420 | When You’re Worried You’re Not Doing Enough…You Probably Aren’t (Jennifer Cabrera)

420 | When You’re Worried You’re Not Doing Enough…You Probably Aren’t (Jennifer Cabrera)

Show Notes:

All homeschool parents at some point worry they aren't doing enough. There are two common but very different scenarios when homeschool parents really aren't doing enough. Let's find the source of those nagging feelings, talk about "doing the more that's missing," and lose the fear of falling behind.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.


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Show Transcript:

Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week, we bring you an encouraging conversation, inspiration, tips, tricks, and or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home.

Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling, but we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.

Here's a riddle for you, parents. Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom, hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins help you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the golden rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at tuttletwins.com/homeschool. And now on to today's show.

If you're worried you aren't doing enough in your homeschool, you're probably not doing enough. Wow, that was harsh. Just right out of the gate she's pointing fingers and holding up mirrors. No I'm not. I'm telling you to listen to the nagging worry and find out its source, and then find out the right action to smother it and move forward with whatever fun, epic learning you've got planned. On my last episode, I talked about moms that go overboard and then get burnt out and bummed that their ungrateful offspring don't appreciate it. They don't reciprocate the excitement and love of overdoing everything, and giant gestures of educational and emotional affection, and how maybe they just need a timeout and need to give their family, you know, time and space to love them back in their own way. But now I'm going to switch gears and personalities, because as you homeschool over the years and in different seasons and with different children as your primary focus, sometimes the root of frustration may change. But homeschool parents at some point have worried aloud, or silently, I'm afraid we're not doing enough. And so I have decided to tell you two different homeschool tales to show you scenarios where parents often worry they aren't doing enough.

So first, there's the newer homeschool parent or the type A parent looking to help their kid keep up with or beat the pack. Once upon a time, there was a homeschool mom who got her kids upped promptly by 8-ish a.m. mostly every day of the week. They had just begun homeschooling. She decided on a routine and had stuck with it for a few weeks. After breakfast, they started each day reading aloud together and continuing straight into math. She divided her attention between all her kids the best that she could, which mostly went accordingly despite minor hiccups, whining, and distractions. And then they took a short break for a snack, or to move their legs and to complete the homeschool day by studying language arts, science and altered days with history, logic, art, etc. Sounds lovely. But despite their obvious progress, mom couldn't shake the feeling that they weren't doing enough. Because, strangely and amazingly enough, despite the eight hour day of public school she pulled them from and all she knew from her own education, they were done homeschooling every day by noon. Mostly. Well, barring any speed bumps like illness, unwanted doorbell ringers or search parties to hunt down their adventurous dog who likes to run off and chase rabbits or whoever just rang the doorbell. But done by noon? What was this nonsense? She'd spent hours selecting course curriculum, counted and ensured that they would cover the same number of subjects their kid's peers were doing back in school, and she'd even added the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer to eke in a few more minutes of clocked school time. She puzzled and puzzled till her puzzler was sore, and all she could conclude was that they weren't doing enough at the core. Maybe she wasn't stretching out her talking points and explaining the lessons enough. But the kids seemed to understand and were doing their practice work without confusion. So maybe they should be doing more than one lesson a day? Or should she be adding in more subjects, or pile on some outside classes to ensure that they were doing school until the bell would normally ring at 3:30 p.m. and then they could call it a day, pass out classroom reminders, and inhale a whole sleeve of Chips Ahoy while watching cartoons, and then pass out for a pre homework nap. You know, like she did when she got home from school each day.

