Overcoming the Loneliness of Pandemic Homeschooling
Lonely and Stressed: Homeschooling During a Pandemic
When I read something like, “It’s great that you homeschool so this pandemic is not having much of an effect on your family,” I have to restrain myself from a curt response.
I probably should respond, “We’re definitely blessed that educating our children at home is not new to us. But our daily lives, like everyone else’s, have been significantly disrupted due to not seeing friends, participating in our usual activities, or even leaving the house.”
Because it’s the truth: homeschoolers are lonely and stressed—just like everyone else.
Our family is praying for those who are sick and vulnerable. We’re praying for those who care for the sick, as they are experiencing terrible suffering.
It’s also essential to acknowledge that everyone in our country is impacted in some way. Everyone can be struggling, including long-time homeschoolers.
What Day Is It?
Most children (and many adults) thrive on routine, and most homeschooling families have a solid rhythm to our days. However, in the past few weeks, our routines have changed.
Homeschooling families often spend our summers (or other breaks) coming up with a schedule or rhythm that will work for the coming months (or even the entire year).
But for the pandemic, there was no warning. No way to prepare.
We have been thrust into a new normal, just like everyone else, trying to figure it out as we go. And that’s stressful.
It’s true that homeschoolers can have tremendous flexibility with our schedules. We naturally adapt our routines to meet the changing needs of our families. Yet, in this pandemic, our power over our days is limited. For some, we cannot leave our house, and Dad is suddenly working from home. For most, our outside activities are canceled, and it’s challenging to keep track of what day it is.
Mamas, this is disorienting and exhausting.
Our role, as homeschooling moms, is to set a course for our children’s days. Right now, that comes with extra practical and emotional challenges.
All we can do is keep moving forward. One step at a time, we keep our eyes fixed on Christ.
So, mamas—trust your instincts. Make a simple plan for each day. Say a prayer. And maybe look at a calendar a few times a day to remember what day it is!
What About Socialization?
Homeschooling often involves visits to libraries, parks, museums, music lessons, co-op, dance classes, sports, and more. Socialization is rarely a problem for homeschooling families. Families who regularly homeschool go to the grocery store, meet in learning opportunities together, and visit with friends and extended family whenever possible.
Now, all socializing has suddenly stopped. Though our time to connect together is sometimes replaced by Zoom classes and virtual tours, we’re all still lacking face-to-face interaction.
Our kids are lonely. They’re begging to see their friends. And especially the younger ones can’t fully understand why we must keep our distance.
I don’t know about you, but this breaks my heart.
Fortunately, in a family, we have each other. So we have a beautiful opportunity to work on our familial relationships—because these are the most challenging yet the most important relationships we will ever have.
This is the time for family board games and puzzles, movie nights and campouts. Put activities on the calendar that the whole family can look forward to (at home), and my guess is that attitudes will improve.
Embrace this time together. Even in the close-knit stress, we can still fill our children’s emotional tanks with love. It’s the best to do—and the right thing to do.
How are YOU doing, Mom?
When the schedule is a mess or nonexistent, our kids miss their friends, and we’re all living through a frightening pandemic, Mom is usually the one carrying the emotional weight of it all.
As women, we’re generally more sensitive to emotion. That’s the way God made us.
We’re worried about many things.
Keeping our children healthy and taking care of our elderly parents consumes our thoughts. Every time someone coughs, we tense. The uncertainty of when the pandemic will end—and how it will end—can be maddening. Maybe we’re short-tempered. Maybe the overwhelm comes out in another way. We may wonder if our husband’s job (or our job) is secure—and we worry how we would survive if we lose part or all of our income.
And we are sad. We miss seeing our mom friends. People are dying. Many of us cannot currently receive the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our lives, with churches closed to the public.
We watch our children go through the ups and downs of their emotions. When our children suffer, we suffer.
Our feminine sensitivity can be maxed out, and some of us have taken to crying in the shower to let out the overwhelming emotion.
Please don’t forget to take care of yourself, Mom.
Take a walk around the block. Call a friend. Enjoy a hot bath. Tell your husband how you are doing. Reach out to a friend or other family members when you need to talk with someone. Acknowledge the anxiety and the grief, and pray for the grace needed to get through another day.
Give it to God
Even without a worldwide crisis, the challenges of a homeschooling mom are many.
The pandemic has touched everyone in some way. And it does no good for us to disregard anyone’s struggles, including our own.
Once, when struggling with many worries, a wise priest taught me to pray. He said, “Imagine a symbol for each of your burdens. Then, in your mind, imagine placing each symbol on the altar.
“Surrender your concerns. Leave them with God, and walk away.”
That was good advice. Tangible. Doable. And extremely helpful.
Maybe it’s something that will work for you, too. Turn to this kind of imaginative mental prayer. When a specific worry comes to mind, picture the worry sitting on the altar. Feel comforted, knowing the Lord is taking care of the worries for you.
The Lord sees us and hears us. He wants us to cry out to Him amidst this storm. And when we do, He will comfort us and equip us—so we can provide the structure and compassion within our families that’s needed to make it through this challenging time with hope and peace.
Jenny Bales is a Catholic homeschooling mom who is passionate about encouraging and connecting mothers through their homeschooling journeys. She and her husband live in North Texas with their four children who have been homeschooled all their lives. Her homeschool philosophy is “whatever works” with a smattering of literature-based learning, Charlotte Mason, and Classical elements. Jenny loves hot tea, sweet tea, dark chocolate, red wine, college football, and mystery novels—and can’t resist an opportunity to coordinate a conference, retreat, co-op, book study, social group, and or moms’ night out. Jenny loves to reflect on all aspects of Catholic homeschooling through the lens of our incredible Catholic faith. You can find Jenny and her work at www.heartofamother.net.