Hi, my name is Shannon and I have generalized anxiety with panic disorder, and a hefty side of agoraphobia. I also homeschool my three kids.
So first, a little bit about anxiety for those that aren’t acquainted with this special kind of hell. Anxiety isn’t stress. It isn’t just “worrying”. The best way I have been able to explain anxiety to people that don’t know what it’s like is you know how when you are walking down the stairs, but you “miss” one, and for a very brief second your heart is in your throat and then your adrenaline spikes? For me, that’s what a panic attack feels like…just it doesn’t fade in 2 seconds once I realize I have my footing. It stays that way.
Another fun thing? I don’t hyperventilate or cry or do what people do in the movies. I sit quietly in the corner, or as out of the way as I am able to, and I try my best to remember to breathe. I try to convince myself that I *will* be okay. I try to hold on to one little thread of something until I can come out the other side of the attack. To people on the outside? It just looks like I am being standoff-ish. Like I am being rude and anti-social.
So how does someone that goes into full fight or flight mode over just the PROSPECT of grocery shopping manage to homeschool her kids? Well, for me, it’s all about knowing my limits and being able to pull from my resources.
Typically, I don’t have any trouble being at home. I still get anxious and the occasional panic attack, but I am MUCH more relaxed in my own home (hey there, agoraphobia!). I am able to lesson plan, teach, and direct without issue.
Of course the biggest criticism homeschoolers face, is “socialization” (FYI you socialize dogs, not kids). For me this looks a little different than a lot of homeschool families. I know that getting out of the house isn’t always possible for me and is almost NEVER an enjoyable experience, so I draw on the resources I have available.
We have a sitter that comes in once a week and takes the kids out to events locally that are hosted by other homeschoolers, which is awesome. They go ice skating, swimming, play board games, and many other activities while I am safe and comfortable at home (usually catching up on chores!).
We also have friends over to visit. They both have friends in public school and they come to visit after school sometimes and on weekends/school vacations. Homeschool friends come over whenever! Luckily, I am able to host things because again, I am home so it’s easier for me. I still can’t host for hours and hours like other parents I have met (and envy!) but they can all play for a few hours and chatter about whatever tweens chatter about together.
The other thing that’s nice about the homeschooling world, is when you find people in your community that “get” what you are working with and do what they can to reach out and help. I have offers from a couple of my friends to pick up my kids and bring them to and from activities.
We are also lucky to have a great local parks and recreation department and I am lucky that I can drop/off pick up so long as I don’t have to go inside, so there are ample opportunities for my kids to hang out with other kids at various classes/activities throughout the year.
In short, we make it work. Am I always confident that I am doing everything I can for my kids? Nope. Not at all, that’s the nature of anxiety (and parenting), but I do what I can to meet my kids’ needs while also not sending myself over the edge. I also acknowledge that I am very privileged to be able to afford extras like parks and rec programs and a sitter, which not all homeschooling parents are.
However, if you are considering homeschooling but have mental illness or other chronic illness that makes the idea of homeschooling more challenging, know there are LOTS of parents out there that make it work. For some it means schooling at night or the weekend when a partner is home. For some it means co-op classes. For others it means hiring a tutor or having a relative/friend come in and help. Homeschooling is all about thinking “outside the box” and that can be applied to ALL aspects of homeschooling!