On my blog, there is a page dedicated to “advice for new homeschoolers” or Breathing Lessons, as I call it. The title “Breathing Lessons” came about because at the end of most, if not all, of the paragraphs, I wrote “Relax. Breathe. Breathe again.” It was meant to instill calm and confidence, a spirit of “Yes, you can!” in the novice homeschooler. Anyway, there’s this thing called breathing lessons and it’s all about the trials and tribulations, the joys and sorrows of homeschooling, as least as much as you can give newbies without scaring them all into running off into the night. Today, I’d like to give some advanced breathing lessons, for those of us who maybe think we don’t need such basic advice. Ready? Take a deep breath. Here goes!
1.) Comparison is the soul of discontent.
You will never have the perfect house, the perfect children or the perfect homeschool. And its a good bet that the woman whose blog or Facebook posts you are allowing to make you feel inadequate isn’t as perfect as she seems either. Oh sure, she cooks like Rachel Ray, decorates like Martha Stewart and educates like Charlotte Mason herself, but is she really happy? Where are her children while she spends hours in front of the computer posting all her accomplishments, or in elaborate decorations for every holiday known to Mankind? How does her husband feel about her making their house a showplace instead of a home? You say her kids learned Latin in preschool? When, then, did they have time for mud pies and make believe, fantasy play and fun? Take a deep breath. Close down the computer and walk away. You are who you are, and your family is who they are. Your home is yours. Take pride and pleasure in what you have and what you have accomplished! Contentment is found in appreciating what we have. Breathe in gratitude.
2.) Burn out is real.
We all have those days when we’d rather have a root canal than attempt another algebra lesson. It’s a part of Life to become bored with the same old routine, no matter how beneficial that routine may be to creating a rhythm and reason for our days. And it doesn’t indicate that we are weak moms or bad homeschoolers, either. But we don’t have to let a day or two turn into a season. When you find yourself doing more dreading of schooling than actually doing schooling, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate what it is you are doing. Are you doing too much? Have you forgotten how to have fun in your school? Is every minute of every day, every lesson of every day, planned? How long have you been using your curriculum, doing what you do, without adding anything new? Stop! Just stop! Discover the joy of homeschooling again through heartschooling. A dear homeschooling friend who passed away in childbirth in 2006 introduced me to the phenomena of heartschool. You spend the day just reading stories snuggled under a blanket or in a bed sheet fort. You fingerpaint, even though all your kids are teens. You take a spontaneous field trip. You watch some quality programming. You play games. You sing. You dance. You spend the day in your pajamas or eat ice cream waffles for dinner. In short, you all take a deep breath and revel in how good it feels to breathe in freedom, breathe in relief, breathe in joy.
3.) It’s not rocket science unless you are studying rockets.
Simply put, your kids can learn in so many situations, in so many different ways, from everything from books to everyday Life. If something doesn’t work, quit doing it. Try something new. It doesn’t matter how much you paid or it, or how good and effective it’s supposed to be, or what great reviews it got from fellow moms and experts alike. It doesn’t matter how much time, blood, sweat and tears have gone into it. If it’s not working, it’s not worth it. Maybe the time is wrong for it. Maybe the student is wrong for it. Maybe you, the mom, are wrong for it. It’s all right. Try something new. If you can’t afford something else, go to the library, surf Netflix for programs, check out free learning opportunities online, seek out a professional to mentor your student. Try something new. I’d rather be sorry for something I tried that didn’t work, than something I wished I’d tried but didn’t. Regret is worse than failure. Breathe in possibilities.
I’ll leave you with this: Do you allow yourself time to breathe every day? Without the time and space to breathe, and breathe deeply, you’re depriving yourself and your children, your home, your homeschool and your husband of life giving oxygen and energy. If you have time to read blogs and build discontent, you have time to be grateful for what you have. If you have time to do those same workbooks over and over every day, you have time to heartschool once in a while. And if you have time to struggle with some burdensome program that’s not working for you, you have time to try something new. Take time for yourself, for your kids, for your family, and just breathe. Then repeat as necessary. See what a difference it can make!
Suzanne Stewart is a professional freelance writer and marketer, and the author of Homeschooling on the Cheap. She has been homeschooling her children since 2002, using mostly Charlotte Mason’s methods and philosophies. She has studied Charlotte’s writings, as well as others’ works on Charlotte and her ways. She is currently the Charlotte Mason “expert” for the Christian Homeschoolers Taking a Stand blog. She lives just the other side of nowhere in rural WV with her 2 children, 2 dogs, 4 cats, 2 fish and a hamster. When not writing or homeschooling, she enjoys reading, playing flute and bowed psaltery, tramping across the hills and hollows of home, and practicing the arts and sciences of homemaking and motherhood. You can find her on her blog, Homeschooling on the Cheap.