I'm sure you have asked yourself this question at least a few times,
"Why am I homeschooling?"
There are different ways we would each answer this question depending on the immediate circumstances, but in the end, I think we could all agree on one overarching reason. We feel homeschooling is what is best for our children. Homeschooling is a calling, an honor, a duty perhaps. The bottom line is — it's what you WANT to do and you WANT to do it well.
I have found that the things I am most passionate about are often the things that bring me the most overwhelm. Why? I tend to do everything I can to make my most passionate dreams a success and end up lost in the minute details of each step instead of focusing on the bigger picture.
As I shared with you in my previous post, I struggled with homeschool overwhelm for six years before I found our cure. In my years of struggle, I did more than my fair share of research posting inquiries in groups and forums, pouring over homeschool catalogs and websites, and buying new curricula. There were so many options and great ideas!
I bought a lot of resources during those years of struggle. The more I bought, the more I experimented, the more I implemented, the more BUSY we became. And as you know, it led to burnout and complete frustration.
Today, I want to share with you three of the homeschool traps that kept me from finding the freedom and confidence I desired for our homeschooling. These traps are our own doing and if you're anything like me, you can keep yourself stuck in a cycle of these traps for years.
I just need to find the right homeschool method.
Maybe you think you can cure your problems with the right homeschool method. (I did.) Like many, I started out using the traditional school method (textbooks/workbooks). When that bombed for us, I researched other methods.
Once I found a method that resonated with me (my favorites have been … Classical, Thomas Jefferson Education, and Charlotte Mason), I poured myself into anything that was written about the method. I bought books, visited blogs, joined groups, bought new curricula and began to reshape our homeschool around that method.
As I began applying the new method, I would find there were parts of it that just did not jive with one or more children (or myself). What would I do? Being fearful that some homeschool police were going to come judge me for not liking part of their method, I pushed us through it anyway because I was determined to be successful like all of those other moms using the method.
Needless to say, after failing to implement the new method, here would come that familiar wave of overwhelm and guilt. After multiple attempts with several excellent homeschool methods (I'm definitely not saying the methods are the problem), I had to admit to myself that the method was not the answer to MY problem.
I just need to find the right homeschool curriculum.
We have a large and diverse family. I have 4 biological children, 4 adopted children, and 2 step-children. We have a mix of ages from toddler to adult as well as a rainbow of nationalities and a spectrum of learning abilities.
I felt the pressure of teaching various age groups and researched one-size-fits-all family lesson plans that incorporated the methods I loved. These plans were designed to teach your whole family (K-12) at the same time ... giving you reading assignments, writing assignments, fun projects for similar topics but at varying grade levels. This was PURE genius, so I thought.
I learned two things from my experience with one-size-fits-all curriculum plans.
- 1I wholeheartedly recommend grouping kids for lessons when possible; HUGE benefits. We do this as much as possible.
- 2I learned that these family plans did not solve my problem. In fact, they made it worse! There were so many options and at all grade levels. I was just as plagued as ever by the amount of check boxes and possible things to do. I quickly drove my kids to burnout again (even with the fun stuff). Despite recommendations from the curriculum to NOT do everything included in the plans, I felt like I somehow was failing if we didn't try to do at least most of it.
So again, this is not to say that the curriculum plans weren't great; many of them were and they are still sitting on my shelf. I just had to admit to myself that the curriculum was not the answer to MY problem.
This final trap and I have a love/hate relationship.
My homeschool just needs better time management.
There are so many books written on time management. I have read LOTS of them. In fact, homeschool moms, if they're like me, probably do more schedule tweaking and sharing than they do curricula swapping!
I used to arrange my entire school day into these neat little blocks of organized time (color-coded of course … former perfectionist here). Some days, it all worked out as planned! But most days, it did not.
When we reached the end of a time block, the voice of overwhelm would sound the alarm,
“You need to stop right now and move on otherwise you're going to fail again to get everything done."
And it was true! If I didn't push us on to the next thing, then we wouldn't finish our lessons without having to add more time to the end of the day.
And here enters the trap…
We cannot add more time to the end of the school day. Not a single minute. We have 24 hours to spend each day, not manage. There is no "adding" time that makes things better. It just means we are cutting something else out of our day that was important to us and/or our family = OVERWHELM.
Think of it this way.
You send your child to the grocer with $10 to buy a specific list of groceries. Instead, he spends the money on candy bars and trading cards. When he arrives home without the groceries, he says, “I didn't have enough money. I need more." Would you reply to your son, “Honey, you didn't manage the money well. Let me give you some more." Or, would you say, “You had plenty of money, but you spent it on the wrong things."
This idea of “managing time vs. spending time" may seem trivial, but it can make a huge difference in how you approach your day. Before learning to think this way, I allowed myself to fall into the overwhelm trap of:
I just need more time! I don't have enough time to do it all!
Now, I know better, so I choose to think better and do better!
I have ALL the time I need. I need to make sure I'm spending it on what is important.
Time management was not the answer to MY problem.
So what WAS the answer to MY problem?
Searching for the right fit with a homeschool method, curriculum, and schedule are not bad things. The trap is when we look for these things to be the key to our homeschool success.
I was a good student in school. I made excellent grades, graduated at the top of my class, secured a full college scholarship, and graduated from college with honors. Many called this a "successful" path and I had a several pieces of paper to prove it. However, I felt empty, like a fraud. Why?
Besides the fact that I didn't truly
learn retain much content from my education, I knew I was dependent on that diploma to take me somewhere. What if the diploma failed me? What was my back up plan? I didn't have one. And guess what, I needed one.
When faced with changing careers, I was terrified because all that diploma meant to me was that I was really good at staying organized, following directions, and knowing answers long enough to pass tests. Sound familiar? Yes, my box-checking days go WAY back!
I look back now and most of my education could have been summed up as busywork. I became an expert at busywork. I think this relates to what happens to many of us in our homeschool journey.
At some point, things don't go as we planned and we get sucked into this idea that if we jump through the right hoops … the right method, the right curriculum, the right schedule, that one day we will have successfully educated our children.
What does “successfully educated" mean to you?
Teaching them to jump through hoops of busywork like me? Probably not.
Following some expert's set of methods, guidelines, and tests will not achieve the kind of success I want for my kids. It didn't work for me when I was a student! I want them to graduate with more than just a diploma. I want them to graduate with self-confidence, self-motivation, and a desire to constantly be learning. I want them to take ownership of their educational journey and know they are not limited nor dependent upon expert opinions, diploma requirements, and tests.
So, how do you give your kids this kind of successful education?
It starts with YOU.
MY problem was not the method, the curriculum, or the schedule.
MY problem was with ME.
I didn't trust myself enough to be the expert (the pro) for MY children's education.
Instead, I trapped us in a cycle of busywork.
"Mom, are we going back to notebooking?! ...great because I remember so much more when we do that"
We have used notebooking in our homeschool for years but this past year my husband took a new job requiring us to move out of state. Moving can require a lot of a mom of five. I decided to trim down our workload and go as simple as possible. One of the things to go was notebooking. Now several months later we are moved in and trying to get back on track. My oldest daughter in her teens saw me looking at my account. She asked "Mom, are we going back to notebooking?!" I said I am planning to. She replied "great because I remember so much more when we do that" She proceeded to tell me about previous studies we had done and how fresh they still are in her mind because we used notebooking. I hope this is an encouragement to moms out there that are either considering notebooking or need to return it to their routine.