Patience for the Homeschool Journey

Are things seeming to go a little bit slower than you would prefer with your schoolwork, with habit training, with managing your day? Well, here to talk about that is Laura Pitney.

Sonya: Laura, have you ever felt like things just weren’t progressing as fast as you wanted, maybe with your kids’ narrations and spelling, or math skills, or something like that? Ever had that feeling?

Laura: A 100% yes. I would say that’s probably the normal for us. I have these expectations that it’s just going to happen, and it’s going to be great, and it’s all going to be as it should in our homeschool world.

Sonya: If we use Charlotte’s methods, we think it will look exactly like what she describes. When we say narrate, then the child is just going to wax eloquent.

Laura: And be happy about it.

Sonya: So how can we encourage our fellow homeschoolers in this concept of being content to walk before you run? That’s the way I think of it.

Laura: A couple things come to mind. The first thing is, it’s really important to know your child and know what he can do, where he’s at now. You would know where you want him to be, but don’t give him that extra pressure of, “Well, you didn’t do that right,” or, “Why didn’t you already get this done yesterday?” Or, “You’re 12 years old, you should be writing narrations three times a week.” It’s important to know where you want to be with your kids school-wise but also to know where each child’s at and his temperament and his personality and maybe his goals for his school. There’s value in knowing your child well so that you don’t overwhelm him with what he can potentially do.

It’s really important to know your child and know what he can do, where he’s at now.

But he’s not going to be there yet. That’s important. The other thing is, in my experience, when I started comparing my children to other families or other kids their age, I found myself getting discouraged versus how I was happy and content prior to that comparison. There’s some caution to be offered about comparing our kids to other kids and their abilities and where they’re at. I’ll give you an illustration. I have a sweet mom friend who is currently homeschooling her last one. Her last one is the same age as my youngest, but she really only has one she’s homeschooling, and I have four. The time and effort she can put into the one is beautiful. The things they’re doing, the things they persevere through to accomplish is inspiring, and I’m so happy for them. But then there’s this little seed of doubt of, “I’m not doing what I should for my child who is a similar age.”

I’ve had to take a step back and see this is her season of life. This is the travel they’re allowed to do. These are the resources they’re allowed to buy. All the things that maybe I feel like are lacking between me and my youngest versus her and her youngest is a totally different situation. And I’m so happy for her. But that seed of comparison and doubt so easily creeps in, and it starts making me feel like I’m not doing enough. I should be doing better. Why isn’t she doing her narration the same way this child’s doing it? The comparison is a real weakness when we’re trying to stay steady and walk consistently versus, like you’re saying, “I want to just jump in and run so I can match up to that neighbor friend.” Those are the first two things that come to my mind about it.

Sonya: As you were talking about matching up, it seems like what we’re talking about is—in our heads we have a certain expectation and it might just be an expectation that we’ve come up with. And if the child is not matching up to that expectation right now, we keep seeing the gap. The other thing is that we might have expectations based on what other people are doing. So what informs those expectations can be a couple of different things. The key is, instead of always looking at the gap—yes, keep your expectations, you have to have ideals to aim for—but instead of always focusing on this gap of where the child is not measuring up, and how big is that gap, maybe we should focus on how much growth that child has done to reach the point where she is now. Maybe that would help our hearts to be more content.

Laura: Stay on track because there’s always progress. We just may not choose to recognize it, like you’re saying.

Instead of focusing on this gap of where the child is not measuring up, and how big is that gap, maybe we should focus on how much growth that child has done to reach the point where she is now.

Sonya: And it might not be in this area right now. I notice that with my youngest a lot. I might be focusing on this particular area of growth, and I’m not seeing very much, but if I just raise my eyes and look at another area of growth, I’ll see, “Oh, that’s where all of her energy is going right now, and she’s growing there.” But we tend to get tunnel vision sometimes.

Laura: Yeah. That’s a really good point.

Sonya: So let’s take, for example, the area of narration. I found it really encouraging when I read Know and Tell by Karen Glass, how she talked about it’s just like when your child is learning how to talk, how to walk, or how to do anything. We don’t criticize the child and focus on what they did wrong. You know, when your child takes that first wobbling step, it’s not like, “Well,” you know, “that wasn’t a very good landing, kid.”

Laura: That would be so horrible to say that, wouldn’t it?

Sonya: Wouldn’t it? But we do that when they get older. It’s like we expect them to measure up right away rather than encouraging each step of the way. I hear about this a lot in spelling. If when the child is doing dictation, or even before that, when she’s doing transcription, or more when she is writing for her own enjoyment rather than for school work, and we see that she’s not spelling words correctly when she’s just writing for fun on the side, it’s easy for parents to panic and say, “Well, I’m doing something wrong because she’s spelling some words incorrectly.” But it’s a process, just like learning to talk. We encourage them, and even as they learn how to talk, they’re still going to throw in the wrong verb tense sometimes, they’ll still throw in the wrong vocabulary sometimes because they’re still learning as they go. There’s a difference between having a realistic and ideal expectation and having an expectation that is perfection right away.

