Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We're All Patient, So Shut Up Already...

The comments are flying fast and furious for this post over at Derfwad Manor, and no wonder. Mrs. G has written an eloquent piece on why she ended up homeschooling her 2 children, and people are falling all over themselves telling her either

A) thanks for putting that better than I could (that would be all her homeschooling readers)


B) you must be so patient to homeschool your kids (that would be the, um, uninitiated saying that, of course).

Last I checked, none of us has to pass an exam measuring how much patience we have with our children before we file that homeschooling paperwork. And it's a good thing, too.

Tell me, how many of you with children would have had the patience, BK (before kids), to put up with even a small percentage of what you tolerate on a daily basis now: the whining, the fighting, the mess, the poop? Almost none of you, I'm willing to bet. Yet here you are, doing it, and you haven't killed any of your offspring yet. Congratulations! We're all incredibly patient!

Of course, people think home schoolers need more patience than the average parent because they picture us sitting with the kids for hours and hours, going over worksheets and assignments. But most of us don't do that. Instead, we create an environment that encourages kids to read and to think (less screen time, more books); and we give them time to play and create (craft sticks, legos, you name it), mostly on their own or with each other. We make lots of homeschooling friends, too, and meet up with them at parks in the afternoon, or we arrange homeschooling drama clubs or tennis lessons. Believe me, you don't need a lot of extra patience to sit around and chat with other homeschooling moms while your kids are playing with their kids.

Oh, yeah, and we do make the kids do their math pages. Around here, that doesn't take patience; it takes chocolate. My children are easy to bribe.

People also think we need an extraordinary amount of patience because we are around our kids for more hours each day. It's true, there is only so much kid-parent interaction that any mere mortal needs/can take, no matter how much available time there is. So the homeschooling parent solves this problem of too much togetherness by saying "Go play" or "Go read" to his/her child when he/she has had enough; or the child sequesters himself behind a couch with a good book, because his mother has threatened to inflict household chores upon him if she hears his voice one more time before dinner. And you know what? We don't feel bad about that. We have no quality time worries, because the sheer quantity of time we have with our kids ensures that there will be a few minutes of quality per day in there.

Well, most days. The other days are simply hopeless.

Last but not least, outsiders think we need extra patience in order to settle sibling disagreements all day long. But I have a theory, based on observation of both my family and the families of schooled children. Siblings need to fight a certain amount of time each day. No matter what. So, if they've been at school all day, they will make up for lost time by starting in on each other as soon as they get home. In our family, we try to get all the sibling fights out of the way in the morning, so that we can have a peaceful afternoon. We're efficient, that way. Either way, though, the parent (homeschooling or not) suffers for approximately the same amount of time each day. I think that this is what is meant in Genesis by the words "...in pain you will bring forth children..." Believe me, I would rather go through labor than listen to my kids bicker on a rainy afternoon.

Homeschooling isn't perfect; but neither are any of the other educational choices for our children. So if you are going to spout nonsense about how I must be so patient with my children in order to home school (and, really, if you read this blog, you must know that's ridiculous), then I am going to praise you for how patient you are in dealing with the various people in the school bureaucracies, and with the PTA, and with all the gift wrap/chocolate/citrus sales you have to participate in.

Pick your poison, is what I say. Sometimes it's six of one, half a dozen of the other...


  1. I love the patient comment. Let them think I am the Mother Theresa of Mommydom.

    I call it 'benign neglect'---of course I spend a load of time with my kids, but much of the day, they are told to 'go play' and let me be. I don't have the patience to entertain them all day.

  2. Your last couple paragraphs are funny, because when I started reading this post that is what I had in mind to comment. I have done both with my children, homeschooled and sent them to public school – and I found that I had to use patience a lot more when the kids started public school. All the things that were needed for projects initiated by someone else to fit THEIR schedule and not necessarily what was going on in OUR lives…accommodating all THAT while still living our lives….THAT took patience.

  3. I never thought of it this way. You are right. I am a saint in patience to put up with all those fundraisers.


  4. Right on! I often can't even find the words to respond when people comment about how we must be soooo patient and soooo organized to homeschool. HA!

  5. Amen to this post! The other one I hear is "I could never homeschool, I just don't have that kind of time," to which I want to say "of course you don't, you're too busy running around for school items and extra activities."

    Once again, you're right on the money here.

  6. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    My answer is always, "I don't have patience. I have faith." And I don't mean that in the Great is Thy Faithfulness sense, but in the sense that we have faith that home schooling is the best choice for our family right now.

