The occasional late night panic attacks seem to be synonymous with homeschooling. They are not often, but they do happen, especially if you homeschool in a very non-traditional way. Which that may sound a little weird, because homeschooling is non-traditional to begin with, but even when homeschooling, you could choose to homeschool in a less traditional way than most. The beauty of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to choose how you would like to homeschool.
For the new homeschooler the common panic attack happens when talking with a veteran homeschooler, which by the way, the veteran is usually doing their best to be helpful. Often the veteran homeschooler, in giving advice, seems to come across as being perfectly organized, their children sound like they are bright and eager to learn all the time and that they never have a bad day. If that homeschooler exists, I would be very surprised. Some days are going to be rough, and I think it is better to be honest than to paint a picture that this is some new utopian way of living and learning. Some days the siblings are going to fight more than usual, the curriculum you chose will seem to be awful and you will want to chuck it, everyone in the family is irritable and out of sorts etc. That is not to say that homeschooling is not wonderful, because in my opinion it was an amazing choice for our family and the absolute best path for us. Just that some days will be tough and some nights may include a panic attack.
I don’t know why, but for some reason panic attacks seem to happen in the middle of the night for many. Let’s be honest, most of us homeschooling are first generation, meaning that we grew up in the system and were not homeschooled ourselves. Now we are choosing with our own free will to walk off the path into the unknown. There are a lot more families and people to guide a homeschooler now, compared to when I began, but just the same, you are doing things in an unconventional way compared to the populace and that can sometimes be scary. So an occasional panic attack goes with the territory.
So I thought I would share a very vivid moment in my homeschooling years where I was gripped with a panic attack. This happened when my oldest was going into ninth grade. A funny thing for me to think of, since most years my boys didn’t even know what grade they were in when asked. Just the same, when my son hit that year I felt the pressure of college hit me like a Mack truck. I grew up in a family that college was not a question, it was a requirement. So when my son hit the age that the records for college admission matter most, I started to panic about whether or not I would do the whole high school years correctly. More importantly would I be able to help him get in to a college by the time he graduated.
I decided the best way to alleviate my anxiety was to find out what other homeschooling families did. So I started to talk to friends, most with kids about the same age as myself. Then I started to have lunch with my other friends that had kids already in college. I finally ended the journey with an appointment with a gentleman who has run an ISP for years. He interviewed my son and talked with him for a while and then he talked with me. He assured me that my son was on a great path and to let go of the worry.
The greatest gift I walked away with from that experience was that once again I learned there is not one right way to do high school when you homeschool. There are options if you are willing to look outside the normal path. I realized I had put myself back on the conventional train and was looking at life through the lens I grew up with. I was no longer looking at my son as an individual, but instead as a student that must fit the “normal path”. I was surprised how I had fallen back into what I knew best so quickly and happy to let it go just as quickly. And once again there was peace in my heart.