I'm sitting here today staring at a pile of books I'm pricing for a book sale. I have an equally large stack of partially used school books residing in the basement as well. You see, the past few years have been crisis years in our homeschool. Crisis years when despite your best intentions, sometimes all that gets done is math, science and history videos, and lots of hands on home ec training for your kids. These are the years that break many homeschoolers. Especially those who lack support from family or friends. These are the years when if you allowed people to truly peek into your world, they'd say you need to send your kids to school. My favorite that we heard earlier this year is "You need to send your son to live with us so he can go to a REAL school." Then the statement was repeated numerous times to the child in question. Needless to say, that will never happen and such statements are rude, uncalled for, and unappreciated.
So what do you do with years like we've had recently? You step back and give yourself grace. The grace to say it will be ok. The grace to acknowledge that no education will ever be without gaps. The grace to allow God to fill in those gaps for your children. The grace to forgive yourself and your children for what you did not accomplish. The grace to look around and admit that maybe what your family needed was to be surrounded by each other. To help one another. To learn to care for one another just a little bit more.
Yes, I'm sure the kids would have pushed further ahead academically if we'd just sent them to school. But I look back on our past few years and realize that we needed something so much more important than that. We needed to heal together. To help each other. And, well, the standardized test scores are the same as they were before so I guess we're ok if you are the kind of homeschooler who cares about that sort of thing.
So what have I learned? Don't share your struggles with those who don't need to know about your school. Don't continue to school when relatives come to visit. If you believe in alternative education ideals (like little boys need twice as much time running around outside than they do sitting at a desk and it is developmentally ok for kids to NOT read at 5), don't share them with the naysayers. The second a relative or friend shows they don't respect you as the authority in your child's life, the one to guide their education, stop sharing with them. Maybe when you are having as awesome year and everything is going wonderful, you can handle sharing and bragging. But when you are struggling and in need of a bit of grace and understanding, that is not the time to share with those people. Find someone supportive and leave the negative Nellies behind.
People tell me my kids are hard workers. That they get along well. That they are so very helpful. That the older ones have a knack for looking out for the younger folks around them and pulling them in. I'll be honest and say these are the important things for me when raising kids. Yes, when we started homeschooling we were star struck by the whole "get them to Harvard" mentality. I abandoned that long ago and no longer worry about such things like getting the kids into the right college. Because it doesn't matter how they do academically if they have no work ethic, no ties to their family, no faith. So give your kids grace. And give yourself some, too. I think we all could use it.