I am a fiercely dedicated homeschool facilitator. I see no limits in my quest to show my children the world and strive to place them in the path of learning. The job pretty much consumes me. Todd often does not accompany us on field trips and only travels with us when it is an extended trip of a month or longer, or if it involves physical exertion as in a cycling, paddling or a hiking trip. But when the children and I went to the Finger Lakes region of New York state to learn about women’s suffrage and the underground railroad, for example, Todd was more interested in his projects at home, and I let him be.
Todd makes a living multiple ways. He is a house painter, a carpenter, a blacksmith artist, and a chainsaw carver. The children and I need his income to help us create the lifestyle we have come to know and love- that of using the whole world to learn. I spend everything I make on travel and experiential learning.
Todd also manages our organic garden, extensive berry patch, orchard, and cares for the animals. We figured out long ago that we could either work to make money to buy food or consider food production as part of our job and grow and put up our own healthy organic food.
Todd is the one who grinds the cooked apples into sauce, makes the sauerkraut, pickles, and salsa, and cans and freezes much of the harvest. He has raised chickens for eggs and turkeys and grass-fed beef cows for meat. He nourishes our bodies while I nourish the children’s minds.
Todd does not view work in negative terms, compared to many individuals. He actually enjoys hard work, being of German/Swiss descent, and takes great pride and pleasure in doing it. He thrives when he works.
I used to be right by his side contributing to the gardening and homestead jobs until we became serious about home schooling. There is only so much time and energy. As I invested energy into my children’s education, it had to be taken away from someplace else.
Anyone who is married for any length of time knows about the division of labor laws in a relationship and a household. We each take on certain tasks according to our skills, gifts, interests and our time. If anyone in the couple feels the other is not pulling their weight, the mental level in your head begins to lean towards one end and the balance bubble rolls to the side. If nothing is done about it, even just talking, let alone shifting, resentment builds up.
When Todd and I have had issues, it wasn’t because someone was slacking but maybe one of us had an excess of work which resulted in feeling overwhelmed; or maybe they just missed the other’s company and wished they didn’t have to do the job alone. After all, in the early years of our marriage, we did nearly all the jobs together.
When I feel overwhelmed with home-schooling, I ask Todd, “Just math. Can’t you just help with math?” because my brain functions differently than his analytical one. He would try, but he would have to start at the beginning of the text and relearn everything he once knew many years ago before he could even begin to help them. During these times, I resorted to finding a tutor at their public school and hired them for an hour, which was enough to get them unstuck. And likewise, when the strawberry patch is consumed by chickweed and threatens our entire harvest, I carve out time for weeding. But we have to ask for help and not assume the other can read minds.
When we first decided to home school, I assumed the bulk of the work would fall onto my shoulders, but not 95% of it. Part of the reason is my choice, because I use home schooling to provide content for magazine stories. Nearly every field trip we go on, finds its way into a story. From features like “Eight Ways to Catch Air”- where my children got to experience flying in a by-plane, glider, helicopter, ultra-light, hot air balloon etc., in the name of learning and work.
But when I got a contract with Houseboat Magazine to take a 45 foot houseboat down the Mississippi River, Todd was the one who had to learn how to steer the monster, negotiate the locks, communicate with the barge captains, avoid wing dams, read a nautical chart and keep his family safe. The responsibility kept him up at night as he reviewed instructions in his head, while the kids and I read Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi,” and wrote about it.
Todd is not typically visible on the home-schooling stage but plays more of a behind-the-scenes role. A role he has always played- unassuming, quiet, but extremely necessary. Todd’s added income makes it possible for the kids and I to home school, travel the world, have this amazing lifestyle. He also opens the windows and the doors and sets us free, just like he has always done in our relationship. This permission and freedom to do what you need to do in life makes all the difference in the world, in terms of success.
So although you do not see Todd’s presence on many of these pages as we negotiate through a childhood of home-schooling, it is not that he is not there. He is very much there, but usually invisible, like wind beneath our wings, he holds us up and makes it all possible.
I, on the other hand, take great pride and pleasure in dealing directly with my children. I happily take on all their challenges and emotional jobs that come with raising kids. There is always a lot of talking, explaining, sharing, in order to do the job well. Home schooling increases these encounters two-fold. This kind of emotional work, however, makes my husband feel paralyzed. We both have our roles, we both have our skills, and we both live in different universes.
I realized how polarized we sometimes are on the eve before Bryce moved away to college his freshman year. Sierra was going into her junior year and was concerned over a health issue she was having. I was up in her bed for hours, listening, discussing, reassuring, drying her tears, and rubbing her back. Once I got her calm and ready for sleep, and ready for her move back to college the next day, I moved down to Bryce’s room.
I found him obsessively folding clothing as he readied to pack. He was nervous and scared about moving away from home tomorrow. He said he was not ready for this big step in life. I sat down on his bed and he asked me, “Mom, do you think I’ll make friends? Do you think anyone will like me?”
“Oh, sweet boy, of course.” I made him climb into bed and gave him a back rub and put him to sleep. So many of life’s moments I have gone through with my kids. I have walked right by their side through every step of their development from infants to adulthood. I have felt and experienced it all.
So after a few hours of emotional sharing with my children, on this eve of becoming an empty nester, I climb into our bed and am feeling weepy myself. I disturb my husband who has been sleeping soundlessly for hours and he announces , “You can rub my dick if you want.”
I am speechless. I have had enough rubbing for one night. Although my husband is sweet and helpful and contributes greatly, he is still a guy. He and I function on a different plane of living. We are two different planets on our individual orbits, raising children together.
I believe this to be pretty typical behavior for any married couple. It just takes more energy and work to raise home schooled children, requiring us facilitators to invest an even larger part of ourselves -a part which may have gone into our husbands before we began home schooling. It is a sacrifice we both must make, whether we are the primary facilitator or the support system and it calls for understanding and humor.
Posted in: Book Blog- Modeling a Life