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Homeschooling: A Few Tears is Normal For Us

alec vanderboom

I don't know if its CODA, low energy from this pregnancy or hitting the five year mark as a teacher--but I feel a new inner self confidence emerging. I'm so grateful for the change. Right now my 10 year old is in tears over her writing assignment. It's not fair to her that she has to write a full page while her younger brother only has to write three sentences.

Just a few weeks ago I would have panicked over her tears. The assignment I chose was too hard. Maybe she has an undiagnosed learning disability. There was crippling self doubt, "If school is hard for my kid, then I must be doing it wrong." There was a tendency to ease up and let her off the hook.

Today, I read out loud an  illustrated copy of Romeo and Juliet while my 10 year old and 8 year old work on their homework. It was really fun. We all love theater. Introducing them to the wit of Shakespeare is pure pleasure.

In the middle of our swimming homeschool day my daughter started crying. "I don't know what to write!" When any of my kids start to complain, especially with schoolwork, I feel instant panic. I think "I'm doing this wrong." I have this imaginary ideal of teaching in my head. I don't question myself in the same way if my kids refuse to eat vegetables or don't want to sit in time out after fighting with their sibling. Yet there is something insecure about teaching that has me often second-guessing myself based on my kids moment to moment reaction to our day.

Today, I felt calm enough to really listen to the reason for her tears. "I don't know what to write." My kid had written the first paragraph of a three paragraph essay and now had writers block. I'm a writer. I have writers block all the time. This was a familiar struggle. Instead of rescuing her with "Oh, 1/3 the assignment is fine today...." I acknowledged her pain. I emphasized with her. Then I walked her through some options. She could brainstorm ideas with me and Alex. Or she could skip to her Math homework and come back to the English work later.

For the first time today, I didn't give her the option of "not finishing her writing assignment." I also stayed out of the cycle of self-blame. (My assignments are too hard or something serious is wrong.) In fact, I gave myself a little pep talk. Writers block is common. It's good for my daughter to work through her tears, fears and doubts in the safety of our dining room. Getting emotional support during tough writing assignments is helpful to a future writer.

I'm realizing that every homeschool family is unique. I have given birth to 5 totally emotionally sensitive kids. We will have more tears than most folks during our homeschool lessons. That is our normal. We will also have more angry outbursts during run of the mill discipline days and more fear before a routine trip to the dentist. My kids are emotionally sensitive and so am I.

The best thing I can do for my kids, is heal my own inner self-critic. I'm learning to have trust in the decisions that I make. I'm learning how to be a Leader in my classroom. A wise Leader doesn't crumble the exact second dissent is raised from the ranks. A holy, calm homeschool teacher doesn't have to rewrite the whole semester syllabus on a dime. I can pause, take a breath, and see if a complaint is a momentary difficulty or a sign that adjustments may be needed.

For me, I realized that a few tears is normal for us.