Thursday, May 21, 2009

Staying Mentally Strong: #2 Be Patient

Keep starting fresh and trying your best. It's as simple as that.

No matter what the problems are, no matter how whiny the kids are, no matter how whiny you feel. Just do it. Over and over. Problems in math? Try something fresh. Still didn't work? Ask some friends. Do some research. Try some other new ideas.

Our oldest son Josh used to say, with a sigh, "I'm just one big experiment." That was, for better or for worse, close to the truth.

I suggest telling your kids, at appropriate moments, that you are going to experiment together until you find the best way for everyone to learn. Let them in on the secret that you don't know exactly how you are going to do everything. It's a discovery process. And this discovery process means that you have to be patient with them, and they have to be patient with you, and everyone in the family has to be patient while we find the best way to learn together.

What I finally realized is that respect in the home school doesn't mean that the kids sit still and listen while Mom the Sage knows it all and teaches it all. Respect means that we offer one another kindness and understanding while we all figure it out. This includes Mom figuring it out.

This leads to another aspect of patience: be patient with yourself.

Homeschooling has a way of making us feel very frustrated with our own limitations. There were times when I thought I couldn't stand BEING ME one more minute. I used to tell my husband, "I just wish I was someone else. I can't stand to be in my own skin." I knew what I wanted to be, but I couldn't figure out how to get there.

I would like to tell you that I went through some kind of miraculous character change that turned me into the Mary Poppins Teacher I longed for, but it never happened. I was the same ME going through the challenges of homeschooling all the way to the end. Yes, I grew tremendously as a person. Yes, we had a beautiful experience, an inspiring story of overcoming obstacles to achieve things we dreamed of. But I was still myself. I didn’t become someone else. I still made the same kinds of mistakes, especially when I was tired or sick, or it was the end of the year.
You will make mistakes. A lot of them. It's part of the learning curve. You have never been here before. Just don’t let that throw you off or destroy your confidence. Understand that EVERYONE, whether they reveal it or not, is making their mistakes, too. Teaching our own at home is done by trial and error. It doesn't matter what curriculum you use or how you approach it. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how organized your home is. Mistakes are the hidden, unexpected curriculum by which YOU will learn alongside your kids. You are a pioneer discovering a new continent. You are a scientist uncovering a mystery. You are an explorer on uncharted seas. Be patient. Forgive yourself. Start fresh and try again.

And again.

That's what it’s supposed to look like.


  1. Patient with myself. Sigh. I suppose I'm better at that now, but it's just patience with the rest of the world (especially the 9 year old at my house) I need to work on!

  2. I know EXACTLY what you mean. Thanks for sharing.


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