It’s amazing how wrapped up one can get in their dreams of homeschooling idealism—snuggling up with the kids on the couch reading a fascinating historical tale, wearing coordinating aprons while baking a pie together, nurturing each of my incredibly gifted offspring (they get it from their mother!) in their individual areas of talent with fantastic field trips and enriching activities, and drowning in packing peanuts as we gleefully open large boxes of gorgeous books. Oh, the joyous world of the Hallmark Homeschool™. Homeschooling is just so peachy and delightful when everything is “going right.”
But then, there are “those days.” I am having one of “those days” today. I have daughters moaning “Noooooooo” to every single thing I announce that we’ll be doing next in school (or worse, just staring at me with unblinking eyes like they think I’ll forget that they’re there if they don’t move).
I have a preschooler who is complaining that she’s bored and cannot understand why jumping on her sisters’ beds isn’t a viable solution to her boredom. I also have a toddler who is skipping his morning nap, amusing himself with emptying every drawer within reach, and doing his best to escape my supervision and climb up the stairs (while laughing maniacally) that he has yet to learn the techniques of getting back down (replacing the maniacal laughter with wails of despair). This is nothing like the happy little homeschool I envisioned—What am I doing wrong?!
There are no pies cooling on the windowsill and there will be no snuggling on the couch after this nightmarish morning is finally over! There will be tidal waves of laundry to fold (with nary a cheerful face to volunteer assistance) and I will spend the majority of the remainder of this day on the phone (a task I loathe) or squelching the fires of LEGO hoarding-induced wars amongst my children. Just to put that extra cherry on top of it all, tonight is my husband’s scheduled “Late Night” at work. It’s Me vs. Them for the rest of the day.
Today is difficult. Actually, let me re-phrase that: It’s a pity that I didn’t have a root canal scheduled for this morning and had to cancel school, because that would have been more enjoyable.
Writing usually cheers me up. However, the irony of writing a post about why homeschooling is so great while I’m feeling like one of the most disenchanted homeschoolers in existence at this moment is not lost on me. It’s not too terribly hard to understand why my motivation is lacking. Writing about the joys of homeschooling, with all this chaos and frustration? Can we say “hypocrite?”
Oh, today just downright stinks. I’m obviously doing something wrong or this call to homeschool was only temporary because WOW, this is not what homeschooling is “supposed” to look like. Can I quit? Should I quit?
But then a quiet remembrance fills my mind, a simple phrase from a prayer my husband uttered last year: “Just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job.”
My frenzied anxiety stops. My heart swells and my eyes tear up. My Heavenly Father is aware of me and He knows that I am working hard (SO hard!) and He is pleased with me. I am anxiously engaged in my Father’s work. The most perfect being to walk this earth had a perfect mission to perform and it was not all smiles and sunshine. Christ was ignored, or mocked when given attention, He was spat upon and scourged and ended His mortal mission in physical agony. If I’m following His call to nurture my children in the way He has revealed to me, why would I expect it to be easy?
Choosing to homeschool is choosing a more difficult lifestyle. Yes, it has rich rewards and wonderful opportunities associated with it, but for each of those caramel heart-filled moments there’s a hair-pulling-while-silently-screaming moment (or five) to balance out all that contented goodness. It’s good to have those warm and fuzzy idealistic visions of homeschooling, but we also have to be realistic and acknowledge that difficult days will happen. Choosing to homeschool does not inoculate us from difficulty, just like choosing to follow our religion doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free existence.
Difficult days do not mean that we’re failing. They are not a reflection of how well we are doing in teaching our kids. Sometimes they are a sign that something isn’t quite right, and we are responsible for making the changes necessary to right the situation. However, all the curriculum tweaks and switches in the world will not alter the fact that difficult days are going to happen. They are a natural and mandatory part of life.
In fact, the most difficult days often teach the biggest lessons, usually not associated with academics, but with life and character. Difficult days are our refining fires, a gift offered to us: the chance to become a better version of ourselves and teach our children those valuable life lessons that have no conversations associated with them. Patience, humility, cheerfulness, diligence, perseverance…these are the lessons that are taught without sermons, but through our examples. And hurray for us, we get more opportunities to teach our children these defining characteristics due to the fact that we’re with them more often because we homeschool them!
Difficult days are guaranteed. Period. They WILL happen. That doesn’t mean we have to feel like failures or that we have to throw in the towel. It’s simply a difficult day. Nothing more, nothing less. If we’re still starting up school the next day, then we’re doing a good job. Remember that. Just because it gets difficult doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job.
Now you’ll have to excuse me, because my toddler just woke up early from his afternoon nap. (I think an early bedtime for the children and a calming soak would be a wise choice for me tonight.)
Cara can be found writing at Brooketopia.