Ah, Yes. Kenny Rodgers. The Man, the Myth, and the Legend.
I’ve known Kenny for many a year, thanks to the fact that my father, despite all notions to the contrary, LOVED country music. So when “The Gambler” came on the scene when I was but an impressionable whippesrsnapper of 2 years, little did I know what a grand impact Kenny would have on my life, and my future in homeschooling.
Let’s have a listen, shall we?
Ah, the smooth, melodic tones of Kenny, waxing and waning on how I need to look at homeschooling.
Wait… you didn’t see this? Well, let me break it down for you.
1. “You gotta know when to hold ’em,”
I can’t begin to tell you how many a book, curriculum, schedule, chore chart, meal plan, cleaning schedule, etc., has been thrown by the wayside after running into the first snafu. Have I ever told you about the history curriculum that someone dropped, and all the pages got mixed up and…. sigh. I couldn’t look at it, and just put it away. Its as if my perfection gets in the way and prevents me from accomplishing something “pretty good” overall, instead of “perfectly perfect” every step of the way. And what do I get in return for my perfectionism? Nothing. Nada. Na-Da.
The Hubs, being the practical, direct-minded type, has gently pointed out to me before that maybe, just maybe, I should hang on to a system that took me a week and a half to put together for longer than fifteen minutes after something doesn’t work out. Overcoming my perfectionism, not letting “perfection becoming the enemy of the good”, will certainly help, whether I’m attempting to streamline lunch prep or deciding on a history curriculum. Or putting the binder back together.
2. “Know when to fold ’em,”
Ah, perfectionism, you ugly thing. Sometimes, its not so much that I throw out what isn’t good enough, but rather, I persist in something that isn’t right. Maybe that spelling book isn’t getting us anywhere, but dagnabit, I WILL finish the book, despite the tears, complaints and tantrums. And the kids won’t like it either.
Finding that sweet spot, between “keeping on with what is worth it” and “ditching something that isn’t getting us anywhere” can be tough to find. Prayer, reflection, and hashing it out over margaritas with friends can help figure out which side of the sweet spot you’re on. And how to get to it.
3. “Know when to walk away,”
This one. This is the scary one. Sometimes, some homeschoolers have to walk away from homeschooling. It can be temporary, or permanent, for one or all of your kids, but its a big decision to make, and not one without a whopping dose of humility. At least, that’s the way it was for me.
Last year, The Hubs and I decided to put the two oldest boys in a local Catholic school. I have to admit, it was a bad, bad day when I finally broke down and called to ask if they were still accepting new students in October, but that day was the beginning of the decision, not the end. We talked, hashed, prayed, made a pro and con list, and in the end, believed that God really wanted the boys in school that year. In the end, we found that Alex had a vision problem that was brought to our attention when I went to the school’s reading specialist to ask her for help, thinking he might be dyslexic. I believe with all my heart that God wanted the boys there that year, so that we could find this out and have Alex treated for it (can I tell you what a world of difference it made!), and for James to have the experience in his class. However, we also knew pretty well into the rest of the year, that it would only be for that year. Now, they’re back home, and where we are having problems now I recognize not as a homeschooling problem, but a disciple problem (theirs? mine? I’ll never tell….), but I have a clear idea of what needs to change to make it work. All in all, though, they are still learning, even if its not the model of a well oiled machine that I wished it was (stupid perfectionism…. get. out. of. here!).
4. “And know when to run.”
Betcha thought this one was going to be about running away from homeschooling, eh? Nope. There is so much more to run away from; something bigger, something destructive, and something that has the power to grip you with fear and drag you to your knees in feelings of inadequacy.
Run. From. It. Whether its certain blogs, fellow moms in your homeschool group, the kid down the block who is reading well before your child, whatever it is, do not, I repeat, DO NOT let yourself get sucked into comparing yourself with another family’s homeschool experience.
Family A makes lapbooks of every unit study they add on for fun about whatever off the wall subject their children are all interested in, while you can’t stand the idea of sitting at a table for two hours, folding papers and getting your child to copy the vocabulary words associated with the solar system, and besides, the three year old keeps eating all the glue sticks.
Don’t compare. Run.
Family B manages to have all their children reading by age four, which is very helpful to “Mother,” as quiet time consists of a two hour block of reading for the children (after naps, of course) whilst she naps or takes some time to work on a sewing project, whereas in your house, you find yourself sitting on the couch next to your six year old who really doesn’t care to learn to read as you hit yourself in the head with your worn copy of “Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons” screaming, “why? won’t? this? work???”
Don’t compare. Run.
Family C raises chickens, has a vegetable garden in the backyard, makes their own compost, bakes everything from scratch, is Paleo, Gluten Free, Organic, on the Feingold diet, and the kids do planks every morning. Many evenings, your husband comes home from a long day at work, asks you what’s for dinner, and you just stare at him, blinking, wondering what the heck he’s talking about.
You are not that mother. Her kids are not your kids. Your family is soooo not her family. The exact path and mission given to you by God to get to Heaven is different. Period. That’s why you’re in charge of your brood with your husband, and she’s not. Can we learn from each other? Absolutely! But if looking at what she’s doing is only serving to make you feel like you’re a big fat failure? Check your head, and maybe look elsewhere for encouragement.
So, Kenny, I want to thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Homeschooling can feel like a big gamble, and your words of wisdom really do shine a light on how to keep one’s head about it. In fact, when you think about it, the “Kenny Rogers Philosophy of ‘The Gambler'” can really apply to any situation in life.
And remember, “they’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealing’s done.”