Reality Bites – Homeschool edition

I know. I’m a few days late with this post. It was due Saturday. I didn’t even get the reading done until Saturday afternoon. That’s because this week’s chapter was about being Real. Honest and real with your self and those around you. But, despite my self assuredness that I am indeed already “real” with everyone, I’m not. It goes back to that giant pissing match I wrote of last time. That drive to put the best foot forward, and point out the accomplishments while ignoring the shortcomings. This lesson has also made me realize the lack of homeschooling friends in my life, something I just don’t want to dwell on. So I’ve been procrastinating. I just don’t want to write this. I’ve been more then happy to pop the next game into the Wii, and even play along. But write this I must. Because I am sure that I am not the only homeschooling mom out there feeling the lack of like-minded women in her life.

It’s not that I don’t know any, I’m sure I do.  It’s that we all hide behind these facades, feeling the need to be perfect all the time.  The perfection needs to stop.  Recently on an email support group I’m in, someone asked how do the rest of us deal with the pressure?  How do we turn off the teacher for a while?  No one was answering.  The woman had opened her soul about getting burnt out, and no one wanted to go near it.  So I answered.  And I did my best to use Real answers.

Because I do get burnt out, then depressed. Which leads to a few weeks of doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except those pesky kids of mine keep asking questions & reading (or asking to be read to), and somehow they learn despite my shortcomings.

We started off, almost 2 years ago with a classical, structured school-at-home approach. If you’d have told me then that I’d be an unschooler, I’d have said you were nuts. But we hated the curriculum, and I just couldn’t justify buying it again only to toss half it right off the bat in making modifications for how my kids work. so we went eclectic. But life happens. Depression hit hard. I tried to hit back, and through it all, they learned, even with our new found laid back approach.

Granted I know I’m short on history, long on math and language, and only fair on science and art. Music is mostly music appreciation (“What kind do you like? Oh, you want to rock out? Awesome! Me too!”) and some sing along stuff. But right now, my munchkins are young (7, 5, & 3). We’ve got plenty of time to cover what they need to know.

The biggest struggle is my own guilt. Am I doing enough? Am I failing them? (though the CAT proves I’m not) Am I doing a good job? That guilt sometimes drives me to do crazy things to and for my kids. But truth is, they are doing well. They are sponges that just soak up life and everything around them. It’s actually pretty awesome.

But am I bad for counting Wii Sports as PE? *S*

The pissing match ends here.

Several more lies listed this week that I can so identify with.

“Everyone is more disciplined then you and way more spiritual.”
“Everyone else can do it all.”
“Everyone else is more capable than you.”
“You are the only one who is falling apart and feels this way.”

Homeschooling can be wonderful. But it is also very stressful. If you send your child to a school, and they can’t add or read “on time”, you can blame the teacher. But now… Now you are the teacher. If your kids don’t meet the standards, you have no one to blame but yourself. No one wants their child to be stupid. No one wants to be the lowest rung on the ladder. But just exactly what standard do we use to measure ourselves and our kids against? There really is no set what and when. For example, reading. Most schools want the kids reading at least by the time they hit first grade, if not earlier. But studies have shown that not every kid is ready to read by then. I’ve met some homeschoolers (old pros who’ve been doing this for more then 10-15 years) who admit that their kid didn’t start reading until well after the school-appropriate age, and yet their kids turned out just fine, some with college degrees even. So really, there is no set standard. The result, many of us wind up silently comparing our kids to the other kids at the Co-op meetings or support groups e-lists or park days.

Thus homeschooling is turned into a sort of pissing match among the moms. If Mom1’s kids are beating your kids in math, you are really hoping that your kids are beating hers in science or something, just to equalize things. We tend to brag about our children’s accomplishments, and hide the areas where we are falling short. We want the accolades, the oohs and ahhs, the “Wow, I need to try that,” from other moms. We don’t have a roomful of parents and kids ready to declare our wondrous teaching talents. We don’t have anyone giving us awards for being the best teacher. Most of us don’t even get a thank you for making dinner (In the interest of honesty, I do. My DH has made it a habit to thank me for things like that so the kids understand, and I of course reciprocate when he cooks) or doing the laundry. Our talents – be it cleaning, cooking, or getting those little light bulbs in our kids heads to click on – are often taken for granted by those around us. If we don’t proclaim our successes, who will?

I just love this little comic from Todd Wilson on this:

toddwilson-comic.jpg

How many times do we feel like Marci? That feeling of inadequacy, that is what drives us to find something, anything that our kid does better than Betty’s kids.  So we accentuate the positives, and ignore the negatives.  We pretend that everyday is kittens and sunshine, while our children hang on our every word.  We ignore the days we spend more time yelling then teaching.  We don’t mention the fact that we let them play computer games all day, or that we had a Mythbusters marathon and considered it Science class.  We act like we have a giant chip on our shoulder and feel the need to prove that we are doing just as well as Betty and her brood.  We want the affirmation.  We want someone to say that we are their best inspiration.  Then we feel guilty because it’s not the full story.  So we swear to make the changes that will have us fulfilling that vision we’ve put out there of the perfect family, with the perfect lessons, and the perfect everything, only to fail miserably.  Then we feel even worse because not only can we not achieve what we think Betty has, but we feel like a fraud for portraying that we do.

So how can we, as a homeschool community, fix this?  It won’t be easy.  But if we recognize that even Betty has bad days, and be more honest with ourselves and those around us, it would be a great start.

Homeschooling is not easy.  As Todd says on page 45,  “No one homeschools because it is easy.  Most do it because they think it is best.  That should comfort you because the best things are almost always the hardest things. …  Homeschooling must be really really good, because it’s really really hard.”  It is not always a bed of roses.  There are days when you will pop in a movie and pray for just 5 minutes alone in the bathroom to regain your sanity.  There are times when those days will out number anything else.  But as Todd says, we are God’s Plan A for our kids, and the best is yet to come.

Lies.

I’ve joined this study, with the rest of the women over at Heart of the Matter. Boy oh boy do I ever need this now.

So, at the end of chapter one, Todd Wilson asks, what are some of the lies that I might be believing about my kids and our homeschool journey?

Lie #1: They ain’t learning nuttin’. I mean, seriously, the proof is in the pudding, or the assessment test. GeekBoy is doing 3rd grade level Math, reads at a 5th/6th grade level, and he just finished his 2nd grade level Language workbook. He passed his CAT test with a 98% overall. thePinkDiva may not seem to be doing much, but she can read far more than she lets on. She also passed her Kindergarten CAT test, with a 64%. Not bad for my Pre-K kid. So, obviously, they are learning. The whole “unschooling” thing throws me for a loop. And then I here about others who are doing music lessons, and science fairs, and all that, and that leads to lie # 2.

Lie #2: I’m failing them. When I here about those in the area who are involved in co-ops and doing science fairs and running all over the state for lessons… I start to wonder. Am I doing enough with them? Should I be doing more? I grew up in a traditional system. so it’s hard for me to accept that not sitting at the table for even an hour, they can still be learning.

There are other lies… but those are the big two.