“Oh you must be so patient!” I can’t count the number of times have I had this exclaimed at me when someone would discover I homeschool. And no matter how much I assure the exclaimer that I really am not terribly patient, I am not believed.
But it’s true. I’m not terribly patient and I think it’s a mistaken idea that being patient is a prerequisite for successful homeschooling. For me, patience is a developing skill. (And if you’re familiar with therapy-speak, some days it’s an emerging skill. As in, it just isn’t there.) God has certainly been using my children and our homeschooling to grow my patience in ways I couldn’t imagine when we started this journey.
The type of patience I’m working on developing is the kind that stops me from exploding at my children when I’m frustrated. It’s the kind of patience that doesn’t become annoyed when my children do not hit benchmarks at the time I think they should. It is the type of patience that reminds me that there will be coming days when I kind of wish my house was turned upside down with creative play. This patience does not come naturally to me and I am working on it. Slowly.
But I think there are some positive things that come from having a little less patience than one would like. First, and this may seem odd at first glance, I just don’t have the patience to go over and over and over something if my child just isn’t getting it. For all of our welfare, I just need to take a break after explanation number 3 or so. I never thought that this could be positive and would become annoyed at myself in the early years, but recently I have begun to think about this differently.
You see, if I were to try to continue to explain, albeit in various different ways, a concept to a child, chances are we would quickly reach a point where the child would become frustrated as well and no progress would be made. On the contrary, that child could then become anxious about the concept and set us back even further than we started. But with my very short patience, I often am willing to leave a topic temporarily if we seem to be going nowhere. This doesn’t mean we forget about it, just that we leave it for the day. The next day we will revisit it and more often than not, the child grasps the concept readily. If they do not, I often have thought of different ways of explaining it that are helpful.
Another thing that I sort of fell into was to delay academics a bit. I don’t begin actual bookwork until about the age of 7. We do lots of things involving play and manipulatives and games, but the few times I’ve tried to do more formal work with the preschool and kindergarten set, it has been very short-lived. I don’t have the patience to do bookwork with this age. I also don’t teach formal phonics until later either. In full confession mode, I don’t really enjoy sitting with children as they s-l-o-w-l-y sound out words. I’m ready to jump out of my skin by the time we’re on page 2, so I delay so that they can grasp it faster and move at a slightly greater speed.
My impatience has also helped our selection of children’s books. We do a lot of reading out loud to our children, as I’m sure most of you do. There are a lot of really badly written children’s books out there, with some of the worst containing licensed characters. I don’t have the patience to read them. And so I don’t. It makes me very picky about what books we purchase and keep because it’s no fun to hear the three year old whine about a book. We do have a couple of those licensed character things, but in my children’s minds those are books where you look at the pictures and don’t actually read them.
Raising children requires a certain amount of patience from a parent, but I don’t think that homeschooling requires a special amount. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would be doomed if that were true. I also think that there are traits that we continue to develop as we use them and practice them. Homeschooling does provide quite a bit of practice. And not only of patience. I am far better at my math facts now than I ever was when I was in school.
Elizabeth Curry is on year 15 of homeschooling. Nine are still at home and her oldest is off to college. Devoted bookworms all, it’s not surprising that much of the learning that happens centers around whatever chapter book is being read. When she isn’t taking care of children or reading, she enjoys sewing, cooking, and writing. Her life of following Jesus with many children in the Big, Ugly House is chronicled at www.ordinary-time.blogspot.com .