how to overcome challenges

How to Overcome Challenges in Your Homeschool

We all face challenges in our homeschools. Whether it is special needs, unmet expectations, attitude, behavior or our own lack of motivation, we all have those days when we wonder whether it is all worth the effort. How do we overcome challenges?

How to Overcome Challenges in Your Homeschool

Unfortunately, for most of the challenges in life, there is no magic formula. Otherwise I could title this post Five Steps to a Problem Free Homeschool! Except the only thing I can think that would accomplish that is actually a two step process:

  1. Remove the children.
  2. Remove the parents.

So this is really more about focusing, prioritizing, giving yourself (and your children) grace and praying while you are working through solutions. And to do that, you have to start out by defining the problem.

What are your challenges in your homeschool?

Go ahead and write them down. All of them. I’ll be waiting right here.

After Mattias died, getting out of bed was a challenge. You can imagine what just about everything else looked like. Each day was this monumental task before me with only one real goal: Get through it. I noticed my children were falling behind. I noticed that they were starting to get out of work they didn’t like because I didn’t have the energy to fight them about it (much less train them). All of the life was draining out of our homeschooling because it had pretty much drained out of me.

And I was starting to fear that they would be better off in public school.

Thankfully, that’s not where I’m at now. Hopefully it’s not where you are at. (And if you are struggling with the loss of a loved one while trying to homeschool, please feel free to contact me. It can be a dark and lonely journey and so few people truly understand what you are going through.) I’m sharing this to say that this was my darkest place and yet here I am on the other side. All of my children are still homeschooling. My 18 year old will graduate on time and may be launching her career in less than a month. My children are still catching up on math, but they’re catching up. Things are pretty good. And I’m glad I was able to hang on.

It took years, but we’re in a good place now and I have a different perspective on the journey now than I did walking through it.

Why are you homeschooling . . . right now?

I don’t mean all those grand and lofty goals you may have had when you started or the 101 reasons you shared on facebook. I don’t even mean the ones you tell yourself to talk yourself down from the ledge. I mean really. Right now. You’ve likely thought about sending your kids to school at least once. If you’ve read this far, you may even be fantasizing about it. What has stopped you up to now?

Be honest with yourself, even if you burn your notebook after writing it down and keep your thoughts between you and God forever.

For me, it was a mixture of reasons.

I had been a relatively successful homeschool blogger. My blog was never a “big blog,” but I enjoyed the conversation and the extra money that wasn’t included in our budget was nice. There was a feeling of expectation and failing to live up to everything I had ever written about if I quit. And I did feel like I would be quitting.

Most of my friends homeschool. I am sure most of them would have understood if I threw in the towel, but what would we have in common if I stopped homeschooling? I didn’t care to listen to any lectures on how I was turning my children over to Pharoah’s schools. It was hard enough being told that I should question my faith if I did anything but rejoice at my son’s death.

And you know what’s really kind of funny now? I was just as scared of people telling me, “It’s about time!” As if it took this to recognize the error of my ways rather than realizing it was a sign that I was really struggling just to cope.

I also was afraid of having them out of my sight. I am not kidding when I say I wanted to tie them all to the couch and not let them do anything at all because they were safe there. In the first two months after Mattias’ death, I had heard at least 200 ways for a child to die. Straight from that child’s mother. I was neurotic. I obviously never acted on those impulses, but that didn’t mean I was ready to put them all on a bus and not see them for most of the day.

Take a close look at your reasons.

Are they any good? What do they tell you about your thinking? My thinking was clouded, but do you know what I noticed? A sense of failure . . . social expectations . . . fear. None of them were very good and all of them were about me. None of them were about what was best for my children.

So you would think that would mean that I would have marched them straight down to the school and enrolled them.

But I didn’t. Why? Because I hadn’t thought about what would be best for them, yet.

Why should you send your child to school?

Public or private, whatever your next step would be. Private school was never in our budget so it wasn’t an option. But be honest about what your child would gain being sent to school.

For me, it was academics. They would get the daily repetition they needed to improve their math skills. They’d have more structure than I was able to do on a consistent basis. Maybe my eldest would finally learn to spell well. I could take the time I needed to grieve and figure out this “new normal” everyone talked about and they wouldn’t fall any further behind.

That was the only reason I could come up with. For some people, that may have been enough. But fortunately, I had written out my educational philosophy long before any challenges had cropped up.

Why do you homeschool?

This is the true power of having a formalized educational philosphy or a mission statement, written out and stored in a notebook or even hung on the wall. Consider it your core values of homeschooling.

If you don’t have one now, in the midst of trials, it will be harder to walk through the process. Stress clouds judgment. Try to think through the basics of what you think “education” is. What is its purpose? What is the role of your children? What is the role of the teacher?

