You just got it out of your head 90 seconds ago. And now here I go plopping it right back in. Just know that I’m right there with you. And will be attempting to remove the song from my head as I type the following.
Possibly the greatest piece of advice I received this year came from a homeschooling prep class called Great Expectations, which I took over the summer. I didn’t know at the time just how much I would need this nugget once we started our year in the fall. If you live anywhere in the Seattle area, I highly recommend this course as a foundation for your homeschooling adventure. Not just for the legal basis they give (knowing the law in Washington), but for the encouragement and long-term thinking they provide, that prepares you for the road ahead.
Back to the advice. Spoken with sincere love for every mother who’s cried in frustration over a math lesson. Or a phonics rule. Or whatever your particular roadblock happens to be. Spoken with a desire not to see kids bawling because they “just don’t get it”.
“If your curriculum isn’t working. It is probably not because of you. Or your kids. It just isn’t the right fit. Try something else.”
In other words. Learn when to let it go.
At the time, I moved right past this advice. On to the next part of the lesson! I’m ready. Tell me more about something else! Because, in my pre-homeschool fantasy world, I was sure that with the proper research beforehand, I would never (ever) experience curriculum struggles. Surely I could trust my merry band of homeschooling pioneers (aka: folks who’ve been doing this a few years) with recommendations that would make learning a breeze? Isn’t “what’s good for the goose, good for the gander”? Or something like that? How could 1000 glowing reports on HomeschoolReviews.com possibly lie? No. I certainly was not going to need a plan B. Not me. Besides. My kids are brilliant. It doesn’t matter what method we use, they’re going to soar like eagles reaching academic heights never before realized in the history of man. And we’ll all hold hands and dance thru the mountain meadows as we complete our schoolwork. Fa-la-la-la-la.
<insert reality check here>
Two weeks into our school year, I was sure there had been some kind of horrible mix up. The language arts materials I’d heard dozens of my friends rave about, that I’d enthusiastically bought into, made me want to chuck all our notebooks out the window and revert to a time when “language arts” meant grunting and drawing pictures on cave walls.
I’d spent weeks over the summer preparing fun games and utilizing the library to print off worksheets. I was giddy at the lesson plans, the cute stickers and the readers. I could not wait to implement this gem of learning. And then, it just DID. NOT. WORK. Not for us. My daughter was bored. My son was frustrated. I was annoyed that they weren’t having all the fun intended. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me that I was messing up such a perfect program. I was the worst teacher ever.
Finally, the voice of reason spoke over my muffled sobs into the pillow. Really. I was crying over copywork. I know. Pathetic. My husband gently suggested that perhaps I should remember the advice from our prep class. That if we were all so miserable, and it really wasn’t working, it was probably the curriculum…not us. He’s such a teacher’s pet. Ugh.
But it was supposed to work. I wanted it to work.
People I trust told me how wonderful it was.
Don’t you get it? I must be doing something wrong.
<light bulb moment>
Or…it just isn’t right for us. And I should try something else. Just to see if it works better.
And that was the moment I let it go. Let go of my expectations for our year. Let go of the pressure to succeed at something because someone else did it that way. Let go of my need to “overcome” and “push thru”. I took a deep breath, and the next morning, switched up our curriculum. Actually, we went totally pioneer and (gasp!) didn’t use a curriculum. We went basic vanilla no frills and did copywork, dictation and narration. And we had a glorious year. Turns out, I’m NOT inept and worthless as a teacher. Imagine that.
Success with another program didn’t show me that the first curriculum was bad. But it certainly demonstrated that it was wrong for us. Who knows…what I walked away from in disgust may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. My encouragement here is that if you are really struggling, if you feel overwhelmed with the scope or structure of what you are doing, shelve it. Try something else. Don’t feel guilty, or like somehow you failed. Allow yourself the glimmer of possibility that it really isn’t a problem with you. Our goal should be a lifelong love affair with learning. Not a stubborn insistence on a process that doesn’t work for our kids. If a puzzle piece doesn’t fit, don’t jam it into the hole until it breaks. Don’t decide you are horrible at puzzles and quit either. Try a different piece. There are enough options out there to fit every family…you’ll find the one that’s a perfect match for you. And it doesn’t matter if everyone else is doing it another way.
I end with my favorite quote in the world.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy knew when to let it go.