A surprising lesson about homeschooling

We finished up week two of our homeschool year yesterday. This is our 6th year homeschooling, and it’s been interesting to look at my “On This Day” section on Facebook and see so many years worth of back to school statuses. To say that the first few weeks can be a bit rough would be an understatement. 😏 I’ve also noticed that some years are better than others, and some kids “bounce back” much easier than others.

My son does not easily bounce back. 😐 And for the sake of being completely open and honest on this blog…sometimes (a lot of times) I hate homeschooling him.

There. I said it. 😑 And the mama guilt is so deep with that confession.

My sister, Emma, posted on Facebook yesterday about her own struggles with her oldest son. We had talked and texted a lot this week, about our struggles and frustrations, the lessons we’re learning about ourselves, and how we thought in the beginning that homeschooling would be fun and exciting, but a lot of days it’s a struggle. (Are there homeschoolers reading this? Can you relate?)

In the beginning, I imagined cuddling on the couch with my kids while I read a science book, sitting next to them at the kitchen table, helping them add sums or remember their times tables. I was excited about teaching them language arts, because I loved language arts, and they would smile at me and write these amazingly creative papers that we’d hang on the fridge along with their artwork (artwork we did after I taught them a new art technique, of course). I figured my biggest challenge in homeschooling would be juggling one on one time with 4 different kids. And although that is a challenge…my biggest challenge, by far, is the power struggles with my strong-willed children. Why did I not see this coming? They fight me about something as simple as brushing their teeth, so how I thought hours of schoolwork would be “flowers and rainbows,” as my sister put it, is beyond me.

Laziness is our other big struggle. My laziness, their laziness. Laziness all around. There are days that I’m fully motivated and ready to go, but a lot of days, I just want to sit around for a bit and relax. Sip my coffee. Start “in a little bit.” Take a break whenever I feel like it. Yet I expect my kids to have a different attitude, and I get *so frustrated* with them about it. And when they’re being exceptionally difficult, when I already don’t feel like doing school myself? Homeschooling is hard, yo. 😏

One thing Emma shared with me was some very wise words a friend shared with her. They hit me hard, because there is so much truth in them. She said that it’s not the academic part of homeschooling that’s hard, which is what I thought in the beginning. It’s the character training. When my youngest sits for 3 hours in front of spelling words, because she refuses to write them, it’s a character issue. When my son fights me about every single assignment he doesn’t like, and hopes he’ll break me down and I’ll let him off the hook on something, it’s a character issue. They’re hoping to get out of doing what they don’t want to do. They’re being lazy, and challenging my authority. How will I respond?

I went to school, and I was lazy about my academics. I was smart, and I knew just how little I could do and how well I needed to do on tests to get by. If an assignment was too hard, I was totally fine with taking a bad grade and either not turning it in, or putting in just enough effort for a C. I had teachers pull me aside and try to reason with me, tell me I had so much more potential than I was using. But I knew they were busy. They’d give up or move on, and I’d have a new teacher later, who hopefully didn’t even notice me. Fast forward to adulting, and I’m still struggling with doing things I don’t want to do. That character issue has followed me. And I’m now seeing it in my kids. How will I respond?

The beauty, and challenge, of homeschooling is that these character issues are right in front of you, all day and every day. If I sent my kids to school, they would have 8+ hours of the day away from me, or their dad, becoming who they’re going to be. Would they receive the influences we want for them? The morals and training and discipline and Christ-likeness that we’re trying to raise them with?

I don’t know. I can’t know.

But I do know that they are now, because I’m teaching them all day. Their dad is teaching them, when they’re with him (we’re divorced and share homeschooling).

My son is, by far, my most challenging child to homeschool. I know, every day, that every assignment will be a fight. I know that I have to be super disciplined about our routine and my expectations, or he thinks he can get me to give in somewhere. If I stay black and white in my expectations, a few weeks from now he will relax and hurry to finish his assignments, even if he doesn’t want to. He will know that I can’t be broken down, and his priority will be more free time instead of getting mom to crack. A month or two later, the power struggle will be back. And I really hate it. Black and white and constant consistency do not come easily to me at all. They’re a huge struggle. And I’m not a fighter, by nature. I just want to give in and give up, but I know I can’t. He needs me to hold my ground, to set clear expectations, and to hold up when he challenges me. He needs to learn the lessons in those challenges. They will make him a better man, one day.

I never saw homeschooling like this. But you know what? Despite its difficulties, and despite moments when I’ve locked myself in my room and cried, while I thought about how much easier it would be to pawn him them off on a teacher all day, I am grateful for this journey. I’m grateful I can teach them now to work hard, not procrastinate, and do their best, even when they don’t feel like it. I’m grateful I can show them what Christ-likeness is, all day long, in every situation. And I’m grateful that it’s also teaching me. God has revealed my own character flaws, through my children, so I can finally overcome them. I am a stronger person, a better parent, because I have homeschooled, especially when it is hard.

Is homeschooling the right choice for everyone? No. Is sending your kids to school wrong? No. Like so many aspects of parenting, it’s a choice about what’s best for your family, and this is best for ours. But so many who choose homeschooling enter into it without any idea of the realities (I know I did!), and today I felt I needed to share this struggle.  I’m grateful for it, but for some reason, it surprised me, and I’m sure there are many out there who think they’re the only parent thinking, “I didn’t realize this would be so hard!” Sometimes it’s amazing and perfect and you feel so grateful to be doing it, and sometimes it’s so hard you want to quit. Keep at it, though, and you will see the rewards. I promise. ❤️

A surprising lesson in homeschooling, that not only changed my kids' lives, but changed mine as well.

Have you ever struggled with an aspect of homeschooling or parenting you weren’t expecting?   How did you overcome it? Please share it in the comments!

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