Take those answers and ask yourself if those goals are better met through homeschooling or some other form of education.

If you clicked over to peek at mine, you will notice that academics aren’t really at the forefront. They are important, but not for the same reason they are important in a public school. I have different goals in educating my child than the state. And while there certainly may be a point when an alternative to homeschooling is viable, for me, struggling in math was not compelling enough to give up everything else I believed about education.

And then there was the fact that I wasn’t the only one grieving. My children were grieving, too. Perhaps, they needed that time to heal just as much as I did? Perhaps we are where we are now because we took our time, even if it plagued me with feelings of guilt and failure.

So the key to overcoming challenges is?

Different for everyone. But you can’t get there without knowing precisely what your challenges are. Face them, define them, remember what you are striving toward. Never forget that the journey is part of the goal. It strengthens all of us. Confront your challenges head on and hold fast to the vision of the end goal. That is what gives you strength to keep going even when it seems too hard. You have to believe the struggle is worthwhile to keep struggling.

And pray. Asking yourself these questions will give you a clearer picture of what you are praying for, but He understands the groanings of our spirit, even when we do not.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

how to overcome challenges

Free homeschool lessons from Roscommon Acres

So many new people have joined me on this little homeschooling adventure since I restarted my blog back in November. I really appreciate all of the comments, emails, likes and shares. I know I was pretty quiet for a LONG time as I battled doldrums of my own (more about that later . . . ) but it really has been a great encouragement to me to connect and reconnect with so many of you. As a thank you and as a welcome to all of my new readers, I thought I would assemble all of the free homeschool lessons I have offered on this blog into one post. Make sure to come back next Thursday for a special Easter message (or sign up for my newsletter to have it delivered straight to your inbox!)

free homeschool unit studies

 

First off, since it is the Easter season, is Walking With Jesus His Final Days, a week long study for Holy Week to share with your kids. It has some verses to share each day and suggestions for items to add to a small indoor garden to help bring the scriptures to life. I’ll be sharing our little virtual Holy Land tour on our facebook page (but don’t be surprised if we fall behind. It’s kind of how we roll around here!) and we’d love you to join us! Just click on the image to start the download.

Free unit for holy week

Spring is also upon us and with it, gardening season! If you are planning on starting a garden . . . or even a small container garden . . . or even an indoor garden for the above lesson, you might find Developing Christian Character Through Gardening useful. It walks you through the parable of the sower with science, language and math lessons. And of course you will be sowing the seeds of faith and Christian character throughout. It has one of my favorite writing assignments in it, too. (I’ll share my other favorite assignment after Easter!) Again, just click on the image to start the download.

Developing Christian Character Through(1)-min

While you are planning out your garden, why not add on a unit study on honeybees and other native pollinators? This isn’t as structured because the idea is more to set the stage for multiple conversations over time. It is my favorite way to teach. It’s like manufacturing those ever valuable teachable moments. This isn’t a download, but the post will give you all the information you need to get started.

free homeschool lessons about honeybees

If you are stuck on teaching poetry, I also have a set of twelve free poetry lessons for young children. It teaches literary devices and how to have fun with language while appreciating great poetry. Then your child applies what he or she has learned to his or her own poetry. I changed the title to make it a little more playful, so if you already downloaded my poetry unit, you already have it. This one does require you to sign up for my newsletter (weekly or only for special offers), but then you won’t miss anything!

free homeschool poetry

Then there’s my whole free elementary art curriculum! Well, sort of. It’s how we do art. And you do have to buy things, just not from me. After all, who can do art without buying a little paint? It comes with a free artist biography printable to use in your studies, as well.

Create your own elementary art curriculum

And last but not least, if you are teaching kindergarten, I have a free guide to  calendar time. This one will take you to another site, but the download is free as well. (It may ask you to set the price, but free is a perfectly valid option!)

A guide to Calendar Time

Thank you so much for your support. Y’all keep me sane (and just a little twinge Texan).  I hope there is something here you find useful. If there isn’t, drop me a note and maybe I’ll add it to my list of ideas as I continue working on improving this site!

And if you’d like to be receive my newsletter with subscriber only content, subscribe here!

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how to overcome challenges

I homeschool for liberty

I homeschool for liberty . . . their liberty, our liberty and the liberty of our nation.

homeschool liberty

Their liberty

I want my children to have some control over what they are learning. They need time to follow their passions and sometimes even to just be bored. My eldest’s obsession with horses led her to read every book she could find, even after we finally bought her one. And her love and hours in self-directed study seem to be turning themselves into a career.

I enjoy the freedom to take them to the zoo or the museum or even just for a hike in the woods. We have all of Nebraska as our classroom and the lessons learned in the woods are just as important as those learned in a text book.

They learn from living books, from others who are passionate about their fields and from life. What better curriculum is there?

