Saturday, October 17, 2009

Picture Perfect Homeschooling

I used to have this picture perfect image of what homeschooling would be like, especially after reading some of Charlotte Mason's writings. I imagined joyful children delighting in living books, asking for "one more page pleeeeaase!", dancing to classical masterpieces, painting beautiful pictures, running through grassy meadows with butterflies and songbirds fluttering about. Ahhh.... so wonderful, so beautiful, so natural...

...so far from my reality many days.

While some days things really do go so well, many do not.

My husband runs his marketing business from his office in our kitchen and my mother has dementia and we care for her in our home and my almost 2yo is in this phase of exerting her very stubborn will by fussing really loud. (Yes, I'm training her!)

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out this equation:

Real Life Circumstances + Irrational Expectations = Frustration, Discontent, and Discouragement.

And this can be the danger, or so I believe, for some of us overachiever type Mamas in implementing CM, or any other type of homeschool for that matter. As we read some of her writings, our picture perfect expectations can grow and grow, and as we talk with other, more experienced CM Mothers and begin to compare curriculum, school work, ourselves and our children, our discontent can grow to not-so-nice proportions.

I am perfectly guilty of it myself.

In my own defense, for the most part, my heart is in the right place - I want the very best for my kids. But I would be remiss to say that pride hasn't reared its ugly head more than I like to admit.

It was such a relief when I was at a CM meeting a while back and one lady there said we need to keep things in perspective.

She pointed out that CM had no children of her own and teaching and education were her life's work and passion. She taught at a school with many other teachers and assistants who could help her. This is my own assumption, but she probably had caretakers and cooks and everything else needed to run a school as well. I doubt she was 'doing it all' like we do today. And in those days (late 19th century, early 20th) Mothers had nursemaids to care for her children while she attended to her various duties.

In other words, they weren't cooking and cleaning with a baby on one hip while they were doing their lessons like we do sometimes. They didn't have all the responsibilities and distractions that so many of us have.

So as we ponder CM's writings and our own expectations, let us consider these things and keep it real. What I've found is that my expectations are the only variable in that equation that I have complete control over.

And I'm learning to adjust them. Rather than forcing a book my daughter disliked and struggled with, I swapped it out with one she liked that was less intimidating for her. Rather than harping on the kids to be completely quiet when my husband has an important business call, I pack school up and take it outside, or go for a nature walk first then do lessons in the afternoon. And when my son has trouble sounding out an easy word, rather than drawing it out into a long uncomfortable situation until he gets it, I'm just sounding it out for him and moving on.

Adjusting my expectations is a continual process of tweaking and fine tuning that I don't think will end anytime soon. But isn't that part of the beauty of homeschooling after all? That we have the flexibility to adapt ourselves and our curriculum to our child's unique needs?


  1. Oh yes, Naomi! We all expect that Sound of Music moment, everyone twirling in the sundrenched Alps, singing "the hills are alive!", but sometimes it is more like we are sloshing through the mud, muttering and grumbling instead.
    I agree with you that the best thing about home schooling is adjusting to your kids' needs. And life's needs. It is important to have goals and a schedule, and it is important to be flexible. 2 life lessons that really matter.
    I loved this post. Thanks for being real.

  2. Amen!

    Thank you for such a real, heartfelt post. So encouraging. So true. So beautiful.

  3. Yes! Beautifully said, Naomi. I love Greta's comment. Our ideal contrasted with the gritty reality. It can be quite a contrast. Don't you just cling to those moments of joy and blissful cooperation? Then I trudge through the complaining, the lack of appreciation over such a great education they are receiving. Well, we know. ;) (Love that photo of Ryan and Turner. One of those lovely days at the wetlands.)

  4. Yes, when reading and following C.M.s approach,
    it is easy to have high expectations.
    Sometimes I need to be still and remember that my burden should be light.