I sit here at the start of what is, for us, the fourth week of homeschooling this year. It has only been four weeks and I’m already feeling burnt out. Head aches, WAY too late nights, and a sense of complete overwhelm.
Our weeks looked like this (and this is only half of the day):
Tonight, Simon argues over Math again.
“Mom, I don’t want to do it.”
“Why, hun? What is it that bothers you?”
“Simon, you can tell me. Maybe we can figure a way to compromise.”
“I don’t like it. I already know it. I’ve been doing the same thing since the first lesson. It only repeats.”
He’s right. It is a bit repetitive. He’s smart. At least a year ahead in Math. This is a third grade program and he’s bored.
“I know, hun. But, Math is like that. You need to practice. It does introduce new concepts every lesson. It just gives a summary of what you’ve already learned.”
“But I already know right angles. I know it. And they keep asking me to identify them. It’s annoying.”
I chuckle. He’s right again. If he knows it, why should he have to do it over and over? It makes little sense. But it’s the way we’ve always done it- school, I mean. We do repetitive work. We have to. Don’t we?
I didn’t force him to do the math. I watched him wire together a complex circuit instead. The tiny lightbulb went on and he wiggled his eyebrows at me. I sighed and decided to figure the math situation out tomorrow. I often decide to figure things out tomorrow.
I’m not at all afraid to admit my short-comings and frustrations when it comes to our homeschooling journey. Home education is hard. Period. Those who do it are committed because we believe so fully in our reasons for homeschooling. (And there are a wide range of ‘reasons’.)
But just like being a teacher is a hard job, yet a teacher still believes in teaching, so it goes for the home educator. Just because it’s worth it, doesn’t make it easy.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been a little sensitive about our homeschooling journey. Or maybe it’s just my parenting in general. Pregnant at 20, completely unprepared. Married only a few months later – no time to dream about what it might be like one day to ‘have kids’. I already had mine. And I wasn’t a year out of college. Then, at 24, I announce we are planning to homeschool. I can’t begin to express the eye-rolls, the sighs, the opposition we have faced.
It was hard. Because the nay-sayers hadn’t seen our living room and the stacks of books about education, hi-lighted until they might as well be printed in neon pink. They hadn’t seen the hours of tears, the prayers, the long talks with people who actually knew what they were talking about. They didn’t see my heart. They didn’t know how strongly I felt about home education and that I had a million very educated reasons to back up my decision. I used to say, “I don’t care what people think”, but I was lying. I cared so much. I’d say I didn’t worry, but I did. All the time. I still do.
People ask me if I’m sure my kids are ‘doing enough’. Or if they’re going to be ‘socialized’. Or if they take tests. No they don’t take tests, no I don’t actually want to ‘socialize’ them with their peers, and as for the ‘doing enough’ – I think about this daily and work incredibly hard to ensure they indeed do enough. Enough of what? I’ve often wondered.
This year, I vowed to plan everything from scratch. Every day was pieced together on a blank teacher’s planner. I use upwards of 45 books every single week. It took me over ten hours to plan the first two weeks. Exhausting to say the least. And so, yes, I concern myself with doing ‘enough’, and I worry enough for every one in the room – so please (please) don’t allude to the idea that I’m just not doing enough with our kids. I’m probably actually doing too much.
I’ve realized something over the past few years but I keep needing to remind myself. Or maybe it’s God who whispers it. He really should be hitting me with one of those books or something, because I just don’t GET it. I’ve really got to stop caring about what people think, and start concerning myself more with what God thinks.
The question of homeschooling ‘enough’ lies in His hands. He sets the standard of enough and He should be the one leading our days.
But instead of finding peace and rest in Him, I worry. I plan. I stay up until 1am scribbling and printing sheets about Kenya, and organizing every craft and actvity under the sun. I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed. And I wonder why I chose to homeschool in the first place.
I need to intentionally remind myself – we homeschool because we feel called to. Because we feel it is the best option for our children to grow in their faith and in their love of family. Because God made them with a spirit of curiosity, a love of learning, and a mind with which to think for themselves – and we want to preserve those things with passion. Because we want to spend as much time with them as possible when they are young, because to us, that’s worth the investment. Oh, right, THAT’s why. (Breathe out.)
Why do I spend hours worrying about ‘doing enough’? What is truly enough, and what is truly important? Children we know by name die in far off places, and we worry about whether or not our kids take tests. Life is one big test. Will they pass where it matters? Because really, that’s all that counts. That’s all there is, when it’s all done.
So, we’re already scaling back. This week, I’ve pulled out all our Sonlight Core A (previously Core K) curriculum that has sat on a shelf for two years. It didn’t work when Simon was five (I was way too over-zealous to offer this level to a 3 and 5 year old), but it will work now. Everything is there, planned for me. I resisted this, but now, I’m understanding why it is such a blessing. Yes, I’ll add books and we will still do our cultural studies around the globe. We will add our math, language arts, science, art, and some Five in a Row. The prospect of using something preplanned all of a sudden doesn’t sound like giving up, it sounds like smartening up. This is award-winning, advanced Charlotte Mason-based curriculum. And beacuse I’ve felt the need to do it all myself, it has sat on our shelf. I surrender. I’m done being stubborn. I want to openly admit – I need help.
As for Simon’s Math, he has decided to accomplish the entire lesson on the computer program (we use Teaching Textbooks). As for the work book, we are compromising. I’m circling only a portion of the workbook questions for him to answer. The ones that are repeats, he skips. It doesn’t need to be an argument. He’s learning. That’s the point.
I’m learning too, on this journey. It’s ok to be overwhelmed. It’s ok to need help. It’s ok to accept that there are programs out there designed to make this journey fun instead of exhausting.
I’ve also realized how little I lay our homeschool at God’s feet. How little I rely on Him for strength and direction. Praise God that our kids don’t fit into a box any more than we do. Praise God we have options and resources, and grace for the every day.
Be encouraged, if you are on this journey with me – He sees you. Whether you homeschool or not, you worry for your children. We all do. We worry when we homeschool, we worry when they’re in school. God knows your struggles. He sees your heart. Plug into His heartbeat and embrace what He would have for your little ones. At the end of the day it isn’t curriculum, or special lessons, or report cards, or enrichment programs that matter – it is love. God’s love. Love for one another. Love for those we cannot even touch. And yes, your unconditional, always-there love that extends every day into the very soul of the precious children God gifted you with.
Rest in Him. He can restore. He can renew. He will refresh.
Be blessed, wherever your day finds you…