Before I started school as a kid, I was a challenge to my parents. Strong-willed is the term, I think. I'm told that once I started school, everything calmed down for the most part. 30 years later, it is a common sentiment I've heard from other parents. Kids, especially those strong-willed ones, do really well with clear boundaries and structure. That's not some new revelation, but it has been a lesson that I have relearned over the past year.
The homeschooling lifestyle can be very structured of course, but it doesn't have to be. The advantages can also be the difficulties. We don't have to scramble out the door in the morning or wake babies up from their naps to go wait in the pick-up line. When other things happen in our life and we don't complete something, we simply keep going or pick it up later. If someone struggles in a subject, we take as long as we need to work it out. The flexibility is amazing! But that also means there is a lot of flexibility which won't look like the well-laid out public classroom that awaits the arrival of children. My kids, for better and worse, have seen the woman behind the curtain and know the truth. Sometimes things are nicely organized and sometimes we do that together.
So, when we talk about kids needing boundaries and structure, it probably looks a little different in our household insomuch as there is a lot of bleeding over between the various aspects of our lives. J isn't a classic strong-willed child so I have often reserved the iron-fist for miss Z. However, the past year he and I have struggled with being more structured and efficient. I tried to be and he fought me a lot. "It's too hard." "I can't do it." "Why do I have to?" Hearing this day in and day out makes you start to doubt yourself. Am I being too hard on him? Maybe it really is hard and I'm just making it worse? And then there are lots of days when I just don't want to fight about it all. That motivates more things than I'm proud to admit.
Over the summer, I tried to better organize and de-clutter various areas of our home and life. With that came a refreshed attitude and higher expectations for our school days. J had demonstrated more than once that most things were not too hard. The truth was that he didn't want to slow down and do them. So, typical yes, but nothing to feel sorry for him about. We've been on a better schedule the last few weeks and things are going a lot better. I've stopped reacting to his dramatics and they have decreased. He may complain or at least share his honest opinion of it, but he still proceeds to accomplish things in record time.
Most issues with kids involves two major factors: the kids issues and the parents issues. When you are in the heat of it, it is so difficult to know the difference. Sometimes children have real behavior or educational difficulties. Sometimes parents just tolerate more than they should. The wisdom is knowing the difference before it's too late. My prayer this year is to recognize my weaknesses better so that they might not be confused with the needs of my children.