The Schedule vs. Real Life
With homeschooling, there’s the theory and then there’s the practice; there’s the schedule, and then there’s reality.
My homeschooling journey so far has been a bumpy ride, with all its hiccups and jolts along the way including my husband hospitalized and close to death multiple times, moves, painting the whole interior of the house, literally building a library (with built-in shelves), pregnancies, newborns, toddlers, and more.
What I have learned over this journey is that homeschooling is not about doing what everybody else is doing. (Or at least what you think they’re doing.) It’s doing what’s best for your own family.
For example, we’ve finished school in nine months and moved onto the next school year in May (anticipating slowing down near the holidays because of the birth of a child) and we’ve had a year where we started school in July and didn’t finish until the end of next September (fifteen months) because of severe life challenges.
So, I must start this post with the really good things about homeschool so that you don’t read through my failings and want to throw in the towel before you have even begun. But I am opening up and being honest with you in order to show you that homeschooling is not the perfect little pictures you see on Pinterest. It runs in real time, and there’s no rewind.
With that in mind, here are the top ten good points about my homeschool:
1. Despite all the stumbling blocks, my children still regularly earn A’s or stars (which means a 100%) on their assignments and tests, but not always.
2. They have very good reading comprehension and my oldest two (in fifth and seventh grade) can read at a high school level or above.
3. I do not consider a “school week” finished unless we have completed all assignments on my lesson plan (unless the child is in kindergarten or below) — hence the long “year” of school.
4. My children are on track (at grade level) with their Latin and Greek studies and are able to master their current level of material as we go.
5. They are at grade level with all other subjects as well, except for my poor little one mentioned below.
6. This school year we are getting a fantastic start, finishing school many days by 2-3 p.m. with all assignments completed.
7. We are trying to start morning time again, at least with prayer and a Bible reading some days.
8. My children help out by doing school with their younger siblings when I am having to take care of the little ones.
9. We are in our eighth year of classical education and going strong.
10. Our homeschool room got reorganized during our school break and looks great.
Now for the bad stuff.
For the longest time, as a homeschooling mother, because I didn’t know any other homeschoolers, I felt like a complete and utter failure most days, especially as I had more children. I read so many homeschool mommy bloggers talk about their schedules and plans and I assumed that their days were perfect, following the plan without a glitch! Those plans, with their flowers and colors always looked so gorgeous, giving the allusion of perfection. Also, very few bloggers talk about their faults and failings, so it’s easy to assume that everything is running perfectly.
However, homeschooling is not some perfect little society where everyone completes all their lessons every single day, gets 100 percent grades on all their assignments, and has smiles on their faces as they complete their work in peace and tranquility.
This is the real world.
Interruptions happen on a daily basis. Sometimes, they happen every minute, or even five times in one minute.
There have been days where we’re still working on a lesson at 10 p.m. just so we can finish the day. (We’re late risers.)
Some years go by relatively smoothly, while others make you feel like you want to quit. Individual days are like that too.
More than once, it took me three weeks to complete “one week” of the school lesson plan—the pitfall of wanting all those boxes on the lesson plan checked.
Lesson plans (should) go unchecked.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon a video last year from one of Memoria Press’s homeschool conventions, at which point, my outlook finally changed and I got to breathe a deep sigh of relief. I don’t have the link to that video anymore, but I will keep searching.
The kernel of truth in the video for me was this: we (she was taking collectively) homeschool moms do not check off all those little boxes on the lesson plans. Sometimes we don’t even do all the workbook pages when we need to catch up. We do the necessaries, and we just keep on keeping on.
So what did I have to feel guilty about? Plenty. I’ll give you my top ten.
My biggest homeschooling guilts are:
1. We have not done fine arts appreciation for the past three years.
2. We have let piano lessons slip to the point that my third grader is still on his first piano book, my fifth grader is only on book two, and my seventh grader is only on book five, after they all have been “doing piano lessons” (loosely stated) since first grade or before.
3. I stopped doing morning time two years ago.
4. I have not read aloud a work of literature (chapter books) to my children in almost a year. I have tried, but our littles ones are just too interruptive.
5. Three of my children memorized over 30 poems, including five pages of Hiawatha, during two school years, but because we never review them, almost all of them are forgotten.
6. My children are still going through Baltimore Catechism 2 for memorization. We originally started memorizing it four years ago. We dropped it and just started again this past year. None of them are even half-way through.
7. My six year old is struggling to read because we didn’t do phonics daily last year.
8. My oldest child did double science last year (MP’s astronomy and birds) because we added curriculum to the younger grades and he didn’t want to miss out.
9. In his early homeschool years, my oldest switched math books three times before I finally figured out what I wanted to use.
10. And finally, as mentioned above: last school year (2021-2022) took us fifteen months to complete. We just started our new school year in October.
I can’t imagine you are still stressing out after learning all that. Please, settle your fears. As long as the children are learning, and progressing through their studies, then they are being educated, and that is the point of homeschooling.
Whenever you are having a bad day, remember the big picture, and let go of the small things. There will be rough seasons in life: pregnancies, infants, toddlers, special needs, hospitalizations, family deaths. Do not let these derail you from your homeschool vision.
Remember the importance of Latin and Greek, phonics and reading aloud, math, and reading in general. If you can’t even read aloud, put on an audio book. Many of Memoria Press’s subject sets come with DVDs for teaching. Use them. Just work on those subjects and come back to the others when you are able to devote more time.
And don’t worry! You’ll get back into the swing of things. It just takes time. The other subjects can slip a little and the children will still be okay.
Most importantly, don’t stop homeschooling just because of a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year. They happen, even to the best of us, and your children will benefit much more from your consistent homeschooling, even through the bumps and potholes, than by attending public school, then homeschooling, back to public school, and so on.
If you like what you’re reading, share this with a friend, and don’t forget to subscribe so that you don’t miss my next post series on what to do for preschool, and the necessity of starting early! As always, love your children, give them a Fundamentally Classical education, and don’t stress over the imperfections!