Whether you are a new or veteran homeschooler, when the reality of homeschooling life doesn’t quite match up to the myth of perfection, it can be discouraging.
The “Perfect” Homeschooler
Perfect homeschool mom is up with the sunrise, takes her shower and dresses herself in lovely clothing that is not covered with the stains of motherhood, does her hair and make-up and happily dances off to the kitchen to make a wonderful, nutritious and 100% organic breakfast from scratch. The children arrive at the breakfast table fully dressed in matching clothes without stains or tears and cheerfully join their siblings and parents at the table. Over breakfast, the family discusses current events with zest and great knowledge. There are no tantrums, whining or sibling issues for the perfect homeschool family. After breakfast the perfect homeschooled children joyfully complete all of their chores without any reminding or prompting from their perfect homeschooling parents. They love learning and eagerly sit with their perfect homeschooling mother reading and discussing great literature, comparing the art techniques of the great masters’ art and performing advanced chemistry experiments.
The perfect homeschooling family balances home life with out-of-the-home opportunities with great ease. The perfect homeschooled children have plenty of time to devote to their own interests as well as their academic endeavors. Despite all of activity going on within the home, the perfect homeschooling family maintains a pristine home free from clutter. When Dad arrives home from work at precisely 5:30 p.m., the perfect homeschooling mother serves her family another magnificent, 100% organic meal made from scratch. There are no need for reminders to “use your indoor voice” or “chew with your mouth closed” or “no belching at the table” because the perfect homeschooling family also has perfect manners. The perfect homeschooling family enjoys the rest of their evening by reading classic literature as a family while mother knits each family member socks, hats, mittens and sweaters.
The Realistic Homeschooler
Mom wakes with the children and breakfast consists of cereal and juice though occasionally eggs and toast will be served instead. Dad left for work hours ago and the only conversation happening at the table is the bickering between siblings. The dog barks, demanding breakfast, because the child whose chore it is to feed her forgot to do so this morning (like every other morning). The children may or may not get dressed; it depends on what’s on the agenda for the day. Whether or not Mom has time (or energy) for a shower is completely dependent on how many arguments she has to quell that morning. The dishes make it to the sink but may not get taken care of until before dinner. The house is clean but by no means is it immaculate.
The realistic homeschooling family is too busy with outside activities, art projects and science experiments to spend all day cleaning the house. When it’s time to sit and get any kind of learning done, Mom pleads with one child while trying to help another and nurse the baby at the same time. Dad comes home and dinner is spent reminding the kids to use their table manners and diffusing yet another sibling squabble.
We All Have Ideals
Whether you are new to homeschooling or you’ve been homeschooling for years, we all have an idealistic image of how we think homeschooling should be. We may hear other homeschoolers discuss their own idealistic families and our competitive nature forces us to want to be more like that family. We may meet families who seem to have it all together and this makes us wonder what we are doing wrong. We doubt ourselves, our abilities and even worse, our children. Why can’t I seem to find balance? Why can’t I keep the house clean? Why do my kids bicker so much? Why is she struggling with math? Why is he struggling with reading? Why can’t I seem to get to an activity on time? Should I be doing more? Am I doing too much?
The Middle Ground
All homeschooling parents go through stages of guilt, doubt and insecurity. The key is in realizing that the “perfect homeschooler” doesn’t exist. We are all going to have good days and bad days. As homeschoolers we often expect the good days and find ourselves flustered on a bad day. We didn’t expect it; we didn’t sign up for bad days. It wasn’t in the brochure! The truth is that living and learning 24/7 causes life to get in the way and shake things up, causing unexpected results. The birth of a baby, the dog runs away, illness, temper tantrums, home remodeling projects, the holidays, a warm spring-like day in the middle of a cold New England winter and fabulous learning opportunities that pull us away from our home more often than we’d like.
We each homeschool for different reasons however, none of us are doing this because we are perfect. Once we let go of the myth of the perfect homeschooler, we are free to relax and enjoy learning and growing with our children.