People I meet often ask me what I think of homeschooling. I'm always weary of this question because rarely do I find the person actually wants to hear my answer. Rather, they generally want to affirm their own decision to educate their children in a certain way--whether it be private, public school, or home education. They listen to me through a filter, which either endorses or condemns my decision.
In response to their inquiry, I usually mention that I love the idea of homeschooling but I don't love the daily reality of homeschooling. If the person is or has homeschooled, the number one piece of advice I receive is to I "lower my standards" in order to maintain my sanity. (For instance, "Your house doesn't have to be perfectly clean" or"You may not be able to eat well balanced meals every night" or "You are going to have to let some things go that just aren't important--the laundry, for example) The advice is well-intentioned, but I always walk away from these kinds of conversations feeling frustrated. I have many personal weaknesses and yes, unrealistic standards is one of them, but lowering my standards isn't going to automatically make my homeschooling journey a walk down easy street.
Frankly, I don't like the implication that something is inherently wrong with me because I struggle everyday with the difficult dynamics of educating multiple children in my home.
Who doesn't struggle when homeschooling their children?
Why isn't it alright to admit homeschooling is a challenge?
On the way to soccer practice this evening, I silently reviewed the craziness of the day and I shook my head in wonder when I reflected on the sheer insanity of it all.
At 7:30 am, all 5 kids bolted around my kitchen table, shrieking about some kind of ridiculous contest. They overturned chairs and unintentionally tripped over each other as they playfully hollered. The high-voltage stimulus at such an early hour put me on sensory overload from the get-go.
When I played the 5 minute phonics video for Mary's reading lesson, she didn't pay attention to a word of it. I then wasted several minutes prompting her to complete an assignment she couldn't read because she didn't listen to the video first. Consequently, I had to replay the video and then sit with her as she slowly and painfully read aloud to me. Our lesson took double the time it normally would have if she had paid attention in the first place. It was frustrating.
Christopher, Camille, and the older kids interrupted our schooling at least four different times in a one hour time period with requests for food or television. Each interruption distracted the child with whom I was working and it took several minutes to get them each focused again.
Meaghan answered most of her math assignment incorrectly so I had to re-teach her the entire lesson she didn't understand, in addition to teaching our lesson for the current day. Her math class took over an hour.
I couldn't understand Patrick's grammar assignment and spent way too much time trying to decipher it. I finally gave up and emailed the teacher with a request for help.
One of the kids overfed Camille's new goldfish so both of them died. I now have two dead fish floating around in a tank that needs to be cleaned. We also need to buy Camille so more fish to kill.
At 12:30 pm, I had been sitting at the table homeschooling children since 8 am and no one had eaten lunch. Everyone was hungry and cranky. Including me. When I finally took a break to feed everyone, Christopher gouged my table with a fork so deeply it left a mark.
After I fed everyone and cleaned up lunch, I put the little ones down for a nap and went to finish working with Patrick. At 4 pm, we were still not done with his work.
At 4:00 pm, after I realized I needed to feed everyone dinner and get everyone dressed for soccer practice, I abandoned the rest of Patrick's school.
While I was in the kitchen cooking, a fight erupted between two of my children, causing one them to hurl a full water bottle across the porch thereby smashing into to smithereens. The perpetrator then engaged in a 45 minute histrionics session.
I'm also 7 1/2 months pregnant.
Do those scenarios paint enough of a word picture?
I accept that family life is messy. I also accept that homeschooling these children is a challenge. But what I struggle to understand is how lowering my standards will help me better manage the chaos known as my life?
Lowering my standards isn't the real issue; the real issue is that what I'm doing day in and day out is just plain hard. Some of you reading this may think I'm a whiner, that I'm complaining about my lot in life. I'm not. I'm just admitting I struggle.
(If this blog were to morph into one big whine fest, we could talk about adjusting my potentially baditude. But the truth is, I try hard to balance my view of the difficult with the beautiful. I'm not perfect at it, but I'm intentional.)
(I'm also not asking for permission (or advice!) to enroll my kids in the local school or put littles in daycare or to quit having babies. )
All I'm saying is that this life of mine--while it's filled with beauty and goodness--is challenging.
Admitting my struggle doesn't make me a bad mom or a less-than-dedicated homeschooler.
I think it makes me honest.