No, this is a classic tale or case of new homeschool shock. Also, this was our family's homeschool year one, right out of the gate. We were insanely proficient in the morning and sometimes bored all afternoon. Homeschooling takes exponentially less time per day than classroom learning where 20 plus kids of all abilities are vying for one teacher's attention and busywork as a tool of distraction. But because we were steeped in the public school mindset and the schedule of K-12—my husband and I were public school grads, and my recently liberated twins had been there for three years, and my mother was a retired school teacher, and several of my aunts and cousins were too. And no one in my family had ever homeschooled, and we were trying to keep the peace and appearances for those who didn't agree and the regimented security blanket of following the checklists of institutional learning. You know, where each grade takes nine months and summer break five days a week, eight hours a day, plus at least three hours of homework each evening. No getting ahead, no falling behind. Switch subjects every hour and formal learning takes all day. Education, as we learned from our schooling, meant planning precisely every minute of structured learning between 8 and 3-ish. And at that time, I couldn't figure out how to drag our days out until 3 p.m. without graduating them by age 12. What was I doing wrong? And like most new homeschoolers, the immediate, triggered response was to think we must not be doing enough.

Now years later, when I get worried messages from moms who feel they aren't doing enough and I scratch the surface of their homeschool day by asking what their routine is and what subjects they are doing and how, I often find that, like we were once, many new homeschoolers are doing too much sit down school imitation and not enough homeschool life living. Get up, get doing, get out of the house. Or at least out of the dining room, spare bedroom or basement space that you've turned into a classroom. Now some eyebrows are going up now, and you're looking for the camera in the room. Can she see me and all my inspirational posters and my assignment turn-in basket? Yes, yes, I can. Homeschooling, unlike the school system, is not a program your kids must survive, but a family journey they turn around and thank you for some day. And here is my advice or five ways to quiet the nagging worry to do more without destroying your kids love of learning and memories of homeschooling.

So the first thing: stop playing school. I know it is so much fun to decorate your classroom and announce the lunch menu and line leader for the day. Of course, you should buy a globe and some base ten blocks if you'll use them, but don't set up a roll call and a behavior chart or ring a bell between subjects. And definitely don't set a time goal or limit on each subject. Nothing can screw up the understanding of a math concept, like the bell ringing halfway through the practice problems and a grammar workbook being shoved in your face. Homeschooling works because we do the opposite of this. Finish what you started. Allow for as many questions as necessary. Get out of those desks. Get on the floor with the dog and a whiteboard, and really get immersed in the work. Comfy with snacks will keep them going and learning longer than strict classroom etiquette.

Now, number two: don't be the teacher. You know, be more like a prefect. Now, if you ever read any British boarding school stories or the Harry Potter series, you'll know that this is like head boy or head girl learning right alongside them, but leading the pack right there on the floor with them. Maybe with your own whiteboard as a game in math. You know, when relearning algebra, right alongside my guys, we would sometimes each do a problem on our own whiteboard and then turn and show our work and see who was right fastest, fastest and right, like a game. And if I was wrong, I humbly let them show me why, which happened often, and how to fix it. So quit being the teacher. Learn right along with them. It's actually a lot more fun. But of course, continue to be the leader.

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Now, my number three advice on making sure that you're doing enough real homeschooling is to spread the learning out. If your kids are rubbing their shoulders, whining, and staring out the window by mid-morning, maybe you are finishing too quickly because you are doing too much, too quickly. Shutting the math book and immediately turning on the science video, followed by 45 minutes of reading and a grammar quiz, all done by lunch is seriously tedious. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Let them get up and stretch. Take small breaks for a walk around the block, or to feed your pets or farm animals, or play a game of foursquare in the driveway. All of this is allowed. You homeschool, remember? If you want to get up and disrupt the room with an impromptu rubber band war, you can without worry of being sent to the principal's office. So spread out the learning and make it a little bit more fun to get through the lessons.

