I am the girl who loves to write, has chosen a career that involves hours of writing every week, and finds words to be one of the most fantastic, beautiful joys of life. But helping my kids write research papers, rhetorical analysis papers, and all such
dreadful necessary assignments such as these threaten to make me want to rip out handfuls of my hair, tear pages out of innocent textbooks, and break laptops over our fireplace.
I’m not pleased to admit this about myself, but now you know the truth.
Reading and writing about Hamlet back when I was in high school is what kept me from knowing that I actually love to write. I persevered and I did my time, but now here I am, experiencing this all again, over and over, with all of my high school-aged sons. I’d leave it up to their teachers, but I AM THEIR TEACHER, so here I sit with my ugly mom face where there are no nice words and there is no sunshine.
I take no pride in this. My head is hung in shame. Alas, I have been showing my kids how to respond to assignments we don’t like but have to do anyway with a gross attitude, using words like “stupid, ridiculous, and whodecidedthispoemshouldbeinatextbook.” Lord, deliver me from MLA formatting, documenting resources, and analyzing, comparing, and contrasting poetic themes.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is incredible value in teaching these skills to our students. Our kids need to know how to write well, do research, identify literary themes, format a paper properly – and for the love of my ability to inhale oxygen, everyone should know the correct way to write your, you’re, their, there, and they’re.
I’m simply not a fan of teaching all of this. I signed up for this homeschool gig, I’m in it for the long haul, and 99 out of a 100 times a day I love this life. But sometimes I long to go back to the simpler days of bright math manipulatives, Bob Books, and alphabet matching games.
(Clearly, I’ve erased the poop-snot-distracted-tantrum-defiant moments from my memories and am drawing only from oh they were so little and precious and snuggly and remember all the wonderful books we cuddled up and read together memories. Still, we didn’t have to analyze the deeper meaning of Little Bear after we read it together or compare and contrast it with the underlying theme of Frog and Toad, am I right?)
Moms of little ones? Don’t listen to one negative thing I’m saying right now. I’m using hyperbole (that’s a high school English term that means “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally”). If you choose to homeschool your kids, even all the way through high school, you can absolutely do it and do it well.
I’ve been happily homeschooling for 15 years, and while I’m always thankful when the challenging writing assignments are transferred to the “finished” file, I don’t regret one minute of the time I’ve had with each of my sons, bonding over Dickenson, cringing over Oedipus, and laughing about embarrassing spelling edits that need to be made (thank you, auto-correct, for these teachable moments). There’s incredible beauty in the relationships created with our sons while we work hard together to end each assignment knowing his finished product is one he can be proud of.
Just like everything – teaching our kids to use the potty, sound out words, sit still during church, obey the first time, multiply fractions, tie shoes, cook a meal, drive a car – there are times we parents simply have to lean in, buckle down, pray for strength, and get it done. We’ll like some of it better than others. We’ll be glad when some of it is over.
But that doesn’t mean that the effort and challenge isn’t worth the reward. Yea, though I walk through the valley of 4-6 page research papers covering subjects I care nothing about, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy coffee and chocolate they comfort me.
Parents: we’ve got this. We can do this. We can even find a smile and some nice words.
Together we praise God for creating summer break, the glorious months we can look back at all the finished research papers, the 137 completed Algebra II lessons, and the fact that Shakespeare actually made sense to us a time or two.
By and by, somewhere between a cold slice of watermelon and a run through the sprinkler, we’ll remember the glorious light bulb moments of the past school year, the accomplishments, and the great discussions – and we’ll realize with joy how much we love learning with our kids. (Truly. These days are invaluable and I wouldn’t trade a minute.)
We’ll find refreshment this summer. We’ll read all the books just for fun! Then we’ll start looking ahead to next year, and not just looking ahead, but looking forward – as in actually looking forward to it all starting up again in the fall! (Clean notebooks! New crayons! Amazing books and adventures to be had!)
Dearest Parents: Wherever you are in your school journey with your kids – whether home, public, private, or charter – I salute you. You care enough to work hard to help your children get the best education possible. You do easy things. You do hard things. You do things you wish you could do over and over again, and you do things you can’t wait to be finished with (I’m looking at you diaper blow-outs and ACT prep).
It’s all part of parenting and educating, training and growing.
May your parenting days be rich, your summer break restful, and your attitude about diagramming sentences better than mine.
What’s your very favorite (and your least favorite) school subject you get to help your kids learn?
P.S. I realized one day recently that I have forgotten how to move decimals whilst dividing numbers that include them. It took everything in me to keep from saying to my 6th grader, “Well, I guess this proves that you’ll never in your life need or use this skill so why don’t you just go build with your Legos instead?” Instead, I said, “We’ll get this figured out!” Then I called my 9th grader in to show us how it’s done because life’s too short to think hard about a skill I haven’t used since I was 12. Pat me on the back for this parenting win.