How Not to Balance Homeschooling and a Full-Time Job

It’s been six weeks since I woke up with a crushing headache and essentially blind in one eye. I thought it was a visual migraine, of which I’ve had a few over the years. The weird geometric shapes obstructing the vision in my left eye, pain, and exhaustion all suggested that I was starting my last week of full-time work at Reason off with a whimper rather than a bang. I’d have to limp along through the day and make myself finish up the work I needed to get done to hand off my responsibilities.

But I didn’t feel much better the next day. Or the next. As my optometrist told me, before hustling me off to my primary care doc for a battery of tests that aren’t quite done yet, it wasn’t a migraine; it was a Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO). I’d thrown a blood clot and, instead of taking a left turn and handing me a stroke, it veered right, jammed itself into the back of my eye, and fucked up my eyesight (along with other interesting complications.

After enough blood draws to gag Count Dracula, monitoring of my blood-oxygen level while I sleep, extended recording of my blood pressure and resting heart rate, and a cardiac stress test, I now know that I’m in awesome shape (I was running at five miles an hour up an 18 percent incline to hit my target heart rate). Well, awesome except for that little blood clot to the eye thing.

The problem seems to be that I have a genetic predisposition for blood clots–my homocysteine level is almost double what it should be despite a healthy lifestyle. Nobody really knows whether the homocysteine level is a cause of trouble or just an indicator of it, but it correlates with heart disease and blood clots. And the risks associated with an elevated homocysteine level can apparently be exacerbated by stress.

I was under a lot of stress. I assumed that stress was the trigger for the migraine that I didn’t actually have; instead, the doctors say that it was probably the trigger for the CRVO that I did have.

For the past year, I’d been juggling not just the demands of managing staff, scheduling stories, hiring contributors, etc., of my job, I’d also been homeschooling my son. My wife handled math in the morning, but I fielded most of the rest. The transition from a charter school to homeschooling wasn’t especially well-planned, though it was necessary (I’ll get into why in another post). But since we didn’t have time to shuffle things around, we just jammed it all into the existing schedule. That meant I didn’t really sit down all day, or focus on anything for more than 20 minutes at a time. By mid-spring, I knew this wasn’t sustainable. My wife was warning me that I was going to have a heart attack. So I gave two months notice, because my son is more important than the job, and he’s been thriving while learning at home. He’s where my emphasis has to be.

Maybe that was a week too much notice, in retrospect. But at least I didn’t have the heart attack.

The stress level is much lower now. I still write, but only a column a week. And the only management I have to do involves teaching plans, dogs, and meals. My son and I have time to really focus on lessons–and to build on them when they catch his interest. And now we can even get out of the house to field trips and spend time with other home-schooled kids (we’ve always had a lot around here, and the Sedona-Oak Creek School District’s ongoing disintegration is swelling the ranks).

And I’m learning some lessons too, about my mortality (who knew?) and that there are limits to what I can do. Maybe the kid will learn from me and not make the same mistake.

Oh, and I’ve regained most of my vision and my strength is coming back. Which is a good thing.

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