The (Im)Perfect Homeschool

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By Liese Carberry; Mother of four and homeschooler for 17 years- Denver
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Things are never quite what you imagine them to be. As a kid you imagine perfect summers spent lazily drifting in a lake or days spent getting as dirty as possible and seeing how long you could stay that way before an adult notices. As a teen you imagine driving the perfect car and thinking that college will be more parties and less school. As an adult you imagine your perfect job, perfect kids, perfect life.

As a homeschooler it’s no different, you might come into the homeschooling scene naive and fresh, not knowing what to expect, but you have some inkling of what is supposed to be. You might have an idea of what homeschooling is supposed to look like because you read that one blog or know that one family, or maybe you spent years dreaming of the perfect homeschool: lots of hands-on activities, a neat room made to order, kids that wake up willing to be taught, cozy reading times with toddlers sitting on your lap taking in your every word. And then....imperfection sets in and you wonder where you went wrong. What happened to story time and a clean house, kids helping with chores and meals, babies napping contentedly while older siblings work on their own....and what does perfect look like anyway? And, more importantly, does imperfection mean failure? Here are some things to consider when you homeschool and feel imperfection creeping in:

Number one - No one else is like you! No one has the same kids as you, the same learning style, the same teaching style or the same learning difficulties. Sure, you might find some people to talk to that have a child with ADHD or dyslexia and you can compare notes with them, but no one has cookie cutter children (not even twins are cookie cutter, find some and ask them.) This means that what some might take as an imperfection on your part (they only do school for 2 hours a day!) is perfectly fine for your family. What you use (or don’t use) for curriculum, how you teach, how your kids learn (Kinesthetic? Auditory?) These are things that are unique to you and your family, the only measure of perfection is one that you hold up for yourself. So, cut yourself some slack, quit comparing apples to oranges (and this goes for your own kids too, don’t compare one to another, they are both different.)

Number two - Everyone has bad days. You don’t think that the blog about the perfect homeschool family has bad days? Think again. In the media everyone tries to put their best foot forward, but when the cameras are gone there are dirty dishes, raging hormones and messy rooms. There will be days of mess and days of feeling like nothing ever gets done and no one is learning a thing. Yes, there will be days like this (my Mama said...) Take some time during a bad day to take a break. Maybe you need some alone time in order to be your best, maybe the kids need to get outside for a 20 minute play/scream-a-thon, maybe you need to sit on the couch among the piles of clothing waiting to be folded and read a silly book (whether the kids are listening or not.) Bad days will not last forever.

Number three - Pick one imperfect thing and plan on improving it. Imperfection does not equal failure, but maybe your imperfection is something that you really want to change. So, take one small step and change it. I have always imagined my homeschool day as having a daily reading out loud time and a cuddle-on-the-couch reading time. I used to do these things when I had one child, but as we added two, then three, then four, reading out loud and couch reading times fell by the wayside. Are you imperfect if you never read aloud to your children? No, but it’s something that I wanted to do. Reading out loud is time consuming, but I made it a goal to work a daily reading time into our lunch break. I also needed some one on one time with my youngest child to sit with her and help her with reading, so I carved out some time twice a week to do just that. Am I perfect in this new endeavor? No, there are days when  we don’t read aloud and there are weeks where I shove reading time into a corner, but I’m working on it.

Number four - Start the day off right. It’s true, getting off on the wrong foot can steer a great day into an imperfect storm. Take time in the morning to clear your head, take a walk, write a letter, read the Bible, read a devotional, pray; do whatever you need to do to start your day in a frame of mind that allows you to be creative, energetic, patient, loving and the best teacher you can be. Happiness is catching - laugh with your kids, smile at them, hug them, share a silly joke to start the day, and keep a positive attitude.

Number five - You stay home all day and homeschool and your house is immaculate? You either have a maid or cleaning fairies at your beck and call. If you stay home, your house is going to get messy. I don’t know why, but that’s how it is. If you homeschool, your house is going to be messy - get used to it. Does this mean that we live in a wreck of a home and no one lifts a finger to clean it? No, it just means that having people around all day eating 3 meals a day (and cooking three meals a day), hauling out Legos and laundry and math cubes and art projects is going to leave a house messier than cleaner. A sure way to get frazzled is to do nothing or try to do everything by yourself. Children have the ability to clean, use it (it’s like the force, you have to train them in the use of this ‘cleaning’ power.) Train your children to put back what they get out, this will eliminate a lot of mess (plus they are closer to the ground, so they don’t have to bend over as far to pick things up.) Set up a schedule for the week or month, clean one room for 10 minutes a day, rotate the chores, make sure kids know what a room should look like when it’s clean and if all else fails...bribe them (Chuck E Cheese has clean room and chore charts, fill them up and get 10 free tokens.)

Number six - Don’t give up! When we start to see our imperfections as failures we can start to lose focus and forget why we do what we do. We don’t homeschool to be perfect (because there is no such thing anyway.) We homeschool to give our children a unique education that fills their minds and souls with what is important - for them. An imperfect homeschool might look messy (but creative), loud (but lively), quiet (but studious), unorganized (but passionate) and many other things. Embrace your imperfection, it’s just one more thing that makes you....you!

Number seven - There is no number seven, I just like the number and to me it’s perfect!