This is a question I ask myself regularly. After all, the only way I have to validate my efforts at homeschooling is by comparing myself with standards set by the government for their age groups. It’s easy to feel like a failure when you think of all the things that we “should” have been doing or comparing them with the idealistic plans of a system.
Homeschooling is a guilt-ridden ride, and when it’s not going as planned, it’s easy to feel discouraged and even like you are failing.
Here’s where I am at. I feel like I have the best intentions, but I never get to any of them. It could be because I’m tired, or because I’m a poor follow-througher, or because I just feel so unmotivated, but really, thinking back, when was the last time I actively tried to sit down and do school with my kids on a regular, structured basis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate for full-day, school-style education at home. I’m very fine with a loosely structured homeschool environment, but there has to be more than just threatening the kids to finish their one page of math work before they can play the computer or video games.
It depresses me to know my children would rather do anything with a screen than anything creative or independent. I wish I could figure out how to make it more appealing to my kids to study anything other than the current favourite cartoon character.
We are behind where I wish we were at. I need to get creative and come up with an entirely different plan that’s outside the box, re-energizes us and gets us ready to learn again. I have some ideas: now to find the time and energy to prep it all.
Homeschooling goes in cycles, not just for the kids’ interests, but also in our own motivation as parents. It’s not a pass/fail thing. It’s a life thing. There’s time for mindlessness and intermittent learning, I believe, but it shouldn’t last forever. It’s time to get back into learning. Even if that learning isn’t done in the way we originally planned.
If you are struggling to keep at it, be encouraged. You are not alone.
Recently, I asked my blog readers for some advice when you get discouraged in homeschooling. One reader, Heather, wrote a very amazing response which I am honoured to share with you.
Take a break and just do fun stuff for awhile. Reconnect with your kids, play outside, do lots of crafts. Let them ‘veg’ or be bored (which leads to innovation and imagination – eventually!), work together in the kitchen, do a project around the house.
And in the meantime, take some time to re-evaluate what you’re doing and why it’s making you discouraged. Do you need a different pedagogical philosophy? Is what you want to do not what’s the best match for your kids? Are you trying to do too much? Is the curriculum too easy, or too hard? Are you not doing enough and everyone is bored? Do you need more of a routine, or do you need more freedom?
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is that if something isn’t working, you can change it. Or, maybe some time of reflection will lead you to conclude that everything is going along just fine – you just all needed a bit of a break. We all do one in awhile. 😉
As for feeling “unsuccessful” – that’s also a matter for self-reflection. By what standard are you unsuccessful? Be wary of comparing your children’s progress/achievement with standard school curricula, and remember that even in the school system only a certain percentage of students are expected to fully “meet or exceed expectations” – most kids do NOT master all the curriculum goals and that is accepted and normal! Celebrate the fact that your kids have the chance to develop at their own pace without unnecessary stress to progress more quickly than is healthy for them.
On the other hand, if your reflection leads you to believe that your kids truly are capable of doing and achieving more than they have been, 1) realize that it’s still not a ‘race’ and there’s no ‘expiration date’ on progress, they have not been ‘ruined’ if they have not yet lived up to their full potential; 2) use this time to think about what they need to help them achieve that potential, which gets back to the same questions as above — a different philosophy or approach (more hands on? more literature-based? more unschooly? more classical?), more routine, less routine, etc.
Above and behind all of this is just to take some time and relax, and realize that even if you HAVE screwed up your attempts at homeschooling, it is NOT an unfixable disaster, it is no worse than what might have happened in school (where there is little to no option to change things either!!) — it’s all just part of the *learning process*. Most of us have gone through many different approaches more or less by trial and error, until we find the things that work best for us and our kids. 🙂
Keep on keeping on. This home education thing is not easy.