Imagine a bear trap closing on a human leg, bone crunching, blood spurting, immeasurable pain. Not to mention being stuck. Stuck in pain. Stuck in one place until someone comes and releases you from the trap.
What does a bear trap have to do with homeschooling? What doesn’t work for me is the comparison trap. It’s a lot like a bear trap. It’s buried, you don’t see it, but once you get caught in it, you are stuck and in immeasurable pain.
Four of my children are adopted and had traumatic beginnings. When they came home, their emotional ages and physical ages didn’t match up. Their development was delayed and each of them had some learning challenges, all of that topped with learning a new language. On a scholastic number line, they were in the negative.
Comparing a kid to a standard one size fits all is like walking around with a bear trap attached to your calf. It drains the lifeblood right out of you.
I Was a Late bloomer
One night at the dinner table, Rafal shared that a boy in his Royal Ranger troop isn’t athletic and the commander encourages him along.
“I wasn’t that athletic as a child,” I replied.
“You weren’t?” he asked incredulously.
He was surprised. I roller blade, ice skate, swim, climb around on rocks with my kids. I’m still not coordinated, but don’t tell him.
I was a late bloomer. While my sister was ready to train for the Olympics in gymnastics, I was doing what I did best at the time- stumbling and falling on my face a lot!
“What did you do back then?” he asked.
“Well, I was little and skinny. So I RAN. AWAY, mostly from other kids.” Laughter.
AGes and Stages
Kids are growing through ages and stages at different rates. Who they are or what they are doing now does not determine who they will become unless we compare and verbally point out what we see as delays. Get help for your special needs child if you need to. Talk to experienced moms, but don’t rehearse the delays in front of him. I have taken classes, attended workshops on speech therapy and various seminars to help me teach my children. I want my children to reach their potential. I am saying CELEBRATE their victories.
If Susie next door wins the regional spelling bee and your child through equal time and effort can spell ten words, then don’t compare. CELEBRATE!
If your child participates in the Social Studies Fair and speaks in front of the judges with tears streaming down her face because of social anxiety. She did it afraid. CELEBRATE!
If all the high schoolers at Co-op are taking A.P. courses and your child took two years to complete Algebra I, but he conquered it. CELEBRATE!
Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap. It’s a painful place to be, instead enjoy each age and stage your children are in!
When I began my homeschool journey, I didn’t know anyone who homeschooled. I was alone and frantic. I wasn’t sure what I should or shouldn’t do when it came to doing school at home.
Should we have a schoolroom?
Should we sit at desks? Where those important parts of education?
Was it okay to accomplish everything one day and not the next?
I met a few families during the first year and that just seemed to put more pressure on me. These families were clean and well-coordinated. The kids wore khakis and polos. My youngest son wore the same shirt with a hippo on it, all the time. My eldest daughter preferred boy’s tennis shoes and liked her hair kept short. My middle daughter wore dresses all the time and thought she lived in a musical production. She had breakdowns if her hair-bows and socks didn’t coordinate. When these other moms talked about the schedule, the importance of this textbook, that curriculum, I just wanted to hide under a table. Most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t know who Charlotte Mason was or Kathy Duffy, Sally Clarkson, or fill in the blank.
I put my schedule and my schooling on a pedestal.
I came home from events with other homeschooling moms determined to schedule better, to get it all done, and find out who they were talking about. I began a round of re-educating myself. Most of the process was great, except for one thing. I put my schedule and my schooling on a pedestal. I thought if I did all the right things, at all the right times and read the right books, my kids would be well educated. I could pat myself on the back. It backfired. When I had my schedule on the altar, when I worshiped it, checking the time, plowing through when the kids were frustrated, when I was tired and no one was learning anything, my sticky-noted schedule became my frenemy. It could have been my friend, but I let it push me around, just like those feelings of inferiority I got when I listened to those more seasoned homeschoolers talk. They weren’t trying to make me feel bad, I did that all by myself.
You think that in two decades I would make exponential progress in the area of giving myself grace when it comes to schedules and school. You’d think I would have pushed those ideals off of their pedestal. Some days I would leapfrog forward and sail through with God’s peace and joy as my companions. Other days, I woke up in a panic. And why? After all these years? Do my baseboards have to be clean to start school? Once, I was working on my schedule and I told myself –if I can do it all two days, three days, a week…isn’t that better than not doing it at all? When I say “it all” I mean everything on my schedule, all the school subjects, perfectly completed by joyful, compliant children. All the chores accomplished. Baseboards sparkling. Kitchen shiny. Errands run. Pantry full. Doctors’ appointments, meetings, and practiced attended with nary a whine by child or parent. Check. Check. Check. Check. In my dreams.
