My intention to write about this is to get it out while it’s still raw and while I can still feel it. This post will be vulnerable, real and honest…and probably far too long…so bear with me. Maybe this will one day encourage someone else who is also in the trenches…or maybe this will only be fun for me to look back on someday…who knows.
The decision to homeschool did not come lightly. Prior to having my own children I swore I would never never never….did I say never….ya never ….homeschool. The majority of the homeschool kids I’ve known have been either uneducated and/or socially awkward. And many of the homeschool moms I had known seemed grumpy and unfulfilled. Nothing about it was anything I was attracted to.
But last year, for three very different reasons, each of my three oldest kids were begging me to give it a shot. I labored over the decision for months but when I finally told the kids that my decision was ‘yes’ it felt like Christmas morning…to ALL of us! God had clearly given me a new heart toward it. We were all so excited and ready to get started.
Leading up to this decision we had been going through a season of completely revamping our lives, combing through each and every corner of the different aspects of life to make every attempt to simplify.
We wanted to make our main priorities actually BE our main priorities.
We were sick of the rat race and tired of the constant pull on our time and schedules. We had made some things that were important become unimportant, and vice versa, which made for some tough calls to get things back on track.
We began changing everything and we truly thought that this would allow us more control over how our days were spent, give us more quality time as a family and give more freedom over the things we said yes/no to.
Although the goal might have been sound, the practical hands on process has been extremely challenging. The learning curve for me, and the kids, has been steep and at this moment “simple” is quite possibly the last word I would use to describe homeschooling.
These are my weak points at the moment….
10. I constantly feel like I’m failing.
I never studied to be a teacher and I don’t know what things to prioritize or what things to let go of. If I’m truly honest it’s not the feeling that I’m failing…as in the present tense…it’s the feeling that I’ve already failed…and there’s no way to fix it.
9. I’m ruining them.
I feel like every day that goes by I’m losing more of my grip on reality and that the kids are too. I am continually afraid that they are worse off for being with me and that I’m wrecking their lives…
8. I’m doing something wrong.
Maybe if I had started when my first kid was in kindergarten and I could have eased into it this might have been easier?! My expectations of becoming an elementary school teacher overnight and this going smoothly were completely unrealistic and I have the feeling that I am doing something wrong all. of. the. time.
7. There must be a “right” way “out there”…
I believe that there are people who really get how to do this and I’m just not one of them. There must be one correct way to educate and I just haven’t yet unlocked that secret box…and no one will tell me where the key is…
6. I feel like quitting…almost every hour.
It’s a big deal to take on my children’s education and I was/am scared to death about it. The way out seems super easy. Quitting seems so simple. There are days that I can flip flop each hour with whether or not I want to continue doing this.
5. Someone else is more qualified.
I am continually fearful that someone else “out there,” with a degree or two or three in teaching could do a far better job than I can. I feel inadequate, overwhelmed and confused.
4. The schedule needs to be changed.
I think I need more structure: If I could only get up earlier, or make another chart, list, or calendar…or add a few more alarms throughout the day then maybe things would work more smoothly. Maybe if I set up rotations or had a reward system or can do a better job of implementing negative consequences then maybe everyone would do well.
I think I need more flexibility: I need to let the kids decide how to run the day, what they feel like learning and let them motivate themselves. Maybe if I let them play more they’ll learn more. Maybe if there were NO consequences they’d be more inclined to do the right thing….
I think I need more structure….(I think you get the point….)
3. I feel like I’m supposed to re-create public school at home.
Maybe I can just talk to enough teachers and enough legit educators to be able to put together a daily timeline that looks just like public school…then maybe my kids will turn out alright. But the sheer fact about it is there just isn’t enough of me to go around. There’s 5 grade levels here…how in the world??? but oh well let’s give it a try…where do I buy a bell???
2. Am I supposed to teach every subject every day for every child??
I constantly feel behind. We can spend hours trudging through and pressing on and only get through ONE subject. I get cranky and it only makes everyone more and more miserable. I need the kids to focus and they want to do everything BUT focus…and another day goes by and I haven’t gotten everything done. And that just means we are that much farther behind…(see point 10)
1. I have become a law enforcer and
am losing have lost my joy.
I see now why the homeschool moms I used to know were crabby all of the time. There is never any down time and no days off. I am constantly disciplining, training, teaching, prepping, planning and trying to get them motivated for something I, myself, am beginning to hate. My eyes open each morning and my heart groans at what the day ahead will look like. More whining, more backtalk, more unmotivated kids doing lessons we could all care less about…it just wasn’t supposed to be like this….
Through tears I called a friend I haven’t spoken to in over half a decade. I voiced this entire list of “feelings” and my friends response has got baffled me……
“You are letting school get in the way of education.”
I thought that was the point. School IS education, right?
I don’t get it….you’re going to have to explain that one….
Maybe school isn’t the same thing as education…maybe I am missing the main thing. Maybe the tight schedule, the math quizzes and the spelling tests aren’t the most important things…..maybe I’m the one that doesn’t get it….maybe I’m the one who is slow to catch on…maybe I am the one that needs to learn something here….
Maybe he is exactly right…that school has gotten in the way of education….
As a family we are turning a corner. We are changing the “rules”. We are focusing more on loving them well and schooling them a little less. Education is still important and I am determined still teach, but maybe teaching needs to look different.
Maybe we need to enjoy it a little, or a LOT more. Maybe I need to feel free to relax a little bit and let them be little. Maybe I need to think a little less about getting them into college and a little more about enjoying them now.
Maybe I can focus a little less on building a life size solar system and focus a little bit more on building character.
