Are you a homeschool mom fail? The thought does cross our minds every once in awhile, doesn’t it? Here’s how I combat that feeling and get back on track.
I can’t say that the school year has gone quite according to plan.
I didn’t know that multiple science co-ops and Community Bible Study (Monday through Wednesday) would take so very much out of introverted me. I didn’t anticipate needing to hermit away and have some TIME TO MYSELF every Thursday and Friday.
I didn’t realize that I’d need to completely rework our history and literature plans for all five grade levels part-way in.
I didn’t anticipate getting seriously ill three times in three months.
I didn’t plan on one, let alone TWO teenage boys giving me grief about what a waste of time and money college was.
And that, my friends, is probably the story of my life as a homeschool mom.
There have always been little wrenches thrown into the happy cogs of my homeschool plans. The flu. A pregnancy. The death of a parent. Bad weather. Beautiful weather. Bad curriculum. Weak self-discipline on the part of the teacher. Ahem.
You name it, we’ve probably experienced it.
Things just don’t go according to my plans. At least not as they look in the bright summertime.
It’s tempting to feel like a homeschool mom fail, particularly when things don’t feel up to snuff or don’t go quite according to our plans. Even after 15 years at this gig, I’m still susceptible to wondering…
Am I a homeschool mom fail?
It’s a trap we can all fall into. I mean, by virtue of being moms, we worry that we’re failing as moms. But, what about when you add another hat to that already daunting role of motherhood? What happens when you are bold/brave/audacious enough to add primary teacher to the mix?
It’s easy to wonder if you’re a homeschool mom fail, too!
I’ve got a master’s degree in education as well as a bachelor’s degree in French literature (more equipping than you might guess), and I still wonder and worry if I’m doing right by my kids. It’s helpful that I’ve got one kid a sophomore at a state university with a 3.5 GPA. Proof in the pudding, right?
All the same, every kid and every season of my life are different. How do I answer that question? Am I really a homeschool mom fail?
Here’s what I do to combat that feeling:
1. Look at the good.
This year has been better than most. In fact, with each passing year, we generally see improvement in areas previously lacking.
For instance, this year — despite the social exhaustion involved — everyone’s doing science well. I might not get the tests graded in a timely manner, but at least the coursework is getting covered. I can’t say that that’s always been the case for my elementary school crowd. While I’ve been able to make sure the high schoolers get the science they need, I’ve been lacking in the lower grades. Not this year, my friends. Not this year!
This year started out with FishChick8 being very clingy and unable to read independently. I had planned for another year of hand holding. Instead, she surprised me and can do much of her work on her own now. This has turned out to be a good thing since I’ve been so sick.
This year the aforementioned teen boys have demonstrated a knack for debate (understatement, cough, cough), political, social, and historical understanding, and an interest in how the larger world works. They may not like the idea of going to college, but they’ll do just fine there or elsewhere in the world. They know more about most subjects now that I do – even with M.Ed. after my name!
(Note: I will have to explain our insistence on college in another post. This was not our stance when we began our homeschooling journey. The short story: we know that my husband would have more job opportunities — even in the construction field, believe it or not! — if he had a college degree. The world has changed in 15 years.)
Incorporating Kindles into our homeschool has reduced arguments and lost books while increasing my kids’ access to more books to read and learning apps to use.
Many things are going better this year than last year. My guess is the same is true for your homeschool.
2. Consider your own experience.
When my kids were younger, I would feel really disgruntled if our school wasn’t up to snuff. I’m very good at self-flagellation. And then I stopped to think about my own school years. I had the advantage that my parents were both well-known educators in our community. Every teacher I ever had knew their names. There must be “a Code” among public school teachers that you treat other teachers’ kids right. I know that I had an exceptional public education.
And yet there were still gaps. I’ve learned so very much teaching my own kids. Even after doing this homeschool mom thing for 15+ years, I continue to learn something I hadn’t known before.
I also know that my own educational experience didn’t go according to plan.
There was the year when my French teacher was dying of AIDS. We had non-stop substitute teachers that year. Substitutes that didn’t speak a word of French.
There was the year when I had chicken pox as a teen and missed three weeks of school because I’d had them so bad, every square inch of my body was covered in sores.
There was the year when our Honors science teacher had a breakdown and we were shuffled mid-year to a different teacher who didn’t know the subject matter as well as we students did.
Crazy happens whether you homeschool, private school, or public school. Life happens and disrupts the best-laid plans.
3. Be honest where you can improve.
There is such a thing as homeschool neglect. While homeschooled kids generally perform as well as (and sometimes better) than same-age peers, there are kids who slip through the cracks and parents who overlook their own failings a little too often. We don’t want to be those families. Am I right?
