Tag Archives: homeschooling burnout

Stop the Homeschool Tears and Yelling, Part 2

Scathing words. Hard crystal eyes. “It’s your fault, Mom. You asked for it. If I was in school, we wouldn’t have this problem. If you can’t teach me, you shouldn’t have homeschooled.”

Well. Huh. This isn’t going well. Accusing responses build loudly, sounding like a jackhammer in my head. Somewhere in the house I hear doors softly close as siblings retreat out of the fray. Do I take the bait? I know this path. It’s easy to follow.

Nope. Not this time. I’m done with that. I make a mental HARD STOP. Immediately. I am not a fish! I do not jump on dirty worms hiding nasty barbed hooks. It is my job to bring out the best in my four children. It is my job to bring out the best in myself as I bring out the best in my children. (So help me, God. Because I am going to need it.)

I have been homeschooling for ten years, and I love it. And I’ll tell you what! My kids do, too. We have had our moments, months, or even years. There have been maybe two or three times when I finally broke down, couldn’t think of another thing to try, and offered to send a child to school for classes. (It is my full intention to homeschool all four of my kids through high school, but I am not here to ruin my children’s lives. I am here to help them thrive, learn, and be the best they can be, inside and out.)

However, my children have always turned me down in the end. They decided they liked the homeschooling education and opportunities, and they wanted to find a way to work together. I know I am the adult here. I know I can find a way to understand the dynamics. I was gifted these human beings. In today’s post and in the last post, I explain some important thoughts that I consider to keep me from antagonizing my children.

The Reflection of Me I Refuse to See

I am consistently beginning to notice that when my kids irritate me as I teach them, it’s because I am looking at (often subdued) pieces of myself. Every time tears glisten in my children’s eyes, there’s a good chance I have provoked them because “Big Terri” (that’s me) is reliving “Little Terri’s” life and school inadequacies. I’m not teaching math or grammar anymore! I’m covertly “teaching” my child what I had to squash out of me (or call forth out of me) in order to “succeed” in school.

Be quiet. Sit down. Do math faster. Lose math facts chalkboard races again. Quit counting on your fingers; you’re too old for that. Stop talking. No whining. Pay attention. You’re a good reader, but not good enough for that class. That’s bad handwriting; look at Melanie’s. Be number one or nobody will care or notice. How can you be so smart and not be able to add fractions? You talk too much. You’re trying to learn German, and we’re working on spelling. We’ll spank you because strong enough to be an example.

These are voice loops from my school experience. (And the paragraph got way too long, so I took half of it out! Laugh till you cry! And I was a good student! What kind of voices do non-conforming adults carry in their school memories?) Anyhow, I see an awful realization:

My teachers and lessons have become my kids’ teachers and lessons nearly thirty years later!

So often, whatever it is that I am losing my temper about is really about me. I am looking at a piece of me or my life somehow. It can take me months to see that I am so angry because my child is:

  • doing something I do,
  • doing something I have done,
  • doing something I have been reprimanded for or embarrassed over,
  • or showing me a trait of mine that I have squashed down so deep in me that I don’t even know the struggle is there anymore.

When I finally do see how it is not my child that I am punishing, but me, I’m dumbfounded. It takes courage and curiosity to see it. I have asked my friends sometimes about traits that I see in my children and if I have any of that in me. “Hmm. Never seen that in you, Terri. You’re perfect.” Thank you, dear friends. I know perfection surrounds itself with good company.

I must see that I’m judging myself when I judge them.

Stuff a sock in your thoughts and compliment your child.

Kids thrive on accurate, TRUE praise. I have very high standards, so I begrudgingly compliment my kids about their schoolwork. It’s expected work. But I KNOW that my kids do better when I tell them, “Great job!” Or, “You’re really good in multiplication.” The hard thing is, compared to all that is stuffed in my brain, they’re, uh, well, honestly, they’re not good at reading, writing, and math.

Whoa. I know. It sounds horrible to read. But I subconsciously base my evaluation of my kids on my brain after successful completion of thirteen years of public school, five years of pharmacy school, four years of medical school, and a medical residency. Plus living over forty years.

So, yeah, stuff a sock in your thoughts, Terri. I have to consciously tell myself that I need to encourage and compliment my children each day in each area. Sometimes it feels fake and like flattery, but I know that’s because I am thinking about it from a brain that has been educated already.

I must compliment more.

Sit with them.

This is the hardest for me, actually. Strangely, it’s even harder than all the others! And it requires nothing.

Sit. (That’s hard.)

Sit. Quietly. (Oh, just give me a kidney stone already.)

