To be a schoolmaster is next to being a king. Do you count it a mean employment to imbue the minds of your fellow citizens in their earnest years with the best literature and with the love of Christ, and to return them to their country honest and virtuous men? In the opinion of fools, it is a humble task, but in fact it is the no lest of occupations.
Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch scholar and theologian
The end of October and I am wondering how many homeschooling mamas are already hanging their heads in their hands, wondering (again) what they are doing wrong, why their children aren’t progressing anywhere near the incredible standards of the 1800’s, how in the world they ended up with (apparently) the wrong curriculum (again), and trying to remember and convince themselves that yes, homeschooling was the right choice and no, they aren’t complete failures because supper was late (again) because they were busy that day trying to teach place values to their first grader while overseeing sentence diagramming with their high schooler while the baby was nursing while (fill in the blank…inhale….).
Any resemblance to myself is a coincidence.
This mid-fall slump is typical for most educators I know. When I was a public school teacher, by the time the leaves were falling off the trees we were already gathered in lunch rooms and in inservice trainings discussing the areas that just weren’t up to what we had hoped for when we were planning with fresh starry eyes before Labor Day. By the end of October, we were reassessing everything and trying (or not) to make the necessary changes. We were holding parent conferences which really weren’t about working with parents (because if that were the case, we ought to have met long beforehand), but about reporting to them. We had our easy students (the ones who loved learning what anyone was teaching) and we had our challenges (the ones who figured our weak spots and capitalized on them). A lot of our hopes by then were tarnished by the reality of dozens of students to keep track of or of politics (and magazing-selling assemblies) that got in the way of teaching.
Why am I telling you that? Because I don’t want you to grow weary, to think that Someone Else would necessarily teach your child better than you. What we as school teachers didn’t have, and I say this plainly, was a real, invested interest. So although that mid-fall slump was there, it was dealt with (or not), we got over it and just started counting the days to
Christmas vacation winter break.
I’m not saying we didn’t care about these students. Sure, we did. That’s why most of us were teaching; we had a love for education and for children! BUT….for better or worse, these students were not our kids. We may have been happy when kids did well and disappointed when they didn’t, but they weren’t our kids. If a child wasn’t getting the multiplication tables down by the end of the sixth week, we weren’t really losing any sleep over it because the next teacher would deal with that. Or so we hoped.
Homeschooling is difficult sometimes because we mamas ARE “the next teacher”. Furthermore, there is no one else that loves our children more than we do so our investment runs deep. No one else gets that deep-down-to-the-pit-of-our souls desire to see the light bulb go on for 3×7=21. That’s one of the reasons why we homeschool. And that’s also why when we don’t hit the bar (that we have either had set for us or set for ourselves) it feels like the dumps, especially when it feels like the “school year” just got started.
Sometimes it’s good to look in the rearview mirror, to see how far our children have come. And I don’t know about you, but I have the required-by-state-law proof-in-the-pudding that they’re at least kicking some hiney.
Sometimes the reason why everything’s on the back burner is because the roof’s fallen in someplace. Someone died. There was a divorce. Grandma moved in. Dad lost his job.
Sometimes it is just a good time to reassess and problem solve. Maybe you need to use your crockpot more. Maybe you need to actually put together a schedule. Maybe you need to ask the Lord for guidance. Maybe your commitment isn’t where it needs to be. Maybe you need to say “no” to more outside activities.
Whatever the case, it’s also good to remind ourselves that regardless of academic standing, what we’re investing in is largely unseen. We are building the heart.
A heart for God and a love of Christ. A heart for family, built through the everyday messiness of living with real messy people in real messy homes. A heart for healthy foods, healthy exercise, healthy play. A heart for wholesomeness and a real childhood. A heart for work, for dreaming, for discipline and for community. Cultivating the heart is what matters the most. Don’t press so hard to “succeed”, to work that curriculum, that you discourage their hearts (and yours).
If you’re in that mid-fall homeschooling slump, be of good courage. It is better than being a queen to be able to homeschool and hand a pencil to your own child with true motherly love. Let’s enjoy our babies and give gratitude to the Lord for the liberty to school them at home, trusting Him for the results as we by faith just do the next step that we know how.
Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Have a lovely week homeschooling.