When we talk about homeschooling, we mostly talk about the needs of our children. And, rightly so. But after five years of being a homeschooling mom, I can tell you that my needs are important, too. Not in a selfish way, but because if my 'homeschooling needs' aren't met, I won't be the effective and supportive teacher/parent I strive to be for my kids. Here are few needs that I've found are critical for me (and therefore for my kids)...
1) The curriculum needs to work for me, too. If I'm bored out of my mind, it's going to show- no matter how hard I try to hide it. But, if my excitement is evident (through tears and laughter- it happens almost weekly, thanks to Sonlight), even a child not-so-excited about school will sit up and take notice.
2) My expectations for housekeeping, cooking, blogging time, and any personal time whatsoever, need to be realistic. I'm not going to be able to stop cleaning and making meals, but if I can scale back my standards of dust-less furniture and new and amazing recipes every night, I will not be day dreaming of all I could be doing while my student is taking F-O-R-E-V-E-R to complete her handwriting. When my mind is elsewhere, I become agitated and impatient- a brewing storm when added to a child having a rough day getting through lessons. Just as a few weeds are okay in the garden, so is a little (or a lot) of dust in the house.
It's also okay if instead of your toddler sitting beside you studying her letters while you teach your other daughter, she's sitting on the floor meticulously peeling the paper off all the crayons, making an incredible mess. Just let it go...who really needs to know the name of each color anyway? Or, if she gets a hold of the body lotion and paints her arms and shirt with it, or...well, you get the picture. Expectations need to relax.
3) Setting aside time to spend with a homeschooling mom-friend is priceless. I have a dear friend whom I get together with every other month or so. We talk homschooling, but we talk about so much more and that's where the value lies. While homeschooling takes up a lot of our lives, it isn't our whole life. It helps to have a homeschooling girlfriend who gets that. It's a big part of our life, but it's not the only thing we're good for (overstated here, obviously). After spending time with her, I feel understood and certainly not alone (thank you, Carmen!).
4) I need my spouse to understand what it's like. A huge gift of Jamey's work schedule (which wasn't evident at first) is that he regularly has a day off during the week. On these days, he takes over either morning or afternoon school. More even than giving me a break (which is awesome), he gets to see first hand what the kids are doing, how they're doing and what I'm doing everyday. It's like being seen. While he doesn't do it day in and day out, he gets a frequent glimpse into the state of things, including the difficulties. This is feasible for those of you whose husbands work weekdays- just take a day off during the week and do school on a Saturday so Dad can feel more involved. Who knows! Maybe he'll even want to take over a subject for you (a mom can dream, right?).
5) Homeschool moms (like all moms) need a humble heart. Homeschooling is humbling and you have to be able to roll with that fact. Never in my life have I done something that has pushed so many of my buttons. It's all a continuation of parenting, but with homeschooling, there's the added dimension of trying to educate your children in a more formal way. My true (unpleasant) colors shine through WAY more often than I would like. By being together ALL the time like this, there are so many more chances for my kids to see me at my worst. Oh, and they have. But! If you can talk about your mistakes, ask forgiveness from God and your kids and try again (over and over and over), this job does refine you. Be gentle with yourself. Admit those mistakes- you WILL make them! And model for your children the virtue of recognizing when you've messed up seeking to make things right.
6) While making sure your kids are meeting their educational goals, we must remember the importance of educating the child's soul. It's so easy to be constantly comparing our kids level of mastery of different subjects with big-school-going kids. It's also easy to lament that they might not be getting as strong a concentration in this or that subject. There are ways around these concerns, but no school is going to be perfect. And these pressures can leave us stressed and on edge and focused on turning our children into perfect academic students (also not realistic).
What's more important is who our kids will grow up to be. What kind of person will they be like? Will they be driven to succeed at all costs like so much of the rest of our country or will they lead a life driven by a deeper purpose? Take your focus off those comparisons (within reason, of course) and remember it's a person you're raising and educating, not a test score. This is freeing for both you and your kids.
7) I need an under-booked schedule. Some moms seem to thrive (or at least keep their heads above water!) when their family calendar is full of activities, whether it's sports, music, play dates, etc. Routinely, I re-evaluate my kids activities (or lack there of) and routinely lean toward the under-booked life. I function better without too much on my plate and my kids do, too. Figure out how you thrive and make sure it's a good fit for your kids, too. Re-evaluate it now and then, but don't feel pressure to be/do something that doesn't work for your family. In a couple years, things may look differently, but for now, trust your gut, not others'.
Keeping these needs in mind certainly doesn't make everything run smoothly all the time, but it certainly helps. May God bless each of you as you finish out the end of your year and as we all look forward to summer!