There are a lot of reasons we all have mom guilt. The things we can’t do. Things we don’t do or can’t afford. And the things we forget to do. Parenting is a minefield of opportunities to “fail”. For those of us who homeschool, that list can be twice as long. We want to be the perfect teachers for each of our children while providing a great home life, healthy home-cooked meals, and a clean, well-ordered home. All while not losing our minds. That is a lot to do. When you have multiple children, there are even more things to do and worry about. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my three children are not getting the same education.
Paving The Road With Good Intentions
My kids have all homeschooled from the beginning. And they all have the same wonderful teacher, me. They all get the benefit of my attention and love. But they aren’t all getting the same education.
When they were very small, I thought they would. I thought the great curriculum choices I made for my first born would work for the next two kids. But I didn’t really know my younger children as students then. They were just babies.
And I didn’t know myself as a teacher.
Discovering My Children As Individual Students
It turns out, my greatest goal as a homeschool teacher, is to not lose my mind. I have three strong-willed kids. So, in order to meet that one goal, I have to really listen to my student’s needs.
My oldest child is very auditory. They loved to be read to from day one and prefers their learning to be in dialogue form. They need to listen to the story or lecture and discuss the ideas with someone. They want to dive deeply into thoughts and read lots of books, magazines, and online resources on their own, discussing them with me as though they are teaching me. Creating an educational plan that works for their style has been rather smooth sailing. Most of the time.
My youngest child likes to listen to stories, and will pleasantly do some workbook pages if need be, but her favorite ways to learn involve movement. Playing games and making crafts bring learning alive for her. For her, a great day of learning involves making something. My oldest hated such things, so it is interesting to me as a teacher to bring lessons alive this way. To figure out her learning style and meet her where she is. I’ve thrown out some of the educational materials I saved and started over. But that’s okay. She really wants to learn about as many things as possible, so I feel rewarded by her enthusiasm.
And Now We Come to My Middle Child
The one who would rather not be educated. My child who, at 11, hates every learning activity. He hates almost every book, every art project, every offer of educational value I can come up with. He sees my lesson plans as a hurdle he must cross to get on with his day. If I attempt to teach something that he shows interest in, that interest is crushed and he ceases to care about it. If I offer hands-on learning instead of books, he complains about it. But not more than he complained about the books in the first place.
He’s always been this way. During his kindergarten years, I taught at a co-op where he would sit himself in a corner and wait for lessons to be over so that the other children could play with him. He sat quietly, he respected others wanted to learn, but he refused to participate in lessons, even those that used play dough as the class activity. He’d wait until they were done. Surely the “lesson” part of the day would be over soon.
Finding Our Own Way
For a time, I tried to educate my middle child and my youngest at the same time. And for a while, it worked. My son did some lessons because his younger sister was doing them. But then, that stopped working, and I realized that I was actually holding my youngest back to a pace that made my son comfortable. So now, they each have one-on-one lessons with me. This makes my day longer but it eases some of the mom guilt. They are each getting an individualized education. The education they each want for themselves done to the best of my ability.
I asked my son recently if we should change up how we do lessons and he said: “No, I like doing it with just you and me, mom.” So, that’s something.
I am making peace with the fact that the education I am giving him doesn’t have the same depth and breadth that his siblings are getting. His education right now is more a set of boxes to check than the beautiful journey we homeschoolers want to take. My goal is to give him the tools to be able to educate himself more on his own timeline. Instead of an in-depth education in each subject area, he’ll learn touch points he can build on someday. I want to be sure he has all the basic skills to go forward in life. But I am making peace with how his life won’t mirror those of his siblings.
I’m making peace with how I, as a parent, respond to what my children want and need. My dreams of how they’d each learn art, music, and dance don’t matter if my kids don’t want to learn those things. I can introduce them, but I can’t make them sing. I hope that someday, my kids can each talk about what they did learn and enjoy during their school years. I’m doing my best to enjoy these years, too.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.