Homeschooling the Child You Have: 3 Pitfalls You Must Avoid to Have a Healthy and Happy Homeschool
As a new parent holding my tiny, perfect, newborn baby I had visions of who this little person would one day be. With parenting aspirations to rival the rich and famous, I imagined this little person growing into greatness.
I think most parents have hopes and dreams for each of their children. We imagine them succeeding. We hope to see them sailing through life with less difficulty than we may have experienced and whether we mean to or not we envision what raising these little people should look like, often picturing tiny versions of ourselves gracing their presence into our families.
Whether you always planned to homeschool or it is something new for your family, there are certain expectations that most parents have about homeschooling. Most of us envision happy mornings, and maybe afternoons as well, gathered around the table reading or playing games together. We imagine children happily carting their books or “school work” to their neat little desks and humming quietly while they complete the day’s tasks. Maybe we picture little junior reciting Shakespeare while creating a watercolor masterpiece to rival Monet. Or if math is our thing, we may hope to see little miss diligently writing code and creating her own video games.
While these visions all have the possibility of reality some of the time, homeschooling is millions of moments which make up the total collection of each child’s education. There will be days you feel like quitting and days that you just know you are the best homeschool parent ever!
3 Pitfalls You Must Avoid to Have a Healthy and Happy Homeschool
Avoid these 3 traps that will destroy the joy of homeschooling:
The pitfalls of comparison have never been as dangerous as they are in this digital age. Everyone knows that social media posts reflect at best the good moments in one's life and at worst completely faked or staged experiences. When we spend time coveting the stories we see reflected on someone else’s Facebook or even those accomplishments our friends brag about in an effort to help themselves feel better about their own homeschooling experience, we begin to feel dissatisfied with ourselves and the children we have been blessed with.
Comparison makes us look at our kids as less than, and to fall into the trap of trying to shape our child into something they are not and were never meant to be. When we try to squish our child into the mold of another family’s perceived experiences we are no better than the schools that expect every 6-year-old to perform at the same level as their peers. It is imperative that parents remember why they decided to choose home education and resist the monster of comparison that will suck all the joy from an otherwise beautiful homeschool.
Your little one is an individual. Not all 6-year-olds wear size 6 clothing, and not all kids will learn the same things at the same pace or even in the same order. Trusting the innate curiosity of a child to guide their education and forgetting about your friend’s kid who (supposedly) plays Chopin and performs calculus in his head despite being only 8-years-old, is one of the most important pieces of homeschooling advice I can offer to you!
Okay, we all have expectations. I am not suggesting that you cannot have goals or ideas or standards, but making these the foundation of one's homeschool instead of just a useful tool is a recipe for disaster. In any relationship, when one person is too firmly attached to their own expectations of how things should be, the other person is likely to suffer. As a parent, when my intentions become of greater importance than the child themself, I have created an unreasonable environment which will set the child up to feel like a constant failure. When my standards are left unmet day after day, my child will grow up with the sense that they never measure up and are just not good enough.
Having a plan or a list of goals is worthwhile as long as it is held loosely. And when a parent sighs, and berates themself for not completing the todo list, AGAIN, the child hears this and internalizes the failure because they really want nothing more than to please their parent.
I find that a rotating list is very helpful in keeping my expectations in a healthy balance. By having a predictable order of subjects or tasks that we simply keep cycling through, each day feels like accomplishment and can be considered a success whether we completed 2 items or 7.
Here is a quick example of a rotating list:
- Science experiment
- Language arts
- Fun art project
- History story
On Monday we might do math and music, then on Tuesday we simply pick up with reading, science, spelling and language arts. Wednesday the day begins with a fun art project followed by history and math. And so on. By having an open cycling list there is no expectation that the whole list be completed every day and everyone is much happier and feels good about the things completed that day.
This one is the most important. Every single day we need to remember to be thankful for the child we are blessed with NOT the child we imagined we might have. NOT the child we sometimes silently wish we had and NOT the child our friend has. The child we have is the one we need to love and teach each day. This is true for everyone, and is, I think, especially important for parents of kids with special needs. The quicker we accept and embrace the beauty of who our child is and release our disappointment in who they are not, the sooner they will be able to truly grow and thrive as exactly who they were meant to be. And amazingly, so will we.
Your child with his strong personality or his introverted shyness, or her dyslexia or need for her sandwiches to be cut a certain way are all examples of the things that make him or her uniquely themselves. The quirks, the struggles, the joys and all the intricacies are yours not to endure but to embrace and celebrate and love. Because if you can show your child that you love every part of them, they will grow up learning to love themselves and what better foundation can you provide for them to grow than this?
Here is a very personal account of coming to terms with disappointment : The Loss Of A Dream.
If you want to help your child grow into their best potential then you must STOP comparing them to anyone else, ADJUST your expectations to fit their abilities and RELEASE your disappointment that they are not what you expected. Only then will they have the chance to become their best self.
This is why you decided to homeschool in the first place. To help your unique child discover their individual strengths and flourish and grow in a safe environment rich in encouragement and full of the joy of discovery and learning. It is for this purpose that you are here with this exact child. Courage to you dear parent on the days you feel this and on the days you do not. Your role is the most important in the entire world to your sweet child.
For further encouragement on celebrating the child you are blessed with, read “How Much Control Do You Really Have Over How Your Child Turns Out?"
Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.