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How to Become a Patient, Fulfilled, and Happy Homeschool Mom

by Beverly S. Krueger

“Homeschooling is wonderful, I just wouldn’t have the patience to teach my kids.” You’ve probably heard that remark or something akin to it from your non-homeschooling friends. It’s just one of a host of fallacies that non-homeschoolers fall back on to support their decision not to homeschool. I think to a certain degree non-homeschoolers feel they are being judged as less capable parents. Certainly our society will back them up. Children are annoying creatures that we must learn to tolerate. When back to school time arrives, haggard moms are naturally thrilled to get the little beasts out of their hair for a big chunk of each day. Or so the common wisdom states.

If you’re a considering homeschooling reader, please don’t be offended. My beef is not with you. You’ve accepted this notion as fact because it is promulgated so thoroughly. (Or maybe you haven’t, which is why you’re here at EHO finding out about homeschooling.) As a young mother I heard it regularly in my Bible study from the ladies who had older children. Can’t wait to get those kids back in school. They’re driving me nuts. Let’s take a look at the actual roots of this notion and then see how to become a patient, fulfilled, and happy homeschool mom.

Not too shortly after the birth of your first child, you probably experienced the gradually increasing efforts to pry your child out of your grasp. There are the experts that say that children must be in playgroups to be truly healthy. So, you trundle your two-year-old off to a playgroup where the children are either playing separately or fighting over toys. Most two-year-olds are not developmentally ready to play with others, and they surely don’t know how to share. Nevertheless, experts say this experience is good for them, so you go along.

Then comes the need for preschool. Children must be prepared for school. ABCs and 123s are certainly not something you could hope to teach your young three or four-year-old, not to mention the fine art of standing in line. Off your children go to preschool, and if you’re a working mom who takes this opportunity to get back to her pre-baby job, it means your children will spend many hours in nicely programmed day care. I’ve walked through many a daycare class, a well run day care class, and seen children who are starving for attention, children who are already discipline problems, and children who are bored to tears for enormous spans of time. If mom were a fly on the wall in that daycare class, she’d soon see that keeping her child at home with her was a better choice.

Is it any wonder that the idea that you must turn your children over to experts in child development for them to develop properly is firmly implanted by the time your child reaches school age. Yet, this idea is counterintuitive. Those niggling doubts and feelings that preschool may not really be the best for your child, and the wrenching that most moms feel when leaving their young children in the care of others must not be allowed to impact what you intellectually know to be true.

Then there are the positives to accepting outside assistance. You can go back to work where you get a sense of fulfillment from society. I can remember having a “career” woman look down her nose at me when I pushed a baby stroller into an office building. I knew in her estimation I was a nobody who did inconsequential things all day. Then there’s the extra income that will allow you to provide your child with things and experiences you could never afford otherwise. Just think you’ll have the money for a regular vacation and for swimming lessons, gymnastic classes, ballet lessons, piano or violin lessons. What great opportunities for your child to be rushed from one thing to another like a miniature adult. Sarcasm aside, ultimately, the less time your child is at home, the fewer opportunities you have to screw up with them. Kids really can be frustrating especially if they choose to thwart your own carefully planned schedule for the day. If you’re like any normal mom you feel guilty when you lose your temper with your children. Does that make the “experts” right that education professionals must be a huge part of your child’s life? Are you really the incapable shlub you fear yourself to be?

Absolutely not! Let’s look at some of the issues I’ve raised. First, let’s look at the need for a sense of fulfillment. My generation was the first to assume that women cannot be fulfilled by being homemakers and mothers. Never mind that women for millennia have done so. The modern woman needs more, or so we we’re told. We’ve substituted the notion of glamour or intellectual stimulation for true fulfillment. There’s no greater fulfillment than seeing your child become a functioning member of society. That fulfillment takes time to attain, but it is made easier by all those small milestones, moments that you don’t share when you’re not there. Peeling and slicing apples because your child refuses to eat apples with the peel on or mopping up yet another spill are not glamorous things. Conversations about staying dry or whether a sandwich can be eaten in only one bite are not intellectually stimulating. Rather than set your sights on having a glamorous or intellectually stimulating job, why don’t you consider a better option. Why don’t you go for what’s fun. Childrearing easily pegs my fun meter compared with a long business meeting. You’ll be surprised that when you get over your frustration that staying at home with the kids is keeping you from true fulfillment, you’ll find it’s easier to be patient with your kids. Mopping up that third spill of the day is just another opportunity to have fun with your kids. No, you won’t be perfectly patient, but not resenting being home goes a very long way.

It’s true that working outside the home will bring in extra income that can be used for all kinds of things that you would otherwise be unable to afford. An assortment of lessons rarely makes a child gifted in all areas. Just as you long for more down time to just do as you please, children need that time, too. A child who attends school all day, then a lesson each afternoon after school, then has homework, supper and finally bedtime has no time to do what pleases them. They learn to rely on programmed activities. They become less creative and more amenable to being managed by others. Last I heard that wasn’t the American ideal. The same is true for the child who has every toy imaginable. They have a harder time learning to respect what they own. The notion that you can spoil a child with too much attention is the opposite of reality. You spoil a child with too many things. That extra income you feel is so necessary to make your family happy may in the long run be what causes the most family strife.

What about that guilt you feel when you mess up with your kids? We all mess up. It’s a part of life. The truth is that the people you turn your kids over to will mess up, too. The big difference is that they can never care for your children the way you do. They have too many kids in class to have the time to go that extra mile for each and every child that walks through the door. If your child’s not the squeaky wheel or the class charmer, the amount of one on one time they’ll spend with the teacher is minimal. Those moments when your child has a spark of ingenuity or a deep question may get passed by in the hubbub of a busy class. Then there’s the whole business of values. Who do you want teaching your child right from wrong? Do you want your child’s first discussion about abortion or racism to be at school with someone who may hold a completely different view from you?

How do you become a patient, fulfilled, and happy homeschool mom? You do it one day at a time taking the good with the bad, forgiving yourself and apologizing when you fail, and looking for the fun that being with your kids all day can bring. You gain greater patience by practicing patience not by abdicating to the notion that it is impossible to attain. You look for fulfillment in the things that are lasting. You find happiness in a dynamic relationship with your children. Homeschooling is so much more than just teaching your kids at home. It’s a lifestyle that each family uniquely creates. You may be worried about how you can get your kids to do their math when you’ve always struggled with homework. Hey, all those areas that your children are struggling with in school you’ve been busily trying to make up for what school isn’t accomplishing. Those are the hard bits. You never get to deal with the fun bits, because those are all finished at school. Isn’t it time you had fun, too. The hard bits won’t get any harder, you’ll handle them on your own schedule in the way that suits your child best, and you’ll have the added benefit of getting to experience all the fun bits, too.

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