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Help! I'm a homeschool failure!
Rachel wrote to me in complete despair. She felt she couldn't continue homeschooling her children and that she was letting them down. She had come to the conclusion that her family needed a stable, consistent, happy thriving environment and to achieve that she needed to be relaxed and consistent. Achieving that goal was proving to be difficult!
I could have replied with lots of information about organising the home learning environment, scheduling time for relaxing and exercising, looking after mum activities, ways to encourage independent learning, etc. Plenty of those tips under Managing Homeschooling Life, Maintaining Confidence, and Overcoming Burnout and Rachel was familiar with my site so no need to repeat them. She'd read all those and something else was needed.
My thoughts went to affirmations, perhaps an affirmation that she could breathe (heavily!) about relaxing: something like "we've got all day".
I use affirmations whenever I can remember to take the tension out of the day.
I don't use them often enough, however! I know when I need to use an affirmation - it's in those emotionally charged moments when I'm in danger of reacting, rather than consciously acting.
An affirmation is like a deep breath - it gives you that moment in which to pause.
Counting to ten - slowly - while breathing can do the trick too. You need that space, more than anything else.
The affirmation simply begins the reprogramming of unhelpful self-talk process.
Consistency begins by recognising the most important thing (just one!) you'd like to change right now. It would be beneficial if the whole family could agree on this one thing. Everyone can then contribute to making sure they all change that one thing - having support is crucial when we're trying to change entrenched behaviours.
I suggested that Rachel name that one thing. Perhaps create and pin up a poster on the fridge with the new behaviour loudly proclaimed!
It's important to keep words and thoughts constructive (positive). It's more effective to think about what we want, as if we already have it, than to dwell on what we don't want or what isn't working. Be clear and realistic and succinct.
Forget about happiness. None of us are ever going to be consistently happy! Acknowledge that it's okay to have blue moments or blue days.
It's okay to be quietly reflective. Sometimes my children were/are quietly reflective and I'd interpret that as unhappiness and intervene... Not happy then!
Or sometimes when one of us is learning something challenging we get frustrated with ourselves, we may get cranky or cross, and even short-tempered. When I saw my children struggling like this I would intervene - uninvited of course - and then they'd get cross at me!
Sometimes learning isn't about having fun or being happy. Sometimes it's about loss, reconciliation, compassion, grief, coming to terms with inability... and so on.
Happiness is something that, if we take care of ourselves, will come naturally. Adequate sleep, rest, relaxation, laughter, exercise and nutritious food underpin happiness. Aim for those and we're soon be on our way to happiness.
Happiness, as I'm currently finding out, doesn't arrive without balance though. That's the 'stable' part of Rachel's statement. Avoid extremes. We naturally do this in the physical realm but forget the importance of finding and maintaining mental balance. I'm terribly guilty of this: I have high highs where I get oodles of impressive work done and dreadful lows where I simply sit and wait for the depression to pass. I'm learning to resist the urge to be ultra busy when I'm hyper - relax more, especially then - so that I don't dive too low. As a result I'm able to do much more ALL the time. It's a huge relief, and wonder of wonders, I'm naturally happier!
Reacting, especially emotionally, drains energy. Time is the healing potion. When we're reacting, we need to pause, take a step back, sit down, give ourselves a big hug, hug the children. Stop whatever we are doing and have a playful moment, even if you don't feel like it. Break the cycle. Go outside. Remove ourselves from the situation to break the building tension. And resist engaging if we feel that our reaction is going to be anything other than constructive...
And then try to view the situation objectively - stand outside of ourself and look on, in an omnipresent kind of way.
One of the tools I used all the time to help me relax about 'education' was thinking about what schools really offer. Not what the ideal school would offer, but what the real school down the road offers, every day. I'd look at society - with all it's never ending, never solved problems and realise a lot of those problems are perpetuated or started by schooling. Definitely not fixed by them! Schools help to set the apathy in concrete. For every caring 'leader' that comes through the system there are nine people who are lost, haven't got a clue how to solve the big problems in their communities, or even in their personal lives.
When have schools ever delivered the curriculum they promise to ALL their students?
As a natural learning and unschooling parent I discovered that allowing my child to play and follow his interests and rarely do anything that looked like school work didn't disadvantage him educationally as a young adult. Having a caring mum and dad ready to help him learn anything he wanted to in the way that he chose was enough. Doing nothing specifically educational is enough - anything on top of that would be a bonus. The time and attention we put into our children combined with the natural love we have for them and the desire to see their needs met in a timely fashion is what makes home education successful. That's all we need to do.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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