Sunday, 25 March 2012

My 'Bad' Homeschooling Days


Some years ago I offended a friend.  She was telling me about her bad homeschooling day. I should have offered some empathy but I didn’t. Before I could stop myself, I tactlessly suggested the problem might lie with the mother rather than her children. I regretted my words instantly when I saw my friend’s upset face. Later I returned with a huge bunch of flowers and apologised profusely and my friend forgave me and all was put right.

So why did I judge the situation so wrongly? I suppose I assumed the friend was like me.

I used to have an awful lot of bad days. On those days all my children wanted my attention at the same time, the baby cried, the toddler whined, everyone bickered, no one did anything without arguing or delaying for as long as possible... A heavy weight pressed down on my head and I wanted to scream and run away. I wanted to run away from all of my children who always chose the exact same day to be out of sorts. Why did they do that?

But one day I realised something. Perhaps all of my children weren’t out of sorts all at once. Maybe it was me that wasn't feeling my best. Have you ever noticed how a mother’s mood sets the tone for the whole day?

I decided that most bad days occurred when I was feeling overtired. I could handle a bit of whining and crying and noise on an ordinary day, even a child or two who were not feeling like their usual selves, but when I was extra tired it didn’t take much to turn me into a dragon mother without any patience at all.

Two things made the situation worse. Firstly, I blamed the children for being slow, noisy, demanding... which made them just as upset as me… and secondly I ploughed on with my day regardless of how we were all feeling. Why did I find it so hard to let go and admit I needed an ‘easy’ day? Perhaps I was afraid every day would end up being an ‘easy’ day and we’d never get anything done.

These days we don’t have babies and toddlers in the family but I still get overtired. On days when my head is hurting and I’m not feeling my best, I try and admit it. I don’t carry on in a vain attempt to be the perfect mother. I try to arrange a relaxed day and maybe do something for myself. Does it really matter if we have a day when all we do is read books, or draw, or write blog posts or watch some DVDs or go for a walk or even sleep? The things I’d hoped to do with my girls or the things they were hoping I’d help them with… they can wait until another time. I suppose it's all to do with abandoning myself to the circumstances of each day.

I am aware we have an advantage over many homeschoolers. We don’t have a curriculum that is guiding us, a curriculum that has to be kept up with. I don’t make plans. Every day’s learning is a bit of an adventure and so it’s easy for us to be flexible about how we spend our time.  Learning is just part of our life and it doesn’t stop even when I am tired and we have a slow day. I have discovered that learning occurs on every sort of day... every sort of day except those that are filled with yelling mothers and unhappy children.

All we learn on those days is how much we hate bad days.

18 comments:

  1. Very profound:) It reminds me to be aware of the difference between strewing and planning when I put my ideas together. I think you summed it up well when you mentioned the need to be flexible - that way, I think we can cope better with whatever the day sends us, don't you think?

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    1. Vicky,

      I think that even though we say we are unschooling, this doesn't mean I am uninvolved in my children's education. I am always on hand to help, I make suggestions, find interesting things to strew, read books aloud, discuss things... But on slow days when I am overtired I have to be flexible and let the girls get on without too much input from me. And I think they learn just as much! I have found that if I decide to take time to write a blog post for example, they'll decide to do the same. We end up having a writing day.

      You said... "I think we can cope better with whatever the day sends us" if we are flexible. Accepting what God sends us each day is good for all of us regardless of whether we are homeschooling or not. Can we abandon ourselves to the circumstances or do we fight to maintain control? I'd rather be flexible.

      Thank you for your comment. I am still thinking about this topic...

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  2. Oh my goodness, Sue, I have had days like this. You are so right! I have noticed that there are some days when I can roll with too much noise, too much disorder, and too much whining. Then, there are days when I feel I can tolerate almost none. And the truth of it all is definitely that the mother/wife sets the tone. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you so much for the reminder.

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    1. Stephanie,

      Don't you hate it when you get up and you just know it's going to be one of 'those' days? I can feel the pressure building up and I know it won't take much for me to go off on the rails... unless I admit how I'm feeling and take action! I wonder why we feel we have to struggle on as normal. Stephanie, what do you do on 'bad' days? Do you have any tips for avoiding mother meltdown? I guess you'd find it much more difficult than me to take time out as you have a baby.

      Thank you for your comment!

