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I imagine much of the comparison that happens between mothers begins simply and honestly, a way to observe and emulate other women we admire for one reason or another. We actually need one another in this way. We need other mothers in our lives to share experience or to bounce ideas and inspire us when we find ourselves overwhelmed or in a rut. We need to know that other women have endured sleepless nights or cleared poop from the floor or learned how to love their postpartum bodies. We need to hear various ways other mothers have taught their children kindness and how to share, or how they learn to clean up after themselves or where they go to school. These are the easy comparisons, the ones that remind us we’re not alone in the difficult choices and sometimes crappy parts of motherhood. Literally.

Perhaps comparison between us takes a downturn when in our estimation of others, we begin criticizing ourselves, nitpicking our own choices, style, and circumstances to fit in with another’s. We visit a friend’s house or scroll through our social feeds and feel it: we are not measuring up. We’re not organized enough, thoughtful enough, traveling enough, creating enough, thin enough, experienced enough, successful enough, strong enough. Our children aren’t dressed well enough or experiencing enough or playing enough or reading enough. Our homes are not clean enough or decorated enough or organized enough or environmentally-friendly enough. The list goes on and these thoughts, muddling our perspectives and vision, can be a slippery slope into doubt, shame, and even depression.

As mothers we need honest community, even if at times it is only one other person. We need someone with whom we can openly share our not enoughs, and one whom we trust will speak truth and courage to our darkest thoughts. Although I always write honestly here and do sometimes share bits of these personal hardships, these spaces are not the primary places I share the underbelly of our life. That said, know there is an underbelly. I wrestle with doubt and anxious thoughts. I regularly question my ability to actually do all I want to do. I sometimes find myself wishing for those illusive descriptors more and better. You are not alone. I encourage you, the next time you’re feeling ill-fitted for the task at hand or less than pleased with how your body fits in clothes, pause and begin listing gratitudes aloud, even if it begins with the simplest gift of being able to take a breath.

For those of you who need ideas or courage in finding community in motherhood, I wrote about that here.  For those of you who tend to guard your underbelly and struggle with perfectionism in motherhood, I wrote about that here.


This post is a part of the collaborative “Real Talks” series. To read more thoughts on comparison in motherhood:

Alexandra from Ave Styles | Rebecca from A Daily Something | Erin from Design for Mankind | Amy from Parker Etc. | Catherine from The Life Styled | Kat + Em from The Refined Woman | Hillary from Our Style Stories

 

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One of the greatest gifts in my thirteen years of motherhood has been friendship, having other women in my life to hash out the hard questions and celebrate the victories of this beautiful, complicated journey. I also appreciate hearing thoughts and perspectives from mothers, even when we are approaching motherhood in a different manner. It’s nice to be reminded there’s no one set path. We all have something to learn from the other. On that note, I’m glad to be joining a few other mothers each month to write and share thoughts around a single topic. The series is called Real Talk, Real Moms and today I’m joining them to discuss thoughts on education, more specifically preschool–a topic dear to me.

It may surprise some to know I never planned to homeschool. My two oldest went to a sweet preschool two times a week, and it was in my oldest son’s last preschool year, we decided to homeschool instead of sending him to kindergarten. Perhaps I feel endeared to these years because of the sharp turn in trajectory it took for our family. Or perhaps it is that we are now closing this chapter of life for our family that allows me to see the beauty and simplicity of those years. Children learn so much in those years. Their imaginations and ideas literally gape open to the world around them. Still the preschool years can be busy and overwhelming, too. The changing brain causes shifting emotions and behaviors, too. When it comes to deciding how to best prepare young ones for the grammar school years, it can be intimidating to take the responsibility on at home. Where do I begin? How do I know if they’ll be prepared to leave for school? Will this mean I homeschool forever? Will they have enough interactions with other kids? Can I really do this? Thoughts can easily spiral. It’s normal, especially for your oldest child(ren).

Yet preschool at home doesn’t mean recreating a classroom experience at home. The home and world outside it IS the classroom. As Charlotte Mason famously noted, “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Homeschooling the little years isn’t simply about finding the right curriculum or creating all the right folder games or even making sure they know a certain amount of information before age five. It doesn’t mean you even need to know what to do the following year or how long you will homeschool. It simply requires you to be attentive, to be willing to step into something new alongside your child. As Mary Oliver wrote, “to pay attention, this is our greatest work.” Homeschooling in general is in many ways simply learning to pay attention. For those of you who are considering homeschooling your preschooler or kindergartener next year, here’s a few helpful lessons I’ve learned along the way, often times the hard way.

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TIPS FOR HOMESCHOOLING THE PRESCHOOL YEARS

start small / Begin with something familiar, with what you know and already naturally do in your home. Do you love making food or being outdoors or painting? Use those processes to introduce letters/sounds and numbers.

focus on your home / Social media can be inspiring and paralyzing. Don’t work to live according to other home principles, but instead open your heart and eyes to see your own. Work to establish an atmosphere of curiosity and conversation. Children want to learn in the early years. They want to satisfy curiosities and discover causal relationships. And for the most part, they love being with you.

read books often / Reading aloud to your children will not necessarily mean they will learn to read earlier, but it will develop a love for stories and expand their vocabulary. Developing a reading culture at home will create an appetite for a lifelong love of words.

play with various art materials / Purchase a variety of quality art materials for your children to use and explore mediums. Make collages from different types of paper or magazines. Draw with pastels as well as crayons and pencils.

keep a basket for busy bees / If you have multiple children or small children who love to be busy, keep a special basket for them to play with at certain times of the day. Consider wood blocks, stamps, play-dough, doodle books, needling board, a lap loom, and so on. Pull it out during read-a-loud or when you’re needing to make dinner or spend one-on-one time with another child.

observe + study your children / Become a student of your children. Watch them. How do they respond to large groups versus alone time? Do they tend to move to learn or sit still and focus? Do they have trouble holding writing utensils? Understanding who your children are and how they learn will help you parent them, whether homeschooling or not.

consider hiring help / No one said you need to do everything to be a good mother. Prioritize what’s most important and look for ways to delegate other tasks. Do you have room in your budget to hire help with cleaning or a babysitter to help run errands or play with the kids for a few hours a week? If your budget is small, consider swapping children with a close friend or asking a close relative for help.

play, play, play / Children discover so much on their own by simply playing. Allow them time to create their own play, checking in on them occasionally for safety.

choose simple materials / When I began homeschooling during these early years, all of the materials we used fit into a small antique cabinet in our dining area (maybe one square foot of interior space). I kept a stack of drawing paper, watercolors, crayons, colored pencils, a reading guide, and pre-k materials from Handwriting Without Tears. We made weekly trips to the library and our local children’s museum, and I met weekly with a couple of friends to do a few simple activities, have lunch, and play.

MORE I’VE WRITTEN ON PRESCHOOL AT HOME

Other contributors to this series:

AVE Styles

Design for Mankind

The Effortless Chic

The Refined Woman

Sarah Sherman Samuel