Maybe I need to show them that following the rules and getting it all done perfectly isn’t actually the highest aim that I desire for them.
Maybe they need to learn to fail, and maybe that means they’ll learn to get back up again.
Maybe showing them that their momma is absolutely still learning too will encourage them to want to learn….
We don’t have it all figured out and I promise to keep you updated as we go…but we are starting over again.
We are resetting once more.
We’re going to have fun and we are going to make this homeschooling things something beautiful, helpful and encouraging.
And it begins, like always, with my own heart.
Dear homeschool mom in the trenches with me,
Are you discouraged? Are you downcast? Are you overwhelmed? Do you struggle to find balance and joy? Do you feel the weight of responsibility in teaching your littles and think there is someone out “there” that could do it better? Please know that you’re not alone. Please know that you’re not failing. Please know that what your kids need most is to be loved well. And they need that long before they need to be “schooled.” I know you want to do well at educating them too, so don’t give that up. Keep keep pressing on. Keep teaching. Keep asking for help and….crying out to the Lord. You’re doing such a hard, hard job.
Dear homeschool mom that is totally nailing it/loving it/thriving in it,
Can you share with me your tips? Can you tell me your best advice? Can you tell me if this is all “normal”? I’d welcome any and all resources or help for those of us who are total newbies to this!
Donna Ford says
I hope you don’t think Tawny and Dillon are uneducated or socially inept. So many parents are being mislead by these myths about homeschooling. We homeschooled 20 -30 years ago when the stigma was even worse. I wish parents would realize that childhood passes and the adult that grows out of that childhood is the goal we seek. My God bless your journey, Meg.
meg wallace says
I love that encouragement to keep the end perspective in mind! Thank you for sharing Donna!
Angie R says
Thanks for the update! I’m glad that you were able to push through and finish the year because that in and of itself is a success!
Some things that have gotten me through the tough homeschool times:
-A good support group. Find other moms with whom you can spend time and share frustrations and encourage. Try to meet regularly, and it’s ok to bring the kids–they will build their own bonds with the other kids. Sometimes it can be educational, but it is still so valuable and useful if it is just a giant chat fest.
-A whole lot of grace for myself. If I dwell on what I’m doing wrong or what more they would learn at public school etc., I would crawl into a hole and not come out! 😄 I constantly need to remind myself that no education anywhere is perfect, that public and private schools don’t actually cover every topic known to man, and that I am truly the person with the greatest interest in serving my kids needs.
-Trial and error. Probably the hardest thing is trying things that don’t work–from schedules to curriculum to making them all sit in desks to going completely unschool. It feels like you’ve wasted time or money or both. But it wasn’t a waste. You tried it and now you know it doesn’t work. Cross that off the list! You have made progress because you’ve learned something about yourself and your kids and their learning styles or preferences. Eventually you will find something that clicks and you will stick with it for years.
-Being flexible. Because that thing that worked for years might suddenly not work anymore. Your kid has changed or their interests have changed or the rhythm of your life has changed. I try to assess every kid every year (sometimes mid-year if they are really struggling in a certain subject) and look at what is still working and what needs tweaking and what needs tossing.
-Time. Sometimes all you need is time. After a few months or years, your kids will see that this is how you are going to do school and they will fuss less, push back less. The older ones will be able to help the younger ones–and strengthen their education in the process. (Nothing is better at helping you learn something than having to teach it to someone else!) you will have found things that work for you and will apply them with an easy rhythm. You will see a mom struggling in the early days of homeschooling and you will be able to say to her, “Hang in there! It gets better! And it is oh so worth it!!!”
-Last but not least: Prayer prayer prayer.
(Did I mention prayer? 🤓)
I say all of this in complete humility, knowing that it is only by God’s grace that I am homeschooling my kids with what feels like moderate success. Take the advice that is helpful and ignore what isn’t.
And hang in there!!!
meg wallace says
This is awesome. Thank you so much. I’m praying for others who may feel overwhelmed to read your comments as well. Thanks for taking the time to write all of that out! I should just print it off for this next year! 🙂
Angie R says
I just found your blog (like thousands of others, apparently!) from your marriage post that has gone viral. (Congrats on that; it was a well-written piece that I will share with my kids when they are of the right age to be pondering marriage.) But it is this post on homeschooling that particularly grabbed me. I have been homeschooling my four kids for 13 years. (My oldest is heading to college next year! Be still my heart!) After reading your post I just wanted to hug you and encourage you. You are doing great! It is a daunting journey that can sometimes feel like a losing battle. But it is so worth it. And it does get easier! When you are back from your retreat and the dust has setttled a little from your recent surge of blog traffic, I’d love to hear about how the rest of your homeschool year went, whether in a new blog post or a message. Thanks for sharing your heart. ❤️
meg wallace says
Hi Angie!!! Thank you for your encouragement! I could definitely have used that hug this past year with our homeschooling journey. I am planning as of now to continue on this next year, but with the circumstances involving our church closing and the uncertainty of where we may be living I am a bit unsettled in that decision. The end of the year did get better, but I still felt like the challenging of trying to manage it all was so difficult. We have switched charters, which as a huge part of the problem, and I already have far more support heading into this next year than I did during all of last year. I am back to square one, though, of picking out curriculum and trying to figure out how to set up the schedules on my own. There were just so many differing opinions of what everyone thought we should do it was so hard to filter through it all. But I’m hopeful for the changes of this next year…assuming I’ll get to do it again. Would welcome any/all wisdom or advice that you have! And thank you again for that virtual hug!!!