Homeschool Hopelessness

No one warned me that I would experience periods of real hopelessness in our homeschooling journey.

These feelings were not so much because of a child’s slowness in grasping phonics, or mastering multiplication tables or coping with writing and spelling (although those struggles are real and difficult to cope with at the time), but I suffered from a deeper, insidious anxiety of not measuring up to the ideals and images of what I imagined of my parenting and homeschooling.

My struggle was that my children did not reflect what I thought they would be if I “did it right”.

I had visions of my children happily homesteading, singing songs, crafting and learning like the girls in the “Little House on the Prairies“.  I thought we would all be praying, singing, being kind to others … that kind of Christian-thing. The gratitude, the persevering, the teachable, the compliant child-thing. And I thought it would all develop into young adult expressions of that image.  But our children did not embrace or demonstrate that vision.

Actually my children started out a lot like that, back in the beginning of our homeschooling journey, so it was not that we couldn’t do it.  It just didn’t carry on into my children’s teen years. That is when things changed.  They changed.  They took charge, and it was really scary for me!

My children are amazing, unique individuals, and they were way stronger than me. No matter how hard I persevered, persuaded, cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, lectured, they did things their way. They made choices and insisted and persisted.  I watched my dreams fade away.  And, looking back now, it was a good thing.  My children were not supposed to turn out the way I intended, but the way the Lord purposed.

They abandoned, subjects,  ignored Charlotte Mason’s methods, made decisions for the all “wrong” reasons (in my mind).  Instead of continuing with Charlotte Mason principles, my high school children opted for textbooks. Instead of narrations, they chose tedious workbook lessons and stressful exams. Instead of a rich cultural Fine Arts, they chose dry bones “compulsory” subjects. Instead of delight-directed – they opted for minimum requirements.  One child became the master-procrastinator!  She managed to complete everything by the skin of her teeth and it was a nightmare trying to work with her.

I sat watching each of them move further and further away from my ideals, and morph into “let’s get it done the easiest and fastest way possible” and I became sadder, more and more hopeless.  As each teenager entered into this phase, I lost perspective and became really sad and depressed.

Both my graduate daughters chose not to study further.  They did not want specific careers.  They opted for part-time work and entrepreneurial experience.  From the outside, it looked like my husband and I had “lost the plot” and we came under prolonged, severe criticism from both our parents close family.  I felt judged and a failure.   I wondered If I had instead sent them to public high schools and forced them to follow the norm of ‘Matric followed by university studies’, then we would have done it the “right way” and we would have “succeeded”.

As I sat praying, I realized that I had laid an excellent foundation in their primary school years.  We established outstanding basic skills.  I had instilled a love for reading, for good literature, for Fine Arts and we had a lifestyle of both productivity and creativity.  We have a deeply spiritual home where we share the reality of the Lord’s word and work in our lives.

All was not lost.

I turned my eyes to the Lord and trusted Him to work out those promises He gave us for each of our children.

After my eldest daughter got married earlier this year, she flourished as an amazing young woman who loves her husband.  She happily creates and keeps her home beautiful, and she cooks healthy, wonderful meals on a tiny budget.  She is a deeply committed member of a small, but tightly connected community and she and her hubby practice hospitality in ways that really bless others.

My 18-year-old graduate daughter currently works as a freelance graphic artist. She is developing her skills as a photographer and amazed us all by becoming a singer and musician, performing among the emerging musicians in the Garden Route.  There was no clue that she would choose to sing publicly.  She was so shy as a child that she wept and just couldn’t give me speeches or prepared reading, not even for me, all alone in our homeschool study.  And she never took a single formal music or singing lesson!

Last week, as I sat among a crowd of over 370 people at the Live Event in the George Botanical Gardens, and I just marveled at her courage and her talent, her vulnerability.  She shares her own songs with the world.  I didn’t see that coming!

May I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to keep hoping and praying and trusting in the Lord for your children, especially when they take charge as they grow up.  He is faithful and He has a vision and purpose for each person.  He is able to “make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”.

Don’t allow periods of hopelessness and despair cause you to give up.  Have grace towards yourself for being out of your depth and have grace towards your children for working out who they are becoming.  It is Grace for grace.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Homeschool Beginnings Part IV

This post concludes the series of Homeschool Beginnings. (You can catch up any of the missed posts here – Part I, Part II and Part III.)

I would say that I instinctively began homeschooling when I joined with two moms from our church group to meet once a week for a play date.  We met just to let our children play together, but we were all teachers (one mom was a high school Zulu and Maths teacher, the other mom was a music and choir teacher, and I was an English, Physical Education, and  Art teacher), and so things began to take shape.   Little did we even realize that we would start homeschooling!  

It began so gradually that we didn’t even think of “schooling” but rather playing while focusing on a theme and some fun learning activities.   We creatively brainstormed ideas while our kiddies played. We decided to work through the alphabet, and our play date included a Bible story, a song, a craft and a physical activity with the letter of the alphabet.

So we started with “A” is for Angels … and Apples … and Adam and Eve … We made paper plate angels, read about Jacob’s angels on a stairway to heaven and arranged angels from biggest to smallest … We climbed the jungle gym ladders, hopped and jumped on a ladder lying on the ground.  We ate apples, made apple pie, cooked stewed apples, etc. We sang angel songs and learned the word for apple in Afrikaans, Zulu, Hebrew, etc.   (You get the idea?)

Our kiddies wanted to do the same story and song every . single . week . and so we realized that repetition is natural and necessary.  We simply flowed with our children’s natural delight and interest and only added a new concept or skill to keep things growing and moving along once the previous learning moment had passed.  In a whole year, we only got to “G”!

