Homeschool Expectations Vs. Reality

Back in January 2022, I asked for some feedback. I wanted to know from fellow homeschooling moms what have been some of their (possibly) unrealistic expectations as it relates to homeschooling.

When I asked about unrealistic homeschooling expectations, a couple of common responses were:


1) That we would keep a set schedule

2) That we would all be motivated to learn on any given day

In fact, I had to make a perspective change that very week, when we all came down with sickness.  I plan- thankfully, I plan in pencil.  Surprisingly, we had met a lot of our goals for the week, but getting there looked very different.  For example, we split up one day’s work over the course of two days (we had built-in flexibility), Daddy taught a lot of subjects as I recovered from illness, the kids’ activities were cancelled, giving us more unscheduled time as a family.  We had to look at this as an opportunity for family bonding and working on some of our challenges, as opposed to a great inconvenience and discouragement. It took reframing our thinking.

How about you?

As we begin a new year, I reflect back on some of the “oops” moments and their opposing “a-ha” moments in homeschooling.

Some of my realizations:

-Relationships trump academics: I had to wrap my mind around this one because I’m such a checklist-oriented person.  But, it’s true that when children feel seen and loved, they are much more ready to learn.

-Plans need to be flexible, but organized. Buffer time needs to be built in.  In April, instead of taking off 3 weeks, we have that third week as a built-in buffer.  If we use it, we have it.  If we don’t, then that’s fine.

-A sad realization: my son and daughter have to be given incentives to work hard.  This is reality.  They are not self-motivated, unless it’s something that really interests them. Karen Andreola does address this in her Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning.

I am going to try to remember this:

“The child is a person, a human being with a spiritual origin. Yet most schools govern by a system of treats: grades, prizes, and competitive placing. Even Sunday schools give out balloons, happy face stickers, candy, and plastic trinkets as rewards for children paying attention to the Word of God! Charlotte Mason believed this type of motivation to be harmful for learning and dangerous for a child’s character. “

So, how do I “grade” my students?

I am going to set out on a journey this year to emphasize admiration, hope, and love.

Admiration: “Children should be taught to recognize and admire the righteous, the pure, the heroic, the beautiful, the truthful, and the loyal in their educational life,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 338).

Hope: “So-called ‘late bloomers’ are only flowers that bloom at a different time, and we all know that the beautiful varieties of flowers in God’s world do not all bloom in the same season,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 339).

Love: “We live by love and the love we give and the love we receive, by the countless tendernesses that go out from us and the countless kindnesses that come to us…” (Andreola, 1998, p. 340).

“Charlotte taught that we live by admiration, hope, and love, and without these three we do not live.”

Karen Andreola

-We do not need to be purists.  There is no one philosophy that fits all people, for sure.  Even within a family, there is no one philosopher or educational reformer who will “meet every need”, but we certainly draw heavily from a couple philosophies (Charlotte Mason, classical, for two).  It’s more a lifestyle than it is an educational philosophy.

-We sometimes get tired of staying at home, but honestly, I expected to feel a lot more “trapped” before I decided to homeschool.  This has not been true, for us.  We have built-in socialization throughout the normal week, and school days seem to fly by. Also, do not rule out hiring help, if you think that you can do this. That has brought me some sense of togetherness, without it being just me and the kids.

-Before I homeschooled, I assumed that if you homeschool, you do not utilize other adults’ help.  Wrong, again.  Homeschooling has helped me realize my NEED for other people and their help/expertise. 

-My expectation that we would have one-source for all homeschool advice and that would fix my problems was so far from the truth.  Thanks to the internet and a book that lists hundreds of curriculum choices, I realized that the one book I thought would be my “bible” was really just another tool I can pull from. 

-I expected that we would study the same subjects all year long.  Not true!  We have picked up subjects in seasons, and have dropped some in seasons (ex.  At-home science was dropped around the holidays, and we relied solely on our co-op for science the rest of the year).

-I expected, based off what I was seeing on Pinterest and Instagram, that all my kids would work in harmony at the kitchen table.  HA!

-I expected that my son would be an early reader because my “one source” made it sound like it was expected for kids to read around age 4, since the author had begun that early.

