One week after the birth of our first child found us camping with the Creature Who Needs No Sleep. Driven from our hot, stuffy apartment (no air conditioning) we relished the cool, mountain air, not to mention the lack of neighbors irritated by the wailings of a newborn.
I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t admit that people’s comments,
“You went camping ONE WEEK after the birth of a baby? You’re an AMAZING woman,” made me feel like pretty hot stuff indeed.
We waited two weeks after the birth of the second child to do the camping thing. People continued to comment on how amazing I was. I continued to lap it up.
Third Time, Still Not Learning
With the third child, we camped 6 weeks before the baby was born, in a lightning storm, with a two-year-old who literally bounced off the walls of the tent, and a run-in with a black mama sow bear and her three cubs. The term amazing began to be replaced with other terms, and I can’t say I disagree.
By the fourth child — this story, along with our childbearing years, does come to an end — I stayed home, with the baby, in a hammock. I didn’t need people to tell me I was amazing anymore; I knew that just getting out of bed every morning was testament to some sort of ability and acumen.
How to Be Told, You Are Amazing!
This was a good attitude to have by the time we started homeschooling, because if you haven’t figured it out yet, there is a lot of — frequently self-imposed — pressure on homeschooling parents to perform. And the way homeschooling parents receive the accolade,
“You are AMAZING!”
is to produce children who read at four, do sixth-grade math in third grade, and use words like “apologetics” and “synergistic.” Oh, and they have beautiful handwriting, impeccable manners, and perfectly modulated voices as they practice their Latin declensions (older children learn Greek or Hebrew, and for fun, the entire family gets together and performs impromptu Greek tragedies).
Isn’t this an amazing family? And you, by virtue of being the teacher at the top, are truly amazing, because you produce quality educational products that thoroughly impress — and quite possibly overwhelm — the people around you.
When your children aren’t setting up intricate structures of pulleys and ramps to test out basic physic problems they’ve been curious about, they do their chores, and your house is clean, pristine, and dust free.
Despite the copious amount of advanced reading done by all the household members (your nine-year-old just eats up The Federalist Papers), books and papers are neatly stored away in your designated schoolroom, which the husband of the family (whose primary purpose is to conduct morning Bible studies; the children so, so enjoy this special worship time together, and they take turns playing the piano for the songs — many of them composed within the family — that you sing) remodeled into a series of cabinets and drawers and desks that look like what Laura Ingalls Wilder used.
Not You, Huh?
If this doesn’t describe you, be relieved, very very relieved, because this level of amazing-ness is improbable for anyone to achieve and maintain, although you’d never know it by the hints and comments people drop about their super, and superlative, progeny.
Through years of homeschooling, I have heard variations on the theme:
“Evangeline was a little slower learning her multiplication tables — she was, oh, 6 or so, when her brother had them down by five.”
“We’re doing basic biology in third grade this year: after dissecting the cow on the dining room table, we used the meat to create meals for the homeless shelter. Joseph, eight, preached the sermon.”
“Stella was so disappointed when she came in third in the Kindergarten National Science Fair competition. Her research on electromagneticism and the life cycle of worms was quite well done.”
And you’re saying to yourself, “My kid just lisped her way through Green Eggs and Ham. We were pretty excited, too, about her brother figuring out the first part of tying his shoes. The loop will come later.”
Listen: You’re amazing. Your kids are amazing — whether or not they write Haiku in ancient Aramaic. As a homeschooling family you are amazing because you live together — All. The. Time. — talk, laugh, experiment, create, encourage, grow, and learn.
How you do it is as individual as you are, and as long as you don’t compare yourself with the illusion that other people are putting forth, you’ll be just fine.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. A 20-year veteran of homeschooling, I write about the subject on Thursdays.
If life seems overwhelming and you’re tired of graham crackers and peanut butter for dinner again, please check out my Recipes section, which I post on Tuesdays.
If you’re a Christian and feeling pressured by unrealistic expectations of perfection, check out Contempo Christianity on Wednesdays at This Woman Writes and Commonsense Christianity, my blog at BeliefNet.
For writing help — both for yourself and in teaching your kids, look at my book, Grammar Despair at Amazon.com.
If you’re living on a single or extra small budget, check out Live Happily on Less, which distills 30-years of creative budgeting into a fun, quick-reading book.
Prospective artists in the family? Steve Henderson’s (my Norwegian Artist) Step by Step Watercolor Success is a two-day workshop in digital format.