The Younger Years
It's easy to get tossed in the sea of homeschooling when all your children fall in the "youngers" category. When you've got babies and toddlers, 6 year olds that fight you tooth and nail. These years aren't easy. Sleep deprivation. Battles of wills. Continuous interruptions. It's a wonder your children are learning anything at all! But they are. That's the miraculous part: they ARE learning. I remember hating homeschooling every day when my oldest daughter was in the early elementary stages. She had the strong will of a mule and she hated academics with a passion! All she wanted to do was watch TV or play Barbie dolls. This wasn't matching my homeschool vision in the slightest. In fact, this whole hating academics thing lasted the entire elementary epoch and became worse at the beginning of the middle school years.
Somewhere in the Middle Years
Hormones start up, tempers flare, arguments rage...welcome to the Middle Years! It's easy to hate homeschooling when sometimes you teach a brain dead adolescent and other times you're fighting a tiger. I remember countless math lessons when I showed a concept, and my daughter turned and looked at me blankly, as though just waking up from a dream, and said, "whaaat?" Other lessons ended abruptly in tears, with a preteen marching to her room and closing the door.
Curriculum Burn Out Years
Eventually, if you've tried using enough books, a new era dawns...enter, Curriculum Burn Out. You realize that curriculum is NOT the magic bullet, there is no curriculum written by anyone living or dead that can save your homeschool. In some ways, this is a really neat place to be. You are FREE! However, you don't feel "free", you feel tired out from trying it all, and sort of depressed, because that one hope that something out there existed that would make everything right doesn't actually exist. There is no holy grail of homeschool books. Defeated, you hang your head and go home.
High School / After Grad, and More Following Years
I haven't lived this one yet, but it's coming. This is when one or two kids have graduated and they actually turned out OK, despite all the pitfalls and mistakes that were made. Now, there is another child or two coming up the ranks, but there are quite a few years left with this one. I think this stage is just a collective sigh of Tired, Burned Out, and Bored. Sometimes a big curriculum overhaul, or using an outside source, or a whole spanking new program or homeschool educational philosophy can breathe new life into those remaining years, and last child. Sometimes, it is just a matter of putting blinders on, and plodding on, one foot in front of the other.
- Hold your own homeschool mini convention. Gather some books you'd like to read about education, grab a cup of coffee, put a movie on for the kids, and have a reading session. Or, get some audios of great homeschool/educational speakers and have a listen. Wear earbuds and tune out your children for awhile. They'll still be there, tugging at your shirt when you get back. Some of the books and audios I listened to two years ago, when I was hating homeschooling, have been foundational in where we are now. I didn't realize it at the time, but that little mini conference I held for myself two years ago was the first big thing I did to help me pull out of the mire.
- Write stuff down. Why are you homeschooling? Do you need to change your reasons? Maybe you're homeschooling for academic reasons, but that doesn't seem to be panning out (right now, anyway). Are there other, secondary reasons that can take center stage for awhile? Focus on that. My secondary reason is that I don't want my children learning in an atmosphere of hate, bullying, and the rollercoaster intensity that is the public school system.
- Focus on some of your own goals, for a change. One year, I let academics slide a bit and focused on my own weight loss. As a result, we did a lot more outdoors, and participated in a lot of physical activities together as a family. We picked up biking, hiking, and rollerskating. I had more energy and felt better. This will naturally carry over into all aspects of life, including homeschooling.
- Wait for the right timing, academically. I have one child that I must wait on. She seems like she should be ready. She's the right age, but for whatever reason, she just isn't there yet. So I wait. And wait. Eventually, she arrives at the right moment and performs beautifully academically. I think my mantra is: If I'd just waited and not worried so much, we'd have had a better time.
- Focus on your relationships with your children. As a Christian, I'm amazed at how Jesus used relationships to teach others. He was always modeling for his disciples, and always talking to them and relating to them. He didn't whip them, or make them bend over a desk for long hours:) Socrates taught through walking with his students and conversing with them, and asking a lot of questions. Great teachers have used these tools throughout history.
- Find joy in little things. Enjoy the moment, whatever that is - even if you have to force yourself to! Find joy and purpose in that toilet-time interruption with your 3 year old. Enjoy that conversation you're having with your 6 year old. Enjoy cuddles and picture books and movies and board games. Enjoy the jar of spaghetti sauce that your 4 year old dropped on the floor, shattering the glass and leaving a dangerous mess. Don't yell, yet. Get everyone out of the room (for safety reasons) and then snap some photos. Start a blog and post these photos. Other moms will smile at your disaster, because they're living it, too. So enjoy that season and find a reason to laugh in it. (Confession: I remember a time when I was sleep deprived with a screamy baby and my brother in law said "enjoy this", and "laugh with this" to me. I thought he was insane. I thought there wasn't any reason on earth I could enjoy this. Just thought you'd like to know that - I've been there, done that.)
- Store this up and use it later on to bless someone else. This goes along with "finding joy". Store these experiences up and use them to bless someone else going down that road. I've used countless bad experiences to help other people. It's made me stronger as a person, and more loveable and relatable to others. I am able to comfort people in their miseries, or give them advice that changes their lives. How truly awesome it is to see something I've suffered make a difference in someone else's life, later on!