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

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 so they can fail

Yes, I want my children to be able to fail.

fail-min

If you’ve ever watched gymnasts train, especially young gymnasts, you might have noticed the foam pit at the end of a long track. This pit is not just for safety. Sure, it ensures a soft landing so that no matter how the gymnast crashes to the ground, she is unlikely to be hurt. But it is there for another purpose as well. When they are starting out, young gymnasts will practice falling backward into the pit. It’s like a trust fall, but with no one to catch you. Because you have to lose your fear of falling backward before you can leap, twisting and turning, into the air.

I think life is the same way. To be successful, you have to be willing to fail. You have to trust that you can hop back up, dust yourself off and get back on the mat.

Embracing failure isn’t just about perserverance and pushing through the let-downs.

It isn’t just about the lessons learned through failure, which often are more valuable long term than our successes.

It is about losing the fear of failing so that we go out and try something new. Something outside our comfort zones. Something with risk attached.

The fear of failure is probably the strongest force holding people back from their potential. It’s not talent, or ambition, or ideas that stops budding entrepreneurs. It’s fear that can stop people dead in their tracks. And it’s stopped countless great businesses before they even begin. ~Business Insider

So when my children come up with crazy ideas, I try not to give them too much of my seasoned advice (even if it obviously isn’t going to work). When they fail, I tell them stories about my failures.

Like when I froze in the final round of a national speech competition and couldn’t think of one thing to say on the topic. I stood there silently for three whole minutes. And I didn’t derive any great lessons out of that. In fact, it made it impossible for me to compete in impromptu speaking the following season because I was so afraid of repeating that performance that I froze Every. Single. Time.

But you know what? My life didn’t end. Now it is just a funny story. And if you think about it, all the best stories involve our failures. When people share their failures, it makes us laugh and share our own stories. We admire success, but we connect with failure. Partly, I think, because we are afraid of it.

And I don’t want my children to be afraid of it. At least not so much that they never risk anything for their passions. I want them to step outside themselves and know that all those failures represent dreams they reached for.

So I try to create an environment like that foam pit above, where they learn to let go of some of that fear of failure so they can begin to learn to soar.

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

(Image used via creative commons license. Original may be found here.)

how to overcome challenges

I Homeschool Because Every Day Is Worth It

I homeschool because every day is worth it.

reasons to homeschoolThe good ones.

The bad ones.

The in between ones.

When they cry out, “NO!” in unison because I close the read aloud and they want to know what happens next.

When I recommend a book I loved as a child and they devour it and ask for more.

The days when they are grouchy and overtired and fighting me every step of the way.

When they seem to have forgotten every thing they’ve learned.

When their eyes light up and they become inspired to read or write or learn just a little more.

When they create an intricate map of an imaginary world for a story they are writing.

When they tear apart the house, forget where the laundry goes, leave dishes wherever they happened to be.

When they fight and fuss and whine.

When one thing after another goes wrong and the day is derailed.

When I see their passion and that focused energy that means their entire mind and body is set on a single goal.

When they make me a cup of luke warm coffee that is too strong and has too much sugar, but still I drink it and enjoy if, if only for their proud smiles.

Every day is worth it because every day we are learning, laughing and loving. Every day is worth it because every day we are together.

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

how to overcome challenges

I Homeschool So They Can Daydream

Not that you can’t daydream anywhere.

importance of daydreaming

It’s one of those easy-to-pack, take anywhere hobbies.

But it isn’t always the most respected. Take a few moments to gaze out a window, allowing yourself to be transported to another world, and someone will snap you back to the present.  With a

“Get your head out of the clouds,”

or a gentler

“Would you care to join us?”

or my favorite,

“Earth to Dana. Come in Dana.”

you are called back. And it’s always with a little jab, suggesting that this here is what is important and the flights of fancy off to “la la land” need to be controlled. For all our talk of embracing our inner muse, finding our creativity, thinking outside the box, reaching for our dreams and finding our inspiration, we really don’t respect the source of all this creative energy. Because we don’t respect daydreaming.

But this is where creativity is born. Where problems are worked through. Where self awareness is discovered. Where the brain finds rest.

When I see my children lying on the hill, staring at the clouds as they pass overhead, I have been known to set aside my plans at least for a little while. History can be taught any time during the day, but these moments come when they come. Since I first began homeschooling, I have sought to build a reflective homeschool, a place built on reflective learning. It only makes sense that I would encourage my children to reflect. And not interrupt when those reflections . . . those daydreams . . . come.

Daydreaming has been found to be anything but counter-productive. It may just be the hidden wellspring of creativity and learning in the guise of idleness.

~Jessica Lahey, The Atlantic

Perhaps being a bit of a dreamer myself, I knew the value of these flighs of fancy intuitively. Perhaps I just empathized with my children and wished to allow them a bit of freedom that was all too often interrupted for me. But science, also, has discovered the value of the daydream. It promotes creativity, improves memory, alleviates stress, and improves mental health.

And the more we fill our days with structured learning and structured downtime through television and other media, I worry about the effects of not allowing the mind to simply wander from thought to thought and world to world.

Children are trained to think linearly instead of imaginatively; they are taught to read slowly and carefully, and are discouraged from daydreaming. They are trained to reduce the use and capacity of their brain.

~Tony Buzan
So I let them daydream. And encourage it, even.

 

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