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

How to Help Your Child Navigate Life

Children grow up. They move out. And they bring with them the not-so-quiet confidence of youth not yet tempered by experience. How they navigate life through the transition depends a lot on the relationship you have built with them up to this point.

helping children navigate life

We are standing at the cusp of this transition with our eldest. The subtle shifting from directing to offering advice has been easier than I expected. Then again, she’s a pretty responsible and driven young lady. I imagine there would be much more trepidation coming into this phase of parenting if I didn’t agree with the decisions she is making!

Help them lay a solid foundation.

We all want to see our children weather the storms well and not have their values swept away in the first strong crosswind. In our home, we look to Christ and what He taught and how He lived.

And we fail. Especially the last several years, I feel like our lives have been marked more by just getting through it than actual involved, proactive parenting. Sometimes, I feel like my daughter has become this courageous, dedicated, loyal, determined, faithful young woman in spite of me and the years the locusts have eaten.

But then I think maybe there are some things we did right. Before Mattias’ death and after. Chief among those, I believe, was the determination to help them lay their own foundations, not grow up sheltered by ours. Besides, the Holy Spirit and a desire to live for Christ will take them so much further than fear of what we might say if we ever found out.

Give them a good compass.

After all, you can’t navigate without knowing what direction you are heading. I have worked hard to replace my somewhat reflexive, “What were you thinking?!” (which really just implies that they weren’t thinking) with a calmer, “What were you thinking?” (which invites them to reason through their own decision making process). What I want is for them to learn to analyze their own motivations, know their own weaknesses and consciously learn to own their own actions and reactions.

And to apologize well. That we’re not so good at. A couple of my children are actually quite adept at the apology that makes it quite clear that they are not at all sorry. Any tips on that one are welcome!

Practice using the life boat.

I try to make our home a soft place to land. I strive to strike a balance between supervision and trust, guidance and freedom. They need enough structure and “fences” to form healthy habits and draw nearer to God. But they also need enough freedom to fail while I can still help them talk through what happened and guide them through making better choices. Experience may be the best teacher, but she isn’t very kind and she has very little grace. I believe it is better for my children to gain that experience a little at a time as they grow and move toward independence rather than moving suddenly from being under my complete control to absolute freedom overnight.

I want my children to know that while I may not always be pleased with their decisions, our home is always safe. No matter what happens, we will be here to help them figure out the best next step.

Help them release the docklines and see them off.

There is a time when a child is an adult, whether they are ready for it or not. I think we have to respect that, even if we disagree with the choices they are making. Ironically, I think the more quietly we step away from the helm, the more likely they are to return to ask for our advice and listen when we give it.

This is when we get to make that beautiful transition from being a parent to being a friend.

This last bit is not something I have had to deal with just yet. My daughter is making that transition and is doing it quite well. I’m sure this would be far more difficult for me if I felt like she were straying too far from the values she was raised with. But my role changes when they are an adult regardless. And I think of an interview I did with Lisa Hodgen (Me and My House Ministries) for one of my first magazine articles. I doubt she knows how much her words blessed me as I was barely starting out on my homeschool journey and she shared with me her heart after having a child leave home and walk away from the faith.

“She still has these things, a foundation to return to, when God opens her eyes, bringing light to deliver her.”

She reminded me that we all have to decide on this faith for ourselves and that building that foundation is not in vain. Christ is never more than a step away, no matter how far or how hard we run.

And we get the privilege of loving them through it all.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Click on the tag to see the rest of the series!

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

I homeschool to give them just enough

Parenting is a tough job and homeschooling is like parenting on steroids. You have these llittle beings in your care that you love more than life itself. You strive to guide them, to teach them, to encourage them, to inspire them. You want to help them build strong foundations that will carry them through the storms of life. And sometimes you just need them to stop fighting over who is touching whom fifteen minutes into a four hour drive.

why I homeschool

 

I don’t have this parenting thing figured out. Not by a long shot. It seems like it should be about time. After all, my eldest ist 18, left for farrier school and is transitioning to adulthood. All I know is that it takes a lot of prayer and a whole lot of faith. Mostly, I feel like I’m parenting in the dark. When there is conflict, I still don’t always know exactly what constitutes “normal” and what is cause for concern. It’s complicated by having lost a child. Some things I see in my children I trace back to that night. And the accuser entering my thoughts is always ready to blame my own grief and years of struggling to be present at all.

But I know what I want my parenting to look like. I want it to be “just enough.” Not in a lazy, get out of the hard parts of parenting way. To me, “just enough” is harder.

I want to give them just enough freedom to fail, but enough support that getting back up is easy.

I want to push them just hard enough that they surprise themselves at what they can do, but not so much that their victories are no longer theirs.

I want to work them hard enough that they learn discipline, but provide enough unstructured free time for them to get bored and begin to daydream.

I want to answer enough of their questions for them to learn how the world works, but leave enough unanswered questions to allow them to ponder and to wonder.

I want to give them just enough direction that they don’t feel lost, but not so much that they never learn to find their own way.

I want to give them just enough responsibility to develop their character, but enough grace that they can just be kids.

I want to give them enough instruction in our faith for them to build a firm foundation and just enough liberty to meet Christ on their own so that their faith is theirs and not just an expression of how they were raised.

And as I strive each day to be enough so that I can give them enough, I fail. Daily. So I cling to a simple prayer . . . that love really does cover a multitude of sins. Both mine and theirs. Then each day can start new with just enough strength to get through.

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