Trust The Children

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Home Schooling and Insanity

All of us deal with frustration. It seems like the very fabric of this existence is designed to provide a many opportunities to feel it and have to deal with it. Over the years, I keep coming back to a thought shared with me many years ago, a thought that those of us who educate at home, would do well to keep before us always. M. Grant Sharp, successful entrepreneur, religious leader, successful father and friend once shared with me this idea. I may not have the words quite right, but the thought goes something like this- "Frustration is a mild form of insanity. It is our inability to adjust our expectations to reality."

At first, I chaffed against this idea, because deep in my soul are the words of the song, "To Dream the Impossible Dream". I am a incurable idealist. Now I see that these two thoughts are not mutually exclusive and in fact form a rather helpful whole.

In our home schooling efforts, we attend conventions, observe friends, chat with others in support groups, and read books. From all this, we begin to form pictures in our minds of our own successful experiences at learning with our children at home. Our energy is high, our hopes as well, and our enthusiasm a driving force. When Monday morning dawns, we already have in our minds exactly how things are going to go. So we launch in. A few minutes go by and then David can't find his math book, all the boys fall asleep as we read the scriptures, Ben is taking language at the local high school and his success experience there is less than ideal. So we try again and again. We begin again, and again. Whatever pictures we had in our mind's eye gradually change from inspirations to demons. They haunt us instead of inspire us. Why? Because what we are experiencing today is so so different from the ideal picture we have in our minds. The result? Of course, frustration. And depending on how we deal with it, it truly IS a "mild form of insanity." And sometimes not so mild. Emotions can get the better of us. Again, depending on how we deal with this, if we are not careful, frustration can lead to other responses, less productive and more destructive.

Here is where Sharp's counsel needs to be applied. Without giving up on our dream for the future, the ideal pictures that inspire us, we need to adjust FOR TODAY our expectations for FOR TODAY. In other words, we need to see our experience in home schooling as a process or a trail. We don't lose or fail, as long as we stay on the trail and keep walking toward the object of our efforts. We may not be there yet. However not being there yet IS ok. Being a little further along today than you were yesterday or last week or last month is what we need to look for. In time we can and will get closer to the ideal.

So faced with "frustration" we have a decision to make. And this decision is crucial. We can choose to be counseled by our fears, frustrations and failures, thus suffering the feelings of frustration or worse, OR we can paint our ideals onto pictures we hang on the wall to remind us and help us to decide today which baby step we can take today that moves us little by little, closer and closer to the inspiring piece of art on the wall. Dreaming the impossible dream is essential, because such dreams serve as a guiding lights in setting our priorities. We only have so much time to give. However, after we have used our ideals to set our priorities and goals for today, they have fulfilled their intended purpose and can comfortably be put away until tomorrow morning, or next week, when we review them again to guide us again.

It is my experience, that if we just keep walking, trying and taking joy and satisfaction in the baby steps we are taking as we go along, we will enjoy the sustaining power and energy to persist in the dream of home schooling and any good thing we choose to do in this life. A little less insanity and a little more productivity is a good thing.

ps. In case you were wondering, I too have learned this the hard way. Enough said.


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