Monday, 7 February 2011

In The Beginning: Our First Week.

My son, James, and I have just completed our first week of homeschooling together. The whole process has really served to hold a mirror up to my parenting skills. And I find myself seriously lacking. Lacking patience, lacking compassion, lacking flexibility, lacking joy. I had made all sorts of plans, about how our week would look, and how each day would flow. I was dreaming about the fun we would have together.  But so far it hasn't quite worked out as I had hoped. It's mostly been tough. Tough with a huge dollop of difficult. Or perhaps that's just my perspective.

 We have had some fun, on some days. Like when James, Dan and I went to the woods, and did a nature collection, fed the ducks and swans and had lunch together. The next day James and I made a huge nature picture featuring photographs of our time in the woods, and some of our nature collection. We both enjoyed that.

But most days have been full of struggles. James has been quite out of sorts. He's been angry, confrontational, defiant. He's been cheeky, silly, and distracted. He's been really unenthusiastic about many of our plans (things we both had talked about and agreed on), and unresponsive to my attempts to direct him or challenge his behaviour. To some extent I think this is due to the disruption of the change from school to home. Perhaps he is just pushing the boundaries because I'm his mum and I am trying to carve out a new role as his teacher. Maybe he's reacting to the newness of the circumstances, and things will settle down. I hope they do.

I am trying to be flexible, to think about the options for different ways of learning and interacting. At the same time I am worried about what other people are thinking - how do I convince my husband and other family members that this is going to work out, that we can be adaptable and unconventional and still give our son a well rounded and effective educational experience? How do I convince myself?

I haven't behaved particularly well either. I've been cross and shouty, and too, too serious. I've been anxious to get things done in a certain way, to achieve my goals according to my timescales. I've been talking too much and listening too little. And the furrowed line in the centre of my forehead is getting deeper! I thought I was well prepared for last week. Now I think I've been flying blind.

Preparedness for me has always been about the external - the paperwork, the to-do lists, the right things in the right places, the materials and the books, the trips and the experiences. But I have not prepared myself. And I have not prepared James. Our relationship has taken a bit of a beating over these last few months, as he and I have struggled to navigate the ups and downs of school and home life, and to communicate in our different languages (that's what it feels like some days).

I thought that being prepared meant having the right plans for each day and each week's work, planned responses for this and that behaviour. Now I realise that being prepared is much more than that. It's about me being a mum, the right kind of mum for James. It's about my heart and his. It's about our relationship, our connection, our trust. I am not here to control him, but to nurture, not to boss, but to train, not to do for, but to show. My role is to care, to love, to bless. I am to raise him towards adulthood with care and affection. And our homeschooling journey is now a major part of that. I want to worry less about what he is achieving academically, and concentrate more on how he is developing as a person.

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not turn from it". (Proverbs 22:6)

I am going to spend some time thinking about what kind of character I would like James to become, and how I can help him to grow into that character. I'll be on my knees praying a lot - I need all the help I can get!


  1. My first year homeschooling was extremely difficult too. It will take time for you both to adjust. It does get better and you will have those fun and productive days, but you will also always have those days that are not so fun.
    So much of what you said were my thoughts exactly a few years ago, and some even now.
    Patience is not something we are given, it is something we learn. Until I started homeschooling I thought I was patience.
    Remember that homeschooling is not just the daily academic work but as you said the work on helping him grow as a good person.
    And as far as what others think, it doesn't matter. Give it time and you will all see the great benefits if homeschooling.
    This is all very worth the struggle. And it will get better!
    Have a great week.

  2. Thank you so much Amber - your comments are really encouraging!

  3. hi Rach- do you know any other home schoolers to get together with? Janelle lane mullan on my facebook page is a lovely homeschooler - really nice - her husb is a teacher too. If you think I can help at all as an ex nice teacher, let me know x
    Emma ricketts by the way!

  4. Thanks Emma! Appreciate that!

  5. We have always homeschooled, and our oldest is 13. You will find your stride! The internet opened up a whole new world of support to me, but I have now found a really neat homeschool group complete with "Mother Culture". I strongly encourage that if you can find/create it!