That question bears repeating. But maybe in a different way.
Is there really such a thing as a veteran homeschooler?
I sat across from a woman whom I consider a mentor in my homeschooling journey, two amidst many women who had gathered for our annual “Mom’s Night Out”.
We came together, not only to fellowship, but to bid farewell to one of our own who would soon begin a new life in another part of the state.
Like the other women around me, I entered that patio at Isabella’s Italian Restaurant, filled with my own inhibitions and dealing with the issues culminating in my life. Each of us suppressing our own vulnerabilities, yet desperate to reach out and fellowship with others who could understand.
At the same time, we sought to push those things aside and put on a cheery face so that we could encourage our friend. It was obvious that she was struggling with this impending move. She didn’t want to leave. And when she broke down and tried to get it back together, I suddenly realized I wasn’t the only one who felt woefully inadequate to comfort her.
Yet, it was in that breaking down that the evening began.
It’s a truth we so often forget and so desperately need to remember. When you’re willing to be vulnerable with others, it compels them to be vulnerable too.
When our friend broke down, the mask fell away – revealing remorse, fear and uncertainty. Slowly, our masks began to crumble too and the air became alive with chatter. Burdens lift in moments like those. Sometimes burdens you know you’ve buried so deep that you forgot they existed.
Any time I gather with fellow homeschoolers, I feel like an imposter. All the other women seem to have it together. They seem to know what they’re doing. I feel like the pretender, muddling along but not having a clue where I’m going or if I’m even where I’m supposed to be. That night it became evident that I might not be the only “imposter”.
Conversation quickly transitioned from our friend’s move to our kids and the new school year. I expressed how unprepared I felt this year. I don’t think there was a woman at that table who didn’t feel the same. Rounds of, “Me too!” and “It came too quickly.” echoed around me. This astonished me, but what came next still more.
My mentor…that sounds so formal and middle-eastern, let’s call her Mentor Mom – that’s more fun. Anyway, Mentor Mom discussed what life was like with one kid in college and another preparing for graduation, when the question was posed to her, “What’s it like to see a light at the end of the tunnel?”
Her response was instant. “I don’t see it as a light at the end of the tunnel so much as entering the next phase.”
The others perked at this. My wheels began to turn. Then our friend stated outright, “Is there such a thing as a veteran homeschooler? I’ve been teaching for nine years and I don’t feel like a veteran.”
Mentor Mom and all the others chimed in with nods and words of agreement.
It was astounding!
Here I sat, probably the least experienced in the group, listening to the “veterans” around me expressing their own feelings of inadequacy. Each one sharing their fears of not doing enough, preparing enough or knowing enough to teach their children. These fears plagued them every year. Not just in the beginning. The sentiments were new each day.
I’ve taught my children for five years – soon to be six. I’m nowhere closer to feeling more adequate or prepared for the next step than I was when I sat down with my oldest son on our first day of homeschool. But like the other women around me, I could say with confidence that I’ve learned much. With each new obstacle came the experience to hurtle it better next time. Each challenge we faced strengthened us for the next one.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized none of us feel like veterans. Whether you’ve taught for one year or 20, there’s always that next step, that next challenge…
That next phase.