Friday, August 5, 2016

Great Distortions: Educating Expectations

About 10 years ago, my husband and I were excitedly planning our wedding and honeymoon when one of us stumbled on to some really great advice in a magazine.

Don’t expect that just because you are on this monumental vacation that the person you are normally is going to suddenly change.  A high activity person is still going to want to get out and do things and the slow paced person will still appreciate lying on the beach just reading a book.

The article’s intent was for the reader to consider the normal rhythms of life when choosing a destination and itinerary for your honeymoon to help counteract the unrealistic expectations that almost always accompany such a trip.  It was and is really good advice!  We are both slow paced personalities and so a cabin in the mountains was a great choice for us.  Naïve expectations creep in unannounced everywhere even when we’re looking for them.  10 years, 2 kids, 2 dogs, 2 houses and numerous trips later I can say with certainty that those expectations can ruin the best of us.  It is now becoming clear that the same rules apply to adventures in homeschooling. 

Our choice to homeschool is based on educational standards, traveling flexibility, and making our family a priority – all things we really believe in.  I may have all the principled reasons in the world, but that doesn’t change my introverted need for regular amounts of down time and privacy.  Like a young bride who is certain love is all she needs to survive, I must have assumed that because I was going to do this good thing in homeschooling that my basic rhythms wouldn’t matter.   It didn’t occur to me that my loathing of housework and laundry would be exacerbated by an increasing number of hours devoted to schooling.  It also didn’t fully register to me that, while I love my children fiercely, I would need (but not automatically receive) breaks from even the little people. 

Instead I envisioned the emotional fulfillment and maternal satisfaction I would receive from directing my children successfully.  I hung on to the thrill of teaching my own flesh how to read and write.  And, honestly, I have felt those wonderful things just like the newlywed and new parent has magical moments burned into their memory because it is everything you dreamed it would be.  But, as all perfect moments do, they pass and the other difficult moments begin to fill in the gaps.  The flesh begins to cry out in agony in spite of this really good thing we’re doing.

What do we do with all of the distorted expectations?   Educate, don’t eliminate.  Like the honeymoon article suggested, it’s important to back up and be honest about the rhythms of who we are.  I will never do well under a lot of pressure or thrive in chaos, but that just means I have to make time management a priority.  Then, let go of everyone else’s expectations that may have slipped in unannounced because your homeschool experience – much like your honeymoon – should honor who you and your family are.  Most of our friends are about to take a break from schooling for the summer, but long breaks don’t really work for us.  We school all year round, but take days/weeks off when we need it.  When our grand expectations look more like great distortions, remind yourself it is time for a deeper understanding of the family you’re working so hard to honor.
This was originally published at Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Schoolhouse Blog.

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