We also went on outings and picnics, created plays, held parties, and enjoyed family get-togethers.  These early years of homeschooling continued as our families grew and until the oldest children were ready for Grade 1.

These were precious years and our friendships were deep and lasting.

And so, that is my story of how I journeyed into homeschooling.  Although I never imagined I would homeschool my kids, it was the Lord’s design and plan for our family all along.

How did your journey into homeschooling begin?  Please share your story with us in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part III

Continuing my personal story of my unlikely journey into homeschooling.

(If you’ve missed the first two posts, you can pop over to read about our baby’s serious illness just days after her birth – Part I and the sad prognosis –Part II.)

We were referred to a Baby Therapy Centre which housed all the therapists and treatments required to treat and help babies with brain injuries, and so began three years of therapy sessions, remedial splints, and ongoing consultations and reports.

Early on we recognized weakness and spasm on our baby’s right side. The doctors and specialists referred to her diagnosis as “Right Hemi” or right-side hemiplegia, but it was only after one year before I heard them use the term “CP” and was dismayed to hear she actually had Cerebral Palsy. I don’t know why, but the label seemed so harsh, so cruel. I think we all have fear and prejudice towards the “different”. I couldn’t imagine how my baby would grow up and become independent with her disability.

Let me say that the only label or report I really needed was the Lord’s.  Every medical report and doctor’s consultation filled me with dread and fear and pushed me into anxiety and hyper-vigilance.  Instead, the Lord spoke to me in His gentle love and care, and He filled my heart with hope and peace.  He helped me focus on “one thing” at a time.  He encouraged me to live in the “now” moments with my child and not worry about the future.  I wish I could say that this was my permanent state of heart, but it was the only way I could cope as we went through many valleys, peaks, and plateaus.

Using the new orthopedic thumb splint

By now I realized that I followed an “Attached Parenting” style.  I attributed this mainly due to my breastfeeding years and the amazing mentoring and excellent parenting books I read in the La Leche League library.  I wore my baby in a sling and chose to nurture and respond to her every need with care and love.  

After three years, the Baby Therapy Center referred us to private occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech therapists, as our child was no longer considered a baby.  We continued regular therapy over the following nine years.

Our daughter was a bright, chatty, young toddler. She was beautiful, vivacious, intelligent, creative, fun, strong-willed, sensitive, loyal and spiritual. I loved my days with her!

My child continued to meet her milestones and, praise the Lord, showed no signs of learning or speech delays.  We attended a toddler’s play group and we enjoyed monthly play dates with our antenatal moms’ group.  Homeschooling was a very vague option, but I felt that my child would cope in mainstream schooling, so I didn’t look into that aspect at all.  Little did I know how gently the Lord would lead me into that role.

To be continued in Part IV.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part II

Continuing my story of my unlikely journey into homeschooling from Part I …

Following our newborn baby’s diagnosis of meningitis and a brain bleed, we went into deep shock. It was the only time I saw my husband actually sob.

I spent eleven days in the hospital with my baby, now in the children’s ward, where there were five other meningitis cases, caring for my tiny, sick, newborn baby and trying desperately to learn to breastfeed.

Hospital life is interrupted, clinical, medical and full of fear.  Not the nurturing, calm and private bonding post birth experience I had dreamed for and that my hormones absolutely craved!  I almost gave up breastfeeding because my drugged and sick baby couldn’t latch properly.  I had cracked nipples and a bad case of milk fever, but a La Leche League consultant came and talked me through all my difficulties and supported my decision to keep trying to feed my baby despite all the obstacles. I am so grateful for her help as we went on to breastfeed for two years.

We were referred to pediatric specialists who told us of all the possible damage the brain bleed and meningitis could cause. The news was dreadful. The pediatric neuro-specialist referred to her diagnosis as right-side hemiplegia or right-side paralysis.   There were fears of possible learning and speech problems.  I was gutted.

My hubby and I immediately found ourselves in separate camps trying to cope with this news; he was quiet, withdrawn and in denial, and I began a frantic search for options, help, therapy, support, and interventions.  I think that I was determined to help my child and nothing was going to be too difficult.  I resigned from my teaching position and so I began my new role of stay-at-home-mom-on-a-mission!

To be continued in Part III.

Blessings, Nadene

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Homeschool Beginnings Part 1

Many of my readers have followed me for several years, but don’t know how I started homeschooling, and some of you are fairly new to Practical Pages, and so I thought I would share my personal testimony of how I stumbled into homeschooling and the amazing journey that it took us on.  It’s a long story, but I will break it up into bite-sized pieces, so please come back each week for the next post in the series.

Homeschooling was not even on my radar.  Before I had my own children, I hardly knew anyone who homeschooled, and I probably thought those who did were strange.  I was devoted school teacher and glibly thought I would continue teaching again after taking a year’s maternity and paid leave, But the Lord had other plans.

My first daughter’s birth was a precipitous, premature, hospital delivery. She was tiny, needed to go under lights and so we stayed in the hospital for five days.  After just four days at home, she developed a very high fever and screamed all night. Early the next morning we were at a pediatric hospital.  The traumatic diagnosis following a spinal tap and brain scans was that our precious baby had meningitis and had a brain bleed.

Of course, I immediately resigned from my teacher’s position, right in those first few weeks following her illness, when I realized that I had a very important job helping my child.  And so began a very different journey of motherhood and parenting, and one that would lead me, very naturally, as it seems to me now, into homeschooling.

To be continued in Part II.

Blessings, Nadene

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