There are times in our homeschooling journey where things don’t go as well as we would like.  I’ve always been one to look for solutions in times like this.  In part one of this two part blog I talked about the importance of taking a break from academic instruction.  Often our feelings about it not working are subjective – they are feelings, not necessarily based on the truth.  When we are tired, overwhelmed, frustrated we see everything through negative glasses.  We need to take time to refresh and build or strengthen relationships.  The second aspect of finding solutions when our homeschooling isn’t working is to take time for a review and then we can address our concerns.

First I have had to remind myself:  What does it look like to have homeschooling work?  We often make knee-jerk reactions, “it’s not working!” and it is all downhill from there.  But if I can define what I want our homeschooling to look like I have a much better, rational and unemotional starting point to get on top of things.

 What does it look like to say your homeschooling is working?

How do you envisage your days?

Maybe this is where the problem lays… our goals are unrealistic.  We need to consider this reality.

Because my homeschooling is an aspect of our family life when I set homeschool goals, I’m really setting family goals – what do I want our day to look like? I want:

  • My family growing in the areas of wisdom, peace, order, creativity and integrity
  • My family to be free to take opportunities that come our way to grow in love towards others, skills and knowledge
  • My house to be inviting – to be a place where we can live out our family and individual purpose

These are our personal goals – please consider what your goals would be.  I don’t think they are unrealistic goals – but how I interpret and work towards those goals on a day to day basis can quickly become unrealistic.  I can push my family to achieve those things perfectly, whereas my goals are actually about walking towards those things, learning and practicing.  We must understand that being a family, parenting and certainly homeschooling is about the journey; it is a process not an end product.

Two other questions to ask –

  • What is happening?
  • What isn’t happening?

It is important to see that not everything is not working (generally speaking) – there are some good things going on.  By systematically thinking through the whole of family life, including homeschooling, then we start to find a more balanced perspective.  Not to say that things aren’t going well, but it is easy to get tunnel vision and only see the things that we are not happy with, instead of seeing the good that is happening as well.

There are three ‘lists’ that I have used to guide my reflection when I’m doing a review.   I wouldn’t necessarily use all three lists at the one time, but sometimes it is helpful because they cover the same aspects of life, but in wording it differently my mind goes to different places.

  1. My goals (as listed above – I may write these goals differently at different times, but they cover my heart for my family)
  2. The whole-life list: spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual, practical
  3. The discipleship homeschool list: relationships, personal growth, responsibilities, talents, academic studies (read more)

When I’m doing a review, I take each aspect and write what is or isn’t happening in that area for each of my kids.  This is a great way to gain perspective, because it breaks down “homeschooling” to smaller aspects of our family life – and when we do this, we have more chance of being realistic, not just reactionary.

Once we have a nearly objective idea of what is or isn’t happening in our family compared to what we would like to happen, we can then ask ourselves – What am I going to do about it?

[Tweet “When we know what is not working well we can ask – what am I going to do about it?”]

Here are some things that have been addressed at these times:

  • Identifying an attitude, discipline or skill that one or all kids needed to learn. I may have to change plans in order to create opportunity to teach what is necessary.
  • Changing curriculum – though I am hesitant to change curriculum, sometimes it is the answer. We need to recognise that what looked so fantastic when we bought it may simply be not the answer for the now.
  • Identifying wrong learning/teaching styles – I have changed things around to match what each individual child has needed at different times.
  • Acknowledging too many commitments – Busyness and too many out of the house activities – sometimes our busyness takes us away from what we should be focusing on, leaving us with not enough time and energy to work on our true goals
  • Recognising we’ve been home too much – especially for the extraverts – sometimes we just need to get out and see people!
  • Fun – sometimes the fun element is missing; alternatively, sometimes knuckling-down is the answer as well!
  • Sickness, crisis, or opportunity can take its toll on our plans – we may have to switch plans that make time for us to walk through whatever is taking our time and energy.
  • Ideals – One of the biggest things that I have had to change is my ideals, for example, I had the ideal that we would learn all together as a family – but due to my kids learning styles and abilities this wasn’t working well. I needed to step back from a preferred method and let it go.
  • Burnout – sometimes we’ve just all needed to rest, and focus on our physical and/or emotional wellbeing (kids as well as mum).

If you have chosen to homeschool for a purpose, don’t let the hard times distract you – work through it.  Over the years I’ve had to let go of ideals, and some where good ideals, I’ve had to tweak and change and grow as my family has grown.  This is ultimately what homeschooling is about – growing together as a family, and growing as an individual.  We must be flexible and honest enough to hit the pause button when things aren’t going well, and then we must be brave and determined enough to make the changes necessary.

 

What to do when homeschooling isn't working - part 2

 

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