-I tended to want to make everything like a unit study – you know, connect the science content to the history to the math to the reading, etc.  It does not have to be so!  In fact, it is cool how the connections my kids make are oftentimes unforeseen.  Just reading good books helps facilitate their ability to connect.  (ex. Seeing a word that we studied in context, then connecting the word to the ideas found in that context) You can study Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages at the same time. You will not mess the kids or you up.

-Lastly, I FEARED I would regret homeschooling because we would be “messing our kids up” (not true, but society plays on that fear)

-I feared I would be alone, (also false) but I have found community in expected and unexpected places in our community! Find something that fits in with your normal lifestyle.

One More Thought

Think on God’s joy in seeing you and your children! He made each of you on purpose, for a purpose. I wonder what he’ll do in your homeschool this year? The children he gave you are yours for a while, and your job is to enjoy them and rely on God’s ability to help you do the toughest job on Earth. I wonder what they will become and what all they will be able to do for Him? Such a thought makes my feel hopeful. I hope it helps you feel that way, too.

Other Helpful Resources

I would be remiss if I did not share a few of these podcast episodes with you. Listen to them while you walk, run, fold laundry, wash dishes, cook, or whenever you make the time.

Mothering by the Book (Interview with Jennifer Pepito)

NEW from Jennifer Pepito: Mothering by the Book

Reading, Relationships, and Restfully Homeschooling (Interview with Sarah Mackenzie)

Three Reasons Why Your Child Will Be Ready for the Real World (Pam Barnhill)

Books to Encourage You

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie

Start with the Heart by Kathy Koch, PhD

Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler

Mother Culture: For a Happy Homeschool by Karen Andreola

Related:

On Work and Purpose

Focusing on the Heart

Creativity (and Fun!) For You

Classical Education Mini-Series: Education and Character

I have two takeaways I’d like to share with you as you go into your first week of school.  I think these embody the heart of classical education.  I take my ideas from the Classical Conversations area practicum I attended back in June 2021.

NOTE: This is a transcript taken from my video.  Therefore, it is written verbatim.  I hope that my speaking is easy to follow. You can find the video at the bottom of this post.

Education Is Not the Same as Training

When I was in high school, I trained for a summer job as a lifeguard.  Okay, so you can imagine what that was like: we watched a lot of training videos, we completed a lot of worksheets, we were even able to perform some underwater rescues.  I remember diving to the bottom of the pool, picking up those big bricks and bringing them back up, safely to the surface.  So, I was being trained for a particular job, and I had specific skills that I had to learn.  It was for a certain future.  It was finite. I would be trained on the job to do X, Y, and Z and I would perform my task.  That was what I did: I lifeguarded that summer.

Education is different.

Education is when you are being taught, for lack of better word, for an uncertain future.  And what does the future usually hold, guys?  Suffering. You are going to suffer.  I am going to suffer.  We are all going to have some suffering that we are going to have to endure, and education that prepares us for that uncertain future is paramount.

So, if you’ve lived, you know, that we are going to have to give kids the tools to suffer across callings (to suffer well).  Training doesn’t shape the soul, but education does.  Education shapes character – training doesn’t.  Education is for life.  Training is for the here-and-now.  So, it’s a good distinction to keep in mind.

Teaching Character Is Paramount to Academics

Okay, so this was an excellent analogy that Mr. Nale gave yesterday.  He was talking about the two types of old people that you will meet.  There are two types, guys.  Two types: the grumpy, dissatisfied, discontented type and the joy-filled, cheerful, life-giving type.  I thought it was brilliant.

So, let’s go back to children.  Do you think the most important thing in a childhood is academics? The most important thing in a childhood (and I’ve said this before) is not academics.  No. We are forming character first.  Academics are important, but character must be in place… if you’re going to teach anything, you need to be focusing on shaping the character first.  And, of course, the academics are a gift. 

Thinking back to the old people, how do you think they got to be this way? How did the grumpy, old “whoever” become this way? Well: habits… character.  When were those habits and when was the character formed? At an early age.  It’s something to think about.

“The child who starts out in life with say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.”

Charlotte Mason

So, think about that and how you will train your children.  Character is paramount. 

“The habits of the child are, as it were, so many little hammers beating out by slow degrees the character of the man.”

Charlotte Mason

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