School is well underway for most of us, and we are far enough into the year to begin feeling behind. Stressed, we begin looking over the fence at the Jones’, where the grass is always greener and the children never whine. Meeting with other homeschoolers brings a mixture of encouragement and feelings of inadequacy as we begin to second guess those plans which looked so good on paper. If this describes you, you are off to a great start! After all, there is nothing mankind desires more or works harder for than misery. A brief survey of world literature reveals our fascination with sin, danger and tragedy. If we cannot experience it personally, we do so vicariously through what have become the classics. Even the quest for happiness robs our happiness in the end as Paul Watzlawick so aptly noted in his book, Anleitung zum Unglücklichsein (Guide to Unhappiness). To help you along the way to maximizing your unhappiness, I have written the following guide. Some of these steps may come naturally to you; others may require practice. With diligence, however, anyone can achieve the unhappiness they so earnestly desire.
1. Copy the public schools.
Buy desks, set them up in neat rows facing the front of the room and invest in a pointer. Even if you have only one child, make him raise his hand to answer questions. Schedule restroom breaks. Let the clock dictate your every move. Giving a toddler a megaphone is a good stand in for a disruptive PA system.
2. Choose your curriculum based on what everyone in your homeschool group is using.
Better yet, find a stranger online and ask her. Don’t consider your temperament or your child’s interests. After all, these other people have way more experience than you. Remind yourself of that continually when things are not going well.
3. Contact every curriculum publisher.
Make sure they have your correct address and get on as many mailing lists as possible. When you first get those glossy catalogs, you will think that this is having the opposite effect than what is intended here. The texture, the smell and all the neat stuff! But then you realize just how much stuff is out there. And how much stuff you do not have. There is always one more book and one more manipulative set to squeeze out of any budget. After all, you only have one chance to educate your children properly. Never let yourself become content with what you already have.
4. Make a clear distinction between school and life.
Do not consider the educational value of trips to the zoo, visits with grandparents and vacations. The more narrowly you define education, the more likely you are to avoid spontaneous “experiences” in favor of “the book.” This also helps maximize the stress of wondering if you are doing enough.
5. Take everything personally.
Everyone has a bad day now and again. Even children. Use this to its fullest potential by taking these opportunities to question your parenting. When your child says, “This is boring,” consider it a direct reflection on your character and personality. Think what it will be like when they talk to their bosses that way. Wonder what your homeschooling friends would say. Most importantly, try to isolate where you have gone wrong as a parent and fret over the permanent damage you must have caused.
This is intended only as a cursory introduction to maintaining general unhappiness in your homeschool. There are many other proven techniques for making yourself miserable and they all progress rather naturally to making those around you unhappy as well. For those of you who are more seasoned, or have just caught on quickly to the art of creating unhappiness, please feel free to add your own suggestions. I will add links to anyone who shares a proven technique for increasing the level of unhappiness in our homes. Even if it is not specific to homeschooling.
Misery loves company.