If we look at homeschooling through the rose coloured glasses presented to us through sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, we might think that every day is supposed to be this wonderful journey, snuggled on the couch together reading, doing beautiful crafts and worksheets, examining flowers outside and journalling about it. And maybe for some families, it IS like that. But I would think that it’s an extreme minority, and we’re all going to have power struggles in our homeschool day.
Homeschooling is hard. Wonderful, but hard. There are good days, there are fun days, there are rough days, and there are horrible days – just like parenting. Trying to meet the needs of each child in our lives can be a challenge.
In 2013, I wrote the following journal entry. This is a glimpse of a hard day in homeschooling.
He sits curled up on the floor of the kitchen, barricaded into the corner by the chairs he’s pulled around himself. His eyes bore into me, daggers shooting from them wishing I would just go away. There’s a series of words being muttered to me that I can’t hear, but am well familiar the context of the intent of them.
Sighing, I work hard to not succumb to the internal pressure that I feel building up that leads to me screaming at him in irritation and retaliation. I said I would work on my patience this year, and it seems like this child is determined to force my lessons sooner and in more extremity than I was looking for.
I’d been extra patient today. This child in particular needs one on one school time. He finds it hard to focus when his brothers are at the table at the same time. So I usually get him to sit through our family morning Bible time and then let him wander off to play Lego, Hot Wheels, or his Nintendo DS while I finish up with the other 2 before calling him up for his turn. They even headed outside first thing in the morning to play in the snow for a good hour or so before we got started – which pushed our lessons back a bit. His brothers worked hard and finished up. But not him.
This is where we stood now. 3 hours after I first tried to get school started for the day.
”Ok. So…. what can we do about this?” I ask, hoping that in his anger he’ll still be able to come up with a creative solution. Apparently, school is “horrible” and “boring” and he is “never doing school again.” Got it. But that’s not really an option. Learning is kind of vital to our future successes. And it’s not like I’m asking him to write a 40 page essay on some insipid topic. I just asked him to write this week’s spelling words on slips of paper to update our spelling list. He doesn’t have any solid ideas – if he can even form a coherent thought other than anger at all.
It’s this moment right here that a homeschooling mom starts questioning her decision to homeschool and mentally debate the steps involved in putting said child in school. Maybe he’ll respond better to someone else’s teaching. Maybe he needs a full day of structure. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
Sighing, I finally give up. Today’s a write-off. I manage to keep my temper and chase him out of the corner. I grab my laptop and his hand, leading him upstairs to my room. He’s screaming now, as loud as he can, but a least he’s coming with me instead of struggling against me. We settle into my room. The screaming continues. I explain what he’s lost now that he’s refused to do school and his tune changes to screaming about wanting to do it. Rolling my eyes slightly, I let him know that would make me happy – but he’s still lost all the extras today.
In an attempt to get him focused on something, I pull up an education related learning website and get him started. It seems to work. The screaming stops. We work together on math for a bit then we head over to readingeggs.com. At this point, he’s smiling again. Exhausted, I lay down and let him play for a while.
I love this child so much. He’s vibrant and animated and wears his heart on his sleeve. He can be so compassionate and caring and yet, in complete opposition – so angry and defiant. He’s independent and out of the box.
That’s my cue. I have worked hard this semester to come up with fun and creative lesson plans to try and pull together a more structured approach to our days instead of just letting the day go as it flows. But, what I really should have done is realize that this boy, this child … he’s different. He needs the close learning with me. He needs it to be different and completely outside the box. He needs something that will capture his attention and hold it. He needs to have his passion ignited.
School isn’t a good option. It worries me to think of a label being slapped on him if he was to behave this way in a classroom (although all group activities we’ve done to-date have showed him to be just fine). I think of how he could just slip through the cracks in learning and not really pay attention to what’s going on because he’s busy trying to make people laugh or distracted by the things around him. I know homeschooling him is the right choice. But some days, like today, it’s just exhausting. We’ll stick it out though. We can do this. I hope.
I’d love to tell you that things are much better today, 5 years later. But in truth, it’s not always. We still have amazing days of learning and horrible days of fighting. We have found little changes in our homeschooling that have helped leave less opportunities for power struggles and have we have all become more in tune with what works and what doesn’t. We’ve focused more on each child’s learning needs and dropped the extras. I try to think outside the box to bring learning into our lives. It’s not always easy, but when I see his eyes light up with understanding, or see him being a wonderful helpful young man to people in our community, or help him discover a passion – I know it’s worth it.
So, dear homeschooling parent, if you have a challenging child or a challenging day – I want to encourage you to know something: This is just today. Tomorrow is a new day. Be flexible. Drop what is causing the battles and find a new way to get through. Confuse them with hugs instead of anger. Find that mythical snuggle couch and ask them to join you without “school” expectations. It’s worth it.
Lisa Marie Fletcher is a homeschooling mom of 5 who loves to teach her kids with unit studies, computers, and hands-on activities. She blogs at the site, The Canadian Homeschooler, where she works to connect homeschoolers across Canada with each other and with companies / resources that help them on their journey.Follow us!