Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't Panic

Sometimes a line from a great book can be translated into very sound advice.

Take this blog, for instance. I came up with the idea for it about two years ago. I actually created the thing two months ago. When it came time to write a real post, however, I froze. Every time I thought to myself, "That would make a great blog entry!" or "Hey, lady, what about that blog you were working on..." my web-voice would shrivel and die. Why, you ask? Because I knew that no matter what I wrote, it would never be good enough.


August is only days away. I hear kids begging their mom's to take them school shopping, and to call the school to make sure they weren't put into that mean teacher's class. Excitement and trepidation oozes from these children, as they start to get bored at home, tired of camp, and miss their friends. Moms get excited too, as they think to themselves, "YES! I get my life back!"

At least, some moms do.

For home schooling moms, August can mean something more. It means there is only one more month to plan, one more month to collect materials, one more month to change things. One more month to wonder if Aunt Maybelle was right when she said, "You're going to mess up those kids forever..."

Now, I don't know if your Aunt Maybelle is a real person or just that nagging voice in your head, but I do know that most of us home schooling moms hear her every once in a while. Not all of us; there are some who say, "There is no wrong way to home school!" and "Well, you can't do worse than the public school system!" We've all heard those lines at one point or another. I'm betting, however, that the people who say those things (the ones with four kids in Harvard, who are going of their fifth sea voyage around the world to experience Magellan's voyage first hand, pausing at the island of Cyptocn to learn the lost language of Mskvgpk from the last living person who speaks it) still bite their nails from time to time and suffer from the "grass is greener" syndrome while the rest of us want to know what teaching/learning method they follow.

Should we be more strict? Should we be more lenient? Structured? Unstructured? Should I teach my boy to read at 5 or wait until he decides he wants to learn on his own? Dried beans or Saxon Math? Hirsch, Jr. or John Holt or Charlotte Mason?

A mere twenty years ago, home schooling was considered difficult for many people because of a lack of resources to those slightly less than innovative. Nowadays, well, just Google "home school." You get the picture. If a lack of resources made home schooling difficult, then the plethora we have now should make it easy, right?


Instead of hearing people complain about a lack of resources, now I hear the complete opposite. "There is just so much to choose from! Where do I begin?" Or, more to the point of this article, "How do I know that what I'm doing isn't messing up my kid for life? Maybe if I used ____, things could be better." "What if my kid isn't learning enough?" "What if my kid is going to get burned out?" "What if...."

Don't panic.

This happens to, if not all home schoolers, a large majority. We all have our doubts from time to time. A few of us might even wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming, "I can't do this!"

But, you know, you can. You just need to pour yourself a nice cup of herbal tea and reassess a few things. Bring yourself back to the basics, and think about the following questions to see if what you are doing/planning to do aligns with your answers:

1. Why am I home schooling? Political reasons? Religious? Personal? There are as many answers as there are home schools.

2. Why am I home schooling this particular child? Answer this for each of your children. And don't lie to yourself. No one else has to know your answer. If it is because you couldn't bear to be away from him for all those hours of the day, then so be it! Or maybe it's because you are afraid of the influences at school, etc. Again, the answer is personal and does not have to meet other people's expectations.

3. What do I enjoy the most about home schooling? Extra hugs during the day? Not getting phone calls from teachers all day?

4. What do I enjoy the least about home schooling? Lack of peace quiet? No time for yourself? Constant arguments about penmanship? Answer this question, and you'll know what you might be able to work on in order to make your experience more pleasant.

5. What do my kids enjoy most about home schooling? Kids are people, too. You're still the mom, and get the final say, but wouldn't it be so much nicer if the kids were happy with what you were doing?

6. What do my kids enjoy the least about home schooling? Ask them; I'm sure they will let you know. If it is something that you can change, maybe it can make life better for everyone. Or maybe you can bribe them with more of what they like to offset what they don't like if the point is non-negotiable. But try to find some nice middle ground. If you force your kids to do something they hate for 12 years, no matter who the boss is, they will resent it. Yes, they have to do math, but do they have to use THAT particular package?

7. What really works about my home school? Find ways of adapting that to other areas of your home school.

8. What definitely does not work at all? You might be surprised at your answers. Sometimes people just repeat behaviors that aren't beneficial at all out of ignorance, or because they simply never thought of what didn't work, they just knew that things were a mess. And just because something works for the Joneses does not mean it has to work for you. Aren't you so much cooler than the Joneses anyway?

9. Imagining the perfect home schooling scene: What are my kids doing? Where are they? What am I doing? I'm not saying that your home school will be perfect. But sometimes we lose sight of our dreams. Imagine perfection, and then take baby steps toward it. You might never get there, but you'll always get closer if you have a goal in mind.

10. What are my biggest fears about home schooling? Are your kids never going to read? Are they going to hate you for keeping them out of school? Are they going to be social misfits? I'm not going to patronize you and tell you, "Oh, don't worry about it, they'll be fine..." You need to know your fear so you can face it. Once you know what you are afraid of you can overcome it; you can take control of the situation. You can ask others for help about it. When you face your fear, your confidence skyrockets.

Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect home school, or a perfect curriculum. We as individual people are great just as ourselves; celebrate your differences instead of trying to fit into a mould of someone else. How boring would life be if everyone was the same, learned the same, taught the same? The only perfect curriculum is the one that fits your family, not the one that you have to force your family into.

And with that prepositional no-no, I remain,


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