I've been starting to try out smoothies in my blender - a simple combination of frozen blueberries, yogurt, and a banana. It's been delicious and filling so far. Earlier this week, I thought I would try to grind up my vitamin pack in the smoothie to make it easier to take. The problem is that I forgot one of the vitamins was a gel cap with fish oil in it.
My normally delicious blueberry smoothie was the most disgusting thing I had ever tasted. It smelled like a raw fish, and it tasted awful. I tried to just drink it down quickly, but I couldn't get past three sips. The rest got dumped down the disposal.
This is what I see happening in some families' homeschools, especially if they are working and homeschooling. They start with a beautiful recipe for family time and quality education that fits their unique needs. Then they start to drop in "vitamins" that someone told them they need. Immediately, everything starts to stink.
But the problem isn't that they chose to homeschool. Their basic recipe is fine. It's just the little drop of fish oil that is ruining everything. Trust me - it doesn't take much stink to ruin a good smoothie.
We often can't smell the stink in our own homes because we've grown accustomed to them. We need someone from the outside to walk in and call them out. Here are six common mistakes that can bring the stench in and ruin your attempt to work and homeschool.
Actually, this is a mistake that all homeschoolers tend to make when they are just starting out. We have been so conditioned to school being about workbooks, tests, and grades, that we have a hard time breaking out of the mold into learning tasks that are much more effective and a lot less tedious. However, as a working homeschooler, you have to guard against this even more for one simple reason – the “school at home” style of teaching has the highest burnout rate. Your plate is already full, so using a method that is prone to cause burnout is a risk (and a little stinky).
I’m not saying that you have to go to extremes and never use a traditional workbook. What I am saying is to be careful about the type of curriculum you choose and why. If you have to “grade” assignments in multiple subjects for multiple children every night, or if your child has to do boring work on a computer all day, you could get discouraged easily. Make sure you look at all of the options and methods available before making a commitment to a program.
Everyone tends to raise their expectations when they start homeschooling, and those expectations can be very unrealistic. If staying home is not an option on the table, then don’t hold that kind of household and homeschool as your gold standard. It doesn’t matter if the family down the street just cooked a medieval feast and performed a play in handmade costumes, followed by delicious cake made from scratch by a six-year-old. Your choices are to send kids to school or to teach them at home while working. If you want to compare things, compare things that are actually an option for you.
I would break this rule a lot when I first started out. It’s hard to see other families who have time to do really extensive projects and not get discouraged. But I would usually wise up and realize that even if our homeschool didn’t look like my ideal, it was still the best option I could provide my kids. I could see that they were thriving more at home, and that our family was seeing all of the benefits of learning in a home environment. Of the choices that were available to us, we were doing the absolute best for our family. So when you meet the fifth grader who just published her first novel in French, don't add the stink of comparison to your homeschool. Just close your eyes and remember what school days used to be like before your brought your kids home.
Everyone is going to have an opinion about how your school day should look, what things your kids should be studying and how much progress your kids should have made by now. When we are new at homeschooling, we can be super-sensitive to every comment and make reactionary changes or a weekly or even daily basis. This can drive your family crazy, because it stinks.
Can I remind you of something important? You are in charge. You can certainly take into account anyone's suggestions, but always hold them up to your own measuring stick. If you have carefully made a decision about what is going to work for your family, then any other suggestions can be smiled at and placed aside.
When I worked full time in an office, I would get a lot of “how do you do it” kinds of questions. One question I would get often is “How do you work and then clean your house and still find time for school?” My answer was simple: I didn’t clean the house. Why would I do that? I had two very capable kids at home who usually finished their school work before I got home from work. They were the ones who needed to learn some adult responsibilities, and they also happened to have some free time on their hands in the afternoon. If you try to everything yourself, you are just going to be angry and short-tempered with everyone (stinky).
Your kids might be smaller and not able to help in this way yet; however, they will also need less time devoted to school each night. Delegate what you can. Hire help if you can and don’t feel guilty about it. Accept the help of friends and family to help with school and housework without feeling inadequate. Finally, accept a house that is “less than immaculate” for the better goal of a family that is connected.
One thing that working moms can miss out on is the support groups that often meet during the day. Working moms can easily feel more isolated, and that truly stinks. But here is some truth: most homeschooling moms would be happy to support you in any way they can. You see, most homeschoolers are very passionate about the benefits of homeschooling and would love to help anyone who is trying to make it work. They care about your kids and understand your desire to give them a customized education. There are also multiple Facebook support groups for working moms who homeschool.
Be intentional about seeking out other families who homeschool. Ask about getting together outside of your work hours. Ask for help getting your kids to field trips, sports, or other activities. Most importantly, if you run into a not-so-helpful homeschooler, don’t let it discourage you. Move on and ask someone else. I promise you that most of us will be there for you.
I started homeschooling late in the game. I had an eight grader and a fourth grader. I was so worried that it was too late to start and too late to “fix” the things that needed fixing. Well, it was too late for some things. There were a lot of things that I wished had been different about their starting experience with school, but it wasn’t too late to create a better ending. Those years that my kids did have at home completely changed their direction and gave them a solid foundation for adulthood.
However, it was hard not to feel bad about how long we waited. The stink of regret can be painful. I had to constantly remind myself that late was certainly better than never. Focusing on what we couldn't or didn't do will not help us. We need to acknowledge the imperfect, then move on and work with what we have.
Did you find any of these smells in your homeschool? Removing the source will do a lot of good, but some residue may hang around for awhile - hand washing my blender did not help. It had to go through a long steamy run in the dishwasher to get the stench out of the plastic. Keep working at it, and I know you will find you way back to that sweet-smelling homeschool.