Now that most homeschoolers are either on a summer break or light load, I thought I’d give encouraging guidance on how to handle tension during the time when people are probably not stressed. Be sure to read this again around October!
When we first started homeschooling, 18-years ago, we got excessive criticism for our decision. As far as the educational needs of our children, we had an option just like everyone else. We respected other families for their choices and hoped for the same in return. I can honestly say that most of the homeschooling stress had to do with the judgement of others and the endless questions sent our way. Whether it was people we knew or cashiers at the store, we had to deal with how our decision to homeschool was received by others. Protecting our children from quizzing and lecturing interrogators and helping our young ones through the pain of handling remarks like they’d be smarter if they went to a public school or that folks can tell that they’re homeschooled because they’re weird and uncool, proved necessary ~ which, by the way, is an appalling thing to say to any child. It wasn’t just the mean ones we had to deal with but all the excessive questions and comments as well. It was like playing 20 questions with everyone who asked us anything school related, which seemed to happen every time we left the house.
This kind of stuff is stressful! Algebra is not!
Fast forward to 2017 ~ people are much friendlier and knowledgable about home education, especially here in Missouri. But there are other kinds of stress for homeschoolers. Now that I don’t have people jumping down my throat every time I say “homeschool,” there is less anxiety for us. But what about the other kinds of stress?
As a homeschool veteran, I thought I would offer some encouragement and help on handling homeschooling stress gracefully.
Judgments, Questions, and Criticism
It never ceases to amaze me how many misconceptions people still have about homeschooling (which is fine because that’s how it is with most everything). I used to get a lot more questions than I do now, and many of them, I couldn’t answer. But homeschooling isn’t as deep as many think.
When I was in 6th grade, I had a serious health issue which led me to miss 6 months of school. I was mostly home alone all day while both my parents worked and my sisters were at school. A tutor came to my house twice a week to give me my assignments. She would appear with a stack of school work, explain stuff to me and then come back another day to pick everything up and give me more assignments. Academically, it was the best thing that could happen to me because after this, I grew into a straight A student and school made more sense. Miss Tutor didn’t spend a lot of time explaining things to me, just 15 minutes a day twice a week. As far as my emotional well being, socialization, and safety ~ it was great and I did fine (there was no internet, video games, iPads, or cable TV in 1980). Eventually, my health improved and I slipped back into the routine of going to school and classes without missing a beat. My grades were good and life went back to normal. And the best part… I wasn’t held back because of all my absences…WHEW!
In today’s world, the above tale wouldn’t be a textbook setting and experts would probably frown at this ~ but for me ~ it was splendiferous! (I love that word!)
The point of the story was that I thrived learning at home in a not-so-great situation from a tutor who barely gave me the time of day. But home education is much more than receiving and dumping assignments. Homeschooling is family driven with different educational needs and goals ~ so there should be no apologies.
Answering questions and criticism about homeschooling didn’t show my irresistible side nor did it reveal my strengths. Because I was unprepared to handle the push back that our educational choice caused, when people asked me about homeschooling, I feel like my answers were less than brilliant. My critics became some sort of scholar with a PhD in education leaving me feeling like a nincompoop unqualified to even teach our children how to spell their names. And I seemed to have no answers to tell a different story. But if I could do it all over again, my response would explain respectfully and with kindness, that in homeschool we study much of the same things as they did when they were in school ~ History, Science, Math, Language Arts, Bible and other fun stuff. I would say that I enjoy it and our kids are thriving. I would explain to them with confidence that we like homeschooling because we are fond of the curriculum and the environment. And one reason why we homeschool is because we are concerned about their socialization. I would say that we’re glad that God opened the door for us to do this and we love the work involved. We don’t push others to like or agree with our choices or to think like us. We’re living our life the way we feel is right for our family and our situation. I would say those things no matter what they asked because that is the truth and probably answered the real questions they are asking.
It’s not that deep and not worthy of all the attention we had to bear. Looking back, it’s easy for me to say that I should have been more bold, confident and firm. But my job wasn’t to educate the public but that of our children. Debating and defending has never been a strength of mine so I’m not going to beat myself up about how I handled this in the past but maybe my story will help others in the future.
Answering questions and fostering discussion is great every once in awhile but dealing with judgmental and harassing questions regularly is exhausting. If you’re like me and can’t think of clever answers off the top of your head when you’re put on the spot, then keep it short, simple and lighthearted. Or maybe just smile at your
critics fans and move on.
Parents are capable of educating their children and don’t need to prove anything. Because homeschooling isn’t as big of a mystery as it was in years past, hopefully this won’t be much of a problem anymore. But if it is adding stress to your homeschooling experience, especially if you have disapproving relatives, it’s time to let that stress go. Suffering from inappropriate interrogations isn’t necessary or helpful and can have damaging affects on your children.
Of course, healthy questions are welcome and isn’t what I’m talking about. But unfortunately some will disguise harassment and manipulation by making it seem like they’re just asking a question or they’ll criticize with their questions. There’s a big difference and even children can sense the contradiction. If a question feels more like a criticism or a comment is plain rude, pray for the Lord to give you the right answer. Sometimes it is best not to say anything at all, shake the dust from your feet, and move on.
The Stress of Behavior Problems
It doesn’t take long to realize that all children are unique. They have different personalities, different learning styles, different strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to be consistent, persistent and patient with academics and behavior. Children will need to learn how to do school. It will take time for them to get the hang of the curriculum, working hard, and stepping out of their comfort zone. It also takes time for kids to adjust if there is a change to the curriculum, schedule or if they start homeschooling after going to a school.
Some children are more difficult than others and sometimes there are severe behavior problems. It’s even more prevalent now a days with ADHD, ADD, and other neurological problems escalating. Autism has increased more than 800% in the last 16 years, which is an incredible statistic! Blaming lack of discipline is as outdated as saying homeschoolers lack socialization. We all know better. But what do you do?
