Stop, Drop and Chill: A Once-Frantic Homeschooler’s Plea

Even healthy busy bee homeschoolers must learn to chill as if our lives depend upon it.
Even healthy busy bee homeschoolers must learn to chill as if our lives depend upon it.

January is dedicated to thyroid awareness. This is my post in support of that effort.

Believe it or not, the first draft of my manuscript is almost done–almost two months after I planned to finish it.

No, “life” didn’t get in the way. My thyroid did. Specifically, the autoimmune disease that decided to attack my thyroid and create a very tense, sick body threw me off course.

I just found out at the end of 2012 that I have Graves’ Disease, possibly the worst-named disease in history. (Really funny alt name is mentioned here in a post with mature content: Gaylord Gary’s Rainbow Disorder.) Sure, Graves’ Disease used to kill people and send them to insane asylums a hundred years ago, but it’s treatable now. It just takes a long time to get it treated properly and I’m still working on that. It ain’t easy, either. And I understand why people used to lose their minds from this, I really do. In fact, I’ve contemplated getting a shirt that says: “Ask me about my Grave’s rage–if you dare.” Another option: “Ask me about my 3-hour panic attacks.”

I’m saving the full story of what happened to me for the book. It’s actually the opening scene on a chapter about “what to do with your homeschooling life if life itself turns suddenly sucky.”

One could argue (and several of my friends have tried to do just this–repeatedly–bless their hearts) that trying to keep up my freelance career (or at least keep it on life support) while homeschooling a kid who likes to plow through assignments and Life of Fred books lead me to blow out my thyroid. 

I’m increasingly inclined to think, as the fruit of of family tree with a dusting of autoimmune disease, it was just a matter of time before my heart started racing because I constantly felt like a hamster tied to a treadmill mainlining speed.

In fact, if I had the kid in school (or if I had another couple of kids), worked full time, and carted them to the their respective extracurricular activities, I’d have probably gotten it, too. Heck, with more kids I might have gotten it faster.

Ah, yes…. nature or nurture?

Well, nature is cruel and your DNA can be a real PITA, too.

But I still gotta do a better job of the nurture, nurturing myself that is.

One of the ways that I’m doing that is taking a “chill day.” No, not a weekend day. A day in the middle of the week. A mental health break.

That’s one day–at least every two weeks–where I pull the plug on the ordinary homeschool routine, and we drop our drive to accomplish anything and everything before bed time. We are ahead of the curve for our academic year–and in so many ways, that slowing down isn’t a big deal. Moreover, I find it allows me to loosen up and feel more creative and positive, which is beneficial to us both. Mind you, being prone to constant motion (this may be part of the Graves’ Disease or it may be how I’m wired), I still have to do something, housework or cooking. But it has to be at a slower pace and with the intention of slowing down.

Funny thing–the kid has picked up on this, as kids are prone to do. I hadn’t said anything about “chill days.” But late yesterday, our son remarked that the last “couple of days have been too short.” I asked what he meant, and he walked through everything that we had done: two doctor’s appointments, theatre class, library, park time, an excess of Minecraft (for him, when I had a really, really, really bad morning health-wise), and karate (stripe test!). I asked what he needed to make his days feel longer and he said, “Right now I need to just sit on the floor with my LEGOs and watch Wild Kratts.” So I said okay.

And all was well.

Today I gave him his first formal “chill day.” (Meaning that we’re going to call it that on purpose, together.) He’s having some French toast (gluten free and from a BOX!), making original LEGO creatures, and watching a show. Schoolwork will wait. I will bake a chicken and make some soup–two self-care tasks that require little effort from me. We’ll go play with friends and eat lunch out. I might get the laundry put away. And… that’s about it.

I hope it feels like a long day, long and slow and calm. And I hope other hard-charging homeschoolers (especially those who work from or outside the home) will join us in savoring a day like it soon to keep yourselves well, whether or not your own DNA is loaded with the seeds of an autoimmune disease. Nature may be armed against you but you’ve got the power of nurturance within your grasp.

Use it, people. STAT.

Note: This blog has been nominated for a 2013 Bloggie Award in the “Best Topical” category again. If you’d like to kick in a supporting nomination, the deadline is this Sunday.


  1. Pamela, you’re always a source of inspiration for me but this post really hits home. I’ve been trying to slow down too (as you say, we can all benefit from doing it once in a while). It’s beyond easy to get caught up in today’s expected routine of fast-paced over-achieving (whether it be related to parenting, job, personal life/goals, whatever). For me, the best place to start is getting more sleep instead of staying up way too late on the computer or reading. Even an extra hour or two helps clear my mind and prepare my body for the next day. Easier said than done — I certainly haven’t mastered this on an ongoing basis yet — but you’re reminding me how important it is to be mindful about it.

    • Sleep is so important. And actually my “sleep initiation insomnia” SHOULD have been a big clue that something was seriously wrong with me personally.

      At the same time, I think all of us moms (the ones with brains that need stimulation at least) struggle with how we get the intellectual part of our lives fed after the kids and between bed. Maybe there’s a blog post in there…

  2. I am not a homeschooling mom, but I can relate. When my oldest was little our days were jam packed. We did arts and crafts, went for walks, to the park and visited with friends and family. Then when I was pregnant with my second son, I was diagnosed with liver disease. My energy fell to an all time low and all of a sudden, I wasn’t able to do all these things with him anymore. And he made it very clear to me that he didn’t like it. He is in second grade now so he is gone for the most of the day, but my 4 year old and I have mastered the chill days. The hardest part for me was feeling guilty for being the reason we didn’t do anything educational or productive. Or for having done more with my other son when he was little because I wasn’t sick back then. Both of my boys are high energy and so I felt bad asking that they chill out. But I see now that they need these days just as much as I do. Colleen is right. Sleep is the key, but still so hard to find sometimes.

    • “The hardest part for me was feeling guilty for being the reason we didn’t do anything educational or productive.” Oh, yeah. A mom with an illness adds a whole other dimension to “mommy guilt.”

  3. This was very timely for me. No, I have not been diagnosed with anything new and icky, but my depression has been threatening to take a hold of me again because I. Need. To. Slow. Down. Between homeschooling four kids, teaching five homeschool enrichment classes a week, starting a new career as a Zumba and Zumbatomic instructor, churning out an ebook a month, and trying to keep up on my own blog or at LEAST post a daily free ebook list, something is going to blow sooner or later. Since I have contracts on a lot of these things until the end of February, I fear it is going to be my health. I have to figure out a way to slow down before that happens. Somehow.

    • I’d count depression as pretty darn “icky.” And you’re right… you do need to slow down. Take care, Chris. The world won’t end if you lighten up, at least on the free work that you do.

  4. I also have Grave’s and homeschool a rambunctious boy and have a part-time job at our church. Though all symptoms are currently under control, I have learned the hard way the signs that warn of a flare-up. Why is taking care of your SELF so difficult???

    We have mental health days around here – sometimes a week or two at a time, if necessary! And they really are necessary. That was tricky for me to accept, but it works. Glad I found your blog!

  5. I’ve suffered depression on and off for years and have always had the opposite of not doing enough to tire myself sufficiently but still being exhausted. Now things are pretty good in the old brain box and I have days where we (me and the 3 kids or hubby too on weekends) get bucket-loads done but today I was tired, had to deal with some stuff that had me pretty uptight (happy ending there) and after clearing the kitchen and baking some bread I sat at my computer and just did research. I ended up dozing off on the couch so the down-time was clearly needed. My washing pile is threatening to take over the house when it can beat all the dishes from lunchtime and baking out of the way but a down day was so much more important. I’ve heard them called pajama days too.

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