The start of a new semester is a great time to step back and assess how things are going with homeschooling. We’re in the midst of some challenges right now, and the Christmas break has provided a good opportunity to re-group.
A Difficult Season
Our lives were uprooted this fall when my husband found out in late October that he might lose his job. He did in fact lose his job – on the Friday before Thanksgiving. By that time, he had already accepted another job in the same field, but because of the structure of his job (sales with a base plus commission pay plan), he isn’t earning enough to cover our bills for the first two months. We decided that the wisest course of action would be for him to take a second job so that there would hopefully be less damage done to our savings account. In God’s providence, a friend from church was able to hire him to work part time, but this means that Jordan is gone from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. two days a week, and he works every Saturday. And even with the extra hours, he’s still not earning as much as he did at his old job, and money is tight.
Adjusting to our new schedule has been tough for everyone. Managing our homeschool day was a challenge even before the added job stress. It feels like a four ring circus most days! Then when evening hits and Jordan is still at work, the dishes and the mountain of clean laundry needing folding and the toy mess and the children needing baths put me over the edge.
The past couple weeks I have been asking God to help me understand how to still speak kindly to my children in the midst of dealing with their constant needs.
Here are a few things I am learning:
We are all completely inadequate to be good moms and must rely daily on God’s strength.
A few weeks ago, our pastor was teaching in the book of Mark about Peter denying that he knew Jesus during Jesus’ arrest and questioning. Our pastor pointed out that one evidence of Peter’s self-reliance was his lack of prayer in the garden. A lack of prayer shows that we are operating in our own strength. I was immediately convicted of my own lack of prayer in regard to the day-to-day challenges of homeschooling. I need to pray first before the day starts, before complaining to my husband about a particular challenge, and before researching a possible solution to a problem with the kids.
God’s grace is sufficient for every challenge that we face. God not only accomplished salvation through Christ for us, but He also gives us the strength and the ability to honor Him! (I Peter 4:11, Ephesians 6:10-11)
Learn to let go of what’s not important to embrace what truly is.
I have been realizing that I must have a clear vision of what my priorities should be during this difficult season.
My success as a parent is not measured by how clean my house is. If my children have to look for clean pants in the dryer or in a heaping basket of unfolded clothes, it is not a big deal, especially during difficult seasons of life. If I don’t have time to try new and interesting recipes that I find on Pinterest, it is not a big deal. My relationship with God and with my husband and children is a big deal. On one of my most discouraging homeschooling days recently, I ran into a mom of some former music students in the parking lot at Target. I told her that we had had one of those mornings where I thought about telling the kids to look for their backpacks because I was enrolling them in public school! This friend has seven kids, 4 of whom are grown and 3 who are in high school. She responded that everyone has days like that! In fact, I should expect to have those thoughts at least once a month. However, she said that homeschooling is totally worth it for the relationship that she has with her kids. She said that she is not the most disciplined person and struggles with getting everything done, but that is a sacrifice that she is willing to make for the relationship. If kids stay on track with math, reading, and writing, and learn to love learning, they will have no problems with mastering large amounts of content when it is required of them (high school and college). In the elementary years, the rest is just enrichment, really.
Homeschooling interruptions are not necessarily a problem.
I struggle with constantly feeling guilty for the number of interruptions my children deal with when it comes to homeschooling. And now that Dad is gone more, he is not available to help Aidan with math in the evenings. Here are the conclusions I have come to. Consider what the interruptions are. Are they sick kids, younger siblings, appointments, and household tasks? Those aren’t interruptions! Those are life. Don’t stress if your homeschooling is interrupted by life. Homeschooling is a way of life. There are so many things that your children are learning through day to day life. How to work together. How to serve others. How to be flexible. How to trust God in all circumstances. These are valuable opportunities for learning – don’t resent them!
Remember the friend I ran into in the Target parking lot? While I was talking to her, the boys did cartwheels in the parking lot (no lie) and then ran laps around the van. I asked them to get in the van, and so one of them (the oldest!!) got in the driver’s seat and goofed up the steering wheel. This was extremely aggravating to me because it was keeping me from my to-do list – picking up groceries at Target. However, looking back, I realize that the groceries were not the most important thing. My children’s relationship with God is the most important! Character development is a big part of why we are homeschooling. Their foolish behavior was not an interruption – it was an opportunity to teach them about their relationship with God and their need for Jesus.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s not a good idea to to minimize the interruptions where it’s feasible to do so. I am currently working with Owen (age 3) on not talking while I’m reading out loud and not bringing his brothers toys during school, etc. However, if I have in mind an unrealistic picture of what homeschooling should look like, I’m constantly tense and cranky with our homeschooling. This doesn’t do anyone any good!
A good schedule is not a requirement for successful homeschooling.
We don’t do a schedule at all. Instead, we have a checklist for each day. We usually go in the same order, but sometimes I switch things up so that different subjects get our “prime” learning time. I keep thinking that I need to transition to a more clearly defined schedule with time slots and everything, but I have recently concluded that things are fine the way they are! It’s almost impossible to stick to a schedule when we’re working around a baby and a 3 year old. Schedules making school seem more “official” because it’s the way schools do things. But think about what happens at school. Three minutes before the bell rings, the students are closing their books and packing up, even if really good learning was taking place! It’s great to have the freedom to not let the clock dictate learning. Also, using a checklist gives the boys a good visual of what is going to happen that day and how much work they have left. And if I’m doing spelling with Aidan at 5:30 while I fix dinner because that’s when we could fit it in that day, it’s not a big deal!
Goals for Homeschooling
I recently sat down and made goals for the spring semester for each of my children that I am hoping will help to focus my homeschooling efforts of what is most important. I will be sharing more about goals in a future post! I will also be sharing an incentive that has been helping one of my children (who struggles with laziness) step up his efforts in some problem subjects.
For those of you who are homeschoolers, what has helped you survive during difficult seasons?