I’ve got lunch to make and supper to plan. Laundry to fold. Bills to pay. Mom’s birthday coming up. Other kids’ lessons to teach. A four year old to pull away from the TV.

I don’t have time to sit here for thirty minutes, mostly in silence, just waiting for my child to move forward somehow. What sixty minutes now? What? Two hours? Are you kidding me? She has accomplished nothing and brought me down with her.

No! This won’t work! I need to show my student how to her work, hurry her along to show me she’s got it, and then move on. Check-box marked.

But homeschooling doesn’t work that way. When there are struggles, especially coming out in anger and tears, I have learned that I must sit quietly with my kids as they work. I must not ask inflammatory questions or hastily push them along. I must be there to help. Not degrade. When they’re mad at me and trying to explain themselves, I must not interrupt. I must not even interrupt their silence! I must sit in silence as they formulate their words, sometimes requiring long, long tens-of-minutes of silence. I must sit next to them as they struggle through math, keeping my voice and thoughts calm and focused on them.

I must sit in silence.

School is an Option

When I’ve exhausted everything, every opportunity, and I still feel like what I’m doing is making us both worse people, then, I ask the hard question. “Do you think you need to go to school to learn this? Would you and I be better together if you took this class, and others if it leads to that, at a school?”

There has come a point in which I knew my parent-child relationship was deteriorating due to homeschooling interactions. I knew that in a particular area in homeschooling, I was letting a child down. I knew that even though I was trying my best, I wasn’t doing a good job! And I told my child exactly this. I think because of my exceptional honesty, my child decided that whereas she had been unwilling to budge before, she wanted to try it again with both us trying even harder.

I must be willing to let go if I have to.

You Should Have Made Me Do It

When I meet resistance in my children, I usually stop and assess the situation. I make some tweaks and changes in what we’re doing to coax them along. I don’t usually just plow through and make them do things “because I said so.” I’m a very strong-willed person, and this is a sure-fire way to lose me; therefore, I am cautious to treat my children how I would like to be treated.

I recently was in combat with one of my older children who was pointing out that I had let her slide through a school subject in her younger years. (I had tried everything throughout the years, and it only created resentment and anger. So I put it off till I could put it off no longer.) I asked her now that she could look back, what should I have done? She said, “You should have just made me do it.” Sigh. Easy for her to say.

At select times, I must be willing to push my child past the point she thinks she’s capable of.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Since they were born, I see my children as PEOPLE with futures. I just got lucky enough that these people got put in my arms to tend. When yelling and tears happen, I step back and take inventory. WHAT can we do here? WHAT is REALLY happening here? WHAT am I missing? God gave me these people. Their His people. What does He want me to know about them? What does He want ME to know about ME?

Best wishes to you! Find a way!

Terri F

When Homeschooling Goes Bad

sign_slow_15_mph_000_0080Is your homeschool havin’ a bad, bad day? Every day? I’m not going to say it’s okay or that you should just be calm and relax about it. I don’t relax much about anything. Ha! No way! I’m a constant problem solver.

But I am going to say, “You’re not alone!” Oooh, doesn’t that feel nice? You’re not alone! I’ve had my share of bad homeschooling days. All of last year was a bad homeschooling dream. I remember Googling homeschooling blogs to see what other moms did when they had a toddler underfoot. What I walked away with was, “It’s okay, Sugar. Your kids will learn. Being together, happily singing, babysitting, and doing housework is more important than fretting.”

Just like I can’t sit with too many bad homeschooling days, neither can I chill like that. Here’s my top five suggestions for dealing with a homeschool gone bad.

1. Change up the curriculum: It’s not “the best” curriculum, but it works for us.

Who has TIME to use Susan Wise Bauer’s First Language Lessons? Or Charlotte Mason’s “living books” idea to teach?  I think it was another life (the vision is cloudy, but more like ten lives ago, actually) when I cozied up on the couch with two little angels (er, maybe it was another universe) flanking me on either side to read aloud. Twenty lives ago we used to cut and paste crafts and lapbooks. Maybe that wasn’t me at all! Maybe that was some pretty dream I had thirty lives ago!

With four kids, our curriculum needs have changed. Whether I like it or not, whether the kids like it or not, we have to move towards each child, young ones included (you should see our baby clean toilets!), doing more independent work. I feel like some of my homeschooling ideals have been compromised because I teach less, but since my top ideal is a lifelong love of learning, we’re safe. That’s intact.

I’ve had to mostly ditch my self-designed, teacher led spelling curriculum for my third daughter, who is an exceptionally motivated young student. My choice? An Evan Moore spelling workbook. Is it “the best” workbook? No. Is it “the best” spelling program? No. Will she be a fine speller? Yes. And I don’t have time to do all that spelling jazz, nor does she need me to.

