Tucked in at night by her husband, her four kids, and the Wasatch Mountains, Emily Bailey runs A Homeschool Unscripted. Her work is to hold the space for childhood, and be the homeschool mentor she never had.

Chapter Three: Dark

My husband was traveling four days out of the week.

I cried every time I dropped him off at the airport, and every night he was gone as I put my kids to bed by myself.

He’d be home just long enough for us to adjust to his rhythm, and then he’d leave again.

We moved to a house in a city where I heard sirens wailing instead of crickets chirping as I fell asleep.

I was six months pregnant.

The stress and the hormones and the debilitating loneliness swallowed me up. I was upside down, underwater, and spent my time vacillating between trying to right myself and accepting that I was drowning.

I started to yell at my kids.

Before then, I didn’t know I could yell.

My husband seemed like my husband again. He had a job that he loved and a house he was thrilled about. But his wife had turned into someone else.

We argued about the house. We argued about parenting. We argued about homeschooling, which was a foreign and disturbing concept to him.

He’d board another airplane. I’d buy more furniture.

And then our son was born. He was a baby like I’d never seen before. He screamed almost solid for four months, no matter what I did. He wouldn’t even let his dad hold him. My gut told me this baby didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, and the doctor just shrugged and said, “Babies cry.”

Not like this, they don’t.

And it donned on me that I began saying the same things about him that my mother had said about me. She would take me downstairs every night when I was a baby and say to me, as she stared down the barrel of another sleepless night, “I am not afraid of you.” Because she was. And to this day, she’ll tell me I was wired differently than her other kids.

I never knew what that meant, until my third child was born.

When I look back on this time of my life, I see two bright spots amid the darkness. The first was the homeschool co-op we hosted in our home. The second was the truly stellar kindergarten year I gave my oldest son, despite everything.

It was more bearable to have fifty people in our home than just five. So we did a lot of hosting. Extended family dinners, out of town guests, and our weekly homeschool co-op. I was unhappy when I thought of our house as simply our home, but when it served as a school or a bed-and-breakfast, I had hope. I tried to open myself up to new possibilities, and was searching for a purpose to distract me from my depression. My husband and I are musicians and have always had a dream of having our own studio. Maybe that dream could become a reality now.

I started teaching not just private music lessons anymore, but now that I had the space, group and family classes. I was addicted to the high that came from watching learning and relationships blossom together.

It was the right space. But it was the wrong time. With three kids under the age of five and a usually absent husband, I was fooling myself to think I could run a business. The joy of hosting family, friends, and educational gatherings didn’t negate the weight of it. Trying to prep lessons and clean a huge house with little kids crying proved to be too much for one person, and I was both unwilling and unable to delegate. I fooled myself for a while, until a new opportunity came. We’d kept our started home as a rental property since we’d moved out of it five years previously. The tenants moved out, and it was time to give the place a refresh.

The refresh turned into a full remodel, and three months and $30,000 later, nothing was more appealing to me than moving back into that little red brick house again, back to a friendly city, shedding 6,000 square feet. We knew we couldn’t stay there long-term since it was only 1,200 square feet and had no garage, and our family would soon outgrow it. But it would be a much lovelier and more manageable place for us to live while we built our forever house. (That dream turned out to be a nightmare as we battled with a shady, incompetent builder until we got a lawyer and got out of that mess. Cue my first ever legitimate panic attacks.)

Oh, and my chronic auto-immune disease was flaring up. And then I got pregnant with number four.

I say all this not just to remember the timeline, but to highlight that this was the reality—the family dynamics, the emotional climate, and the financial strain—during my first years of homeschooling.

Mothers, I want you to know that not only are our children more resilient than we think, but so are we. In spite of all my pain and struggles and imperfections, my son didn’t just survive kindergarten—he thrived.

Preface: The Birth of a Mother