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?
K Dec 29, 2012
I can relate to this so much!!! Much needed reminder and advice - so THANK YOU!!! My husband lost his job last Jan and this past year has turned us upside down - it's also now a sales and commission job which is new to us. Add to it he works in another state and is only home on weekends if that. There are days of tears and days of blessings in seeing GOD provide. Praise His Name!!!
Praying for you!!!
Shelly Smith Dec 29, 2012
Looking forward to hearing about the incentive that has helped with your child who struggles with laziness. My oldest son is inclined to be lazy also, though I must confess he gets this trait from his mom! :(
I struggle with being self-disciplined, and we do not have a highly structured school-day, which can occasionally lead to personal anxiety and doubts! However, I trust that we ARE learning every day, and I truly want to give my boys a desire to learn, so that they will grow to be life-long learners! I also desire that they follow Christ with every step they take, and that we are discipling our boys in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord.
Katie Dec 29, 2012
Thank you for keeping it real. I found this post very relatable and encouraging. It's always nice to know I'm not alone in my thoughts and experiences when it comes to homeschooling.
Chelsey Freeman Jan 7, 2013
I can't tell you just how much this post means to me. I am in the first stage of homeschooling my 5 year old and with 2 other kids under 3 years old, it is a challenge. On top of that, I have little to no support from family and friends who don't agree with homeschooling. It can get kind of frustrating at times. Sometime I feel like I am all alone.
For some reason I have put it in my head that in order to be a good mom and wife I must be that 50's housewife. You know the one who gets dressed every morning, all dolled up and makes all the food from scratch and the house is stunning when the hubby gets home. On top of it, schools her kids and keeps her amazing figure (which I do not have at the moment, lol!) The thing is, with the world today, being a 50's housewife is kind of hard. In fact, it is often looked down upon. I don't know but I am trying my best and that is all the matters I guess...
Thank you so much for opening my eyes to see that I am not the only person in the world who has those crazy, non-stop, out of this world days... It is worth it to spend some much time with my family so I need to remember the little things more.
Sarah Jan 7, 2013
Thank you so much for your comment! It definitely takes time to get into a groove with homeschooling. It also takes time to figure out your priorities as a family and get a system going that works well, so hang in there and don't lose heart! At this stage of my life, I am often in pajamas all morning and finally get showered and dressed before our lunch break. I could get up before 7:00 to be able to shower before the baby wakes up, but at this point in my life, sleep is a higher priority than looking nice! Ha! At age 5, if you can fit in an hour or maybe two of school work each day, your child will be in great shape! And even if the work has to be in 15 minute segments, that's okay too. My oldest son had his first grade year severely interrupted by our third son who had terrible reflux. It wasn't the greatest year, but he did a lot of reading on his own and learned from that. Homeschooling is tough, but God's grace is sufficient!
Judy Jan 8, 2013
Thank you so much for this much needed information. I am very new at this, only 2 weeks into homeschooling my 10 year old son who has ADHD. I have already had some of these same thoughts. It is so nice to know I just might normal.
Deborah Jan 9, 2013
We have just started homeschooling and that coincided with moving countries, me being on maternity leave, my husband looking for work and having a new baby. I agree with Sarahdees, that a small amount of "school work" is adequate because your children are learning all the time, whether they be reading, dancing, talking a walk with you, listening to music. They are just absorbing and taking in everything they experience and making sense of the world to them.
For those of us who went through the traditional schooling system, we think unless our children are sitting and the desk being productive in a school sense then they are not learning, but as a mum of 5 kids I realise this is not true. I have a friend who is a primary school teacher... she is an EXCELLENT teacher, but she states that the morning is the only time she does any real teaching and calls the afternoons a write-off as kids are tired, grumpy, etc.
And your child that struggles with 'laziness' is that actually the problem or is it boredom with a particular approach/learning style?
Elle Jan 11, 2013
Wow. I put off reading this when it came through our homeschool co-op email and just finished reading it now. I thought this school year I really had a handle on our school...but then my husband retired from the Air Force last June and the new job he (thankfully) has has him working nights mostly. Combine that with my second child's crazy therapy schedule (he has Down Syndrome so we're delaying his school for now) made me repeatedly 'mess up' the schedule I had set for my 2nd grader.
You're so right, though, about my relationship with God and my family being more important than doing more school than the 3 R's. A cranky mother only teaches her children to be cranky when things don't go their way. I'd been realizing (and forgetting and realizing again) that I'm not in control of my (or my husband's or son's) schedule. God is. And he has greater things in mind for me than I know.
