 hour shift in the worry ward. And he's screaming in overly dramatic distress and outrage. This child is in harm's way with a mom that's really tired. "Mom, there's only enough Froot Loops for one bowl. And I called it last night, but he's eating it." "Okay, tell your litter mate, I mean, your brother to come here." [She untwist her nightgown and prepares for morning announcements.] The other children arrive, one with a bowl of contraband, looking smug and satisfied. I snatch the bowl from his hands and begin eating the cereal clearly made for the Fruit Loop mom who didn't get enough sleep to teach good citizenship before coffee. "All right. I was up all night thinking, and I have decided we're not raising chickens or goats." When my kids look at each other in awe of this stunning revelation, and in total confusion and concern. "Also you need to pick your topic for science fair by Friday. There's only five months till showtime. Mark your calendars. We're starting SAT test prep next summer. And we're doing Spanish for a foreign language, but we're going to eat French food because croissants, y'all. Now get some breakfast and let's be awesome today. And maybe we'll get some sleep tonight." And there you have it. One homeschool insomnia night, replayed just for your entertainment. And no, I'm not crazy. I've just been homeschooling for years. And you are neither. And I love my boys to death. And I wouldn't change a thing. So until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.
Thank you for joining me here on The Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-Share go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. Now if you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you are there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. And this will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected with our community. Also, you can find us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom and on Facebook at HomeschoolingDotMom. To let us know what you thought of today's episode, leave us a comment. Let us know what you think.
Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas. Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me at Facebook, at Hifalutin Homeschooler, and on Instagram @HifalutinHomeschooler. That's @HifalutinHomeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes. I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers! That's [email protected]. Till next time, stay weird to homeschool on.