Throughout my life there were moments I felt like walking away from whatever big mountain I was facing. This was true when I was a middle school teacher. This was true when I was an elementary school teacher. Definitely true when I was a doctoral student. An adjunct instructor. An educational consultant. And even now as a homeschooling parent.
As a teacher I learned my students’ parents could be critical and unsupportive. Administration could be demanding and unaware of the realities of planning and teaching 20-30 different students. State mandates could change with a speed that caused PD (professional development) whiplash. Often so many other factors demanded time and attention that being able to focus solely on teaching was a luxury of which few of us could boast. There were days I cried over the impossible-to-meet needs of my students. Days I went home utterly spent and at the end of myself. I went to bed turning over what I could adjust, insert, remove, replace, etc, in order to make things work better for a particular student or the whole class. I woke up early to plan and prepare. (Side note: All this was before the pandemic! I expect there are many more hurdles facing teachers today!)
In graduate school I almost left the program my first year. It was the steepest learning curve I’d ever experienced as I figured out how to navigate academia, writing scholarly papers, doctoral level statistics, research, attending and presenting at professional conferences, and fulfilling my graduate assistantship. Everyone else seemed more capable than I felt. There were days where I forgot to eat and barely slept as I worked to meet a deadline.
It was during this time that I began to consult. I enjoyed planning for and teaching workshops, yet there were days where the workshop evaluations blindsided me with sharp criticism. Again, I had to push past feelings of deep defeat and move toward improvement and growth.
We are well into year four of homeschooling. I find myself, yet again, pushing past feelings of defeat to get to improvement and growth. Homeschooling is incredibly worthwhile and I am so glad we chose this route for our family. Nevertheless, it can be challenging and discouraging at times. Does anything worthy of our time and energy come without mountainous challenges?
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that people seem to be more mistrusting of homeschool. I am still surprised when people say things like, “Maybe Your Child would do better in a classroom. Children act differently for their teachers than they do for their parents.” “Homeschooling just can’t give children proper socialization. That One Homeschool Kid I met was really awkward.” “Maybe the behavior challenges of Your Child are because they don’t get to be around 20 other kids Your Child’s age.” Ironic that no one ever suggested anything like this until I was homeschooling my own children.
I say all this to encourage all the educators out there (especially my fellow homeschooling parents) who battle discouragement and feelings of defeat. You. Can. Do. This. Low points are par for the course for any worthy endeavor. In the realm of education there will always be days where the odds seem insurmountable. You may battle lack of trust or support, you might even be blindsided by sharp criticism. You may fall asleep utterly spent and at the end of yourself. You may forget to eat or be short on sleep. You may wonder if you should just walk away. This happened to me as a teacher, graduate student, and now as a homeschooling parent. Keep going. Push past the defeat and brainstorm. Keep your goals and vision in mind. Figure out what’s not working and why. Talk to other homeschooling parents in person, read about homeschooling trouble-shooting online, talk to educators who are supportive of homeschoolers. Talk to your children. What’s working for you? What is difficult? What would you like to see change and why? Make a plan and try it. If it doesn’t work, go back to brainstorming. Don’t define success by lack of challenges. Nothing worthwhile is without challenge. Challenges are opportunities to learn and grow. You can improve and grow. Where you are at right now is temporary and could very well be the stepping stone you need to get to better. You can grow through it or just weather it depending on your determination to see it as an informative, fruitful challenge.
To all you educators out there – classroom and homeschooling teachers – press on, persevere, learn and grow. You can do it. It may be a steep slope, but it sure is a worthy hike!