No matter who we are, there’s always room for improvement. If I feel an inkling of that homeschool mom fail feeling, then it’s time to assess. Am I failing in some specific area? Is something not up to snuff?
Years ago, I took a course entitled, “Socratic Questioning in the Classroom”. Socratic questioning, according to Wikipedia, is defined as,
disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyze concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought or to control the discussion.
In plain English: what made Socrates so great was that he made sure to know what he didn’t know. And that’s where knowledge lies. For ourselves and for our kids.
What is it that I don’t know? What is it that I’m not seeing? And how can I see it?
For me, admitting to myself and my kids that I’m woefully behind on science tests and need to get with it is key right now. As well as the ability to…
4. Make adjustments.
Once we know where we can improve, I think it’s our duty to make adjustments and work toward that improvement. If you don’t, then you give evidence toward that homeschool mom fail feeling!
When something’s not working, fix it. Like when I readjusted our history and lit plan for the year. Like when we did an entire homeschool makeover. Like that time you knew the curriculum wasn’t a good fit for you or your kid and you switched gears.
Our adjustments may look different than yours. One of the reasons why we started homeschooling in the first place was to allow us to be the stewards of our limited time with our children, not just how much time we get to spend with them each day, but also how we spend that time.
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you get to change, grow, and evolve WITH your kids. And sometimes, rather than wear the Homeschool Mom Fail Hat of Shame, you just need to make some changes.
Changes are part of life. We can’t avoid them, neither can we protect our children from them. Why would you want to?
Change helps us grow as people. Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” While I know that we won’t be perfect, at least not in this lifetime, we can’t improve unless we change.
What changes can you bring about to improve your teaching, your homeschool, and your child’s ability to learn?
5. Bring in reinforcements.
No mom is an island. If you’re feeling like you might be a homeschool mom fail, it may be because you’re trying to do more than you can possibly do well — on your own. With help, you might see better success.
Where are the areas of your life, home, and school that you can delegate? Who is the youngest person in the house who can do that thing on your household to do list? Yes, kids can do chores!
How can you very specifically ask your husband — he can’t read your mind — to come alongside you in teaching your kids or managing the home?
One of the biggest game changers for me as a home educator came when our eldest was entering 9th grade. I was stressing over how I was going to give him the rigorous education that I intended him to have and still manage the house, the other kids’ school, etc. I felt guilty when I paid for an online Latin class and a science co-op when my brain said I should be doing it all myself.
My husband was incredulous when I finally voiced these feelings. His response was basically, “Just because you’re his primary teacher doesn’t mean you have to teach him everything yourself.”
Whoa. What a load off! I had been telling myself the lie that to be “a good homeschool mom”, I had to instruct him in everything all on my own. As well as all the other kids.
Learning to delegate has enriched our homeschool and released some burdens from my shoulders!
Writing: I used to teach writing for a living, but I’m perfectly okay with letting the Brave Writer teachers work their magic.
Science: I once was the best honors science student in my class; there’s an award somewhere in a box to prove it, but I don’t love science. I am forever indebted to local science enthusiasts willing to teach my kids science.
Math: Teaching Textbooks has rocked math for me. I don’t even have to grade it.
This delegating frees me up to teach history, literature, and language arts, the things I’m best at and the subjects my kids love the most.
6. Enjoy your kids.
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of time, money, and energy. There’s sacrifice involved, whether it’s career goals or just your free time. I would hope one of the reasons you’re doing it is because you enjoy spending your days with your kids.
Are you enjoying the daze?
Sometimes we feel like failures when the spark or joy has faded from what we’re doing. Time to reclaim that joy! Go on a field trip. Read a family read-aloud. Do a service project. Take a walk.
Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to spend time with your children that you might not otherwise get to spend with them if they were gone 6 to 8 hours every day. Make the most of that time!
Shift gears for a couple days and just be with each other. Go on adventures; tour a museum; draw and paint in the backyard. Do something FUN with your students/children! You will remember why it matters that you’re doing this big, gnarly hard thing.
My friend Mary does Party School each time they finish a novel, they have a party, inspired by the foods and experiences of the story.
You’re not a homeschool mom fail! If you were, you probably wouldn’t care to ask yourself the question.
Are things better than they were before? I bet they are.
Can you improve? Maybe.
Can you delegate? Most likely.
Can you enjoy these precious days with your kids? I sure hope so!
Don’t waste time navel-gazing. Instead, look at the good, consider how you can change, and enjoy the daze! It will be over before you know it.