I don’t think anyone is immune to the home-ed “wobbles”. Sooner or later, we all suffer from doubts and anxieties (or downright panic!) about our decision to educate our children outside of school. Modern parenting can be stressful anyway, and doing something so radically different to the rest of society gives us a whole new aspect to worry about. Even though I was home educated myself, have considered home education since before my children were born and am surrounded by other home educating families, I still get the wobbles from time to time! I’d like to share some strategies that have helped me to deal with them.
Try something new. As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. I’ve been having some wobbles recently and decided to trial a more structured approach. If you do a lot of formal learning, take some time off to relax and follow your child’s interests. Change your approach, curriculum, resources or subjects. Try spending more time outdoors, or more time at home. Visit new places and make new friends. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a permanent change, sometimes a temporary one is enough to recharge your batteries or remind you why home education is best for your family.
Talk to someone outside of the problem. It’s hard to be objective when you are emotionally involved. As a Christian, I have the wonderful privilege of casting all my cares on the Lord in prayer. I also have some lovely friends who always bring a fresh perspective to our discussions. Of course, this strategy works best if you have friends or family who are supportive of home education, but thanks to social networking there are now many online support groups.
Acknowledge the disadvantages. Mentioning that home education has disadvantages seems rather taboo in the home-ed community, but I don’t think it’s helpful to pretend otherwise. Yes, children who are home educated may “miss out” on some aspects of the school experience, but equally children who go to school will miss out on the home education experience! It’s impossible to have all the advantages of both, so stop trying to convince yourself that home education needs to be better than school in every way. It’s not the same, and that’s okay.
Consider other options. From time to time, you may wonder if perhaps your children would be better off in school after all. Or in my case, I sometimes want to send them to school for my own benefit! But would schooling or flexi-schooling really solve the problem? Remember that your child’s needs change over time, so you may need to reevaluate decisions and approaches that worked well in the past. Thinking through the realities and practicalities of other options may help to bring clarity.
Remember the good things. It’s all too easy to dwell on the struggles and forget about the good bits. When I am doubting my ability to provide an adequate education for my children, I find it helpful to look back through my blog. Even though it might feel like we’ve done nothing and made no progress, I have records and photographs to remind me of learning experiences and precious moments spent together as a family. Consider keeping a diary or journal of some kind and jotting down a few words every day or week, so that you have something to look back on when the wobbles hit.
Focus on what is important. Being responsible for your child’s education can be scary and overwhelming when you consider how much there is for them to learn. Sometimes I hear or read about the many subjects and topics that other home educators teach their children and wonder how on earth I will ever manage to fit it all in! Stop and make a list of the skills, knowledge and experiences that you consider absolutely essential for your child. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the list is much shorter than you would expect. Reflect on how much you have learned as an adult by following your own interests. Suddenly fourteen years of education seems like plenty of time to cover the essentials and raise lifelong learners.
Go back to your goals. Why did you decide to home educate in the first place? Maybe it was to cultivate a love of learning or spend quality time together as a family. Perhaps your child was unhappy at school or their individual needs were not being met. Maybe you have religious reasons or want to avoid constant assessments and pressure. If you’re like me, you may have many reasons, but try to determine the most important one and then use that to evaluate your educational provision and maintain a sense of purpose.
Have you experienced the home-ed wobbles? Please feel free to share your own tips for overcoming them!