Finding Peace in Homeschooling
Recently I presented a talk to my local homeschool group on finding peace in homeschooling. I thought it might be nice to share here. I hope you will find something helpful as I know it is all too easy to lose our peace along our homeschooling journey.
One disclaimer before I begin; I have not “arrived” to a place of peace. Please do not read this post and picture us moving along swimmingly through our day, as if we have reached perfection. I have to remind myself, on a fairly regular basis, of everything I’m going to share with you. Just a few weeks ago I sent my husband a text telling him I am handing in my resignation! And the first week of school, this very year (18+ years in) I had thoughts flying through my mind like, I’m not cut out for this, I don’t have what it takes, and why I am doing this? In much the same way we are perpetually growing in our faith journey while still on earth, homeschooling is also a place of ongoing growth.
First things first; just like every other area in our life we need to remember to lean on God for our true peace. Frequent the Sacraments! We obtain grace and strength from them. What a gift!! Adoration is a wonderful way to feel refreshed. Try to not neglect at least a little prayer time. I understand this is so challenging for busy moms. We have to get creative about our prayer time. If you can’t spend time in prayer before everyone wakes up in the morning, you can pray in the shower, in the car, while you do laundry or cook, whenever you are able. Prayer should be constant conversation with God anyway, so it is ok to pray throughout the day. In fact we are told to do this in Scripture; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without Ceasing”. And remember everything you do for your family is an offering, a prayer. Caryll Houselander wrote this in The Reed of God, “Yet it is really through ordinary human life and the things of every hour of every day that union with God comes about.” (pg. 26)
Now, onto some practical matters. To help understand how to find peace, we need to first root out what robs our peace so we can combat those thieves. Some, but certainly not all, hindrances to peace are:
Comparison is dangerous. It can rob you of your peace faster than you can say the word. Comparison has been referred to as one of the “5 Emotional cancers” in the workplace, and I believe this rings true for women in every walk of life. Comparison is destructive. It tears us down if we let it. Comparison to our friends and other homeschoolers leads us quickly to discouragement and despair. If God has called you to this place, He believes you are enough and knows you have what it takes. Remember we all have God-given gifts and talents. What works for one family may not work for another. Keep seeking what works best for your family. Comparing ourselves to others saps us of energy; energy which is better spent doing what we need to do to accomplish our goals with and for our families. Just as brick-and-mortar schools are not one-size-fits-all, neither is the homeschooling journey.
*When you stop comparing yourself to other homeschoolers you will find peace*
Thief #2- Am I doing enough?
Before you read any further, take a moment to draw a square on a piece of paper……. Now put a dot to the right of the square. The box you just drew is the school system. You are outside of the box, a place you desired to be when you took on the task of homeschooling.
The question of, “Am I doing enough?” is another form of comparison, but this question is usually about comparing our children’s education to the education of children in public schools. We may find ourselves panicking over intrusive thoughts such as, kids in school are reading by 6, or they know multiplication tables by 7. The list could go on and on. Know that it all evens out. It truly does! We left the box because we wanted better for our kids. So why do we look to this place to gauge how we are doing? We don’t want our children to become computers who can input and spit out information. One should be careful to not get too caught up in how much your child has learned each year. (I mean to the point of robbing your peace) We want our children to be life-long learners, who know how to learn.
In some areas your child may be ready to keep moving on while in others you may need to spend more time. This is the beauty of homeschooling. You don’t need to “hold your child back”. Keep plugging along where they are excelling and slow down in the areas which need more work. You do not have to finish every book you have purchased. Nor do you need to continue with things which aren’t working for your child. Close your ears to the outside world which asks if you are doing enough! Learning is not just about the books. Learning happens in many ways. Teaching our children life skills is of great importance. And we as homeschoolers certainly teach our children many life skills.
Assess every now and then, as if putting together an evaluation portfolio. Look at what you have done. SEE that learning IS in fact taking place!! Bear in mind, we are raising our children for Heaven not Harvard!
*When you stop comparing your homeschooling to the school system and see that you ARE doing enough, you will find peace*
In addition to comparing to the schools:
Don’t be afraid to let go of the syllabus a bit. The syllabus is there to guide you. You do not need to be a slave to it. Trying to check all the boxes usually does not bring peace-and I am a serious box checker!! ;) School just doesn’t always work like that. It is also OK to change gears and move in a different direction if something is not working.
Different seasons of life bring busier times, for example, when a new baby is born, when a move is taking place, if there is a death in the family. Any of these big events will bring chaos to our school year. It is ok to relax a bit in these times. The year my father died I was afraid to put together my portfolio for my end-of-year evaluation. We took a great chunk of time off and I worried we hadn’t accomplished enough. To my surprise and relief I found, by God’s grace, we accomplished quite a bit. Even if we do bare minimum the kids ARE in fact learning. And honestly bare minimum for homeschoolers is quite impressive, considering most are overachievers!
Thief #3 Not recognizing the root of struggles
If you feel you need to put on your battle gear every morning and you dread the day ahead of you, if your child is melting down often and stressed over school, there may be an underlying issue. While our days may not all be filled with sunshine and roses, they shouldn’t all be terrible. There may be a readiness issue, a learning issue, or you could possibly be using the wrong curriculum for your child.
