School Supplies

A Gluten-Free Mom Learns to Homeschool

Do you remember when you met the person you realized you wanted to marry? The world seemed open and new, awash with visions of perfect Christmas mornings, riding bikes, Little League games, camping, and buying cute clothes for your kids. It would all be soooo great and you would never get wrinkles or put on a few too many pounds. The car would never break, the kids would be respectful and brilliant and play piano proficiently at age five, and your husband would never grow hair on his back.

Don’t get me going on the hair on the back thing. I’ll admit it. It’s an issue for me.

And people wonder why 50 Shades of Grey has now outsold Harry Potter. Hmm…

But seriously, we all get these crazy ideas in our heads from time to time, and frankly I’m not quite sure why we can’t see them for what they are. Once you’ve wiped too many dirty bottoms, gone too many nights without sleep, and spent too many days without a shower or razor, you start to wonder where, oh where have my childhood dreams gone and why does everyone think I’m partially insane?

(Yes, I know I’ve brought up the shaving thing before, but when your husband looks at you and says, “Are you going European this week?” it becomes a running joke!)

Which brings me to a decision you may feel compelled to consider once you discover your child has celiac disease: homeschooling.

This seems like a normal conversation to have. After all, you’ve realized that your life has been turned upside down so why not flip everything else over and embrace the chaos? There must be some normality in there, right? With all of the scary news headlines, the influence other children have on your precious angels while in preschool, and the homeschooling perfection you see on the web, why wouldn’t we want to do this? You bring up the topic with your rational and thoughtful husband who you will rely upon to teach the “hard” subjects, you find homeschooling parents nearby whose children seem well-behaved and intelligent (the same parents who lead you to believe that it’s all a piece of cake and you are a bad parent if you send your children into the world of public education), you buy some overpriced curriculum, and you wake up the first morning with not a clue of what to do.

Like when your doctor told you that you couldn’t have gluten anymore. Ever.

We’ve home-schooled our oldest (who is now 9 ½) for two years now, and it’s been an adventure. Someone once told me that parenthood (let’s face it, motherhood) is like having little crazy people follow you around all the time. Yeah…that’s about right. When you homeschool younger children, you have to realize that the key part of that phrase is all the time! It sounds so innocuous and idyllic. Why wouldn’t I want to spend all the time with my children?

Because children are super smart and won’t give you enough time to shave. And they ask questions you can’t answer. And you feel like an idiot because your kid can do grammar worksheets faster than you. And you’ve forgotten the “i before e” rule. Long division is an ancient memory. And really, who needs to divide fractions into quotients of dangling participles followed by an indirect object pronoun? Henry the VIII was from somewhere in Europe, right? Why is Europe even a continent? It doesn’t look like one. And why aren’t we on the metric system?

Wait! I went to college, I have a degree…it says so on the paper! I used to be smart! Can anyone really focus both eyes through a microscope at the same time, or does everyone have to use one eye or the other? This is just not right. Life wasn’t supposed to be this way. These were not questions I was expecting to ask.

When you send your child to Kindergarten and the teacher (who you have spent hours trying to educate) pulls you aside to make sure that “organic” wheat flour is okay, you might freak out. You might pull your child out of public school and go to the private school, where at least they are paid to tell you what you want to hear.

Then you will spend even more time not shaving so that you can figure out how to make a gluten-free pretzel rod magic wand for the Friday fun snack which everyone who isn’t gluten-free thinks is cute but they still don’t know that you have bloodshot eyes for a reason and are now out of almond flour and tapioca starch that you can’t replace until you get paid again in five days so please can we have an easy fun snack next week!

That’s a run-on sentence, I know. I re-learned that while homeschooling.

Here’s the thing, and there’s really no way around it. People wonder why I’m not putting up more content on my blog, or why I’m not around as much anymore on Facebook, or making ridiculous gluten-free pretzel rods. It’s because above all things, I am a gluten-free mom, raising gluten-free children, and trying with one eye to peer through the microscope to distinguish a fungus from a bacteria.

I love it, yet I hate it at the same time. The truth is, I am not a school teacher. I lack the discipline and patience required to teach my son the necessary fundamentals for which the rest of his education will be built upon. What I am good at, though, is teaching my boys how to navigate gluten-free life in a gluten-filled world.

That’s why my son is going back to school in the fall. I’m nervous but I’ll deal with it. And I think I’m going back to school as well.

I’m stronger now and know what to do and what to say to get my point across to the eye-rolling cynics at the school. I’m the Mama Bear…hear me roar!

Before you embark on homeschooling, take a clear personal inventory of who you are and who you wish to become. This is not just a decision for your children. It’s a life altering decision for you as well. You must be ready for what is to come, and if you’re not, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty. Fight whatever fight is in front of you, but please be sure not to pick new ones.

“To thine own self, be true.”

Shakespeare wrote that, or so my husband tells me. I just want to take a bath and shave. And maybe read 50 Shades of Grey again, for the twentieth time.

By Heidi Kelly

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