“Homeschooling the difficult child.” I recently saw this as the title of an article for homeschool moms and it unnerved me.
Can I just start by saying I hate the phrase, “difficult child.”
In all honesty, I’ve never in my life met a difficult child and I’ve taught a lot of kids, I’ve babysat children, I’m a mother to three, and a grandma to two.
I think the phrase is code for: Adult is trying to force things with a child who is clever, creative, and not down with the current system.
You know, the kind of kid who can help change the world if only we’d trust him instead of trying to control him.
You will find this phrase used a lot within schools and within homeschools where rigid schedules and shallow, controlled learning are involved. You will seldom see this in children where exploration and creativity are encouraged and where the adult-in-charge shows genuine interest in the child.
Children are not blank slates that we can do whatever we want with. They are born ready to learn and absorb everything around them and within the first year of their life, they are moving and speaking, and listening. They don’t need to be molded into someone, they already are someone – someone who is vital to our world.
Children are not difficult.
Children are however, often ignored, underestimated, undervalued, dismissed, abused, and criticized. On the flip side, they are also the receivers of bland, general praise, and treated like little trophies of parenting.
I don’t know about you, but if I had to endure an environment like this, I’d likely be described as “difficult” as well. I was, to be honest. In first grade, I ran away from school. In third grade, I pretended to have a stomachache almost every day so I could avoid the multiplication skills tests that always ended with me losing recess time to complete it. Is it any wonder I grew to loathe math and to label myself as a poor math student? Later, in high school, I was the kid with honor roll grades, who skipped sixty-four days of school one year to take photographs.
Yes, I was likely described as “difficult” by some of the school staff.
As homeschooling families, we have a decided advantage over families who separate every day to go off to jobs and school. Have you ever driven during rush hour traffic? I swear, most of those people hate their lives. Have you seen the forlorn children on the buses?
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a little. Remember, I used to be a student and a teacher and a parent to two sons who attended public school. I also used to work in a factory, and an office, a college, and in retail. I’ve done it all. I hated almost every minute of it.
I recognize that as a homeschool mom, I have privileges that I didn’t have before now. I also know that my family has made sacrifices in order to provide our daughter with an education as unique as she is. While I’m no expert and have zero intention in ever being seen as one – as a matter of fact, I abhor the word – I do feel I have a fairly good handle on how to raise a happy home educated child. Here are my five tips. Take them or toss them as you deem necessary to your unique situation.
Five Ways to Raise Happy Home Educated Children
- Empower them. Give them choices in every aspect of their education.
- Give them time to master a skill before moving on to the next one, even if your schedule says you’re to do page 84 tomorrow. Who cares?! If we wanted to stress our children out, we’d send them to public school where time and tests take precedence over learning. Right?
- Show genuine interest in and love for your children. You likely chose to homeschool because you love your children and wanted to be with them, and you wanted to give them an individualized education. If this is not the case, you may want to reconsider your decision to homeschool. If you chose to do it because your best friend is doing it, you may want to reconsider your decision to homeschool. Just sayin’.
- Go outside. I cannot overstate this enough. Getting children out-of-doors is vital to their growth as a human being. Look around you. the saddest people you’ll meet are those who spend minimal time in Nature. Nature gives us our spiritual connection to Earth, to who we really are. It reduces stress. It’s regulates our breathing, it encourages curiosity and exploration. Take your children outside, even on the gloomy days.
- Learn with your children. Make mistakes. Let them teach you. Don’t try to be in charge all the time. It’s stressful to you and it is an ego trip. There’s no gold medal for being the best homeschool mom. No one is ever going to come pat you on the back because you were the best leader today. Get down on the floor with your kids. Get messy. Be honest and let them know when a topic seems a little boring to you, because then they know they can be honest with you. Share something you’re passionate about and encourage them to do the same. Don’t try to constantly teach your children. Be real. Be authentic. Not everything has to be a lesson. It crushes my soul to overhear parents constantly turning everything little thing into a lesson. Boring. Can’t we just live a little and have some flipping fun?
Homeschooling is freedom and homeschooling is challenging in a magical way.
It’s not always easy, but we have the freedom that no one in a school system has: we can make major changes when something isn’t working. We can make each day whatever we want it to be.
I love and I mean LOVE that I don’t have to attempt to “teach” a concept to 130 children a day anymore. First of all, the idea is ludicrous and second of all, dishing out the same material (with slight variation) seven times a day is downright dull. No wonder children are going nuts in schools and teachers count down the days until their next break. Trust me, I see their social media posts and I remember the between-class discussions my colleagues and I had.
Homeschool parents and our children don’t have to endure that. If our children seem a little “difficult,” we can switch things up and honestly, if we’re not, then we’re not doing our job as parents. Sorry, not sorry. Education shouldn’t be about tears and frustration. That’s schooling, NOT learning.
Learning is about curiosity and when something doesn’t work out as predicted, it’s about more curiosity and inquiry.
Tears are very rarely involved.
Don’t forget this: no matter what your curriculum says, no matter what the calendar looks like this month, you and your child are in control of your homeschool life. Instead of worrying about what you think you’re supposed to be doing, just document what you do each day and let go of the need to control everything. You’ve been trained by your schooling experience to think that way, and it’s okay, but loosen up the reins, mama.
I promise the difficult moments will decrease, the fun will increase, and you and your child will not dread the day ahead.