Every year, there are a number of battles a teacher and/or homeschooling parent is going to face. It’s just part of the job and experience tells a teacher that winning is essential. It is important to know that these battles are normal, seasonal, and expected.
Battle #1: Biting off more than you can chew/Can I really do this?
In August, especially if it’s a new grade level, it is tempting to feel overly optimistic. Like, “this year is going to be so great, we are going to accomplish so much!” And then when reality sets in, it can be really hard to swallow. Also, many teachers (possibly many adults in general) suffer from “imposter syndrome”. When I first started teaching I used to think that a “grown up” was going to come into my classroom and order me out, insisting I needed supervision. I didn’t feel qualified even though I absolutely am qualified. In August, imposter syndrome can be a monkey on the back of many teachers – homeschooling teachers included.
Battle #2: Who is leading whom?
There is an old joke in teaching that goes, “Don’t smile until Christmas.” Basically, setting up expectations and discipline that is reasonable, expected by the students, and that the teacher in control of is the first classroom battle many teachers face. Because every class is different, this looks different every darn year. Just when you think you’ve got it down, a new year comes and it’s like starting from scratch.
The same is true in homeschooling. Seasons come and go, your children reach new levels of discipline and ability. You have to rewrite the book on how to get through to your child. A couple of things that have consistently worked for me:
- Posture yourself as being on the same team. This means avoid (when possible) nagging and yelling. This means that you are positive and encouraging even when you feel like you are failing. You are the glue that holds a classroom together, you are the leader of the ship, if they go down – you are going down. So make sure you lead them well.
- Connect before you discipline. It is tempting to deal with whatever issue is causing grief, but before you do, connect with the students. Look them in the eye, be sad and then be consistent. Be compassionate. Think of what would work for you when you are in a funk, or you’ve messed up and painted yourself into a corner.
- Whenever you can, show mercy. Nothing will get the ball rolling in the right direction like a little mercy when you can. If you have the ability to say yes and forgive, grab it with both hands. It is a uniting power and it can help establish your authority as much as carrying out disciplinary action.
Battle #3: The end is nigh and we are tired.
When I do my long range plans in school, I count how many weeks in each section. How many weeks from September to Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving to Christmas? January to March break? March break to the end of the school year?
It tends to play out that it’s usually about 6-8 weeks from September to Thanksgiving, another 8 from thanksgiving to Christmas, about 9-10 from January to March break, and 11-12 from March break to summer vacation. That last stretch – it is the last leg of a marathon and everyone is done. Summer is in the air and you are counting the days.
When you’re homeschooling, maybe you end early, maybe you school through the summer, maybe you have a plan, maybe you don’t. But if you are sensing that you and your kids are tired, maybe it’s time for a break.
Take a week or two (or more) off can be a sound way to get back to it feeling refreshed and happy.
Battle #4: But I didn’t finish everything I had planned.
This one can be hard to own, especially if you’re homeschooling- you are the one in charge. You lay out the plans, you execute them. Welcome to being a grown up – I’m sorry it sucks. There have been years (particularly near the beginning) when I don’t get nearly as far as I would like, where whole math units fall off the cliff of June. I reflect, I adjust, I do better next year. Rushing, walking around feeling guilty, justifying it as ok – not helpful. Learn, do better. Plan ahead.
Battle #5: the Battle of the Wills
Whether it’s the drooped shoulders, talking back, poorly done work, straight up defiance – at some point, you’re going to find yourself in a power struggle with your students. There’s a time to win and there’s a time to call it quits. As a classroom teacher, I would ask myself if I had the support of the parents, if I think I can win them back, if I think this student and I have a relationship that can lead to recovering from a battle of the wills. Do they need to learn about authority from me? Will this lesson help them or hurt them?
When it’s your own kid, the same questions apply and there are many factors that make it important for you to know when to pick this battle and when to let it go. Are they tired? Are they old enough to understand? Have you connected with them well enough? Do they trust that you have their best interest at heart? And so on.
When you have concluded that an assertion of authority is needed, that there is a battle of the wills happening and you need to win, that defiance is growing in the garden of their heart like an invasive weed – that’s when the hardest work happens. Being rock solid consistent, controlling your temper, winning them over with kindness and asserting your God-given authority with love is hard. Like really, really hard, but that’s parenting, right? Bad news: that’s teaching too.
When you’re a homeschooling parent, be ready to get your game face on, because you will be dealing with these battles at various points through the year. Being ready for them and expecting them can take the sting out of these battles. You aren’t alone, and it’s worth it.
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