Not unlike kids attending public school, homeschooling families go through an adjustment period at the beginning of the school year. I find myself experiencing amnesia every September, and forgetting that growing pains come with the territory. As with most aspects of parenting, a little patience and understanding go a long way in balancing the unique dynamics that accompany homeschooling.
I can’t speak for other families, but the two biggest challenges I see us facing are learning among the distractions of our home, and, learning from one’s parent. Although we learn all year long, we begin formal, structured, purposeful learning at the start of the traditional school year. This involves a schedule: starting around the same time each day, completing various subjects and bookwork, and maintaining focus. After a fairly loose summer of freedom and completely self-directed learning, I hear a metaphorical SCREEECH as my kids suddenly have to bow to structure. More specifically, all of the distractions (toys, games, pets, electronics) are readily available and calling to them like sirens. With trial and error we’ve found compromises, but the lure is ever-present.
Then, there’s the issue of being taught by Mom/Dad (or Grandma, etc). Most kids will respect the authority of their teacher, and if not, there’s always the principal’s office looming abstractly as a consequence. When you’re home with your parent, there’s a different kind of balance to strike. Homeschooling, as I frequently tell my kids, is a privilege that has to be wanted, respected, and honored. There’s an excitement to teaching one’s child, with the freedom to inspire and teach anything, everything. A balance exists, somewhere between motivating a child to learn, keeping distractions at bay, and retaining the responsibility of parent. It’s ever-changing, as the child matures, his or her needs change, and the parent-child relationship morphs.
As we go through these bumps in the road each year, I tend to forget that we’ve been there, done that, survived, and thrived. At times I panic, worried that something “isn’t working” and that I’ll screw up my kids’ education. I freak out, I calm down, I breathe. We begin to settle in to the school year, and if I sit back and let myself relax, I can see the learning. How excited my little one is as she masters her math lessons, my older daughter as she writes stories and draws pictures one after the other, or how they’re both walking around the house speaking snippets of French and Italian, languages they knew nothing of only a mere month ago. It’s working, they’re blossoming, I see it, and yet, I forget to trust it, trust myself. I need this reminder to do so, and I know I’m not the only homeschooling parent who does. So to me, and to you, let’s have faith in our kids, ourselves, and the process.