Our liberty

I am Christian and I do believe that the education of our children is our primary responsibility within our family. I don’t see sending your child to public school as sin and I hold no judgment against those who choose that option. However, sending a child off to school (public or private) does not absolve a parent from the responsibility of teaching their children in the Lord. I happen to find that much easier at home.

And it’s not that we isolate them. I just strive to hold Christ as the standard and encourage them to compare what they see in history, in literature and in our culture to what the Bible says about how we should live.

I wish to maintain this liberty we have from how the state believes children should be educated. The state is primarily interested in producing good workers for industry. I am primarily interested in expanding the kingdom of God. That’s why I write about the problems with vouchers for homeschoolers. That’s why I keep an eye on our own state legislature. And that’s why I am looking for more ways to join the fight for educational liberty in the United States. If the minds of our children cannot remain free from the influence of the state, what area of our lives can?

The liberty of our nation

That sounds rather dramatic, but really, what is the greatest threat to our liberty today? It isn’t government overreach. It’s voters who ask for it. It’s citizens who don’t bother to vote. And it’s people who lack the self control necessary for liberty. Because at some point, the state has to step in to protect the lives and properties of others.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ~John Adams

Liberty is only possible when the citizenry is capable of governing themselves. We have to learn to value liberty and to exercise self-control in order to be worthy of it. That’s why I homeschool to educate my children for liberty. I strive to foster in them a love for liberty and inculcate in them values and habits worthy of that liberty. Because in the end, the only true liberty is that found in Christ.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough
K is for Kindle their fire

Image courtesy of wikimedia under a Creative Commons license.

how to overcome challenges

I Homeschool to Kindle Their Fire

To me, teaching is more than delivering content. It is more than facilitating learning. It is about connecting with the soul of the child and inspiring them. The true value in homeschooling is in the opportunity not to direct their learning, but to kindle their fires and breathe life into their passions.

reasons to homeschool

This year has been about rebuilding for our homeschool journey. After six years of treading water in the wake of my son’s death, I finally feel able to set goals, plan and carry things through. That isn’t to say nothing happened all these years, but we were on a kind of autopilot while I focused as much on getting through the day as I did on reaching my children’s hearts. This alphabet challenge has been good for me as I go through the reasons we homeschool and try to catch some of that vision I once had.

But it’s been hard as well. It’s been hard to see where I’ve gone astray. Where I’ve replaced relationships with worksheets. Where I’ve emphasized routine over creativity. Sometimes, giving grace to myself is the hardest of all.

Still, we’ve always maintained a commitment to supporting our children in their passions. In a world that seems dominated by apathy, I have always wanted to inspire my children to reach a little higher, push themselves a little further and strive for a little more. As a Christian, I ultimately want to see that passion and energy and fire applied to Christ and His work. But their own interests can be a path to capturing their hearts as much as they can be used as tools to capture the hearts of others.

We are starting to see the fruits of that in our eldest. After my son died, she was, for a time, lost. She was angry over losing him, angry (I think) over losing us and angry at being alone when she needed someone most. But she had always had a passion for horses. She wanted to become a veterinarian so she could work with them. She devoured books on horses. All she thought about was horses.

And I think one of the hardest things I have ever done was buy her a horse. After losing a child in a household accident, putting another child on the back of a 1500 pound animal was no easy task. But I swallowed my anxiety and found a horse.

Somewhere in the middle of her algebra book, she realized she would never make it through veterinary school. Horses, she loved. Math, she did not. She started to focus her career goals on education until the farrier came out to trim the horses’ hooves and mentioned by the wayside that she was about ready for farrier school. Something clicked in her mind. It was as if this were what she had been waiting for. And now she is down in the Ozarks, spending all her days shoeing horses and learning the art of farriery. And so far, doing quite well.

How was I to know that the death of her brother and the gift of that horse would eventually weave themselves into her testimony? That those would be the reasons she ultimately would pursue a career working full time to reach children for Christ? And that she might use her love of horses to make some side income to make her missionary work possible?

To light a fire only takes a tiny spark. And I pray that we are able to help each of our children find their sparks to kindle their own fires.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure
G is for Grow
H is for Homework
I is for Impromptu field trips
J is for Just enough

how to overcome challenges

A Field Guide to Homeschoolers

Unexpected encounters with homeschoolers outside their enclosures can be disconcerting. They typically start with generalized anxiety induced by seeing children outside during school hours and quickly progress to a host of questions the startled observer feels need to be answered. What about socialization? Is that even legal? What about the prom? This pushes the wary homeschooler into a defensive posture and her answers may signal aggravation. Don’t be concerned. They’re rarely dangerous. But I’ve spent 13 years studying the elusive homeschooler and wrote this guide to help cautious observers like you interact more comfortably with these fascinating specimens.

what is homeschooling

What is a homeschooler?

