Ripping Your Hair Out in Love - A Reflection on Teaching Your Own Children


I predicted well, I think.  I pretty much knew from the beginning that one of my challenges with homeschooling would be not getting frustrated when one of my children doesn't get it when it just seems so obvious to me.  As it's played out, it's even more challenging when they DO get it but yet do it so slowly and without focus or just pretend that it's "too hard."  I have quite literally pulled at my hair, banged my head against a wall, gotten angry, and made weird frustrated animalesque noises.  (I'm mature like that.)  

Far from being proud of that, I admit it as a weakness that I need to overcome and quickly.  Just this morning I was sitting and nursing the babe and pondering whether or not the children wouldn't REALLY be better off if they were taught by a professional.  Certainly a "real" teacher wouldn't lose their patience and say things they shouldn't!  Mrs. Jones in the classroom never feels like she is going to lose it and she never gets angry with her students, right?  (Perhaps any professional teachers that may be reading this are laughing right now.  But the truth is we homeschool mothers in our numerous moments of self-doubt romanticize how patient and kind you are with your students.  Certainly not like us.)   But then I realized something as I was rocking my sweet little one  and this quote sprang to my mind:

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." Elie Wiesel

Here's why that was a grace for me in that moment of this morning.  In the standard classroom (at least the standard classroom I've experienced and the one I have in my head.  I know there are many wonderful exceptions.) it is so much easier for a teacher to be chill about whether or not a child gets it not because they have achieved great levels of virtue or holiness or angelic levels of patience (though some certainly have) but because they are indifferent.  

Right?

I mean, why get upset if little Johnny is struggling with his multiplication facts when in the long run, it doesn't really affect your life all that much if he gets it or not?  Give him a "C" and move him along.  No harm, no foul.  It doesn't matter all that much if he's trying his best or if he learns how to really apply himself.  There are fifteen (or twenty or thirty) other students and at least a few of them are making the teacher proud and excelling.  Maybe not Johnny, but well, that's the way things go.  But at least he's dealt with patiently, right?

The homeschooling mother doesn't have as much leeway to work that way.  Her very heart and blood is on the line.  The homeschooling mother agonizes over whether her curriculum is right, whether her children are learning, whether they are getting enough outside time, whether she is pushing them too hard, whether they need more "socialization," whether they are respectful and kind, whether they're clothes fit, whether she's fed them the right foods to help them concentrate, whether they will hate her in the long run, and yes, whether Johnny REALLY gets it or not.  She loses her mind so that they can grow theirs.

There is certainly a need for peace in the home schooled house and it certainly should be sought but often it is an elusive thing.  And it is not always because the mother is lacking but rather because  the mother is loving.  When we love we give.  When we love we aren't satisfied with mediocrity (h/t St. JPII).  When we love we want more than anything to make the RIGHT decision.  When we love we are constantly searching for what is best.  When we love we will not just usher a child along even though they don't really get it.  And when we love we sometimes get angry.  

Now FAR from saying that it's okay to lose our tempers and develop bare patches on our skulls (all in the name of love, right? ;), I'd rather say that I need to get better at handling my frustration and anger.  Definitely.  But at the same time I will not buy into the idea that simply because my children frustrate me and I lose my temper that therefore I shouldn't be doing this.  I can admit that this homeschooling gig is sometimes fantastically difficult but it doesn't mean that therefore my children would necessarily be better off with the professionals.  Because here, I can love them.  And sometimes that means wanting to bang your head against a wall.  But as the bruises on my forehead prove, it is anything but indifference. 


***I feel like I need to make the disclaimer here so that people don't get mad at me or something that I KNOW some classrooms are terrifically wonderful and that many teachers do love their students and are awesome.  I also know that many teachers stink and DO lose it on their students.  This is just my own personal revelation that I needed to make on a difficult and normal morning with math.  The end.***

9 comments

  1. Great post, Mary. Really really well written. And thank you. :)

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I'm glad it made sense to someone :)

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  2. I found this via Sarah's linking on pinterest and I am truly grateful for these words. I constantly ache over whether or not Benedict is "learning enough", I agonise over curriculum choices, socialisation is the dreaded S word in this house and my latest grumble is "should I be looking at schools for his younger sister, who would be due to start next September at the ripe old age of 4 1/2!" ... if I don't put her name down by December then she will lose a place at one of my preferred choices. BUT I keep coming back to home being the best place, not the perfect, but the getting along, learning and loving, good enough place.

    So once again many thanks for encouraging me on my journey.

    God Bless

    San

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    1. Thank you for the comment and glad you stopped by! Yeah, it is always SO HARD to remember that school would not be the magical cure all for our every weakness and frustration and concern! There are definitely some benefits to school but for us (and it sounds like for you) there are a thousand more for staying home. May God bless all your efforts!

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  3. Once again you capture how I have felt many mornings homeschooling. Thanks for the perspective!

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  4. Thank you for your thoughts on this! Great post. Very encouraging!!

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  5. So true....no one cares about your kids like you do.....even loving teachers in school are limited by time constraints in regards to having to "move on" or the pressures of getting kids to pass state tests ...

    Though frustrating when a child doesn't get what you thought he would, you know there is tomorrow and the next day,etc to provide eventual mastery; something formal schools can't always accomplish.

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  6. wonderful reminder to all mothers who have answered the call to home educate. i know i'm always in need of a good reminder. Ad Jesum per Mariam!

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  7. What a perfect post....I am about a year late in commenting, but your post is timeless so it seems not to matter.
    I laughingly tell anyone that asks "how long will your homeschool" one of the following:
    1. I have planned through High School, but the only thing I know for sure is that I will do it today.

    Thanks for the encouragement....

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