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What Is Not Working In Our Homeschooling: Me! 

Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet

voice at the end of the day saying “I’ll try again tomorrow.”

~ Mary Anne Radmacher 

What happens when “what’s not working” in your homeschooling journey is mom?  How are the troops to go on when their leader has fallen down on the job? That’s something that I have had to think about recently…and maybe you have too!

Nearly a week ago, a fellow homeschooler and blogger, Daniel Kirk (Goldilocks and the Three Bears), sent an email into several of my Yahoo! groups with a straight-up inquiry.  Quite simply, he was interested in hearing back from other homeschooling families about what has been and hasn’t been working in their homeschooling journeys so far this year. 

As I read over Daniel’s question, I’m sorry to say, I quickly dismissed it.  I thought to myself, “We’re in a groove.  We simply fine tune things about our homeschooling at this point.” And then I moved on to the next message in my endless, and always being added to, inbox of email.  

I’ve been homeschooling my kids some 11 years, and by now I have an idea of what works and what doesn’t for us.  It’s a rare thing for me to incorporate a new type of material or to remove one.  We have become, in relation to homeschooling, creatures of habit.

Yet, Daniel’s question continued to plague me.  And I couldn’t figure out why.

In my head I ran multiple scenarios and inwardly validated our curriculum.   “Let me think: our math is working; our science is working,” and I mentally continued through each subject.  On top of our regular hectic school schedule and exhausting nightly activities, my kids started dual enrollment this year, and as a far as I can tell (at least by how they talk about what is going on in their class), they are acclimating to the college environment.

As a new homeschooler, I can remember the uneasiness that I felt.  I longed for the feeling of comfort and confidence that a veteran homeschooling parent would often exhibit.   I was tired of worrying about “if we were homeschooling the ‘right’ way” and “if I was doing more harm than good to my kids by homeschooling them.”  I couldn’t wait for the moment to occur when I, too, would feel that our homeschooling was succeeding and we were moving in the ‘right’ direction.  I couldn’t wait to be comfortable with homeschooling.  There were many days that I would say to the kids, “Don’t worry, we’ll try again tomorrow” or, “Don’t worry, tomorrow will be a better day.”  If you’re a newbie homeschooler, you probably understand quite well what I’m talking about.  Some days, it simply came down to the courage and strength to keep going.  And if you’ve been homeschooling for a while, I imagine that you’re mentally noting it’s not a time you want to go through again! 

And it was at the end of my “from there to here” stroll down memory lane of our homeschooling journey that I immediately, and to my dismay, understood why Daniel’s question kept lingering in my mind.  Quite simply: “I” was the part of our homeschooling that was not working—not our curriculum.  Me.  I dropped the ball.  I became complacent this year.  And trust me; it’s a hard lump to swallow.  (And even though this was a hard thing for me take in and acknowledge, unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be easier to stomach than my son’s comment I would receive the next morning.)

While being a creature of habit is rather valuable—everyone knows what to expect and there are no surprises—it also has potential to breed complacency.  And I dare say that there is really nothing more tragic than when the complacency falls onto the shoulders of the educator in charge—regardless of what educational setting it involves: public, private or homeschooled. 

And while complacency can happen in many forms and for many reasons, I quickly realized the reason for mine.  In the past, I had been diligent about overseeing our school studies.  And while we have always had an inclination to go a little slower and take all year to finish each grade level—simply because I had a tendency to add more and more to our daily homeschooling plate than it could (or probably should) hold—everything was always finished.

But this school year, I branched out in too many directions at once.  Our homeschooling, which had always been a priority for me, became second to a job that I started at the beginning of our school year. And my kids felt that shift.   Gone was the focus of our primary educational goal, but rather the pressured deadlines for my writing assignments took priority.  I was no longer standing over my kids’ shoulders reminding and redirecting them about the tasks at hand…something that I knew they required—especially my oldest son who needs constant redirecting.  It was easy for me to place the burden of completion on them—as I did, after all, provide them with written daily schedules of what I had expected for them complete; and just as easy to express my frustration at their incomplete work day after day.  But in truth, I completely put a burden on them that they had not experienced previously; and I essentially set them up to fail.   

And now, looking over where we are for the school year (and where we really should be—or would normally be), I have noticed that I have allowed for my kids to do several things.  First, I have allowed for them to become lazy with their (school) work ethics—to keep putting off to tomorrow what needed to be done today (thus staying way behind our schedule of assignments).  I accepted work that was far below their capability, and then provided my kids with a false sense of accomplishment (too many “good jobs” when it wasn’t a good job, nor was it a good effort)—simply out of guilt, I imagine.  I had grown tired of hearing, “Well, we didn’t know what to do and you were too busy to help,”—usually in relation to math or, “I asked for some help because I didn’t understand, but you got busy with your job and forgot about it.”  And while it may seem (because I do not want to inundate you with our discussions) that my kids are not accepting any responsibility for their education, I assure you that is not case.  The point that I am making (or at least trying to) is that my value and priority of their education was, sadly, a mirrored behavior of their priority with it.  When I am leading them in their education, my kids are very willing participants.  And when my job ended by New Year’s Day, instead of regrouping, I continued to push for my kids to try to figure it all out on their own while I tried to search for more employment.  In retrospect, I can only imagine the chaos and abandonment that they must have felt. 

And then just how they felt had the opportunity to come to full light on our way home from the gym this morning.  I was discussing with my kids how we were going to get back on track with our homeschooling, and my oldest son piped up with, “I hate homeschooling.”  I wanted to cry.  How could I have let things get this far out of whack with our homeschooling?  And more importantly is it too far gone to repair?

Needless to say, today’s school day was out all out of sorts.  Our rhythm was off and my kids were not excited about trying to get back into the groove of things.  I longed for the feeling of comfort and confidence that I previously had felt.  And then it happened.  I said it.  “Don’t worry, tomorrow will be a better day.”  One simple phrase and I knew at that moment that we were going get there; we would get back on track.  Like our homeschool days in the beginning, it is going to take us a little time; but we will continue to work at it one day at a time. 

–Rebecca Miller

The Sandwiched Homeschooler

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