I once heard a story of a mother who was in an argument with her young son. As the argument progressed and tensions rose, the mother started to yell. After a moment she noticed that her son had his eyes closed and he was no longer responding to her. She quickly realized that she needed to calm down and put herself in timeout. When things calmed down she asked her son why he quit listening and responding. His response was profound and has stuck with me for many years. He said, “When you yell at me I just close my eyes and tell myself over and over that it will soon end.”
This story brings me to my second homeschooling principle: learning never happens in the absence of love. When I first began homeschooling I had a plan, I had picked out my curriculum, and we were ready to go. My schedule was in place and I had visions of my children happily sitting around the table like little sponges with a smile on their face eager to learn everything I had spent the last year putting together just for them. My expectations were way too high. I must have not realized that my children were humans instead of sponges because they came to school each day with different attitudes and desires. And, let me just get this out there now. There is an unwritten law that at no time shall every member of a family all be in a good mood at the same time.
Needless to say, our first year was very hard and emotions were often on edge and a common statement at my house was, “I just need to get through this assignment.”
Just in case anyone reading this needs a translation that means, “Quit trying to teach me. I’m going to slop my way through this assignment so I can say I’m done with school and get you off my back.”
To which I would reply, “It better be quality work or you’ll have to do it again.”
Then came the eye roll and exaggerated exhale. Of course, the work was often not very well done which started things all over again. Eventually, I opened my eyes to what was actually happening and realized that my children weren’t learning much at all. They were just going through the motions. And, we weren’t having any fun in the process. In fact, my older kids didn’t even like me and, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t too thrilled with them either. I knew something needed to change and it needed to start with me.
It was at this point that we decided to detox from school and build relationships. We didn’t quit learning. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was the point where we really started learning, it just looked different. Instead of getting through our curriculum, we read books on the couch, we played educational games, we cooked together, we played together, and we went on field trips. After about a month of this, we had improved relationships and we were able to see clearly what was working and what wasn’t. It’s not that all of my planning was terrible, it’s just that we hadn’t taken the time to create an environment of love for our schooling.
There were other factors that contributed to our struggles that I’m not going to get into in this post, but love was the biggest void.
So what does learning with love look like?
Love is not letting your children walk all over you. You are the parent. It is your responsibility to set realistic expectations and boundaries. I may take a little heat for this one, but your child’s teacher should not be setting expectations for your child at this time. They don’t know what other things are going on in your home. If their expectations are causing stress, and therefore a lack of love in your family then it is your responsibility to reset those expectations.
Love is being firm, consistent, and under control. You have my permission to put yourself in time out, just do it before you lose your cool. Screaming and yelling does not foster love. Now, I have a confession. I get really frustrated when my kids are not picking up on what I think are simple concepts. At times I have caught myself getting overly emotional and starting to yell. When this happens I quickly change my tone and turn it into excited encouragement. This allows me to let off some steam and my kids get excited that I have that much confidence in their abilities and never even realize that I was frustrated.
Love is having fun with one another. We can learn a lot playing games and recreating together. Discover what your family enjoys and spend time doing it. Also, be genuinely excited about your child’s interests, even if it’s really not your cup of tea. Your kids need to know that you truly care about what’s important to them.
Love is listening, really hearing, and understanding. When you have a child who is upset just listen. Don’t try to solve the problem. Don’t try to open their minds to the depths of your knowledge. They don’t really care. Let them know that you understand them and leave it at that. Also, figure out what type of affection your child needs. I have some children who want to curl up in my arms when they are upset and others who want some space. Don’t assume that because you want something they do too.
Love is encouragement when your child is struggling through something hard but doable and mercy when they just can’t keep going.
Love is praise for a job well done and compassion during and after a failure.
Love is admitting when you’ve made a mistake and asking for forgiveness.
Love is kisses, hugs, and cuddles on the couch. And yes, this applies to my teenagers too…just not in public.