You know that sick, forehead slapping feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a regrettable discovery makes its way to the forefront of your mind just a little too late, when there is nothing to be done but sigh and live with the consequences? Sometimes those consequences are fairly minor like the brownies being a little flat because you forgot to add the baking soda. Hey, a brownie is just a brownie, right? And sometimes the consequences are more severe like realizing that candy bar does have peanuts in it right after your highly allergic son swallows it. And then, of course, there is the middle ground somewhere between flat brownies and a long night of Benadryl and vomit. This week I have found myself occupying this middle ground of regret.

It all started a few weeks back when a fellow “home educator” recommended a website selling pre-packaged unit studies for homeschoolers. Want to do a study of dolphins? Autumn? Or a wide variety of other topics? This enterprising saint of a woman has taken loads of cut outs, web resources, and reading lists and put them all together. For a small fee, you download all of it and away you and your child go to learn about the selected topic. Normally, this tips go in one ear and out the other, but I actually liked the idea and followed up on it. So this week, I found myself cross-legged on the floor, helping our youngest two do leaf rubbings and mini-books about the pigments found in trees. This may not seem like a particularly revolutionary act, but when I decided to begin homeschooling years ago I erected a mental force field around myself, blocking out any voices that might destroy my peace of mind. It wasn’t that I am unwilling to learn from the experience of others; in fact it was quite the opposite. I seem incapable of refraining from making comparisons. Their six-year-old is reading at a college level? I should read to my children seven hours a day so they don’t fall behind. Their kid is learning Latin while still in the womb? My children will obviously end up as homeless vagrants. It isn’t that I want my kids to be better or brighter than other kids. Like most other moms, I just don’t want to let them down.

So, in order to avoid a complete mental breakdown, for the most part I avoided large gatherings of moms and their above-grade-level learners, fearing the shattering of my ever-fragile mommy ego. I steered clear of homeschooling literature and blogs and would rather have run naked through the streets of Fairmount than attend a homeschooling convention. Granted, this is an overreaction to the natural impulse to compare ourselves to those around us, and the absurdity of my behavior struck me like one of David’s five smooth stones as I watched my kids benefit from my friend’s suggestion. How many other enriching activities had we missed out on due to my insecurities and fear of failure? True, sometimes mommy gatherings can turn ugly, but for the most part it’s just bunch of women like myself, looking for affirmation and support. Who can say what cross-pollinating moments I have missed because I was afraid of being judged and found lacking.

But no more! I am now prepared to go boldly into the world, ready to glean much from the wisdom of others and to try and take myself, and my job, a little less seriously. Just like my brownies, it may not be perfect but it will still taste pretty sweet.

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