If you had asked me last year what I thought about homeschooling I would have told you that we loved homeschooling and that we had the best year! Now, that year wasn’t without its challenges…. Homeschooling with a little, learning-to-walk Ladybug was interesting to say the least. Bee was a loud and wild 2-year-old who made messes the size of Texas during our daily art time. Tiger was everywhere all at once and spent most of his time playing basketball in the middle of our homeschool room. That was loud and obnoxious! I got pretty good at deflecting basketballs from the books and art supplies. Curly was learning so many new skills that sometimes we would both be overwhelmed and frustrated.
But overall, it was a wonderful year. Ladybug learned to walk and enjoyed following after us throughout the day. She was often content to be held while we worked on school. Bee was usually distracted by a big tub of legos. Tiger would even sit and listen to books being read. And Curly learned to read and her reading skills took off. She was able to do some work independently as her reading fluency increased. It was so amazing to see how they changed over the year and how much they learned.
This year has been different so far. I think our first 3 weeks have been the most challenging I have ever experienced. If you asked me how I enjoyed homeschooling I would have to be honest and tell you that it’s just plain hard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad we homeschool but wow……….never has a school bus looked so good. And those are words I never thought I’d say.
After our great year last year I wondered about moms who were burnt out and frazzled and disillusioned with homeschooling. What were they doing wrong and why didn’t I feel that way? I was so thankful that our was going well and that I still felt motivated to continue. This year has opened my eyes. Without the encouragement of my husband, I think I’d want to give up.
I’m sure that moving twice over the summer didn’t help-or all the frustrating house hunting, or all the stress of trying to sell a house, or all the sicknesses we’ve had going through our house. I can’t say I started off the year very well-organized. I haven’t had much time to plan ahead. We still do have some boxes sitting around. We’re in a completely new place and are working to make friends (and I work hard not to get lost). Those things alone have made our year extremely tough.
But what’s been harder?
Ladybug is mobile and busy and very, very demanding. One of her only words (and her very favorite word) is MAMA. Mama means me or any other adultish-looking person that she wants to hold her. It also doubles as phrases such as “I want that,” “give that to me,” “I want more,” “I am hungry,” “I am thirsty,” or “pick me up right now.” I hear that word screamed in my direction about a million times a day. She yells it from her highchair if I’m not moving fast enough. She toddles after me while grabbing my skirt and yelling at me. She screams it from her bed as she wakes up from naptime. She is like a little barnacle clinging to me as I go throughout my day. And boy does she get heavy! It’s so hard to teach over her demanding little voice and she’s not happy unless I’m holding her. Clingy is such an understatement.
And then there’s Bee. She wants to do school and be a part of everything. I have to come up with activities so she can participate daily. And she seems to have only 2 settings-wild and whiny. She’s either tearing up and down the stairs shrieking, or kicking balls across the room while I read, or bringing in every doll and stuffed animal in the universe and setting up shop right in the middle of our math lesson, or banging away her own compositions on the piano. OR she’s whining about something or having a total meltdown because “someone hit me” or “that’s not fair” or “they’re not being nice” or “I want a snack” or “I’m thirsty” or “I’m tired” or “I want to do something.” About 90% of what leaves her mouth does so in that high-pitched, fingers-grating-on-chalkboard sound.
Tiger is of course, just Tiger. He’s sweet and helpful but his attention span is nil. One minute we’re doing a reading lesson and the next he’s off in his own world of knights, and swords, and guns, and fighting, and army men. Even though we keep our lessons very short, some days I can’t keep him on track. He’s also incredibly silly. His silliness is fun some of the times but other times-like when I have clingy and whiny and I am trying to cook dinner-well those are times when the constant silliness makes me crazy. I play along when I can but sometimes I just need some silence and cooperation. We often do school with balls whizzing by or nerf darts headed our way. Our reading corner has been affectionately nicknamed the “bean bag bunker” as I often pile them up to protect ourselves from the onslaught of bullets, balls, and swords hurled our way. The homeschool room most often resembles a war zone thanks to Tiger.
And how’s Curly? She’s 6. I think other parents of 6-year-olds will understand that statement. I think 6 may be the most challenging age ever. She’s argumentative, whiny, stubborn, and independent. She questions everything, talks back about most things, and refuses to cooperate with anything unless it was her idea. Oddly, most of this behavior happens when we’re doing something other than school. “Let’s go to the park!” – cue the huge fit of negativity, complaining, whining, griping, and yelling. She is like a mini-teenager with back-talking and hateful words. I refer to her as Jekyll and Hyde and when she wakes up in the morning I’m never sure who I’ll be seeing that day. She goes from super sweet and super fun to all out crazy. I’ve even started video-recording her because I was sure that Daddy would not believe me. He’s a believer now though!
And then there’s the little detail that I’m 27 weeks pregnant and very hot and very tired. Going up and down the stairs is misery. Cooking in the hot kitchen is misery. Bending over is painful. Carrying Ladybug is very painful. I am just worn out by the end of the day.
So, what I’ve learned this year is that there can be distractions in many forms. I’m usually much less productive than I planned. I’m basically lucky to be in one piece by the end of the day. And it’s not so much that homeschool is difficult-it’s the whole child-rearing, shepherding your child, discipling them, training them, and addressing their character that’s so hard. This year has been more about character and reaching their heart than it has been about school. That is so so so much harder than stupid addition facts. Because I’m with my kids all day every day, I clearly see their flaws and I’m the one responsible for addressing them. Ohhh, and they see my flaws too. The whole being an example and modeling Christ to them is a pretty big task. There are lots of apologies going in both directions this year.
Yes, these weeks have already been more challenging than all of last year put together. So, if you ask me how homeschooling is going don’t be surprised if I have to pause and think about it for a second. You’ll get more than an answer of “GREAT!” from me this year. It’s going ok. Some days I enjoy homeschooling and other days I dislike it (a lot). But overall I would not want to change what we do. I wouldn’t go back. As appealing as that bus can look as it comes around our corner, I wouldn’t want to be at that bus stop each morning. I’ve learned too much. This year (and every year after) is going to be full of challenges and difficulty. But the rewards are too great, so we continue to carry on even through the tears and exhaustion. Homeschooling is not always pretty but it’s so very worth it. It will stretch you, teach you, break you, and enlighten you. You’ll come away a whole different person and a better one.