As a young man, my father-in-law built houses. I doubt if he would have called it easy, and I think I could go so far as to say that building a house is hard work. But I am also quite sure he would have called it satisfying work, enjoyable work, and well worth the required effort. I watched him one day as he walked into my neighbor’s home, looked around a bit at the structural lines, and said, “Yep, I built this one.” The frame was many decades older, remodeling projects had changed a wall here and there, and the latest occupants had never seen it in its prime, but the master craftsman could still recognize his work.
Many things we do each day can be considered enjoyable and satisfying, even though they also fall into the category of hard work. Stripping the bed linens and stuffing them into the washing machine can be a chore, especially when bedrooms and laundry room are several floors apart. Carrying a basket of wet sheets outdoors and hanging them on the clothesline is also not an effortless task, but the sun-dried scent of clean cotton defies description. The delight of lying down upon cool, crisp bedding after a wearying day somehow trivializes the amount of work it took to accomplish the task.
Homeschooling your children is hard work. In the midst of this grueling task, we often have to remind ourselves of what our goal is and how much we will appreciate the reward when that job has been well done. Homeschooling can be either complicated or simplified in many ways, based on the tools we choose to use and the extravagance of the details we decide to add. If we have chosen the proper equipment to fit our task, we can progress smoothly — some days barely working up a sweat. At other times, we may compare our progress to hanging pictures with a sledgehammer and railroad spikes — it will get the job done, but the results may be less than desirable.
From time to time I found our homeschool “product” becoming less than satisfactory: the children were not learning the material as easily as I had anticipated, some or all of us were frustrated with the presentation of material, or some or all of us became bored with the materials, the lesson format, or schooling in general. Those were the times when teaching and/or learning were becoming hard work, with few rewards to maintain our focus or enjoyment of the task.
The first time this happened, we were brand new to homeschooling. I had purchased an all-in-one language arts program that was becoming very popular with the other homeschoolers I knew. My daughter looked at the material with some apprehension, but faithfully gave it a try. Day after day, we worked together on the lessons, and day after day she became more frustrated. One part of the lessons required me to dictate a story excerpt to her while she transcribed it into a notebook. As simple as that seemed in theory, it was tremendously difficult in practice. As we pressed on through increasingly trying days, I began to analyze the process, hoping to determine what was making this so hard. After all, the homeschool families I had talked with told me how their children progressed from one lesson to the next without difficulty — what were we doing wrong? Our first two months of homeschooling made us question our motives along with our sanity: how could we possibly continue on this path for an entire year, let alone multiple years?
It finally became evident that we were following the instructions accurately as laid out by the curriculum’s publisher, but their plan of action for this particular subject just did not fit our needs at this time. Heart-to-heart discussions with my daughter revealed what she was hoping to receive from homeschooling. Her public school classrooms had too few books to go around, and the students were required to copy their lessons into notebooks instead of writing directly in the workbooks. My daughter’s vision of homeschooling included being allowed to write in her very own workbook! I grabbed my stack of curriculum catalogs, and together we read through the descriptions, looking for a program that would meet her expectations besides providing the basic grade level instruction. As soon as the parcel-delivery service brought the desired package, our homeschool days underwent an amazing transformation. My student had her first personal work-text to write in, without any reprimands for doodling in the margins or plastering each completed page with “job well-done” stickers, gold stars, and smiley faces. The stigma of her public school experience was suddenly vanquished, and she became an overnight homeschooling enthusiast. We were no longer bashing the walls with sledgehammer and oversized spikes: we had the proper tools for our job.
Houses do not get built in a day (except through the “magic” of television), and children do not obtain an education overnight. Homeschooling takes dedication, hard work, and a little sweat, but hopefully not too many tears. While still in the midst of your mission, you can look around to see what has been accomplished so far, and from that obtain the encouragement needed to see this project through to completion. The reward will come when one day you look at the finished product and recognize a job well done.