Sunday, 27 November 2016

When You're On "The Struggle"

This October, I had the great privilege of meeting up with about thirty home-educating mums in the UK who use the Charlotte Mason method. We rented rooms in the youth hostel at Ambleside, and stayed up late in the conference room, sharing ideas, swapping stories, and sipping wine.

A sub-set on the great CM retreat

Our final day, we took a lovely ramble around Rydal Water and topped off the adventure with a pub meal at the Kirkstone Pass Inn.

The Grotto at Rydal Hall

The only problem is that the way to the inn was up a narrow, steep lane called “The Struggle”. It’s in honour of this little lane that I’m writing this blog post.

A Wikimedia Image, capturing the drama that lies ahead

You see, I have been having my own “struggle” over the past six months or so. While it’s true that I’ve been homeschooling for over thirteen years, have appeared in the UK newspaper and on the radio as a “with it” and “together’ home-educator, have my vision and my approach really sorted out, things haven’t been quite going to plan this year.

It all started when I decided to move back to my home state of Texas after living in the UK for 25 years. 

Suffice to say, a huge upset like an intercontinental move is indeed monumental, and takes months of research, applications, arrangements, etc, until one finally makes the physical re-location, and then having to do it all over again in the new locale. Insurance, car purchase, mobile phone plan, supermarket preferences, kitting out a home all over again, and then navigating the crazy health-care system, are all time-consuming activities, some of which seem never ending.

Add to this that my hubby has stayed behind in the UK for the time being, making me in effect a single mum, and that I lost not only my puppy in the first few weeks of arrival, but my grandmother, too, and felt bombarded by both the Brexit and the US Presidential election votes to the point of feeling as though I’d been bludgeoned by a topsy-turvy world …

Face-Palm Summer

I am struggling.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. We all have our challenges, our distractions, our obstacles, so I thought I’d try to create a step-by-step plan for encouraging any of you who are struggling, too.

The first thing we need to do is appreciate our surroundings. What are the good things that you are thankful for? At the bottom of that hill in Ambleside, it would be the quaint little buildings, the amazing Highland Cattle in the fields of heather, the soaring hills and broad lakes, and the advantage of such clean air.

Magical Landscapes

Appreciating my surroundings here in Texas, I see these things: I am only five miles from my mother and my brother. We have found a fantastic church nearby, and a terrific swim club. Petrol prices are really cheap, and my car is a Prius, so gets about 60 miles to the US gallon. We are slowly making friends, and we are juggling about the right number of activities, though I have to keep a very close eye on my calendar.

Supermoon in November

The next thing we need to do is consider the route ahead. The Struggle is a 3 mile road that often is one lane with passing places. It rises up nearly 500 metres or 1500 feet. Some of the gradients are 20%. This thing can get pretty hairy at times.

Ready for Adventure!

In Texas, my biggest struggle is about supporting my kids in their homeschooling while I continue to teach my online classes in English. I anticipated the conflict of timing by telescoping my business onto Mondays and Tuesdays only, but that means the children need to be independent in their studies on those two days. I feel as though these two days are the narrow lane where we’re looking for the passing places ahead.

Independence ... sometimes ...

A second section of the narrow lane is concerned with use of electronics. My business is based on the internet, and I feel keenly aware that I need to be on the computer a lot. So my kids are modeled a computer-based life, and they are quite happy to follow suit. This goes against my whole belief system of broad brain development. If I’m vigilant, I’ll park their ipods on the kitchen counter at bedtime … and check they’re still there before I close down the house for the night. If I’m not … well … it’s not like they’re driving off the edge of a cliff or anything. They tend to be involved in fairly innocuous activities (usually jokes, magic tricks, and politics), but anticipating the dangers ahead is part of my anxiety when traveling down this road.

A third concern is where this road is actually headed. It’s easy when you’re driving on The Struggle: you can see the pub waiting for you at the top, and you can breathe easy to know that there’s plenty of parking, a cold pint of beer, and a lovely hot dinner of roast beef waiting for you.

Good Things Waiting Ahead!

It’s not that easy when you’re homeschooling, is it? You have a vague idea of where you’re headed, but your children are unique and will be carving out pathways that you might never dream were possible. The worry is that you’ll miss the turn, or you’ll aim for the wrong destination, or you’ll skip some important step.

So, that brings me to the final point. We’ve looked at the good things around us, the obstacles in front of us, and now it’s time to look at trusting our equipment. 


When driving The Struggle, a car in good condition is really important. You absolutely want to avoid breaking down partway up a 20% gradient, or having your brakes malfunction, or — as did happen once to me in the past — your turbo give out on your van so it drove only in “go slow” mode.

For me, keeping my equipment tuned up relates to my faith life. I find that ensuring I re-charge each morning, and park up safely at night, the more equanimity I have in the daytime. My devotional of choice is the Celtic Daily Prayer books, available in two volumes and covering four years of daily meditations.

Finding Encouragement in Faith

Even if you’re not religious, you should build some quiet time into your day. A time when you just sit and let your brain rest, your heart get still, your breathing, deepen. A time when the kids respect that you want to be on your own, and unless little Jimmy’s head is bleeding profusely and 911 needs to be called, you are not to be disturbed.

Not everyone can zoom down a four-lane highway without any traffic, and especially not homeschooling families. There will be bumps and diversions, road works and re-surfacings, traffic snarls and near-misses. It’s the way we take these challenges as part of life that will teach our children something, even when the books are being ignored.

We may struggle, but we will overcome.



  1. hi,

    we are home schoolers and we use charlotte mason too with our boys. we are considering a move back to the states but as i am the American and my husband the Brit...its not so easy to move him over right away even though we have been married 15 years! The consideration of moving back to a new state (not my home state) and home schooling on my own for a little while as well as trying to work part time is a bit nerve wrecking! I am glad to read your victory and gives me inspiration that we may be able to do this move after all!

  2. Wow. I've been there.
    At first, we were not homeschooling, but had our children in a teensy private school which provided covering for us to escape the public mess. They did not have a k-5 teacher, but said if I'd volunteer for the job, I could teach my own child at their building. Trouble is, I'd just had a baby, too, and it was winter...Into baby wraps, into freezing car, half-hour drive to school, out of wraps, teaching child, nursing babe (all in our own private room, of course...) Falling asleep at the table while child does seat work.
    Oh, the seatwork, which I prepared every night, since the child's curriculum had not yet arrived. By looking at the teacher's manual/score key, I was able to construct his work for the day, by hand, at our kitchen table, after everyone went to bed. You know, drawing out ten tiny boats, balls, kites, etc., so he could circle 5 or 3 or 8 of them to show he knew quantities. :-\
    Oh. The bed. It was sharing a room with the baby's bed, due to the fact that our chimney had caught fire and was being reconstructed. In winter. Leaving a gaping hole in the living room ceiling. Which made the house coat-cold. But we survived even bathing. And the living room furniture had to go somewhere during that time....
    Oh, and there was bathing, which could not happen b/c the pump in our small town water tower had give out. Eventually we did get back into water, though. And husband finally came home from his business trip.
    As soon as he walked in the door, everything in life just fell into place. Amazing how that is....
    And your post is an inspiration. <3

  3. I am in awe my friend. You are amazing! Love your pictures especially the last one. Xx


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