“God bless you, honey. I would never have the patience to homeschool.”
“You must be really special to homeschool. I could never keep my cool.”
Most of you mean well. I know you do.
But you have it all wrong.
You envision us as Susie homemakers, the picture of composure and tidiness. We direct the children in their orderly studies, and they work independently with not a peep. They do their schoolwork in a timely fashion, housework without complaint, and tend to the chickens and cows after lunch. We never lose our tempers and we work with a smile.
In reality, some of us do some of these things. Some of us do not. And some of us are wild hot messes just hanging on for dear life.
Just for background, if you’re new here, I went to school to be a music teacher. I got my state certification, and I went on to get my masters in education.
Would you like to know how our first year of official homeschooling went?
It was not nice.
Our first year of homeschool wasn’t pretty.
I had just had my third baby in August, I was recovering from prenatal depression, I had gone back to work part time, and I was nursing and exhausted. Not only that, but my middle child was also hospitalized for a life-threatening bout of croup in the second month of school.
On top of all the life stress, I still managed to keep ridiculously high expectations for how my eldest would behave and perform in “school.”
“Look at me when I’m explaining this to you.”
“You need to sit up straight and sit still. Stop wandering around.”
“Oh my gosh! It’s only four math problems! FOUR math problems! What is so hard about that?”
“Why are you crying? Nobody needs to be crying about this.”
You see, I was trained. I knew how to teach- I thought- but for some reason my kid wasn’t diving into the schooling experience with a smile and a song. There were frequent fights over schoolwork. There were often tears, shouting, hiding in the other room- from both my child and me.
We were clashing every day. Every. single. day.
It was awful. I expected that teaching one child would be simple. Straight forward.
But it was anything but simple.
I didn’t have a whole lot of patience.
As it turns out, when you’re responsible for caring for your child, and for his education, and your breaks are very few and far between.. well, things start to build up.
You worry about everything- their academics, their behavior, their diet, their character. You try so hard to do things right, and break down when reality doesn’t match your idealistic standards. Your tolerance level for every-day annoyances are very low, and you lose it on your kid when they’re just being- well- a kid.
I put so much pressure on myself to run a successful homeschool that I cracked easily on a bad day– heck, at a bad moment. I had little patience with my kids, and even less patience with myself.
I was overwhelmed and burnt out. I cried often. I was angry that I didn’t have the long-suffering I thought I should. I wondered what the heck I was doing wrong- and why in the world I was still trying to do it.
(Side note- it probably would have helped to pay a little more attention to my own mental health and exhaustion levels that first year. A little healthy self-care can go a long way.)
Do you still think I have the patience to homeschool?
No. No, I don’t.
I certainly have much more patience than that first year, though I don’t think I’ll ever master it completely. Yet, every single day, I learn more of it. That’s part of being a parent, and it’s part of homeschooling.
The patience to homeschool comes gradually.
Homeschooling parents are normal parents. We don’t have extra special bounds of grace. We aren’t especially calm people. And we don’t get into homeschooling because we pride ourselves on how patient we are.
When we start homeschooling, most of us don’t realize just how hard it’s going to be.
We don’t realize that we are going to have to grow so much.
We don’t realize that we’ll have to be as patient with our own growth as much as with our children’s.
The process of working to overcome our tempers, to work with children in multiple grades, to juggle our lives as moms and professionals, and yes- to be more patient- is slow and unending.
It’s not easy. It’s never been easy.
When you start homeschooling, it’s trial by fire.
And yet, over the years, I have witnessed a beautiful thing happening:
We are growing.
When one method isn’t working, we try again. When we think our kid has a special need, we stay up for hours researching how best to help that child. When a subject is hard, we sit side by side and work though it til it’s done- even when neither of us want to.
When we yell, we apologize and forgive and come back and try again. When one of us throws a fit, we take a time out- not to isolate, but to calm down. When our whole day falls apart, we switch to baking cookies or taking a walk instead of butting heads over a writing project.
We work every day on our relationships. We read together every night. We make an effort to have conversation over dinner- even if it’s conversation about Storm Troopers and Uni-Tu-Tu the Unicorn Purse.
We are growing. We are growing better at problem solving, at being good to each other, and yes- at being more patient.
Our homeschool culture over the last five years has grown more peaceful and joyful, and while, yes- we still have plenty of arguments- we are all able to deal with them so much better than we used to be. It’s not that we suddenly are miracle parents or that we have miracle kids. It’s just that we’re growing as people, and as a family.
Do I have the patience to homeschool? No way. Not me.
But by grace- I am learning. And it is good.