by Anjuli Watanabe

I am not writing this because I have an answer to any of life’s problems. I don’t have the key to homeschool happiness or a top ten list of things to do to make your life easier. I just realized that I’ve lost my way. And I am wondering how I can find it again.

Like so many families in California, we are a dual-income family. It is next to impossible to live in Orange County and survive on a single income. So, along with homeschooling, I have a part-time job to help make ends meet.

This morning my daughter was begging me to make pancakes for breakfast. “We have frozen ones in the freezer,” I said curtly as I typed out an important email for work. She asked me again, “Please Mom, I want to make pancakes for breakfast.”

Ugh! Doesn’t she know how much work I must do? Doesn’t she know that I am trying to get her older brother with Asperger’s through high school? And what a feat that is because he just doesn’t get it? And how worried I am that he never will?! Doesn’t she understand that her middle brother leaves me hanging at the end of my rope daily as I try to navigate him through middle school curriculum? That his hormones seem to have turned him into a person I don’t recognize?! Doesn’t she realize that her dad works so hard for our family, but that takes him away from the home? As a result, I spend most of my time taking care of the house and cars? It’s a daily challenge trying to keep my feelings of being alone on this journey at a minimum so that I don’t seem ungrateful for how hard he works? Doesn’t she understand everything I have to do?!

“I can’t right now!” I snapped. She walked away, I kept on working. Suddenly, I am aware of the clashing of pots and pans in the kitchen, the cabinets opening and shutting, the fridge being rummaged through. I yell out “What are you doing?”

“Making pancakes!” comes the reply from my seven-year-old daughter.

I immediately leap up from my computer and make a dash to the kitchen. To my pleasant surprise, she has everything pulled out for preparing our Trader Joe’s Pancake Mix. Milk and an egg, sitting next to a bowl and the box of mix. A pan on the stove (luckily not on!) and spatula at the ready. I sigh…I must help her now. I cannot leave her to do this on her own.

We begin to work together. “We should double the recipe so that we have enough for your brothers,” I say. I give her the measuring cups and spoons. “The recipe calls for ¾ cup of mix…but we are making two batches so how much will we need?” I give her the 1/3 measuring cup and she measures out six of them. We talk about our 2’s times tables. We talk a little of fractions.

My heart sinks and soars at the same time. I had done this with my older two boys when they were younger. Homeschool was about our freedom from school and books, and about exploring our world and finding out what made it work. I have a seven-year gap between my middle son and my daughter. When she was born I went into baby mode. While our family struggled through two years of school, I had an amazing friend who was my saving grace and my boys still had some great experiences during that time.

But then my oldest hit middle school and I panicked. I started listening to others. Will they be ready for the workforce if they don’t know how to follow directions from others? Will they truly know everything they need to know? Will they…? I turned to boxed curriculums and tried to find classes so they could know how to learn from others. I cracked down on their schooling. They must know…everything! Our relationships became strained. I started and restarted curriculums. School became a daily struggle. I didn’t love homeschooling the way I once did.

But in this moment of making pancakes with my daughter I was reminded of the simplicity I once knew. In this one moment, God brought me back to the truth. The truth I have felt in so many moments over the years when we were on a field trip, or a day at the beach, but that I ignored because I couldn’t escape the thought, “How will they learn everything that is important?” He used this simple time to bring me back from the strain and struggle, from putting books in front of my kids and pushing them to only learn from them.

The boys will still need to get through high school, my son still has rampant hormones, and they will still have to learn, but maybe they don’t need to know everything. Maybe we can find our way together, and though things will look different than when they were little, there could still be some fun. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn together again, and find our path to what I wanted in the first place. Life school. Love school. Homeschool.

I need to go…my kids just got snakes for pets and we are going to learn together how to care for them. I think this will be a great day of school!

Anjuli Watanabe joined the CHEA staff in 2017 and is the Event Manager, planning and coordinating our Annual Homeschool Convention. She has been married to her husband, Bryan, for 18 years. Together they have three children ages 16, 13, and 7. They have been homeschooling in Southern California for 10 years.