It is an ongoing battle. No, perhaps it is a war, as we do have days when the battle is ours and we taste success. But like soldiers, those of us teaching our kids at home get battle-weary and lose morale now and then.
It is easy enough at the beginning, when one has fresh, young, willing minds with which to work and one is armed with wonderful kindergarten curriculum and a battle plan. But after several years and the inevitable setbacks here and there, our spirits flag and our faith in our ability to do this thing begins to waver.
This should come as no surprise, as we home-schooling moms of the 20th and 21st centuries are doing what no one has previously done. Yes, children have been schooled at home, but so often with the aid of hired tutors. And remember that until fairly recently in history, even middle class families had housekeepers to take care of a lot of the housework. And our kids are expected to know more than just reading, writing, arithmetic and a smattering of history. And the teachers in one-room schoolhouses who, like us, taught several grades at once, were not expected to do so while chasing half-naked toddlers about or nursing babies.
I know that my feelings of self-doubt, of failure, of being completely overwhelmed and under-qualified for the task at hand are perfectly normal. I think there would be something wrong with me if I felt otherwise, at least on occasion.
At the end of the day we take a look at the troops and the battlefield. The field is littered with toys, with laundry, with paperwork that required our immediate response--last week. We notice that we had lunch at 2:00 p.m., that one child missed lunch and is eating animal crackers, that another is wearing the same sweatshirt he has worn all week (and it is dirty), and that we haven't brushed our hair yet today. We see that it is taking months on end to teach a child his multiplication tables, that we have dropped all our beautiful plans for history and geography, and that the hyperactive three year-old hasn't been seen in 45 minutes, and we are relieved because that means we don't have to chase him out of the room while we read with his sibling. We see that dinner time is approaching, we never got a chance to work with the 5 year-old, the laundry is still unfolded and we haven't a clue as to what we will serve for dinner. The kids may not mind frozen waffles, but we can't face our husbands with that option. What's more, we have discovered that at the rate we are going, this school year won't be finished until spring of 2011.
It's been a rough week. But yesterday gave me a chance to catch my breath and tell myself that things are not as bad as they at first glance appear. We muddled through our core subjects, and I noted that the boys are reading better than they did at the beginning of the school year. We gathered around the computer and looked at this site and it was nice to see how well the kids could identify the ancient Greek gods depicted on pottery by the symbols in the artwork. They've been listening after all. And we watched this Netflix dvd, and Human Life (from the Moody Institute of Science), borrowed form my sister, and they watched with interest, and I realized that this, too, counted for science. I still don't feel as though I'm winning the war, but I haven't lost either, and I am not leaving the battlefield.
As I begin to look forward to the coming year, I am doing the inevitable assessing. What are we doing wrong? How can we do better? Are there better materials to use, ones that will better engage these young minds? How can we cover the necessities and still make time for all the fun stuff and keep up with the house and meals? How can we fit the necessary curriculum into our budget? And how on earth am I going to add another child to the program this autumn?? And what on earth is God thinking, putting me in charge of these little souls???
Home-schooling is not for the faint of heart, as a friend recently commented. In fact, it requires more nerve, more self-esteem, more self-sacrifice, more organizational skill, more energy and more patience than just about anyone has. So why am I doing it? I have to remind myself now and then, that this is why.
Hang in there. Home-schooling isn't for everyone, and it is indeed a real war, but for those of us who win the day and leave the field victorious (and most of us surely will), there will be great rewards. God is not to be outdone in generosity.