    It's the same kind of patience you have in line at the DMV. You have to be there because being a legal driver is the right thing to do. It may not be your favorite way to spend the day, but you have faith that you'll get to the front of the line and get your license.

    Of course there's also the risk that the DMV could burn down before you get to the counter, just like the risk that your kid could end up an ignorant, unsocialized freak.

    But I think my metaphor has reached its limit.

  7. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    OK if you won't go for patient - what about unselfish?

    ...I just want my own space!

    Homeschooling was never a consideration for us- simply because I couldn't wait for them to go to school. I think you are doing yourself down - it takes someone better than me to achieve what you have.
    Be Proud!

    by the way - I loved - "Siblings need to fight a certain amount of time each day".

    I mentioned you in dispatches the other day - see - you are a guru to us lesser mothers!

  8. becca - I don't know if I have faith so much as a sort of desperate hope...

    livnletlrn - yes, we all just use our time in different ways, right? Like knitting - I'll have someone come up to me when I am knitting and say, "Oh, I wish I had time for that"; yet we're both sitting waiting for our kids somewhere, she's just not using her time to knit.

    fairly odd - I don't think children are meant to be entertained all day, anyway, do you?

  9. Very well written. I agree wholeheartedly with you, and I will admit that when we made the decision to homeschool our children, I was worried a little bit.

    Shows how ignorant I was. I know that my kids are getting more out of what they are learning now - and it's a year-long thing, so there is no need to "rehash" what they learned last year and "un-learned" over the summer.

    This country was built on people that homeschooled their children, I'm just surprised there aren't more people doing it.

  10. I'm a mother on the brink. I've been on the brink of homeschooling for a couple years but this is exactly what I've been worrying about- that I just don't have it in me. I fear I'm too disorganized, too distracted, too selfish, and yes, too impatient to truly give my children what they need. At the same time, I don't feel like they are necessarily getting what they need at school. So I guess I need to choose the lesser evil. If nothing else, homeschool definitely seems to be the most efficient use of time. (Hours in a classroom, followed by himework? Ugh.) Maybe I'm converted, I'm just lazy. Or intimidated. Getting started seems like the hardest part.

  11. mylhibug - I think different people just like different ways of being involved in their kids' education. The people I know who choose institutional schooling are involved with their kids' learning, but in different ways. As mrs. g said, it's a matter of educational choice.

    domestically challenged - you English are so cute! What the heck are "dispatches"?

  12. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    Love this post...

    Of course, you've now "outed" all the home school Moms... I shall respect them no more... But I kid. I think homeschooling must requires organization skills that I probably do not have. I can't imagine trying to impart enough knowledge. I love teaching my kids things, but I think it must be a lot of pressure when you're their only teacher... So, yeah, you still get the respect.

  13. You are so right, when I think about the approaching school year, I don't think of all the sibling fights and loss of me-time, that's already been my life the past 5 years. I think about how much I pity my neighbors who are constantly driving their kids here and there and consulting with this teacher and that principle and this behaviorist and buying baking this or that for this or that school function.

    So far I've found that my kids learn best without my interference, so I unleash them upon the back yard or the book shelf or the toy box or the kitchen cabinets or the computer. And my 2 year old is smarter than the neighbors' 3rd grader.

  14. This is a brilliant analysis of patience, sibling fight quotas, etc. But my fave is "six of one, half dozen of another." Do you find yourself saying that more often than those of us with four or eight children? I love it.

  15. I agree with Domestic: you've earned your props -- take them!

    "Pick your poison" is very accurate, I think. We've found that public school is working for my daughter, not so much for my son -- or really, for any kids that are quirky or fall outside the "normal" range. I think the teachers do their best, but with that many students, they necessarily have to adopt a "standard" approach that works for MOST kids. The kids on the margins struggle.

    And do not even get me started on standardized tests.

  16. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    Hey now - no putting us homeschooling moms down. Of course we're more patient. And more organized. And the sun always shines, and the children never argue ... Oh wait. That was my dream world for a minute. :D It's a good thing that patience wasn't a pre-req for that homeschooling mom application is all that I can say ...

