To Be Honest, No One Has the Patience to Homeschool
If you are a homeschooler or even if you just casually mention that you are thinking about homeschooling, someone sitting nearby is bound to roll their eyes and moan “I would never have the patience to homeschool my children.” Once you’ve homeschooled for more than, say, 15 minutes, you will tire of trying to explain that you do not possess supernatural patience – in fact, if you’re like me, you possess very little patience. Like many other situations homeschoolers find themselves in it’s probably best to simply smile and nod and move the conversation in a new direction. You know that homeschooling is great, but you’re not in charge of recruitment.
If you find yourself in a similar conversation and the person says they don’t have the patience or else they would love to homeschool their children, by all means explain to them that no one has the kind of patience she’s picturing. Take a few pointers from this article and share them should someone ask. When I first started homeschooling fifteen years ago (gah!) it was the moms who were willing to let me see the downsides of homeschooling and who shared with me their own battles with patience that made me think I could do it too.
Patience is a virtue – until it’s not. There is no one perfect parental tempermant for homeschooling. Homeschoolers, like all parents, cover the full spectrum. I imagine we all strive find a happy middle ground. However, attempting to homeschool with serene patience each and every day is a recipe for for two things – a mental breakdown and a disaster.
Think about it. Your kids have met you. They know you and they know what pushes your buttons. If you suddenly don a halo each morning and approach lessons with a sweet, singsong voice they will know. If you patiently wait while little Susie heads to the bathroom (bedroom, kitchen, etc.) for the fifteenth time that morning while you sit patiently with a cheesy grin on your face, little Susie is going to catch on. You were a kid. Think back. Didn’t you know just how far you could push things with your own mom before she snapped? If you make a sudden attempt at a personality change, your children will pick up on it and they will take advantage of it. (I’m not saying your children are plotting against you, it’s just human nature. My kids? Mine were definitely plotting against me.)
You might manage your newfound patient personality for a week, two if you’re super-human, but the facade will crack. Save yourself the trauma. Be yourself from day one. Be honest with yourself and set reasonable expectations. If you despise even the mention of glitter, skip it. Don’t buy it, don’t use it. If you are homeschooling more than one child and they tend to bicker, work with them separately and devise strategies to stop the bickering. You are the adult, you know what makes you crazy. Plan school with that in mind. Try to anticipate what is going on and what might happen with each lesson.
Kids are different when you take school out of the equation. If your child has been in a traditional school for any length of time bringing her home will likely require a bit of deschooling. The rule of thumb is six months of deschooling for a year of traditional school. Why do this? Your entire family needs time to adjust.
Homeschooling is not school at home. It is a way of life and moving from traditional school to home is a big life change for everyone. So, cancel the plans you had to replace the dining room furniture with a neat row of desks and a chalkboard. Deschooling does not mean you stock up on video games for the next six months. Instead, spend time reading together, going for long walks, exploring local parks and neighborhoods and talking about whatever happens to come up that day. Get to know your local librarians. Don’t worry about having a set agenda for now, just find your new family rhythm.
One of the first things you’ll notice if you have multiple children is the change in them. The artificial school hierarchy will gradually disappear. Your kids will start playing together and cooperating far more than they most likely were when you first brought them home. You’ll also notice how much more relaxed everyone is in the mornings. No more frantic searches for backpacks, lunch money or that all important shoe. If you are out late for a special occasion, you can sleep in in the morning rather than trying to rouse sleep-deprived children. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Yes, your children will still fight. Yes, you will still lose patience. But, neither of these things will happen nearly as often as they did when traditional school was a factor.
Finally, when the day comes and you find yourself in the laundry room, screaming into a pile of towels, cancel school for the day and let yourself regroup. It’s not a race, one afternoon or day here and there is not going to ruin your child’s chances of getting into a good college.
Pace yourself. Be yourself. Throw away that halo. Try to be patient (see what I did there?). You’ll find your new family beat soon enough.