I looked at my monthly calendar and sighed.
It was the twenty-fifth, and that meant it was time to write down what had gone well—and not so well—that month for homeschooling.
Except I didn’t want to.
I knew I was supposed to. I was supposed to be tracking how my children were doing, taking notes each day about their interests to better help guide them towards things they were passionate about. I was supposed to be tracking academic progress and being intentional and clued in and—
I needed to be the mom my kids deserved.
I sighed and opened up the document with the questions I asked myself every month. “What has she made that she’s passionate about? What does she want to pretend or play? Are there questions, activities, projects, or materials she wants to explore? Any trouble spots?
A few months back I had simplified the list from eight questions to four, because I didn’t like answering them back then, either.
The truth was, I had been answering questions for more than a year, and so far, I’d never enjoyed them. I didn’t like spending my time on them, I didn’t like the feeling of inadequacy that plagued me as I wrote, I didn’t like feeling like a better mom would gain more insight out of answering them.
I looked at the questions and the blinking cursor, and I tried to swallow down my resentment again.
But a subversive thought occurred to me.
If I hated doing this so much, why did I keep trying?
I considered the answer. I wanted to be as intentional with my kids as I am with myself. I set yearly and monthly goals for myself, and every month, I sit down and answer the same basic questions I resent so much when it came to my kids: What was I excited about? What went poorly?
My kids deserve the same attention and intention I give myself, don’t they?
I felt horribly selfish.
Except—there was one big difference between answering the questions for me, and answering them for my kids.
The goal setting and questions for me have been helpful. No—they’d been transformative.
I had never found the exercise very helpful when it came to my kids.
Instead, it felt–useless. Discouraging. Draining.
I rarely wrote something down that I hadn’t already considered in my journal, or in my head. It added more time to the documentation I already needed to do for their once-a-week charter program. It usually left me feeling discouraged instead of energized.
I thought it should be useful. It sure sounded useful. I knew it was useful for other people.
But was it actually useful for me?
If I was being absolutely candid, the answer was no.
My eyes widened. That was the honest truth. I hated the questions because I felt like they were a waste of my time.
No wonder I felt resentful.
I sat for a while, thinking. Honestly, the idea of abandoning the practice scared me. We’re already very relaxed homeschoolers; to abandon one of the few structured elements felt foolhardy. I realized I had been using the questions to prove to myself that I was a Good Mother, and my kids were Going to Be Okay.
But being resentful of this one task leaked out into our daily interactions. I spent a lot of energy on quashing negativity, instead of being present for my kids while they worked.
Was it really worth it?
I shut my computer without typing anything and took a deep breath. Then I sent off an email to a friend who has a few more years of home education under her belt. I asked if we could talk about the whole idea of documentation next time we got together. I needed some wise counsel.
But already, I could feel the sense of bitter obligation slipping away from me, like a helium balloon I’d been clutching with an aching, sweaty fist.
I’ll be honest: I still am not sure what the right balance of documentation is for my family. I know the discipline of writing things down could help me pay more attention; I would love to find ways of being intentional that feel useful and empowering.
But facing my resentment instead of shoving it under the rug helped me face facts: what I was doing simply wasn’t working for me, and no amount of feeling guilty or ashamed was going to change that.
As parents, we have to make up so much of what we’re doing as we go along. We ask friends for advice, read up on experts, or do what we think we’re supposed to.
And maybe what we end up doing surprises us with its power and efficacy. Maybe we find the perfect solution to the challenges of each day.
But maybe we don’t, and we keep going out of guilt.
I spend a lot of energy trying not to let negative emotions rule how I parent. I want to have a good attitude, and keep going, even when it’s hard.
But persistent negative emotions are like lanterns. They shed light on what’s not working, on things that need to change, on the ways we’re feeling trapped and afraid. They prod us to be honest.
Oddly enough, resentment can be a gift: it can force us to make our kindness towards our children real, authentic, and deep-bone true.
Originally published at Simple Homeschool.