Laura: I agree with you. It’s important to keep that perspective as we’re teaching and training our children. And as you were saying that I was thinking, how true is that for ourselves? We do that so much. Okay. I do that. I don’t know about anybody else, but I put these unrealistic expectations on who I am as a mom, as a wife, as a teacher, as an employee, whatever role I’m part of, I put those unrealistic expectations on myself. As I progress—which I am progressing, I am growing—I don’t want to acknowledge that because all I see is the ways I’ve fallen short because I’m not there yet. I can totally relate to focusing on perfection, which is totally unrealistic, versus the growth that the Lord’s working through me and around me and with my family. It’s so easy to miss that for ourselves.

Sonya: Yes. That’s a really good point. So what comes to mind is the first two principles of Charlotte’s—that the child is a person and that that child has possibilities. We never want to lose sight of inspiring them to become the best version of themselves that they can be. With those ideals in mind, we always want to keep that in mind, we also want to give lots of grace and celebrate the process as they are working toward it. I come back to that visual of which side are we focusing on? Are we focusing on the gap between where the child is and where perfection is? Or are we focusing on how far they have come already?

Laura: So how would you encourage me as the mom patiently waiting?

Sonya: For yourself or for your kids?

Laura: Both. All things. Just tell me.

Sonya: One thing I would encourage you to do is to, well, this might sound geeky. I don’t know.

Laura: Probably. That’s okay.

Sonya: The idea is, I tend to overlook things that are too familiar to me. So if I want to keep track of whether or not I am growing, I will just jot down the areas in which I want to focus on growing. Maybe it’s spiritual growth, maybe it’s an intellectual growth. And if I wanted to, I could even put down specific goals in each of those. Not “I will attain perfection,” but “I will read one biography every month.”

Laura: Or once a year.

Sonya: I was going to say, if you don’t want to put the time limit on it, just “I will have a book that I am continually reading.” I like to write down those areas in which I want to see growth and then just keep the stream going, keep the streak going. Every time I put forth some effort in that particular area, somehow note it, somehow celebrate it. That I am putting forth that effort, intentionally trying in that area.

Laura: That’s a great idea. And for you, words and writing it down works really well. I was just thinking that for me, it would be good to have a friend I would share that confidence with.

Sonya: Someone to say, “How are you doing in this area?”

Laura: Yes. To keep me accountable. Because if you know me, I’m the worst accountability partner ever. I will let you eat all the chocolate or cake or whatever. If you just say you want it, I’ll say, “Sure, have it.” So for me, that is a huge weakness, accountability. To have somebody look me eye to eye and say, “How are you doing in this area?” would be more beneficial to my personality versus writing it down like would be beneficial for you. We’re different in that way.

Sonya: Well, what you described could be very helpful because when I’m writing it down, I have only my own perspective. And so I can very easily say, “Oh, I missed it. I’m a bad mommy.” Whereas when you’re talking with a friend who is walking this journey with you, you can say, “Oh, I blew it in this area. I didn’t do such and such.” But then she can say, “But I noticed that you did do this. And I noticed that compared to last month, you’ve made some progress in that area.” So you’re right. Having an outsider’s perspective can be very helpful.

Laura: That would be encouraging. Because sometimes you just feel so lonely or alone as you’re walking this homeschool journey or being a housewife or mom. It could be you’re not to the homeschooling years yet, or maybe you’re an empty nester. Whatever those areas are that we want to grow, it’s important to have community and the accountability.

Sonya: It can be helpful with our kids, too, in their habits, in their schoolwork, in strengthening their wills. You can be that other person to help them. Like you said, you have to know your child because for some kids, their personality is going to be to come down on themselves and be very critical of themselves.

Laura: I’m one of those.

Sonya: In that case, your task is to inspire and encourage and show them where they did grow. Other kids are going to take a different approach and have a different personality, “Oh, yeah, I’m doing fine, no big deal.” And you can say, “Well, but you haven’t made your bed in the last week.” A lot of it is let’s just pray for wisdom and grace.

Getting from point A to B is where the walk happens. That’s where the journey is. It’s okay to take the time we need to get there.

Laura: Yep, and walking is okay—being patient and content in that gap area. I mean that in a good sense; getting from point A to B is where the walk happens. That’s where the journey is. It’s okay to take the time we need to get there.

Sonya: If it’s going to be permanent growth and substantial growth, it takes time. If you try to force a plant to grow, you’re going to kill it. If you try to force a butterfly out of its cocoon, it won’t be able to fly. So many things in nature. I think the Lord was trying to tell us something here. But it’s easy for us to get impatient with ourselves.

Laura: That’s what it is.

Sonya: And impatience. It’s a matter of patience.

If it’s going to be permanent growth and substantial growth, it takes time. If you try to force a plant to grow, you’re going to kill it. If you try to force a butterfly out of its cocoon, it won’t be able to fly.

Laura: It’s waiting on the Lord’s timing for things versus what our timing is. That’s probably the heart’s desire is, wanting what we want versus what the Lord wants. Sometimes our view shifts to where we have to stop and get back on the right track.

Sonya: Yeah. I want what I want now as opposed to later. But we can embrace the idea that there is value in the journey itself, that that is shaping us in many ways. It’s not just, “Can you spell correctly?” It is, “What lessons are you learning in this growth?” It’s slow growth toward improving in spelling or improving whatever your focus habit is. This gap is not going to be wasted. It’s going to be valuable.

Laura: That’s encouragement I’m going to take with me. The gap is not wasted.

Sonya: The gap is not wasted. Good word.