Now my number four advice is go see, do, touch, try, experiment, conversate, work, enjoy and relax in the moment. You rejected or left the school system in its boxy, cold, caged classrooms, so don't build your own cage at home. It's easy to get carried away at getting ahead in academic areas to check boxes of accomplishment, tear through the textbooks. Once you see how fast your kids can move with one on one help from their favorite prefect mom or dad, you'll be tempted to do just one more chapter this week, just one more lesson for good measure or to finish early this spring, but that kind of persuasion to perform will likely continue with a jump start on the next school year in the spring, and the actual break you bribed them with might never happen. Now, as a type A mom myself, I know it's hard to relax when you want to make sure they are competitive academically, but there's a max capacity point to every kind of learning and shaking things up and learning outside of books and written assignments will boost, not hinder, their knowledge. The whole wide world, your community services, museums, cultural centers, locally owned businesses, churches, parks, historical sites, nature preserves, government facilities, transportation stations, wildlife sanctuaries and all the unique personalities, wannabe mentors, professionals, experienced older persons, wise and unwise, skilled and trained, filled with stories, famous and infamous people in your area are your classroom now. Make use of it. Don't just read about horticulture, grow something. Don't just remember the Alamo, go see it. Immerse yourself and your kids in the world with hands-on experiences. And this can happen with activities as simple as going out and searching for the different types of clouds or animals scat you just learned about. Or learn to fix cars with papa or getting involved in a program that has your kid becoming a licensed pilot at age 17, something I never even thought was possible when we started homeschooling my son at age 8. Apprenticeships can happen before graduation. Kids can start their own businesses, grow their own food, build things, invent things, be the family's own personal geek squad. Kids are capable of so much more than the school system allows or can offer, and it's so much more than finishing a few chapters ahead of the pack.

And now, my fifth piece of advice for this scenario of feeling like, hey, I don't think we're doing enough, is use the extra time to learn concepts and skills that they will actually use. Schools make learning all about academic courses and sports. When we think of school, we think English class, math class, science class, study hall, band, P.E., maybe art, and a structured STEM class, which is why many high school graduates know that Saturn has rings that pi times diameter equal circumference, and a proper essay has five paragraphs with an intro and a conclusion. But they don't know what internal temperature chicken should be brought to before it is safe to consume, or the dangers of credit card debt, or how to balance daily life, errands, a budget, and family time. With homeschooling, kids can be a part of everyday life requirements and maintenance. Resist the urge to finish the academic studies, and then dismiss the kids to their screens and toys, or drown them in a monotonous workbook and crafts while you then do all the laundry, the dishes, the cooking, appointment making, grocery shopping, banking, yard work, vehicle maintenance, holiday preparations, house cleaning, and community involvement.

So if you are in this homeschool situation where you feel you aren't doing enough because you're finishing lessons early each day and it seems a little too easy, well, you are correct. You aren't doing enough because you aren't doing enough real homeschooling. Quit playing school and start being a homeschool family. And now I said I was going to give you two opposing homeschool tales where parents were left believing they weren't doing enough and that they really weren't doing enough. And here is tail number two. Picture this. It probably won't be hard. There's a mom folding another load of clothes, watching her kid build a pencil-napkin-calculator-salt-and-pepper-shaker fort atop the kitchen table. He's doing everything but the math he's got open before him. She tosses the last lone sock into feet, sighs, takes a swig of her room temperature coffee, glances at the coffee pot that's gone cold as well, and then grabs her phone and scrolls the same four apps she checked 30 minutes ago. "Please finish your math. Do you need help? I'm right here," she repeats with boredom of what has become their daily routine. He grunts an annoyed, "No." "Well, if you'd finish up, we can get done early today. Maybe go do something fun." She says this aloud, but secretly she's thinking, But what? What would we do that's fun enough to motivate him? And besides, we're too behind to have fun, we need to get caught up. We haven't been able to watch that documentary series that I bought last month, we've neglected history lessons for weeks. Oh, my good gravy, it's 1:00 already. Well, what if we only do math today? What about the English and the science I have on the planner? And he needs to practice driving some more. I should have him signed up for some kind of test prep for college already, too probably. We're not doing enough. And then she glances over to the kitchen table and he's no longer there. Having escaped from his work to lie idle on the couch, equally as paralyzed by the pile of to dos on his planner that seemed pointless and insurmountable. And mom is right. Well, was right. Show them the career path they are currently interested in, look at skill training courses and college requirements, talk about what they will need to do to prepare in real terms. Treat your child like they are already in training and on the path for the career they hope to have, because they are on that path and will feel empowered to realize it.

