I can honestly say that most days I love homeschooling my children. I have had many jobs over the years and this is my favorite job so far. The pay could certainly be better but the benefits to my children and family have far outweighed the challenges. There certainly are challenges though and I hope this post will be an encouragement to others who may have similar challenges.
All homeschooling families face challenges and our family is no exception. My children's special needs have certainly been a challenge as I have tried to find what teaching methods and curriculum will best help them succeed. This challenge has been small in comparison with my biggest challenge though. I will honestly admit that I am my own biggest challenge in homeschooling. I have years and years of experience working with children, but there are days when my lack of patience and misguided expectations lead to moments where I am certainly not inspiring a love of learning in my children. Homeschooling is teaching me things about myself I would have rather not known. It is also helping me to grow into a better parent, teacher, and human being.
I would say I am a person with an average level of patience. Before Rosa came home from China last year at four years old, I was feeling pretty good about the level of patience I had developed teaching my very wiggly and active son, Jacob. Learn to read time with Jacob was my biggest challenge prior to Rosa coming home from China. Jacob was doing well learning to read but sitting beside a child who is wiggling, fidgeting, and digging his toes into your leg while sounding out words could certainly drive some people to insanity. I had learned to take deep breaths during reading time when Jacob was having trouble sitting still and limit his practice time to 15 minutes no matter what had been covered. At some point last year, I realized my voice often sounded short with Jacob during reading time and Jacob's attitude toward reading aloud was getting negative. I worked hard to bring back a positive voice and it was amazing how Jacob's attitude toward reading improved dramatically as well.
When Rosa came home from China, I assumed that if I had learned to develop patience with my wiggly, fidgety son then I would certainly have enough patience for my sweet daughter. Well I was wrong about that! Teaching Rosa has required me to develop patience in a completely new area. I was disappointed to find that developing patience in one area does not mean that you will have it in another area when you need it. Jacob picks things up fast and does his work very quickly, although often not neatly. Rosa, on the other hand, needs a lot more repetition and works slowly. She is neater and more conscientious in her work. The incident that made me realize I might be the one with a problem was when I tried to teach Rosa how to make the letter S. After a number of months of working on Rosa's fine motor skills, we started to work on writing her name. We actually call Rosa a nickname that begins with S which is why we began working on making a letter S. I had Rosa trace the letter S on the chalkboard and this is where I found out I had a long ways to go in developing my patience. Rosa very carefully worked on tracing the S, so carefully in fact that it took her almost an entire minute to complete one letter S. I knew I had to show her how to trace letters a bit faster so I took her hand and showed her how to trace the letter S in one smooth motion. She went back to her snails pace and I showed her again and again how to do it faster. I did not want a perfect S, just a rough S and Rosa just did not seem to get what I was trying to show her. The lesson ended with me tracing the S over and over saying quickly, quickly, quickly in a very unpleasant voice. Rosa burst into tears and I realized that this teaching moment was going against everything I wanted to instill in my daughter about writing and learning. I had become so obsessed with helping Rosa make an S that I had completely forgotten the big picture. I felt terrible as I hugged and comforted Rosa and told her that Mama was sorry and that Mama was wrong and had lost her patience. We did not try writing a letter S again for a number of days and then I used different techniques to teach her.
As I continue to work on developing my patience, I am thankful for how forgiving and resilient my children are. Rosa can now write her name which is a huge accomplishment considering how limited her fine motor skills were a year ago. She is excited about learning and doing school work like her big brother. Jacob is thriving and told me a couple of weeks ago that he liked every subject in school and he thinks reading out loud is fun, fun, fun. I still have to take deep breaths during read aloud time with Jacob and work on keeping my voice positive. When Rosa gets bogged down in a certain lesson and I start to feel the frustration rise we take a break and move on to something else. I try to find a different method of teaching a concept if the one I am using is not working. We might also stop working on a concept for a couple of months and come back to it again later. When a homeschooling day starts to go sour, I can usually point to myself as the person who is causing the problem and the person who needs an attitude adjustment. I have taken to praying daily for wisdom and patience in parenting and teaching my children and that is definitely helping as well.
In the next couple of days, I will be reviewing one of my favorite education books that inspires me to keep working on having a positive and encouraging attitude when I teach my children.
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