Well, the short answer is ~ you need to be consistent, persistent and patient. You have to be all of those all of the time with the Lord’s strength! It’s not easy but it’s not impossible. Even the most stubborn and spirited child needs to learn academic discipline. You may need to make school easier or have them do less but a little bit will go a long way. You can always increase it later. Here is a list of additional things that may help with behavior problems:
~ Make your child’s bedtime earlier.
~ Start school first thing in the morning.
~ Make sure your child is eating healthy especially for breakfast. No sugar or junk food.
~ Healthy brain and gut are important for kids. Omega -3 Fish Oil supplements are good for the brain and Probiotics are essential for gut health.
~ Remove food from the diet that your child is allergic or sensitive to.
~ Be calm and loving but also firm. Let them know what is expected of them and work everyday towards that goal.
~ Have fun ~ school is fun or can be! (Our teens may say differently)
Check out my blog “7 Tips For Encouraging Teens To Wear Happy Pants ~ Not Grumpy Pants”
~ No TV, video games, iPads, or smartphones during the school week.
~ Don’t allow them to go too long without eating to avoid hypoglycemic symptoms.
~ Don’t give up.
See also “Calling All Overworked & Under-Appreciated Moms (4 Reminders)”
~ Patience Patience Patience! It’s good for you! You can do it! (I’m talking to myself right there!)
(People will often comment about how patient I must be to be able to homeschool. If I have patience, I learned it BECAUSE I homeschool. Not the other way around. AND I STILL HAVE A LOT TO LEARN!)
~ Last but not least…PRAY OFTEN!
Have a Schedule
Having a schedule that works well with your family and sticking to it will help to reduce the stress of homeschooling. We plan our school around my husband’s work schedule. When he worked early and only 4 days a week, then we started early and had an extra day off. When his work day schedule changed and he went to work later, then our school day started later. Our children get the same days off of school as my husband. Once we get into a routine of starting school first thing and going until we’re finished, then our days usually run smoothly and things get done.
Include lesson plans, grading, cleaning, and laundry into your schedule too. Have routines and teach your children to have routines also.
Plan a day at least once a month where the kids do some reading and assignments on their own but you don’t do any school work with them. This will help them learn independence and also give you a chance to catch up on your work, nap or just enjoy a piece of chocolate cake. OK ~ that was random…but you get the idea.
I love to workout and dance but since my kidney surgery a year ago, my bladder and kidney hurt so badly whenever I do anything. But I found that even doing simple exercises help so much. I will do 10 squats, 10 crunches, 10 push-ups, 10 second plank, and 10 battements (ballet leg kicks) on each side. This all takes me less than 5 minutes to do but it’s a good workout and doesn’t hurt my kidney and bladder too much.
It’s important that the kids play outside to get their exercise. We will go check the mail (with our steep driveway, this is exercise in and of itself) and then walk around our property. Sometimes we’ll run around our house. It’s quick and simple but it works. Exercise and activity are more important than we realize. It not only helps with basic overall health but it can prevent neurological and some behavior problems.
For more great homeschooling ideas see my other posts ~ Kindergarten is the HARDEST! (Part 1) and Kindergarten is the HARDEST! (Part 2)
I probably don’t need to say this but I will just for the heck of it ~ HAVE FUN! Go to the library, the park, swim and go on field trips. Make crafts, make messes or do school outside!
This should be the first and most important thing ~ Spend time with God by reading the bible and praying every single day. People who have a relationship with God and spend time with Him regularly are able to handle stressful days better than those who do not. God is your Rock and He loves you so much. He is also crazy about your children and He wants you to bless your kids. Look to Him. Seek Him. Trust Him.
This year, I have been using the Blue Letter Bible App on my phone to read through the bible in a year chronologically. It’s AWESOME!!! I’ve always read regularly but this is the first time I’ve read chronologically. I love reading the Psalms and Proverbs at the same time as Kings and Chronicles. It’s super cool.
Don’t do too much
Make a list
Don’t let criticism and behavior challenges wear you down
Pray for strength
Rely on the Lord
There you have it. Even more great ways to handling stress with grace and dignity! You’re doing a great job, pretty mama. Keep it up!
Please share your thoughts and ideas concerning homeschooling stress. I’d love to hear from you!
Subscribe with your email and share this post.
My other blogs:
Walking With Excellence (MOST RECENT)
7 Tips For Encouraging Teens To Wear Happy Pants ~ Not Grumpy Pants
DO NOT READ THIS BLOG!
Calling All Overworked & Under-Appreciated Moms (4 Reminders)
Jaimee’s Blog Video (Mom Vlog)
Mimi Speaks (Encouragement video)
Calling All Overworked and Under-appreciated Moms (Video)
Getting Rid of Distractions
He is a Jealous God
How Much Does God Love Us?
The Power of His Resurrection
Spiritual & Inspirational:
Oh Be Careful Little Mind What You Think
The Time I Gave Up Social Media For Lent
The Time I Gave Up Social Media For Lent (Part 2)
How To Be A Perfect Mom
4 Negative Emotions Moms Should Avoid
One Important Key To Being A Good Mom
How To Keep The World From Getting In Your Head (4 Steps)
4 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Change Your Life
4 Things to Remember When Things Don’t Go As Planned
Homeschooling & Money:
Kindergarten is the Hardest! (Part 1)
Kindergarten is the Hardest! (Part 2)
6 Ways to Save Money on Homeschool Curriculum
7 Money Saving Tips
Health & Recipes:
How I Cured My Food Allergies
Chicken Noodle Soup
Healthy Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Perfect Homemade Flour Tortillas
Hooray For 3-Minute Pizza