Reality is more like chores somewhat finished most days. A load of towels in the washer too long. Run it again. Clean up the kitchen most of the time. School subjects worked through completely some days. Other days we’d chuck it and go for a real-life field trip. I’ve studied many of the works of the names mentioned above. I’ve changed my philosophy of education. It’s been tweaked, but I am the same person who wants to do everything, every day, perfectly. So, give yourself some grace. You may hit some weeks where you do all the stuff every day and then you have that under your belt for when you can only hit two good days one week.
but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me.2 Corinthians 12: 9
It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child, and enjoying the trip.
I knew. I knew from early on that my son marched to the beat of his own drum. I tried to to make him march with the other kids. I didn’t want him to think something was wrong with him. I tried all the parenting advice and discipline techniques. Nothing seemed to matter. I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole.
The school nightmare
School was a nightmare. He’d burn up all his energy on trying to “be good” only to fail and fall short of the teacher’s expectations. He never brought home that coveted green smiley on his behavioral chart that said it was a good day. I could see it in his eyes, he felt less than. Less than the other kids his age, less than good, less than what people want. It broke my heart. I hated that stinking behavioral chart. I hated that people refused to try and understand my sweet boy.
Soon we realized that traditional public school made things worse. When he was in third grade, my husband and I made the choice to homeschool all our children. I will never forget the day early in our journey that he leaned against my shoulder and said “Thank you for homeschooling me, Mommy. I felt so stupid in school” I cried that day and still remember it so vividly. I replay that memory when we’re having a rough day.
Being your Child’s Advocate
I knew that I was going to have to be my son’s biggest advocate. From the time we got his SPD diagnosis in first grade until just recently, I’ve had to explain everything it means and what it doesn’t. I’ve had to undo society’s idea of what perfect children should look like. My son was perfect. Exactly the way God made him. Just because he doesn’t do everything like the masses doesn’t make him somehow less than. I am actually proud that he doesn’t. And now, even at 14 years old, I will still fight anyone that tries to force that square peg into that round hole….or lovingly point out how mistaken they are. It’s a toss-up, really. 😉
Want to hear more of what Lori has to say on the subject? Listen to this week’s podcast episode:
Special Needs (Capital Letter Syndromes) and Homeschooling Director
Lori Shaffer is married to her childhood best friend, Jacob.She is a stay at home missionary and homeschool mom to their three children.She is passionate about advocating for teen moms and women and children that have been abused and giving them hope and encouragement.Most days she can be found drinking coffee, working out with Kathleen, or hanging out with her family.
Thinking about homeschooling? Or maybe you started homeschooling recently after pulling your kids out of public/private school. Maybe you are wondering if your transition is natural or you feel alone? Lori and Kathleen talk about their experience with the transition, such as leaving behind old ideas about what education really is. Grab a cup of coffee and join us for this episode that was listener requested!
I met Lori at the Mom’s Tea I hosted once a week where we drank coffee and cried. This was a place where Moms could talk about what was going on in their lives. We mostly said, “me too”.We did studies together, but often went off on tangents.
The lessons: Everyone needs a support system.
It’s okay to cry.
Find someone who has been homeschooling for a while.
Your ideas about what education looks like may change.
One of the myths about homeschooling is that your kids will always love it.
Homeschooling is an arduous and rewarding option. When you adopt kiddos from hard places, there are many benefits to choosing homeschooling. In this episode of the podcast, Kathleen and her husband Jerry talk about the benefits and challenges of homeschooling adopted children. Some are intertwined, you must face the challenge to reap the reward.
There is often a language barrier. This can be cultural or literal. Probably both.
Homeschooling allows a child to acclimate to a home and feel secure.
School wasn’t the child’s original focus, survival was.
The child may have missed lots of school and need extra help.
The inability to keep up in class reinforces the lie the child may believe-I’m not smart.
Being at home with Mom/Dad helps them regulate.
The child may need one on one teaching.
You can teach to their bent.
In the home you have the freedom to get up and exercise frequently.
A child from a hard place has an emotional age that is half their physical age.
When the gap between the child and their peers widens, the child feels more frustration and may want to give up. When homeschooling, you are able to teach to the stage and not the age. This decreases the stress on the child to keep up with his peers.