We’ve ditched Institute for Excellence in Writing for a time, maybe a very long time. I just couldn’t get read up on the lessons anymore to assign them their work. So I found some journal writing prompts on-line and now they write these several times a week, while I check it for grammar. It’s my Institute for Sanity in Writing.  (Interestingly enough, this has been lots of fun! Their creativity has taken off, and they often let me be privy to some very deep, personal thoughts and dreams!)

Other things I’ve done in our curriculum include: not trying to do too much grammar and writing at the same time, taking breaks from Saxon math for focused worksheets, covering less subjects at a time.

2. Put your third hand down: The phone. The phone. The phone is on fire.

The phone. The phone. The phone. You know it. I know it. We’re both looking sheepish. The phone must go. Set it on “do not disturb” and check it at set times each day. Yes, it feels good to be needed. It is fun to get hot news off the press. Heart lifting to hear from an old friend. But I’m pretty sure the phone has killed more grooving homeschool lessons than there are dust mites in my pillow. (That’s a lot. Since we have allergies, we use dust mite protective cases, wash them on sanitize, and dry them on hot. Unrelated. Sorry. My husband says I always share too much information…but maybe it will help you?)

3. Schedule appointments in the afternoon: “No. I can’t come to that appointment! Do you have a three o’clock?”

I’ve finally accepted that any appointments need to be in the afternoon. That was bitter for me to swallow, because I like to get the early appointments when the doctor may still be on schedule. I thought by getting the appointment in the morning, we’d get it over with and school would rock on. It never happened that way. I’ve found it best to keep our morning schedule (that’s when we do “the hard stuff”) the same and fiddle with the afternoon schedule. School goes well that way, and we get our appointments in.

4. Find some childcare or housework help: “Get the baby off the top of the refrigerator!”

Last year, I struggled through the year with a toddler. It was not a new experience for me. I have four kids; I’ve taught with a toddler underfoot before! Of course, I didn’t like it then either, BUT at least then I was not trying to teach algebra, long division, and more advanced writing skills.

My toddler can be so loud and obstinate when she knows what she wants. And she wanted her sisters! This didn’t work well for my distractible child, who couldn’t focus with the toddler’s screaming, or my bleeding heart child, who hated to hear the screaming from the pack-and-play (where the toddler goes when she won’t stop fussing). I just couldn’t win.

It wasn’t working. Not for me. Not for the kids. Not for the toddler. So I got help this school year. I know we can’t all afford help, but any help will do. If you can find a way for someone to keep the toddler busy so you can teach the others for even an hour without an interruption, you’ll feel so much better! A woman from church? Another homeschooling pre-teen? Swapping kids back and forth with a homeschooling friend; she takes your littles one day so you can teach the bigs and vice versa. Or even having someone come in and do a load of laundry for you or prep some meals.

With the help, our school is feeling nice again. I actually have time to print off some worksheets from the internet. I have time to write down a lesson plan. I have time to drill flashcards. If you can, get help. Then, you can breathe. Breathing helps. Breathing is good. Trust me. (And here you’ve been wondering why you’d been feeling so bad… 🙂 )

5. Get some real help: You can’t do it alone and there’s a lot at stake!

Sometimes, more than you need help with laundry or impetuous, climbing, dangerous-to-themselves toddlers, you need help understanding and relating to one of your emerging older children. The anger outbursts, the seemingly laziness, the insolence–it’s overwhelming you and completely impeding learning. (Read here and here and here for my take on dealing with adolescents. Oh, and here when they say they hate you…)

Sure, sending them away to school is an option. It’s the option of least resistance, which does NOTHING to change coping mechanisms that are being set FOR LIFE.  Or does nothing to change your mechanisms which have been set and need changed so your family can live harmoniously together. As much as we like our friends and we need them, it is the family unit which all so much crave to have intact and at peace.

Don’t be afraid to get professional counsel. Alcoholics, borderlines, depressives, manic depressives, abusive adults—they don’t happen overnight. They happen with the pressures of life. Give yourself and your kids a chance to learn new coping skills when you see they’re needed. Ask a pastor or counselor for professional help!

Conclusion

You can do it! I ran out of time for more, but leave your best tips in the comments for others to learn from!

And also, if you decide you simply can’t do it, then don’t be silly and beat yourself up! There are tons of things you can do that I can’t! It’s what makes life fun! Do your best and learn when to let go! Now, go hug your kids today. Mine are milling in the kitchen, so I’m off this box!

Terri

Image credit: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Betacommand. Found on Wikipedia.