Last week, I talked about how to simplify things if you were feeling overwhelmed. The tips may have helped you, or maybe not. Maybe you just have a general feeling that this is hard.
It is hard. It is hard, but it’s okay that it’s hard. It should be kind of hard. Parenting is hard. Not hard in the sense that you end every day crying, but hard in the sense that sometimes you have to do things that aren’t fun, that make you the bad guy, or that you just plain don’t want to do.
If it’s so hard that you’re ready to give up, try looking at why it’s so hard. Are you doing things that make it harder than it needs to be? Are you pushing too hard, setting expectations far higher than your kids, and you, can meet? Are you trying to fit too much into each day? Are you trying to match the public school environment (hint: you’ll never be able to really do that!)?
There are plenty of reasons why this will be hard, and plenty of reasons why it might be harder than it it really needs to be. But there’s also often a way to change that. For example:
- Look at your curriculum. Maybe it doesn’t work for your kids. Maybe it’s too hard or too easy for them, maybe it doesn’t match their learning style, or they just don’t like it for no apparent reason. Yes, it sucks to think you could be out hundreds of dollars (if you buy a boxed curriculum), but if it’s not working, why keep using it? Ask around and find out what other people use, do some more research, and if all else fails, try putting together your own, at least for a little while.
- Are you feeling lonely, stir-crazy or bored – or the kids are? Maybe you’re so determined to get the academics covered (especially if you’re new at this) that you’re neglecting everything else – only leaving the house for food and necessary errands. But even the most introverted of us (and trust me, I’m a very introverted person) needs a little time away from the books and with people. Find a homeschooling group or co-op, or even just a couple of friends with kids the same age that you can get together with. Morning, afternoon, weekday or weekend doesn’t matter. Just make sure you get some time with people other than just each other. Invite friends over, meet at the park, schedule field trips, or even just go to the movies.
- Don’t try to make everything educational. Another thing that can often happen (especially to the new homeschooling parent) is that we try too hard to make everything educational. A trip to the lake starts with a lesson about the history of the lake, the flora and fauna around it, a swimming lesson, and a safety lesson on boats – even though you’re only going to be on shore and swimming in the shallows where the water is barely above their knees. The truth is, we can turn anything into something educational if we really want to, but we don’t need to. Sometimes it’s okay to do something purely for the fun factor. Let the kids naturally ask questions and get their own educational value out of it, without you planning it all out in advance. Take a trip to the beach, or go to the museum, or go see a new movie that the whole family wants to see – but do it for fun, and forget any educational component at all.
- Reorganize. Sometimes the problem is your organization. You can be overly organized, or not organized enough. Loosen or tighten your schedule, move things around on your schedule to find a better flow, or create a designated homeschool area where you store all the supplies. If something just doesn’t work in your schedule, take it out – even if it’s just temporary.
- Take a break. Sometimes it just feels harder because you’re burnt out. You’ve been schooling for weeks or months and you’re just tired. And when you’re tired, everything feels harder, even though it’s the same as it’s always been. So maybe you just need a break. A couple of days, a week, a summer. Take some time off. Have fun, forget school, and come back after your break with a rested brain and fresh eyes and thinking, ready to approach things from a new angle.
- Ask someone for advice. If you feel like you’ve tried everything you can, or you just aren’t sure what to do, try asking another homeschooling parent who’s been at it longer for advice. Ask several. Whether in a local group, online, or at a convention, find other homeschooling parents and spend lots of time listening. Ask questions, but listen to their answers, and to what they say without being asked. Find out how they choose curricula, how they schedule, what kind of breaks they take and when, whatever other questions come to your mind. Not everything you hear will apply to you. Some won’t work for you, some will sound crazy to you, and some will be more complicated than you can successfully implement. But listen, because it will help you figure out what you want and don’t want in your homeschool, and that can help you figure out where your stress is coming from and how to start eliminating that stress.
But above all, don’t give up. Especially if you’re new, don’t give up. You might decide at some point in this journey that it really isn’t right for your family, for whatever reason. And if that happens, that’s fine. But make that decision when you’ve taken a critical look at your situation and you have some concrete reasons you can point to (for yourself, not anyone else) that explain why this isn’t right for your family. “It’s too hard” is not one of those reasons – it may be a symptom, but it’s not the disease.
Being a single parent, or having kids with ADHD, does make this a bit more challenging than it might be if you weren’t single or your kids were “normal.” Expect that it might truly be a little harder than it would otherwise be, but even so, stick with it. The rewards, for both you and the kids, will be worth it. Their education, your connection with them, and the memories and relationships you’ll create together, will make the hard times worth it.
And there’s always chocolate.