  17. You may not be patient, but you are wise!

  18. I'm thinking that
    I wold kill myself if I had to homeschool my kids, good for you!

  19. Well, I'm sure I was one of those who said how patient homeschooling parents must be... :-)

    There's a lot that is annoying about the business (busy-ness) of having my kids in public school. But I also know that my kids have both had great teachers--better teachers than I would be. Maybe extra patience isn't required, but I know myself well enough to say that they are having a better experience at school and are learning more than they would if I was in charge of their curriculum (for lack of a better word).

    One thing that I am good at (in my opinion) is not overscheduling my kids. When school is out, their time is mostly theirs/ours.

    I admire those of you who do homeschool and do it well, but I also appreciate your statement "six of one, half a dozen of the other." The fact that we all try to do the best we can is the most important thing.

  20. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    your wish was my command!

  21. My son wants to do his math sheets at your house.

  22. Thank you. I am really struggling with this. I think I'm going to give homeschooling a VERY trial run this summer. I have a list of goals I want to accomplish--some very basic science experiments, language arts goals, crafting. If it goes well, I may give it a try. There are aspects of it that really appeal to me, but I do find it overwhelming, scary and awesome. We'll see....

  23. I agree, no patience, just chocolate. We had a scripture every week, and whenever one of the kids memorized it, they got a candy bar. The first one always made the other kids hurry and memorize it too, since they were entirely jealous the other one had a candy bar!
    We don't call it bribery. We call it motivation. We are all motivated by different things. I happen to be motivated by chocolate too!

  24. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    Well said. I believe all kids require different things from different people and situations--and they all need a good bicker with another person (usually a sibling) as part of their development. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, but mostly, well, we're all just DIFFERENT.

  25. I have no patience. What I have is stubbornness. Since we truly think that right now (emphasis added because I have no crystal ball) homeschooling is the right thing to do, I'm doing it. I've also decided that the challenges of homeschooling are less, for me, than the challenges of conforming to someone else's schedule would be. I honestly don't think I'm up for the task of getting kids out the door and on the bus at an unholy hour of morning, with a lunch, no less, and then making them do homework (why homework? what do they DO all day there anyway?) and participating in fundraisers and doing all the extra stuff and parent-teacher conferences and what-all else the schooled kids' parents have to deal with. God love them, I couldn't do it.

  26. amy - My point exactly - we all have to tolerate some sort of inconvenience in order to make sure our children are educated.

    mom24 - homeschooling? summer? why?

  27. AnonymousMay 20, 2008

    Love this post - it is so well-written.

    I am not a homeschooling parent but I have thought about it a little and have always jumped to the conclusion that I'm not patient enough. :) So thank you for busting that myth... it gives me hope that, if the time is ever right, I will be able to commit to homeschooling. My sister is starting this coming year with her teenage son and I think I will direct her to this post.

    BTW, I came upon your blog via Sue @ Navel Gazing. You both are very talented!

  28. I tried home schooling my oldest daughter 7th grade and 10th grade. She is very easily distracted. I had to sit beside her and refocus her attention , or she would forget what she was doing. Go up stairs to get her book, not come back down. Mom finally goes up after a few minutes to find she is reaing a fun book, and hasn't found her school book. Find the book for her. Bring her back down stairs. Sit her down again, She gets up to go to the bathroom, ends up in the living room using the computer on her way back. It was either send her back to the public school or strangle her.

  29. Maaaan! You just blew my cover. I wanted everyone to think I was the goddess of patience.

    Guess I can scream a little louder at my kids now. Who cares what the neighbors think, right?

  30. So what you're saying is that your homeschooled kids actually do get social interaction?

    Just kidding. That was such a pet peeve of mine. I actually had less fighting and more chores done when they were home with me than now that they're in school. I miss homeschooling.

  31. Thanks, My Children know that I am not the most patient person in the world...Ha! We homeschool anyway.
    God sent me three wonderful children who would have been beaten up by the school system...I know, I taught in it for 13 years.
    #1 would have been medicated, #2 would be in psychiatric counseling...God knows what they would do to #3. Thank the Good Lord that my huband trusted me that this was the right direction...Even BEFORE we had children we knew we would homeschool them!
    Thankfully we have aback yard, a basement and lots of art supplies!
    Blessings, EJT

  32. I used the word patience in my comment to Mrs. G's post. But I don't mean patience to spend those hours with my children that they would spend if they were in a public school. I completely lack the patience to explain something to a child (anyone, really) that I already grasp. God help them if they ask me to help them with their homework. If they don't get what I'm saying after the first couple of times, I'm like "ask your teacher tomorrow because I don't know how else to explain this to you so that you understand".