A homeschooler is a peculiar species who has opted to take over the primary role of educating her children herself. I refer to them as “she” for ease of reading and because the primary teaching role does tend to fall on the female of the species. This is not to downplay the role of the male in the education of his young, nor to discount the number of stay at home fathers who have taken on the responsibility.

How can I recognize a homeschooler?

Homeschoolers once had a kind of unofficial uniform. A denim jumper and a line of similarly dressed and perfectly behaved children were tell tale signs of a homeschool family. Recent protection efforts, however, have allowed the population to grow. It is therefore becoming more and more difficult to recognize a homeschooler on the street. They tend to move casually through their environment with a gait designed to not arouse suspicion or unnecessary attention. When they run into each other, they generally greet one another with a warm smile and possibly even a hug. Shouts to their “homegirls” across the aisles are unlikely.  Seeing a parent with minor children out and about during school hours remains the most reliable marker. Turning everyday things like nutrition labels at the grocery store into lessons can also be a strong indicator. Exercise caution before labeling. A mother discussing the label with her child may simply be a good parent. If she then launches into a history of where the 2,000 calorie diet originated, she is very likely a homeschooler.

Is homeschooling even legal?

Homeschoolers were once hunted nearly to extinction in many parts of the United States. They lived largely in the shadows, forming underground networks for support and as an alert system against those who would do them harm. They proved tenacious fighters, however. They successfully expanded their range and have since received protected status in all 50 states. They maintain strong local, regional and national networks to maintain these protections.

What is the homeschooler’s natural habitat?

It is a common misconception that homeschoolers reside predominantly at home. They have been known to participate in almost any activity that parents have been known to engage in, though they are somewhat less likely to attend PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences tend to be somewhat one-sided. They frequently congregate at libraries and office supply stores. When planning excursions into the wild, some homeschoolers deliberately choose to be most active during school hours when lines are shorter and exhibits less crowded. Others prefer to camouflage their activity by venturing out when most other humans are active.

What about socialization?

Many casual observers are highly concerned with the socialization of homeschooled children. Before approaching a suspected homeschooler with this question, however, it is important to be sure you understand what you mean. If you mean “social skills,” it is important to note that social conventions frown upon confronting strangers with their differences. Staring, drawing attention to them and interrogating them are generally considered rude and will lead the homeschooler to muse later on her blog about your social skills. Whether or not the homeschooled family you are observing has adequate social skills to be productive members of society can generally be noted without confrontation. Any behavior you see, however, is most assuredly also present in the public schooled population. I have noticed an increased likelihood that children will look you in the eye while talking to you and that they will answer your questions without that apathetic “Why are you still here?” look about them. This, however, is purely anecdotal.

If you mean socialization as it is most often understood by sociologists, i.e., the process whereby the social order is involuntarily (and at times coercively) imposed on us, you might be stumbling into one of the primary reasons the homeschooler you have discovered has chosen this path. This might also make more sense of the varied, sometimes sarcastic and often annoyed responses homeschoolers give to this ubiquitous question.

What about prom?

Homeschoolers have a number of social venues open to them. This may seem counter-intuitive to the outsider, but many homeschooled children actually meet each other through homeschooling. How does this happen when they don’t all go to school in the same building? Homeschoolers tend to be more intentional about their socializing and networking. They organize park days, co-ops, field trips and even dances. Many communities now have homeschool formals that act very much like a prom, though with less of the “twerking” plaguing public schools. Being homeschoolers, these, too, are subject to becoming learning opportunities. At the event I observed, the homeschooled youth were taught dance moves prior to being expected to actually dance. This resulted in near universal participation.

How should I approach a homeschooler if I see one?

Homeschoolers are passionate, but not generally dangerous. If you meet one in person, simply passing by while looking at your phone is acceptable. If you happen to make eye contact, don’t panic. A smile and a nod before returning on your way will likely be accepted in kind. If you say “hi,” they very likely will return the greeting. Curiosity is generally warmly received. The children are frequently asked math facts and state capitals by observers. Try mixing it up a bit by asking them what their favorite subject is. They’ve likely been asked if they like their teacher before, but when asked in a gently teasing tone and with a warm smile, it is also as well-received as most other small talk. Think of the length and depth of other conversations you have had with complete strangers in an elevator or in the check-out line. Use this as a model for the length and intensity of your questions. Most homeschoolers are happy to discuss their educational choices, even with strangers. That’s why so many of them blog. Still, try to keep it to one question and always maintain a polite, curious air rather than an obnoxious, judmental one.

Keep these observations in mind and your interactions with the homeschoolers you meet will likely remain pleasant. If you have further questions, feel free to drop me a note in the comments below and I will be happy to assist you.