I think the biggest thing that helps is remembering that I can't change myself. I try to continually give my schedule over to God and ask him to change my attitude. Another thing that helps is consulting other homeschoolers who've done this longer than I have.
Marilyn Jan 11, 2013
Interruptions are part of life, especially when your children are young. Now that I am down to one high school student, it should be easier, but it isn't always. However, the four that have graduated are doing fine, so I stress less these days! Knowing your priorities is so important!
Erin Jan 14, 2013
I just had to say thank you! I'm a first-year-homeschooling mom, and we've really hit a rough patch--I've been feeling all morning like I just can't do this anymore--it'd be so much easier if I just sent my kids back to public school! In desperation, I was searching online for some perspective and came across your blog and this post, and I was in tears while reading--thank you, it's exactly what I needed to hear this morning! I forget what a resource I would have in God, if I would just remember to pray to him over the little things in life, too. Thanks for being so honest about the challenges we face homeschooling, because honestly, sometimes it feels like everyone else who does this has a great handle on it, and I'm the only one struggling!
Liz Jan 15, 2013
I am so glad I saw this....I really needed the reminder to talk to God before I sit and hash it out with myself or anyone else.
This is my first year homeschooling, my older two are in public school (8th grade and 5th grade)but I decided to homeschool my youngest for Kinder. He had an amazing pre school teacher for almost 3 years and he basically did Kinder his last year there. I didn't want him doing "busy work" all day.
Somedays it's tough to get school started. Especially when my husband is on nights, like right now. I'm not getting any sleep at night (because I'm a big scaredy cat) and then I get up to get the big kids ready and to school super early.
I know that he will be fine next year and that he is actually ahead of most Kindergarteners with some of his skills but I still feel the need to have this hugfe sit down school time....from 9-12. It's not that long but somedays it feels like it. Thinking outside of the box school wise is tough...I need to try harder to let go of the traditional way of schooling a bit. It will be easier on all of us.
Michelle Jan 15, 2013
Thanks so much, Sarah! This was really encouraging! I have been working on a "schedule", but think both the kids and I will like a checklist better! This was a very timely post in many ways!
Katrina Zuck Jul 28, 2013
Thank you so much for writing this. We are starting a first year of homeschooling this year. I'm very excited, nervous, and overwhelmed at the same time. I have 3 boys. 11yr old, 9yr old, and a 4yr old. I was worrying about schedules, getting everything school and daily home things done. Also about my 4yr old interrupting. I have to say that this has made me feel so much less anxiety. I feel like ok we can do it. I love your blog and your facebook page. I just recently found it, and I'm so glad that I did. Again thank you so much.
Zara Sep 24, 2013
Thank you so much for this honest post. With a baby and a three year old, I needed it! So much truth: bathtimes put me over the edge, too! Thank you for saying what every mom needs to hear :).
Teresa Oct 9, 2014
Wow, you just read my mail. Amazing and timely encouragement--thank you for being so straightforward, practical and real. I needed to be reminded of what truly matters--and you did that perfectly!
Erin Dec 3, 2014
My family and I have had one crazy summer! My husband also lost his job in spring, it was an opportunity to have him home. My children and I loved it. God certainly heard our prayers of needing more family time. Soon after he got a new job, and it was a commission position as well. To help with finances we decided to sell our rental property and our current home to put away the money and not have so much debt. Well, it was going ok l
had lots of traffic, got both homes sold, and found a new house all within four months. We began enrichment classes, basketball all while waiting for our new house to be complete. And moved in with family. Let me say it was with family who doesn't understand educating children at home. So that was a difficult month. We finally got our keys and whew I thought it was all good. Noooo, it was just the beginning. I started feeling some sort of guilt for the move. Now we weren't settled and lesson planning was just not happening. 1 week after moving I started feeling like my kids need to go back to public school. I felt overwhelmed and not at home. My husband was working long hours so he couldn't really help. So much tension and being cranky was the new me. It was so sad my babies were always asking mommy what's wrong? Why are you mad? Sad part was I didn't know. And still don't. But what I. Did learn was as long as our family was together no matter where was most important. We were stronger than before and more in love then ever. But it took me surrendering it all to HIM. Prayer, devotion. Not in one day was it turned around but day by day I was strengthened by His word. I was reminded i can All things through Christ that strengthens me. I never knew how much I was trying to control our lives until there was a change in my life.
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