Tuesday, February 15, 2011


A lot can happen in five months and four days. A LOT.
For instance, one could give up homeschooling after four years and six weeks.
One could learn that all one really wants to do in the morning is take a really long walk to exhaust the dog or to take care of one's errands.
One could start eliminating all excess (or at least most of it) in one's life.
One could do all of these. That's what I did.

Let me explain--because, really, after a multi-month blog silence, some information is in order.

I loved homeschooling. Really. I loved the freedom; I loved the time with my children; I liked the possibility of them finishing the chores on their lists. But I have a son who is not only intelligent and curious, but also very good at pushing buttons--especially the ones marker "drive Mom crazy" and "drive Mom ballistic". I'm not going to name any specific infractions or repeated errors in judgement. I'll simply say that hazard pay was a consistent negotiating point when my husband and I discussed the budget. So, I would wake up every morning, full of zeal and determination to keep my cool, and within the space of not more than twenty minutes (thirty on a particularly determined day--or right after General Conference when I had been once more admonished to "love the sinner") I would be a wild-haired, bug-eyed, spittle-flecked raving lunatic. I'm pretty sure that's not the way education is supposed to work.

One day (I believe it was a Tuesday, sort of warm, but partially overcast) I had had it, as in HAD IT! (Moms will get this. Dads will shrug and chalk it up to hormones. That's why most of those who are reading this are moms.) The die was cast: "I am putting you boys into school, so help me all that is holy!!!!" They started on the next Monday. (There was a delay while we convinced the school that we were responsible parents with wonderful children who desperately needed their school. It required some red-tape cutting, some ego-massaging, some smooth talking, but it worked.)

It was an interesting transition. At first, I had no idea what to do with myself. For a major chunk of time I had defined myself and my life by the educational process taking place in our dining room: I am a homeschooling mom. Now I was adjective-less: I am a _________ mom. With nothing to fill in the blank. I moped around for the first week, stewing in my own perceived failure. (It was September in the Desert Southwest--stewing is inevitable even on good days.) Then I started walking.

At first I walked the dog. She had been chewing up household items: rugs, toys, furniture, and I thought the exercise would use up some of her energy. It worked, and I liked it. So I started finding new reasons to walk: books needed to be returned to the library, or there was a sale on toothpaste at the store. Almost anything became a good reason to drop the laundry basket, pack up the toddler, and head onto the pavement.

My walks started getting longer--two or three miles at first, then four; now we're up to around five to seven. Anything else doesn't seem worth the time. Mileage, people; it's all about the mileage. It's amazing how much I can get done on foot. (I'm not looking forward to summer, since I know that will put an end to my mobility, but it's been nice while it's lasted.)

It's also been good for the budget, since there's only so much one can fit into a two-seater stroller. (Twenty loaves of 50 cent bread is about the limit, although I did fantastically the other day with bread and Valentine's Day supplies, but I was in some sort of stroller-packing zone.) So I've stopped buying anything that wasn't strictly necessary. Apparently I had been buying frivolously, because I was able to cut my spending by one-third. That adds up. In the last five and a half months, I've been able to save up enough to take the family to Disneyland, to send the kids skiing for a day, and to sign them up for a week-long summer arts camp--all of which I would have said was impossible last year. Granted, there are days when the total age of my clothing equals that of my children, and I'll never be as glamorous as I want to convince others I am. It's a trade-off.

So really, what I've done is stripped life down. (Notice I did not write I've stripped down. That would imply less clothing, and there is no way in Tahiti that will ever happen!) I've eliminated some of the things and practices I considered necessary for years. And I like it. (Of course, there may be a day when my son comes to his senses and we can homeschool again. Then we'll have to change again. Change is good.)


  1. Good for YOU! I am so happy for you and your new freedoms and stripped down ness. I clearly need to do something similar. Mostly I'm just SO glad you wrote. In your new "free" time, could you please write more? Pretty please?

  2. So glad that you're feeling freer! would you mind sharing what you've decided to let go?

  3. What did I let go? Well, mostly my ego. Apparently I bought a lot of things in the vain attempt to convince myself I looked better than I really do. I decided I didn't need more than what I had. So no new shoes until these wear out--and I've been wearing one pair of them for five years. No new clothes--because who am I trying to impress? (My clothing needs are simple, and I keep them that way.) No new nicknacks, because my house is full enough. We cut Christmas down to stocking by Santa and two presents--very modest ones!--from Mom and Dad. (And the kids loved it anyway!)I eliminated most of the convenience food I had convinced myself we needed to keep up with our busy life. Mostly I eliminated fluff--everything the ads try to sell, basically. I started using cash instead of the debit card, and when we're paid I take out the amount I've determined to use each month, then set $100 aside not to be touched. Then I use what's left. If there's no money left, I don't buy. I have to plan ahead so we always have veggies and milk and toilet paper and shampoo, but we can do without almost everything else for a short time. It's worked for me, but it's something that might not work for anyone else.