When writing about homeschooling, I’m often trying to tell about a specific project, or convey the idea that “homeschooling” only occasionally takes place at home, or explain that “homeschool” is different from “school at home.” When talking about all that, I’ll skim over a music lesson that went well, or a field trip we especially enjoyed, or a really unusual project that we all learned from. There is a lot of that kind of stuff.
For example, yesterday Sweet Hippie Daughter made a very cool “mini book” about the differences between the arctic and antarctic as part of a Unit Study on Mr. Popper’s Penguins. She was interested and doing her best work. I was interested and happy to help. Chubby Hippie Baby was being kept busy by Handsome Hippie Hubby and all was well. Morning school work (including the rare and prized math session that was quickly, happily and correctly done) was followed by a yummy, healthy lunch. Then we set off to run a few errands. SHD had her theater class and archery lesson in the evening and we had the added blessing of getting to visit with some good friends while she shot.
Isn’t that a lovely day?
Doesn’t it just make you long to pull your child out of school so you, too, can experience lovely, wonder-filled days of learning with your precious little progeny?
But what I haven’t written much about are the bad days.
If you are considering homeschooling, be warned. The bad days come.
If you are already homeschooling, take comfort. You are not the only one that has bad days.
Yesterday was a very nice Monday. Last Monday I was wondering if there were nearby Gypsies who would be interested in buying my naughty child.
Every single minute of the day was a fight. The girl did not want to get up. She stomped down the steps and threw herself on the sofa.
“We have to be at the church by 9 am,” I told her (she comes with me to my church secretary job and does her school work there so her baby brother doesn’t distract her so much).
“I don’t want to go! Why do I always have to go out so early in the morning?” She whined.
“It’s not early, honey. If you were still in public school you would have been at the bus stop 2 hours ago,” I reasoned.
But there was no reasoning with her.
At 8:30 I told her, “You have 25 minutes to eat something and get dressed.”
At 8:45 she was still slumped on the couch, scowling in my general direction.
At 8:55 she was slamming cabinet doors and crying because I was “making her rush.” Reminding her that, if she had started getting ready 20 minutes earlier she wouldn’t be rushing did not help at all.
At 9:05 we were at the church and she was laying on my office floor, crying, because she was going to starve TO DEATH and her mama didn’t even care that she was DYING.
She found a package of graham crackers I keep for just such an emergency and started in on her work.
At 11:00 she was ALMOST done with her first single math sheet for the day. Note here that she COULD have done it in 10-15 minutes if she’d been trying, even a little.
Everything degenerated after that. She spent a LOT of time in time out that day. She lost several privileges. She was angry. I was angry. Handsome Hippie Hubby was stressed by our anger.
By the time the public school bus came to drop off the neighborhood children I was feeling jealous of all the moms who had a quiet, productive day while their children were out of the house.
It is moments like this that The List of 100 Reasons comes in handy. I can actually take it out and read it and remind myself WHY we are traveling this path.
Tuesday was better. There was learning and lots of hugs and even a sledding trip as a reward for a very well-done band lesson. In the calm, reasonable light of a new day I remembered speaking with a friend who homeschooled her children all the way through high school. She said, “bad days happen. Sometimes you fight with your kids. But, really, doesn’t that happen sometimes in all families?”
It’s true. When SHD was in public school we still had days where things were just “off.” Nothing seemed to go right. Everything was a fight.
The difference was that, unless it was a weekend, we weren’t together ALL day.
When you are with a person… ANY person… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week there will be rough moments. Ideas clash. Personalities sometimes conflict. Boundaries are tested. I’m sure that there have been times when one of our “bad days” was caused more by my grouchiness than hers.
First of all: Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. If the very thought makes you shudder, then explore other options. Know what is best for YOUR family.
Second: Know when to cut your losses. If you are fighting with your child, no one is learning anything. There will be time to do the worksheet later. Even public school teachers will send a child to the hall or separate them from the group at times so they can have time to emotionally re-group.
Third: Realize that kids are people too. You have bad days, lazy days, productive days, exciting days. You manage one task with joy and slog through another and put a third off for another day. Don’t expect your child to be any different.
Fourth: Remember that homeschool is all about learning through life, as you live it. Part of being a successful person is learning how to manage “bad” days and re-shift your focus. That is a great and immensely important lesson, all by itself.
Fifth: Don’t be afraid to bribe. Yes, I do understand that sometimes a task needs to be done simply because it needs to be done. But, sometimes you need to sweeten the deal. I even bribe myself sometimes. “If I get the kitchen clean, I’ll sit down and watch that show I recorded.” I have no problem telling my child, “if you get your work done (and do it well) in a reasonable amount of time we can take a walk to the park.”
Finally, keep perspective. For our family, there are some really miserable days. But there are many many many more that are a joy from start to finish. We have had so many opportunities to enjoy life together, as a family, than we did before we began homeschooling. We have seen our girl flourish and grow and that, more than anything else, tells us that this is, indeed, the right path for us.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!