Each child learns differently. What works with one child may not work for another. This is one of the blessings of being “outside of the box”. We have the ability to work with each of our children on their own level, and within their limitations, encouraging learning by respecting their own learning style.
I highly recommend Cathy Duffy's book, 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. Take the survey in the book. This will hone in on your teaching style and your child’s learning style, enabling you to choose your curriculum in a more conducive way.
Our journey as homeschoolers is one where we have to retool, tweak, and reassess what we are doing and how we are approaching things fairly regularly. Again, although this can be tiresome, it truly is beneficial to have this freedom.
There are plenty of resources at our disposal, which can help us to change things up for a struggling learner. For example, one year one of my children was struggling to understand some of her science lessons. She is very hands-on. I found some helpful activities on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. We slowed down the text book to create anchor charts and mapping activities for each unit. These helped reinforce the concepts for her, making science fun instead of her most-dreaded subject. Of course, it is also ok to change curriculum midstream if it is bringing forth more tears than successes.
Don’t be afraid to let go of the day if things aren’t going well. You will pick up your stride when you begin again. It is better to function well than to battle through. Listen to your instincts and know when to take a break, set things aside and just have a fun day, a restful day, a break day.
*When you school in a way which works for each child’s needs you will find peace*
Thief #4- Opinions of Family and friends
Another thief of peace can be the naysayer’s voices rolling around in our heads. Most, if not all of us battle the inner turmoil when we are met with strong opinions about our decision to homeschool. This may include a family member or friend challenging us with questions about our ability to teach our children, or expressing concern regarding the children’s socialization. A husband may lack confidence in the ability to actually take on this feat, or he may feel apprehension over the opinions of coworkers, family members or friends as you take this radically different approach. Lack of agreement with your spouse on the approach to homeschooling can also bring stress. Share opinions, pray together on finding solutions. Communicate and compromise (not on conviction, but on execution). Our husbands do have a say in their children’s education.
*When you shut out the negative voices and find a path to walk TOGETHER with your spouse you will find peace*
Thief #5- Being too busy
Do you ever find yourself falling short on actually getting to the school work because you were too busy socializing the kids?! I have watched many new homeschooling moms burn themselves out (myself included!) trying to jump on every single opportunity that arises in an effort to ensure the children don’t feel different and are well socialized. Remember those naysayer’s voices? Are we trying to make sure we look good to everyone on the outside? By allowing ourselves to be so busy we may let things at home fall apart, including the schooling.
Simplify if you feel you aren’t accomplishing the work that actually needs to be done. While we don’t want to be box checkers we do still need to school our children. Sometimes we get so busy socializing them, spreading ourselves thin (understandable-we need community) that we find ourselves unable to get the school work accomplished. If you are feeling frazzled by the busyness, it may be time to re-examine all that you are doing outside the home. Sometimes scaling back is necessary. Finding balance is often tricky, but regular reassessment and adjusting of schedules can be helpful. This is different for each person. Some families thrive in the busy, while others do not. Spend time truly evaluating what works best for your family.
Allowing interruptions in our day can be another stumbling block. The many distractions of texts, phone calls, and social media can occupy great amounts of time, making us feel busier and distracted from the task at hand.
*When you learn what level of busyness or simplicity works for your family, (and accept this!) you will find peace*
Thief #6- Lack of time to prep and plan
We have to take time for teacher prep days. Schedule days when your husband (or a parent, friend or other relative) can take the kids so you can organize and prepare. If this doesn’t work, schedule an independent work day, where the kids will still do school work independently, but you can catch up on things while they work. You could work beside the kids so you are available if they need help, or you could use the day for educational movies.
*When you feel prepared you will have peace*
Thief #7- Lack of breaks
There is value in a day off. We need breaks, and not just during Christmas and Easter. I recommend scheduling a day off here and there. This will give you something to look forward to. It will motivate you to do what you need to each day, knowing you have a break on the horizon. You could use this day off to plan an adventure with the family or choose to spend a cozy, quiet day at home, whatever you need.
*Taking breaks periodically makes you feel renewed, thus you will feel more peaceful*
Thief #8- Do I have what it takes?
Some say homeschooling is not for everyone. While this may be true, I do believe anyone is able. Mothers are resourceful and always find a way to do what they feel is best for their children. The Catechism states, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children” (2223). God gave each of us what we need to see to the needs of our children. He will especially bless the efforts of those raising children for His Kingdom.
*When you realize you indeed have what it takes, you will find peace*
A few final thoughts
It is important to realize the battle at hand. We are in a battle for our children’s souls. We are faced with this as we navigate these homeschooling years. I don’t want to give the enemy too much attention but it is helpful to remember what we are up against as we raise children for The Kingdom. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
We all need support. Don’t go it alone. Seek help, advice, and ideas from your fellow homeschooling friends.
Take time for activities which will recharge your batteries.
Take time for things which will support you in your homeschooling, i.e. homeschool conferences.
Remember that if Our Lord brought you to this place. He will give the grace to persevere.
Pray without ceasing- SEEK-TRUST-AND LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS -begin with our Lord and Lady. Listen as you pray. He and Our Lady will lead you faithfully.
May our Lord bless your every effort,