I’ve recently undertaken a leadership role in an organization designed to support and encourage homeschool moms. One of my jobs will be to quiz and review kids in their weekly assignments, as well as to provide science experiments, public speaking opportunities, and art instruction one day a week. But I’m thinking my primary job will be to tell new homeschool moms, “You can do this. Breathe slowly into the paper bag.” I’ll need to remind them that, while this job of homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, it can be done–and successfully.
How am I going to do that last part? I’m not sure, exactly. Probably I’ll end up confessing some of my medium-level homeschool fails so that they understand that “those days” happen to every mom who teaches her own kids. And then I’ll probably share some ways I’ve managed to psyche myself into not feeling like a failure. Because so much of homeschooling has to do with what’s going on in a mom’s head. This psyching myself up (along with constant, on-going prayer) is a two-pronged approach, both doing and thinking.
The ‘Got Done’ List
When I begin to lose perspective, when I feel like nothing I’m doing in our homeschool is living up to my own standards, I know that it’s time to go back to the ‘Got Done’ list. This is, quite simply, a running tally of everything I actually do in a day, recorded as soon as I finish each task–not a list of what I wish to accomplish. The ‘Got Done’ list is often shocking in its scope and length. And it makes me feel so much better to review it at the end of the day than when I write a ‘To Do’ list in the morning, and then see the absence of a great many checked-off items at day’s end.
Make no mistake, I put many, many things on this list. I record having had a personal quiet time (if I did), making my kids’ meals, any cleaning up around the house I might have done, running errands, reading to my kids, talking to a friend in distress, answering important e-mails, working with my kids on their math, memory work, writing, etc. The ‘Got Done’ list reminds me that even if my day didn’t unfold exactly the way I wanted it to (and, honestly, when does it ever?) it’s still OK. The list reminds me that we still accomplished a lot.
It All Counts
This is really more of an educational philosophy, and it has, incidentally, saved my sanity–both when we lived in a small town in northern India, and now. The ‘it’ in ‘It all counts,’ is every life experience my kids might have in a day. ‘It counts’ means that we try to see everything we encounter as an educational moment for our kids, an opportunity to broaden their horizons and to learn. That trip to the grocery where we talked about produce being more expensive–but ultimately healthier–than boxed cereal? It counts. That commercial for life insurance, and the conversation about life-expectancy and money and fear that ensued? It counts.
Reading ‘The Iliad’ together counts, but so does deciding what books not to check out at the public library. Math drill? Very important. My middle son’s figuring out how much money he’ll need to earn to buy himself a turtle? Also important. Learning about nutrition and a balanced diet from books and websites? Helpful. My daughter’s tummy-ache from eating too many grapes? Equally helpful.
Being mindful of all that I managed to accomplish in a day (with the Lord’s help!) plus assigning educational value to even the most mundane of tasks has helped me to enjoy homeschooling for the long-haul. Though it is not an easy road to travel, and there are pitfalls and sincere moments of frustration, homeschooling is worth the effort.
And it all counts.