The Patience Pitfall

If you homeschool your children, you have probably been on the receiving end of this statement: “I think what you’re doing is wonderful, but I just don’t have the patience.”

Nine times out of ten, the correct response is to smile and change the subject. Your conversation partner doesn’t actually think that what you’re doing is wonderful; she actually thinks it’s insane. Never for one minute has she considered keeping her children with her at home. School is working well for her family.

Every once in a while, though, those words express a plaintive cry for help. They come from the depths of the soul of a mother who worries that school is damaging or short-changing her child but is terrified at the idea of being a full-time parent and teacher. Endowing you with saintly levels of patience allows her to rationalize that she couldn’t possibly do what you’re doing. After all, she wasn’t born with your supernatural talent.

Here is my dirty little secret. I homeschooled not because I had overflowing reserves of patience, but because I had very little of it. I had absolutely no patience for helping a child with inane, boring and convoluted homework. I had no patience with being nominated as the homework police.  I had no patience with placing family priorities behind the (understandable) demands of an institution. I had no patience with waking a sleeping infant in order to drive carpool. The list goes on.

Here is what I discovered. Reviewing multiplication tables, reminding people that the words ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ mean different things, and rarely having an uncluttered kitchen table did require patience. It was the same type of patience needed to help little ones remember not to drop their clothes, toys and shoes all over the house and to say please when making a request. In other words, being a teacher was an extension of being a mother. The more I worked at one identity, the better I got at the other.

If you need time to recuperate after getting everyone out the door in the morning; if there are constantly miserable hours of ‘witching time’ between school and dinner; if getting the kids to bed is an exhausting, nightly performance, some homeschooling lessons might be exactly what you need. Because (for healthy moms) homeschooling encourages you to hone your mother skills.

Phrases like, “I can’t wait for school to start,” and “If winter vacation lasts one more day I’m going to go out of my mind,” aren’t accolades to schools. They are reminders that things in the home need to change because they aren’t working well. There is only one reason for children to go to school. That is because it benefits them.

The child who heads off in the morning knowing that his mother would rather spend the day with him, but sacrifices the opportunity for his well-being, is a child ready to make the most of his studies. The child who suspects that school is an excuse for his mother to get rid of him learns an entirely different lesson.

5 thoughts on “The Patience Pitfall”

  1. I hate it when parents home school their kids. It’s just too right.
    Personally I think if the tax system gave homeschooling parents a refund on the portion of taxes going to schools then we would see more homeschooling. That would be a good thing.

    1. Frank, while extra money is always nice, I don’t think the government gives money without strings attached. We were, personally, always wary of the government “helping” us homeschool. But if taxes were lower in general, I think people would have more children and many families would love to be one-income families allowing the mother (usually) to homeschool.

  2. How often I heard those words! Thank you for writing this, Susan. My heart cry articulated by you perfectly, as usual!

    1. Right, Deb! I heard those words so often and knew how homeschooling served as a training ground for patience, not as a natural abode for those who had scads of it to spare.

  3. Thank you for writing down these thoughts so very well. My husband and I have heard that “….I just don’t have the patience.” statement by others. Thankfully, we also overcame our lack of patience for the illogical “system” that churns out the likes of the newly initiated US Congress person Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We learned the truth about public (pre-school through college) education when I went to college as a young mother. My husband, thankfully, was able to receive a US Marine Corps (full) scholarship after high school to study at Stanford University. In 1985, the scholarship was worth $50,000-for tuition and books. I think that his parents picked up the tab for his dorms and meals.

    We have incentive to influence as many young people as possible because we pay for the public schools through our taxes and because we know that there is a lack of training the young with the skills they need in logical thinking or critical analysis. In fact, most public education teachers do not appear to have honed in on these skills.

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