Homeschooling is hard. Those of us who pursue this lifestyle say it to ourselves and to one another, and we all know it’s true. In fact, anyone who’s tried to teach her child anything for more than a week begins to see that it’s a more involved process than she imagined. But why is it hard? Unless our child is struggling with a particular learning challenge, why is it a big deal to teach our kids?
I’ve mulled this question over in my mind for years. We’re approaching our ninth year of homeschooling, so by some standards we’re old hands. At the same time we continue to experience challenges in our homeschool, even now. As we head fully into the middle school years, we are dealing with challenges we’ve never before tackled.
The thing is, it’s not the academics that give us pause. The “schooly stuff” is what most people who do not homeschool imagine is the Really Big Deal. They say things like, “Oh I could never teach my own kids. I don’t remember how to do Algebra at all. I can hardly remember my own name!” And we smile vaguely, wondering whether this is the time to answer that we don’t remember everything about Algebra either, or to just keep silent. Because, for a lot of us, the challenges of homeschooling are, and probably always have been, related to living life together—in the same space–every day of every year.
What makes homeschooling hard is what makes parenting hard. In many ways, homeschooling is parenting on steroids.
The truth is that we’ve found a groove in our daily studies. We do some math, writing, Bible study, a little memory work here and there. There’s a whole lot of drawing and building things and messing around on the guitar or piano. There’s a fair amount of exploring outside when the weather permits. There are jujitsu classes and co-op once a week. I can’t remember the last time someone cried at a math worksheet.
But when my newer homeschooling friends lean their heads near mine, eyes full, and murmur that this homeschooling thing is hard, I stare straight back and say, “You’re right. It is.” And what we all mean is that parenting kids is difficult, that this much contact with [spoiler alert] imperfect children wears on the soul sometimes. Because we’re also imperfect. We get tired, we can be selfish grown-ups (on the inside, even if we’re serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without grumbling).
This is actually a human problem, not a homeschooling one, though that doesn’t make it feel any easier. The answer is not necessarily to jump ship on this intense, intentional lifestyle (though it may be the right answer for some families) because the character issues we confront in our children and in ourselves are there whether we see them or not. Chances are, other people see them even if we don’t. Homeschooling is hard because the people we love the most see our faults in Technicolor and we see theirs. But like the irritating grains of sand inside an oyster, all that working-through-it togetherness can become an agent that helps form all of us into the pearls we’re meant to be.
So, yes, we will get tired. Even when math is going well or classes or co-op we’ll experience real trials when we choose to live twenty-four hours a day with our children. We will say it’s hard and we will be right.
But as the days turn into years, I am learning to say, Homeschooling is hard. Most choices that promote growth are. But—and you know what I’m going to say—in the end, it’s worth it.
Now excuse me while I remind my son to pick up his dirty socks. Again.