It’s official. I had my first meltdown in front of the kids. It happened on Wednesday morning. Titus was distracted, singing instead of writing down the number 17 in his math book. Edan was calling out for help and complaining. Elijah was in another room, isolated because he was having attitude issues. So I let him have his space to do his work alone.
I felt lost and tired. I started bawling in the middle of homeschooling. It was a convergence of hormones, fatigue, insecurity about my effectivity as a teacher, and my children’s unusual streak of uncooperativeness.
Titus thought I was being comedic and started to laugh until he realized the crying was real. Being the sweet person he is, he started to cry too. He had no idea why he was crying. Maybe he was confused. Sheesh. I was confused. What am I doing? Can I really homeschool? What if I have more children? Can I go the distance? I feel exhausted.
I expressed my feelings in front of a six year old and a four year old who had no idea how to deal with a crying mother. I started to explain why I felt bad. Titus looked up at me with great concern and Edan ran away and disappeared for a bit. I found out later on he looked for Elijah and said, “Mom is crying and I know why.” He plopped himself on the bed and sat there in a contemplative manner. This is classic Edan.
He never explained the why to Elijah. But Elijah, being the intuitive person that he is, told me later on that he assumed I was feeling bad due to his attitude issues. So he said he was going to work harder that morning and do above and beyond what I had asked him to.
I had to explain. “I am not mad, Elijah. I just feel very discouraged because I feel like you guys don’t want to do your work.” And I started to sob again. “I am sorry mom,” He said. “I will try to change.”
To cut the drama short, the boys felt very guilty. A part of me felt like, good! you should all feel guilty because you are guilty, guilty, guilty! But how self-centered it was of me to have this pity-party in front of them. If I could have gone back to that moment, I would have excused myself from the table, run to my bedroom and cried out to the Lord. But I didn’t. I am ashamed to admit that all I thought about was poor me — the under-appreciated homeschooling mother. Wah wah wah, blah blah blah.
I told Edric about it and that evening he had a counsel meeting with the kids and they all talked. He encouraged and challenged the kids to be positive, to work hard.
His pep talks always have a magical effect on the kids. The next day, Elijah was a chirpy fellow. He enjoyed doing his work and he told me that he really wants to overcome his negative attitude.
As for Edan, he too was more motivated and disciplined about his work. When I asked him why, he said, “Dad talked to us remember?”
Titus, well, he did better, too. (I give him a lot of slack because he is just 4 and personally, I really feel that young boys should have more play time than study time.)
I was thankful for Edric’s loving support and intervention. But I knew something in my teaching and approach to homeschooling had to be reviewed, renewed or changed.
First, I can’t shove workbooks in front of my children every single day and expect them to be thrilled to fill out another two pages of worksheets. Homeschooling with workbooks can get so boring for the kids. The next day, I let them practice math using Logico instead. They loved that. We didn’t do squat in their math books but we covered the same content.
Second, homeschooling should not be relegated to a time slot. It’s a way of life. It is about the daily interactions I have with my children. It is being available without always looking at the clock because I have somewhere else to be or something else to do.
November and the first part of December got busy really fast. As soon as we got back from Europe, Edric and I had ministry and various commitments to fulfill. My undivided attention with the kids was compromised.
I have seen this happen with other moms. When they cram their day with too many activities, it makes them impatient when their kids. They want their kids to get it right away but their kids need more time to digest and go through material. My suggestion is, if parents choose to homeschool then make it a priority. Homeschooling requires total engagement. On days when I have no other agenda but to be present for my kids, learning happens very naturally and we have lots of fun.
Third, I have not been praying regularly with my kids before we start our homeschool work. Sometimes, I just rush into my day and expect everything to turn out okay. I hope that the chaos will order itself. However, homeschooling is a spiritual work. If I am not down on my knees dedicating the day to the Lord, I operate on very limited Me-capacity. I need the Lord to open up the hearts and minds of my kids to receive instruction.
Fourth, I haven’t been covering character as intentionally. I have been depending on our once a week family devotions on character to carry the kids through the rest of the week. Wrong. Developing godly character in my kids requires daily character instruction.
Fifth, I want to re-visit some tips from Raymond and Dorothy Moore on motivating a de-motivated child:
1. Learning is fun if you are achieving and very seldom making errors. If the work is a struggle and your child is making many mistakes, the material is too advanced or it is being presented in segments that are too large for him to take in or comprehend. So break it down into smaller parts.
2. Compliment the quality of your child’s work whenever possible.
3. Be positive, even when correcting. Instead of saying, “You are messing up. You are not doing a good job…say, “It looks like you tried very hard to do this, but I see two words that are not spelled correctly. Can you find them? Let’s correct them.”
4. Focus on mastery versus rushing through the lessons.
5. Give immediate feedback as soon as possible. Correct on the spot, if possible. For example, grammar and spelling. Research shows that far more learning takes place when you correct work on the spot.
6. Include children in the planning of subjects, projects, trips, and home-business ideas. Work towards something that is meaningful.
7. Set small, immediate goals in addition to long-term ones. Provide the incentive of a special activity at the end of the week or even at the end of the day (for younger children). Use a stop watch or timer.
To keep me going when it gets tough and challenging, I remember an insight Bob Tebow shared with Edric and I. We had the privilege of meeting him early this year. A common friend introduced us and over lunch, Edric and I interviewed him about parenting and homeschooling.
He told me, “When our children were young, I asked my wife to give that season of her life to parenting and teaching them.”
When I heard him say this I knew exactly what he meant because I have given this season of my life to raising and teaching my children, to prepare them to be called by God for his purposes.
I may have more meltdowns to come but I am committed to homeschooling. The challenges make me want to cry every now and then, but this comes with the season. The kids may not always cooperate or be angelic, but that is why I need to be present during this season — to train and instruct them. I may get tired and feel lost when my kids don’t seem to get it but this season is making me more dependent on God’s presence and that is a good thing. I hope in this…that giving this season of my life to homeschooling will make the seasons to come better and sweeter!
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:21-25 NASB)