This is a common concern for parents when they think about what life would be like if they were to home educate. “Yolande, I just couldn’t do it! I don’t have the patience!”
Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
I’m not sure I considered this in enough detail before I took the plunge to home educate but things got real very quickly once I did. Suddenly I had two children, with me all day, on my own, every day who I felt found listening and following instructions an immense challenge. It wasn’t pretty.
When I reflect on those early months there’s a lot I recognise as the wrong way to home educate. When you take the plunge to home educate and have your children with you so much more than before, it’s inevitable changes have to be made. I quickly learned that I needed to adapt how I parented.
I’m traditional. I was raised in the traditional way by Jamaican parents and from the age of 10 in a single parent home. My parents laid down the law and we followed it. But we had fun and I have many fond memories. However, when mum or dad said no that was it. So as a parent, I didn’t like my children questioning me, answering me back, challenging my opinion. I took it as signs of disrespect and them not knowing their place.
Now we were home educating I felt like we were clashing a lot more than usual and that our home was turning into a war zone. This wasn’t part of the home education dream. I felt like I’d messed up badly by taking Kaleb out of school. I not only had to deal with the general conflicts that come with parenting but I had to deal with more of them. Add the resistance to my “perfect plan” for their education; I felt constantly affronted and completely out of my comfort zone. I had to take a long hard look at what I was struggling with and how I could change things positively. Otherwise, none of us would have emerged unscathed and I would potentially be looking at hard time in prison.
I realised I had to focus on my parenting rather than the homeschooling because I felt that the very fabric of me as a parent was being challenged. Why weren’t my children listening to me? Was I being too soft? Too strict? If I asked people I would get different answers depending on their parenting styles. I had to ask myself what my aspirations and goals were for my children and realised that in the world we are living in I really wanted to give my children the opportunity to grow into adults who challenged authority when needed, to be brave, to always question things if it didn’t sit right with them. But I wasn’t giving them the opportunity to do this at home, with me.
I lacked patience (among other things) to simply stop and consider. I needed to listen to them more. To not be too quick to respond but give myself and them the respect to actually listen to what they were saying. To ask myself why I was saying “no” to things. Was it really that serious? Can I let it go? I realised that a lot of my parenting was coming from a place of fear instead of a place of love and respect. I was imposing certain rules because I was fearful of us being judged by others. If Kaleb was unable to recite his 3 times tables on request I would be judged as incompetent, and/or he would be judged as stupid. If Niomi was opinionated and confident instead of cute and polite she’d be judged as unruly and wild, I would be judged as failing to raise her right. But I was trying to raise free children, comfortable in their skin, sure in their abilities and aware enough to know when they need help and confident enough to ask for it. I had to parent them from a place of freedom so that they had the freedom to grow. I had to let go of fear and the pressure that came with taking on those fears. I needed to understand that other people’s judgements were none of our business. My focus needed to shift back to my children. I needed to give them a break as well as myself.
To help me on our home education journey I sought counsel from seasoned home educators who had trod the road I was on. I was confronted with hard truths, “why does he need to write a paragraph on the Spitfire?” “Why does he have to learn about Spitfires?” “Why are you making him learn about it if it’s not interesting to him?” “What are you trying to prove?”
I made and continue to make a conscious effort to be patient. Some days I have the patience of a saint. Some days I don’t. But I try to be intentional about it and do my best to be aware of when I’m lacking. Sometimes “no!” just rolls off my tongue without thought or reason and I have to backtrack even after I have said it because I realise there’s no good reason to say no, outside of an unsafe situation or it’s not the right time or place. My “no” usually came from a place of laziness, or because I felt it didn’t fit in with my plan for the day. But my plan was supposed to be flexible and laziness was no.
Ensuring I make the time to do the things I need to in order to take care of myself means that I’m better able to take care of others. Recognising the importance of being patient with myself has helped me to recognise the importance of being patient with others, especially my children.
So, whether you’re home educating or not, considering it or not, know that patience, in my opinion, is something that has to be developed consciously if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Learning to hold your tongue, breathe and face issues with purpose and love at the fore is a bloody skill and a worthwhile one to learn. Being intentional about it is helping me to be a better person, parent and educator.
Home education it seems is as much for my learning and development as it is for theirs.
*All thoughts and opinions remain the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments of Sareta Fontaine.