Friday, September 11, 2015

Reflections on My First Week of Homeschooling

If you asked me to sum up my experiences during my first week of homeschooling, the sentence I would use is this: "Homeschooling is HARD."

That's not to say that it isn't rewarding, or that I'm not glad that I chose homeschooling over various other options. It's not to say that I'm not aiming to do better next week, or even to say that I did badly this week. But it is HARD. Unexpectedly hard.

I honestly thought that the first few weeks wouldn't be so bad. I figured that the hard part would come a few weeks, maybe even a month, in, when the novelty wore off and the coolest stuff that I had planned was used up. I honestly thought that the first week would be easy, for both me and my son.

Ha.

It wasn't easy.

It wasn't easy to take off the "mom" hat and put on the "teacher" hat. It wasn't easy to start seeing my son as a student rather than as, well, my son. It wasn't easy to respond to his frustration with the patience of a teacher rather than with the discipline of a mother.

Honestly, I didn't realize quite how different these two hats are, that of "mother" and that of "teacher." They do have a lot in common: Both want the child to do his best, to learn, to understand, to enjoy. Both want to help the child understand and absorb. Both know how the child thinks and adapt the plan to that way of thinking. Both love the child and have his best interests at heart. But the mother wants to soothe and protect and comfort in a way that the teacher should not. The teacher should - MUST - at times, force the issue. The teacher must insist that the child does what he is being asked to do. She must discipline in a much more distanced and impartial way than the mother is used to.

That is asking a lot of a mother.

I didn't know quite how hard it would be to take off my mother hat.

Even before homeschooling entered the picture, I struggled with not being a "helicopter mom." I had to fight my instinct to hover over my children, to fight their battles, to solve their problems, even when they were perfectly capable of fighting their own battles and solving their own problems. I had to remind myself that they were capable of fighting their own battles and solving their own problems, and that even when they weren't, they would benefit if I let them try. It has always been a hard lesson. I am grateful that I have a husband who is perhaps a bit too far on the other end of the spectrum. Given his druthers, he would let them run through the park without an adult watching over them, stay at home without supervision while he runs a quick errand, and be in a large group of people without holding the hand of a parent. These scenarios are all horrifying to me. But between the two of us, I think we strike a reasonable balance of supervision and freedom. I think we balance each other out so that our children have a healthy dose of both protection and independence.

But when it comes to the classroom, and it's just me and my son, my helicopter mom self wants so badly to do everything for him. I desperately want him to answer all the questions correctly, and if I can't I want to whisper the answers to him. I don't want to see him struggle, or be confused, or have to work hard to figure things out for himself, or (God forbid) to be WRONG. I have to literally bite my tongue to not hand him the answers.

Keeping my mouth shut and letting him struggle is absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done as a parent.

And yet, when I do let him struggle, and he gets frustrated, and cries, and gets angry, but then finally figures something out on his own, I am so proud that I fear my heart might actually explode. I am almost as proud as he is.

Yes, homeschooling is HARD. But boy, is it worth it. It is ever so worth it.



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