So often as homeschooling moms, we feel afraid to share about our bad days. On the one hand, it's an illogical fear since all teachers in every setting inevitably have hard days...and, trust me as a former classroom educator when I say that teachers in institutional schools are not at all afraid to (loudly and vociferously) speak up - in the teacher's lounge, in the hallway, at home, at the grocery store, on Facebook, and anywhere else someone might listen - about their rough days.
On the other hand, the concern is well-founded. After all, when a classroom teacher discusses her difficulties, no one says, "Oh, well, you can just ship 'em off to a different teacher," or "Hey, why not tell all those parents to get those kids out of your hair?" Yet too often when a home-educating mom dares to share about a rough patch with her children, the default response is, "Time to put 'em in public school!"
Of course, that's the last thing we want to hear. If we share a concern, it's because we simply need to vent, and we need encouragement to persevere in the calling God has placed on our lives. Perhaps (if we specifically ask for it) we're seeking advice. But most of us have very strong convictions about why institutional schooling is not a viable option for our children, so we don't need to be told (in so many words), "Yep, you're a failure; time to give up."
In contrast to such an insult, it was so refreshing to read the other day about the experience of Ashley, an acquaintance from The Homeschool Lounge who was herself educated at home as a child. She wrote:
I have been struggling this year with continuing on this homeschool journey. I know this is what we are supposed to be doing, but I am really having a hard time this year.
Today I was talking to my mom, and I told her that on Monday I had one of those "I just don't want to do this anymore" moments.
My mom said, "You can quit at any time."
"No," I said. "It isn't that easy."
"Sure it is. You can quit whenever you want for the day and start again the next day."
As a home-educating veteran, Ashley's mom gets it. Sure, we homeschoolers must be very diligent about our kids' education; we've taken on an awesome responsibility. But we also have the freedom to take life as it comes...even when that means closing the books early some days when things just aren't going our way.
That doesn't mean we've failed or that we need to ponder violating our own deeply-held convictions about what's best for our kids just because "everybody else does it." It also doesn't mean we need so-called friends or supposedly loving family members chiding us to contemplate sacrificing our kids to a system whose many errors and shortcomings we see as clearly as the noses on our faces.
If we home educators are to feel safe being transparent about our real lives, we do need more cheerleaders like Ashley's mom - and one needn't be a homeschooler herself to provide that kind of support. No matter your own background, you only need two things to be like Ashley's mom in a homeschooler's life:
- a respect for the rights of another adult (and her husband) to decide what's best for their own kids even if you yourself have different convictions;
- a desire to build up rather than tear down; in other words, if you wouldn't dream of telling a doctor, a firefighter, a classroom teacher, or a chef to give up, don't tell a home educator to do so either.
I'm am personally so committed to home education that people could hurl insults at me all day long, and it wouldn't matter. But a lot of homeschoolers need an "Ashley's Mom" in their lives. Am I talking to you?