Now number two. The second thing that you might not be doing enough of is following through with your homeschool plans consistently. It's not enough to write out a colorful plan each week, month, or semester—and I suggest doing this weekly to stay accurate and not waste good gel pens, and I have a whole post on planners at highfalutinhomeschooler.com, FYI. But you also must follow your plans, not just write them, which is why weekly plans are better because life throws curveballs. But despite these interferences, you have to be as consistent as possible. Homeschooling is your job, and like a job, if you don't do it, you don't get paid. Well, in this case, you won't reach the goals you set for the season, the year, and especially not those set for after homeschool graduation if you don't do the things.

Right now you may be nodding your head in agreement that you don't enforce your child's homeschool plans and should improve upon. But the third thing that you may not be doing enough of is even more important, and that is modeling your expectations. If you're playing on your phone while griping at your kid to stop doodling and go ahead and graph those equations already, well, aren't you a hypocrite? Of course, we parents have more important things to do than scroll social media or solve the word of the day—laundry, of course, but what are their chores and responsibilities are we ignoring to avoid the same stress or frustration or dislike that our kids are in? Also, we could be learning for ourselves alongside them to teach them later, or simply to show them how to learn. That it's a lifelong journey for knowledge, not a part of life that's thankfully over at 18-years-old, or whenever they get hired on at their dream job. We have to put our money where your mouth is. Keep learning and modeling the desire for your kids. Try, fail, get up and dust off, try again within their view.

And we can't expect our kids to do what we aren't willing to do ourselves, which is also necessary to have any kind of credibility for the number four thing on my list that you might not be doing enough of: holding everyone accountable. Good attitudes and productive behaviors are created with encouragement, support, and repercussions for unmet expectations or failures to follow through. Natural consequences are always best, of course. If no one cooks dinner, we don't eat. If your kid doesn't read the assignment before a group class, they'll be lost and embarrassed during the discussion possibly. They may fail the pop quiz. Sometimes we need to create consequences to enforce our homeschool plans for our kids to reach their goals, such as no screen time until lessons are complete or not being able to sign up for a fun or expensive activity if they don't help with family chores to earn the privilege. The catch is that many of us mama bears are bad about reneging on our threats or shielding our kids from the natural consequences where we can, when we ought to let some things sting a little for the long term benefit to their character and integrity. And there again, we should be open and be honest about our own unmet expectations and let our kids see us suffer those consequences as well.

However, there is an opposite upside. And the number five thing you may not be doing enough of is setting small, attainable rewards along the way. Obviously, the reward for good work and consistent homeschool progress is a well-rounded graduate ready to go after their goals in the real world. But a fourth grader slogging through grammar, or a ninth grader tackling taxonomy charts for biology both feel a long way from the rewards of graduation. Setting up smaller goal posts with rewards in sight can keep your homeschooler motivated and trying. There's always a fun outing, ice cream sundaes or simple gifts for achievements, like finishing all assignments on time for the week or mastering fractions. But a reward can also be getting to sign up for an activity they've been eager to try, such as 4-H shooting club or joining a local theater group for getting up at a decent hour and completing lessons timely and consistently, showing more maturity and appreciation by helping out more around the house. And parents can reward themselves with ice cream too. Or a yummy favorite coffee drink. Yet there is an even more delicious reward. The greatest reward is seeing your kid maturing and confidently working toward their future as a result of your consistent effort to do enough with faith that with God, you are enough to see them through.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I think about when parents say they're worrying they're not doing enough in their homeschool. And the one possibility that I left out is that you actually might not be doing anything at all and well, allowing your kids to do much of the same. And shame on you. What a waste of a great life. Get up and get busy living and learning with your wonderful gifts from God. And until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.

Thank you for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-share, go to greathomeschoolconventions.com/medishare.

Now, if you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast, and while you are there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show, and this will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected with our community. Also, you can find us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom and on Facebook at Homeschooling.mom. So let us know what you thought of today's episode. Leave us a comment. Let us know what you think.

Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at greathomeschoolconventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas.

Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me at Facebook at Hifalutin Homeschooler and on Instagram @hifalutinhomeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes. I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers. That's [email protected]. Until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.

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