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    2. Sue, sometimes I try to plow through. That does not usually go well and I become extra grumpy. Some days I just know I need extra quiet time for myself. I try to remain calm knowing that I'll take some quiet time while the baby is napping. That's how I usually get out of my funk. I have also found that getting out of the house and/or getting together with other moms and groups of kids is refreshing for all of us, mom and kids! : ) It also helps that the weather is getting nicer and we can get out more.

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    3. Stephanie,

      Yes, getting out of the house is good! There have been a number of times when I've abandoned the house, and the kids and I have headed out in search of adventure. It's hard to be grumpy when the children are happily playing in the park and the sun is shining and we are enjoying the beautiful day.

      I used to get together with other mothers a lot when the children were younger. We don't live close to many homeschoolers these days. I do enjoy my online friendships though. A few minutes at the computer reading some messages can really lift my spirits. Chatting on our blogs is great too!

      Thank you for returning and answering my comment, Stephanie.

      God bless!

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    4. Sue, I agree. Visiting with online friends definitely helps. It is amazing how the computer can help us feel connected to the outside world. : )

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    5. Stephanie,

      Many people don't like the computer and I can see how it can take up time and keep people from the immediate 'real' world. However, I remember being a young mum isolated at home with a baby. I would have enjoyed 'chatting' to a few other mums via the computer. Even today I look forward to spending some time online catching up with friends. It can be lonely at home (in my case, lonely for adult company, there's lots of children here!) and I am grateful for the technology which connects us all together.

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  3. I have fibromyalgia and your comment "... most bad days occurred when I was feeling overtired. I could handle a bit of whining and crying and noise on an ordinary day, even a child or two who were not feeling like their usual selves, but when I was extra tired it didn’t take much to turn me into a dragon mother without any patience at all." describes how I feel 90% of the time because of the chronic fatigue and pain (coupled with varying degrees of depression as a result), which is why we had to stop homeschooling - it had become hell on earth and everyone was miserable all day long ... now we're only miserable in the mornings and part of the evening.

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    1. Marina,

      I am so sorry to hear you have health problems which affect how you feel each day and impact on your relationship with your children. Mothering and homeschooling are difficult enough when we are in good health.

      You said, "we had to stop homeschooling - it had become hell on earth and everyone was miserable all day long" That's an excellent description of a bad day... many bad days, one after the other. I guess you came to the decision that you couldn't live your life that way and something had to change. In your case it was sending your children to school. Relationships are far more important than a method of schooling. Battling on at the expense of our relationship with our children doesn't make sense, though I think we all try and do this at times. It must take a lot of courage to face the fact that things aren't working. And maybe there's a lot of regret and sad feelings because you can't do what you want to do?

      Marina, I keep you in my prayers. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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  4. This is a good one Sue. Thank you. I will be processing it for a while. Putting the relationship ahead of "progress" makes for a better day for everyone.

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    1. Pam,

      It's always good to share with you. Maybe everyone learns better when relationships are good. It is usually counter-productive battling on when there are a lot of upset and unhappy feelings. So why do we do it? It doesn't make sense at times but we still find it difficult to let go and go with the flow.

      I am looking forward to reading your report on the homeschooling convention.

      God bless!

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  5. Good post, and many would agree with you.

    Often things go wrong when we're least able to cope with them. And also they all go wrong together making it almost impossible to prioritise as to which wrong to deal with first.

    God bless you and yours.

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    1. Victor,

      It's strange how everything falls apart all at once. Or is it us? If we took action at the beginning of a bad day could we avoid all the disasters that seem to happen one after another when we are not feeling our best? Interesting to think about.

      Thank you for your comment. God bless!

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  6. I love this post. Thanks for the gentle reminder to ease up instead of plowing through on those hard days.:)

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    1. Grace,

      I often ponder why we find it so difficult to ease up. We know from experience that it only makes matters worse when we plow on, but sometimes we still insist on doing it. Thank you for sharing my post!

      God bless.

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    2. I always think it's fear and comes from my own schooling. It really hampers me from the freedom that is unschooling. I worry about the "what if's" rather than enjoying the moments with the kids. This year has been a lot better, but I still have freak out modes. I'm learning that little by little I'm unschooling myself, too.:)

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    3. Grace,

      There's a book called "Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves" by Alison McKee. I haven't read it but I know a lot of people recommend it. Here's a link if you are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Homeschooling-Our-Children-Unschooling-Ourselves/dp/0965780627

      Letting go of our fears isn't easy. In my case, my children are getting older. I know I want to enjoy as many moments as possible with them while I can. I try to concentrate on that and let go of all the worries that I know I will regret in the future.

      Thank you for your comment!

      God bless.

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