You’ve got homeschool humming along. Pencils flying, kids laughing, toddlers misbehaving manageably, babies napping just long enough.
You look about your petite kingdom and for a moment, allow yourself pleasure—happiness. It’s this rush of well being that says, “I love my life! I love these kids, this work, that mess made by the 2 year old…” You sigh contentedly.
For two minutes.
Or two hours.
On rare occasion, two days.
And then: a triggering event dashes the momentary zen-filled peace.
Your friend raves about a new homeschool product.
Your mother asks why Sydney (age 7) isn’t reading yet.
Or worst of all, you simply feel uncomfortable sitting in that seat of happiness. It’s this comfy bean bag chair by a sunny window and you worry if you fall into it for too long, to sleep you’ll go—off duty, off the watch for the ever present danger threatening to ruin your children (what catastrophe would you wake to!?).
“Happiness is untrustworthy,” the restless mind whispers. Happiness is a sign that someone is not working hard, that something worthwhile is not occurring, that play has taken over where work should be.
Right as mastery is growing, contentment is blooming, the routine is taking root, what do we conscientious mothers do?
We toss a homemade hand grenade into the living room of happy homeschooling.
- We buy a brand new text or work book that is unfamiliar and a change in the comfortable routine because the one being used is “too easy.”
- We shift focus because the we’re worried that we aren’t being rigorous enough.
- We require longer, more, and better results because ease means the child isn’t working at top capacity.
- We decide that even though homeschool is going well, household chores are a nightmare and so create brand new pressures for everyone—ensuring that somewhere, someone is doing work that causes a little pain (learning IS suffering, isn’t it?).
This homemade hand grenade is designed to detonate with one purpose: to ensure that home education is challenging because we believe that true learning is associated with difficulty and hard work.
So right as you and your kids find your stride, right as your children show they love doing pages of fractions or happily write reams of silly stories about kittens or have watched 12 YouTube videos about WW2 tanks, you yank that comforting floor from beneath their feet and require them to do this most important other thing they are neglecting to prove to yourself and to them that they are actually learning something of value. Right? Right?
And then BAM!
You are back to homeschool h-e-double hockey sticks.
Let’s not do that. Let me help you keep the pin in the grenade (aka the new not-yet-purchased program in the online shopping cart).
Principles to pin to your wall:
1. Ease and joy indicate flow.
Flow is optimal for learning. When a child is happily working on a skill, that means that child is actually doing the very thing you most desire: learning. They are creating the neural pathways that will help the child retain the skill and information. Lean into it and let it roll!
2. Practice creates automaticity.
Understanding is not enough in any field. Repetition/practice that is stimulating and comfortable leads fluency. If a child loves ripping through pages of times tables after demonstrating mastery, let him! When you child learns to ride a bike, we don’t say, “Now you must learn to use a pogo stick or a unicycle.” We let them ride! That’s the privilege of understanding and fluency in a skill. Using it with joy is the reward for having mastered it.
3. When the stars align, do not wake the baby!
The baby, in this case, is YOUR HOMESCHOOL! Let it sprawl all over that bean bag chair of learning. Allow the apparent happiness to last as long as it will, because you and I both know someone will start teething or grow underarm hair and that serene moment in time will end abruptly. YOU don’t need to be the one to wreck the peace. Peace-wrecking is already on its way for you. Let it come.
4. Learning (the true kind) is not pleasure-less.
Banish the notion. Adopt our family policy for going to parties with kids: “Leave while everyone is happy.” Let your son stop working the math problems while he is alert and proud of his work. Let your daughter stop her copywork after a carefully handwritten sentence, before she gets sloppy for an entire paragraph. Pleasure is the fruit of challenge and success, not struggle and stress.
Don’t wreck the peace! Opt for happiness and allow it to run its course. You can keep the happy going by enjoying it when it appears.
Psst. You’re allowed to.