Here’s the deal, public school expectations are the killer of homeschool joy. They take all your ideas and passion and creativity and peace and freedom and put it into a little box that is much too tight and full of things like negativity, comparison, insecurity, and pressure. No one likes that box, it is not a fun box. All that pressure and insecurity and panic that you feel about your children’s education, “ARE YOU DOING ENOUGH!??!?!” is passed on to your children, which means THEY are put in the little box. And instead of creating a fun environment that is different than public school (kind of the point) we mimic school and in the process, there is a breakdown in relationship and peace in our homes. So NOW my friends, not only are WE unhappy, our CHILDREN are unhappy, and our relationship is SUFFERING. THIS is the number 1 reason why I see people quit. Because in THAT environment, homeschooling becomes not healthy. It becomes something no one will remember fondly. Those are the moms that tell me, “I tried, but I am just not cut out for homeschooling.” But you are wrong, dead wrong. You are just not cut out for playing school.
How it all started…
A little backstory… I was homeschooled all the way to high school. I was homeschooled in a more traditional manner as I got older and then I went to public school for grade 10-12. When I started homeschooling my children, I bought them each a little desk, I had workboxes full of workbooks and little readers. I even packed them lunches! I wrote out a schedule of classes, I had a teacher’s desk, I had a lesson planner and a red pen to mark their work. I bought little reward stickers and spent hours on Pinterest coming up with fun classroom ideas. The only thing missing was the apple you guys, I was playing school and it was the best thing ever. I had wanted to be a teacher when I grew up, that was my dream job, and now I had my own little classroom without the loads of debt, it was a win-win! I was happy that first day, that first week my enthusiasm and determination set the tone and it went okay, the kids naturally picked up on that. As time went on, it deteriorated fast.
Within a matter of months, we were doing no school. Because every time I tried I ended up yelling, the kids were crying, it was a recipe for disaster and I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I was at my whits end. I kept trying, because I was determined, we tried different schedules and routines, we tried getting up earlier, we tried separating the kids. The next step was changing curriculum, we would stop books in the middle of the year and just give them away or recycle them and try something totally new. We wasted money (sorry honey) and time. And I watched my sweet children, who had started off the year SO excited to be starting home school with mommy… say they hated school, whine about why they had to do it. I was discouraged, deflated, and I felt guilty, like a total failure.
How I found the freedom to let go of public school expectations
The day came, my friends, that I broke. I stopped trying, we took about 8 months off, we just enjoyed life together. I researched and read and waited, and a seed started to germinate. The breaking point in our home wasn’t the curriculum (though that didn’t help) it wasn’t the schedule or my children’s bad attitudes… it was me. It was my own unrealistic expectations clashing with my heart. My HEART wanted my children to LOVE learning, my HEART wanted this to be more about the experience than results. My HEAD couldn’t stop worrying about my kids not keeping up with their peers, not doing enough, not learning enough. So I clashed, I was unhappy no matter what I did. The time had come to let go.
The first thing that made the difference for me was a writing program called, Brave Writer. I started reading the manual that is written for parents and I just cried and highlighted. I started listening to the author on Periscope and FB live (Julie Bogart) and for the first time, I had someone who I admired and respected giving me permission to let go. I don’t know WHY I needed permission, but I did. I needed to hear from someone who had been there, who had homeschooled her children SUCCESSFULLY and could tell me that it was okay to let go, that the kids would be fine, and we would be better for it. When she told me that (well, not me directly, but in my head it was totally a one-on-one conversation) all my self-made walls of that tight little box that made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, started to come down. I began to find peace, rest, and freedom.
Practical tips to let go
One of the comments that I get a lot is HOW to do this. How to let go. I don’t have any easy answers for you, because that is something that actually comes from within. But I can tell you some things that help.
1. Be picky about curriculum.
When you are type A, intense, and someone who likes to perform, to complete a list… you REALLY need to stay away from any curriculum that is like that. Find the curriculum that you would NEVER pick up, ones that are flowy and free and relaxed and more about the idea than the result. It is painful you guys, SO SO hard… but it will help draw you out of your own head and you can tweak it to suit your family in a way you can’t with a check-it-off curriculum.
2. Find a mentor.
Find someone who is the complete opposite of you. For example if you are a traditional homeschooler, find an unschooler. Learn about their method, talk things out with them, understand their viewpoint. I am not saying you should become an unschooler, but the beauty of this is that no homeschool style fits perfectly, you can pick and choose what works for you and it will help you see a different perspective. Keep an open mind about it. (If you don’t know your homeschool style, take the quiz here)
3. Write a mission statement.
This is SO important you guys. This is your heart for homeschooling, not your head. You need to write that out, identify it for yourself. What is your goal? Is it to have a child with a perfect GPA who get’s into a good school and becomes a doctor? Is it to teach them about the world, empathy, and culture? Is it to make learning fun and give them the tools so that they can do it themselves? Is it to find your child’s passions and interests and focus on those? A mission statement is key for those rough days, to remind you why you are doing this.
4. Take some time for yourself each day.
When you are teaching in a way that is not your strength, not your natural, you have to get into that mindset, and that is something you need to do EACH DAY. You need to take a few minutes before school starts to take a deep breath, lay out what your going to do, remind yourself of your homeschool mission statement.
5. READ READ READ.
Read some books that will help you expand your point of view, that will align with what you want. Some of my favorite ones are Teaching from Rest, The Writer’s Jungle, and Give your Child the World. Find some books that align with your vision and read them, winter break is a GREAT opportunity to do that. Even if it isn’t “break time” take a break! I give you official permission to take a break to read, to inspire yourself, to nourish your soul with words of life and hope and joy. It WILL help. Bookmark sections, write quotes in a quote notebook that speak to you.
6. Choose a routine over a schedule.
Schedules suck for people like us, because if we can’t maintain them, we are unhappy. And frankly, schedules with little kids are going to get messed up. Stuff will come up, there will be distractions and some things will take longer. A routine on the other hand is a series of events with no time attached, give yourself some flexibility to move through your routine gently, naturally, without the pressure of a time frame.
Find your homeschool joy again
Here’s the hard truth… when we want our children to perform well, to be on the same level as their peers, it is often because of PRIDE. Take a minute to let that sink in, think hard about your motives. Maybe, just maybe it isn’t true for you, but it was for me. You see, I wanted my kids to be smart so that I looked good. I homeschool them, if they don’t know something public school kids do, then I am failing, right? I cared what other people thought of me, of us, of homeschooling. I had to let go of that. I had to say, “screw what other people think, this is what WE do.” Once I identified that the root of my unhappiness was pride, everything started to change.
I hope that these tips are practical enough that you can finally do something to help lay down these expectations, these killers of homeschool. I hope that you can find joy and hope and FUN in your homeschool again-doing what you do, the way YOU do it!
From my chaos to yours…