    I think that's why I dreaded potty training so much. I was like "You pee! In the potty! Why don't you get that?"

    I don't know why I felt like I needed to explain that but I did.

    I admit, too, that I'm ignorant about what homeschooling entails. Up until Mrs. G's post I pictured the parent(s) sitting at the table with their kids doing a regular (public) school's day of work. Only at home.

  33. You put it perfectly! I am going to formally adopt your let's-get-the-fighting-over-in-the-morning curriculum. See, I told you I learned all the best tips from other homeschooling moms.

  34. tootsie - This is exactly what I mean! If I'm showing my kid something in math, and he doesn't get it, I either decide he's not ready for it and put it away; or I just sit down and show him how I do the problems. And I keep doing that until one day, he gets it. I don't explain anything, ever. I don't even know how. How do you explain something like a noun? It is what it is.

  35. You know, I WOULD homeschool my kids in a heartbeat if there were ANY other homeschooled kids locally - but there aren't. I think we'd have fun, though....

  36. I get the "patience" comment all the time just because I'm the mother of seven. My stock answer, "Just ask my kids how patient I am. They'll tell you the truth!"

  37. First let me say. my husband is a high school teacher. (So thats upfront) and he has his problems with the school thing also.

    ANyway. Very well said. Great post

  38. AnonymousMay 21, 2008

    I love your blog, and this post piqued my interest. I struggled with the idea of homeschooling my kids at various points in their educational careers. However, as the wife of a 35 year classroom veteran (high school biology, I do kind of buy into the ideals of public education. In the case of my own personal children, the oldest actually benefited from resources available through the public school system that I could not have provided at home. I also considered pulling my second out of middle school for a while because she was so unhappy. However, I reached the conclusion that she was prepared to be unhappy no matter where she was - home, her school, or the other school we considered-- and she did NOT want to leave her friends at that school. As she has gotten older, she has gotten clingier and needier, to the point that as an 18 year-old high school senior, she refuses to do her homework unless I keep her company. I think that if she did not have to go to school, she would latch onto me physically in a leech-like fashion and we would never be separate. I need her to learn independence, which she is resisting, and that always discouraged me from keeping her home to school her. I think I'm going to have to push this baby bird out of the nest. The other one flew away on his own!

  39. Way back when I was a single mom raising my little ones, I hadn't even heard of home-schooling. I think I would have been the happiest person on the planet to explore the world with my kids everyday, rather than taking my kids to public schools and sub-standard afterschool care while I worked ten hours a day in a mind-numbing job. You are truly blessed.

  40. Hi
    I keep seeing your comments on Dawn's Blog and they are always so funny! SO I finally am dropping by. And your Post is very funny! Patients is something I could always use more of.

    Sending smiles your way!


  41. Wow - does that getting the fights overwith in the morning then having a peaceful afternoon thing work?? It sounds wonderful!

  42. I truly believe your patience grows to meet the need. People always think I'm so patient, which I'm not, I just have a higher threshold than the average bear because I've been desensitized by my kids. After a while what once drove you up a wall is just so everyday you don't even flinch. As for fighting, I agree, kids are going to fight no matter what, they seem to have an RDA they want to meet. I think (hope) they are learning a lot from this fighting.

  43. Patience is a virtue I don't posess! Great post!!

  44. AnonymousMay 25, 2008

    I teach in public schools, but I do think home schooling is great for many families. I long ago solved the "fund raiser" dilemma by offering the PTA $50.00 at the beginning of the school year to leave my children out of it. Now it really bugs me to sit in assemblies where they bribe kids with the prospect of rewards of cheap junk if sell their neighbors and friends other cheaply-made but overpriced junk. Why not just ask for cash donations and be done with it!

  45. Here via the CoH.

    The one key factor that is missing in the discussion is the impact traditional school has on kids. I can't emphasize enough what a *HUGE* improvement in my oldest's behavior and attitude when I was finally able to quit my full-time job and pull her out of daycare. She went from being very difficult to handle to being a sweet, polite, and compliant child.

    I wouldn't be able to homeschool my DD if she was like the way she used to be when she was in day-care full-time. But homeschooling her now is relatively easy!

  46. Thanks for making me feel better about the patience thing - I'm not patient enough but I'm still doing it! Also, there are lots of ways to homeschool - even for mothers who are overwhelmed and organization under-achievers like me! I use a program that allows me to be more of a "Teacher's Aide" and takes the pressure off so the process is happier for all!