Channel worry into productive action

When do I start to worry in my homeschool?

Aw yes, the question about worry—reworded it might sound like this:

“When do I have your permission to openly worry about my child’s poor writing?”

If you are asking the question, you are already worrying. Let’s just admit that right up front.

Usually, though, some part of us knows that worry is counter-productive to a trusting happy relationship with our child. We also know that worry ratchets up our level of “schoolmarm-ish-ness.” We become the tougher, harder, “time-to-get-serious” version of ourselves. The thing is, we don’t really like her or him. We want to be the generous, optimistic, creative, relational teacher we imagine in our minds.

Until we have permission to worry, we do a number of things with our anxiety.

We pretend it away.

We cover it up with forced casualness.

We ignore it.

We shift our focus to the other children.

We decide: “We’ll just unschool this subject.”

We find support from other quarters to tell us that our kids are okay.

We become tense and lose our ease of relating.

Our voices become tight and high pitched.

Then one day, we get to the end of our ability to “hold on.” Perhaps a friend bragged about her child’s writing. Perhaps you spent time with a school teacher who talked about what she requires of her students, same age as your child. Perhaps your mother asked you when she might see your child’s writing.

Bam! You can’t keep the worry down. So you want to know: “Can I admit how worried I am? Can I let that guilty feeling bubble to the surface and act on it?”

Permission to worry allows us to shed the guilt associated with becoming the “stern” parent. We feel justified in requiring more, or expecting more. We aren’t as sorry for losing the smile and insisting. We allow ourselves to be mobilized into action after that awkward extended period of quasi-patient waiting.

Rather than give you that permission, let me help you channel your worry (the worry already present, hiding behind your attempts to not-worry) into productive action. Here are five things you can do with that worry, today!

1. Research

You can always google your little anxious heart into more information. Look up symptoms and read what you can about the issue. If it’s writing, then by all means read, read, read on the Brave Writer blog and website. But you might also benefit from reading about the childhoods of famous writers. Find out how many of them struggled and in what ways. Find out how professional writers solve writing problems. Get more information, rather than hand-wringing about phantom fears.

2. Test new practices

It’s never the wrong time to try new approaches to a child’s struggle. Sure, some may fail just as miserably as the previous attempts, but at least you keep the effort fresh (rather than tedious and head-banging). Go outside traditional education to find those strategies. For instance, if your child struggles with math facts, see if you can find practices used by accountants or cashiers that may shed a different kind of light on the issue (rather than endless curriculum research). Check out apps of the iPad or Tablet.

3. Triangle-in help

It’s okay to hand off the struggle to an expert (tutor, therapist, best-friend-with-a-BA-in-said-subject, online class, co-op). Take a break and get a third person’s help and perspective. It helps ENORMOUSLY to involve another party.

4. Take a break (set a date)

The hardest part of worry is doing nothing, but sometimes letting a child mature is the best thing you can do. To ease your guilt, set a date for how long you will conscientiously “do nothing.” You might choose to ignore reading for 3 months before revisiting it. Put it on your calendar. If in the meantime, opportunities to support the task arise, enjoy them but don’t latch onto them for dear life. Allow your “break” to be a real break.

5. Build trust

No child gets ahead in a difficult area without the support of a wiser, older, kinder person. You are that person. If reading or writing or math are particularly difficult for your child, work on building a good relationship in other easier areas. Make sure that you are enjoying art, taking walks, building Legos, reading great books, telling jokes, kicking the soccer ball, training the pet rats, learning magic tricks, etc. Do these with great love and energy, accommodating struggle, supporting challenge. As you do, you build a basis for continued work in the difficult areas. You might, accidentally, discover the issue that holds your child back in the other area. If you can create a loving bond in happy subjects, when you struggle to work on the difficult one, you will have a well of compassion and a bank of mutual regard to support you.

Worry if you must, but be productive with it. Don’t dump it on your child, don’t give yourself permission to become an old school marm, don’t let your fear of failure as a home educator poison the beautiful homeschool life you are creating together.

You can’t pretend worry away. Embrace it. Own it. Do something good with it.

The Homeschool Alliance

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