I’m a homeschoolin’ mama! And far too often at math time, I feel like a bad homeschooling mom. My feelings of inadequacy are somewhat unfounded, I realize, but there’s definitely something afoot that needs careful and sensitive attention. Homeschooling is a great experience, but when homeschoolers get frustrated both the parent and child can feel overwhelmed.
I know I can’t be the only homeschooling parent who goes through moments of anxiety where I feel like I’m doing everything wrong and my children are learning nothing. I fight almost daily with myself about my method. We chose to homeschool because it was becoming increasingly apparent that traditional public school was doing my oldest daughter a major disservice, but here I am feeling as though I am failing her too.
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Frustration During Homeschool Math
My 10 year old has a difficult time with math. I never struggled with math until I got to calculus in college (it’s part of the reason I switched from engineering to English), so it’s a little difficult for me to relate and find the most effective teaching methods. Now that she is struggling with recalling multiplication facts and long division, she gets frustrated easily wants to give up.
When she’s not sure what the next step is, she just stares at the air, tries to deflect my attention to one of her siblings or just starts talking about something totally unrelated hoping that I have somehow forget what we were doing. Upon going back to the problem we’re working on, the attitude kicks in and body parts are suddenly itching or aching, she’s thirsty or needs a snack, tears… “There will be blood.” I have to admit, she gets the dramatics honestly, but there has to be another way. This is her frustration showing itself.
I am constantly encouraging her to try, to work through it and to slow down. “Patience is key,” I tell her. It’s a process and we have to honor the process. Truly, “life…a’int no crystal stair,” to loosely quote Langston Hughes, and pushing through the tough times allows us to see the sunshine on the other side of the problem. She doesn’t realize that I’m not just talking to her, but to myself as well. We both need the encouragement because experiencing this together is teaching us more about ourselves, our personalities and how we interact with one another.
Frustration as a Homeschool Parent
Here’s my frustration. I don’t understand why she is lost when we have been repeating the same concepts day in and day out. We make it fun. We play games, we take turns writing on the board, she plays math reinforcement games on the computer and on her phone, we use our math facts while shopping, she even gets to play teacher sometimes.
But when we sit down to do a worksheet or practice solving problems she’s gets an attitude and is frustrated with me if I don’t hold her hand each step of the way. I’m always available to assist, but if I never let her try things on her own, how will I know what areas to focus on more closely?
I do my best to remain calm and steady during a frustration exhibition, but some days I’m not so patient and understanding and we have to move on and come back hours later (which is okay, but does it always have to come to that?). Sometimes taking a breather does little to alleviate the grief and tension, but we push forward and neither of us feel really good about it.
She wants to play and have down time or cook or create art. I’m all for it, but we have to cover these mathematical concepts, right? I often wonder, just how serious is it in an increasingly automated society. (I still remember seeing cashiers manually enter UPC codes and use a carbon copy credit card slider thing. We didn’t walk around with a do everything contraption in our pocket like we do now.)
Sometimes I’m out of ideas and I repeat the question a little louder each time, as if that is somehow going to make the problem suddenly make sense to her. I want to be respectful of her space and boundaries. Just because she is a child doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve respect. But I’m just as frustrated as she is and those old school parenting ways start beating in my ear, telling me to make her keep going and ignore her discomfort.
Some days I am at my wits end with her and math, and I let it go. “Perfect practice makes perfect,” I hear in the back of my mind and I want her to excel, but is pushing so hard really the answer? There has to be a way that doesn’t make us both feel as though we aren’t enough.
What I’m learning as a Homeschool Parent
Here’s what I’m learning from the daily math struggle. She and I are very similar. When frustrated, I also itch and fidget. I don’t always pay attention very well at times, usually because I’m rushing—something I’ve done my whole life it seems. Learning has always been pretty easy for me, and I usually don’t have to put much effort into learning things. So when things don’t come easy, I feel tempted to give up. I don’t know how to be quiet. If I’m not thinking, I’m talking, or thinking some more. There are always words swirling about my being, and I find that I am often seeking silence. I want to learn how to be quiet.
I see many of these traits in her. Because I’m still working on myself, I have a few keys to offer. But, I can’t force her to use them. I can only plant the seeds and water them. Time/sunlight will take care of the rest.
This parenting thing is like one big experiment that’s full of theorems, postulates, hypotheses, suggestions and guesses.
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Solutions for When Homeschoolers Get Frustrated
I’m thinking that learning to become silent is something that can benefit us both. Far too often, I think we are not actively listening to one another. But how do we accomplish this silence thing?
I want to start a regular meditation routine. I recently came across Insight Timer, a free meditation app that offers community, guided meditations, relaxing melodies and more. Making the time to do this is another ball of wax. Remember that rushing habit I talked about?
Both of us need to learn how to slow down and pay attention to what is happening, both inside ourselves and outside. I am willing, but I have to be more patient with this process and diligent with the follow through. I definitely have a lot of responsibilities, but equipping my children to navigate this life is paramount, and I must be about this business.
The change starts with me. I lead, and maybe they’ll follow. If they don’t, at the very least they will see that there is another way. That the stress and frustration does not have to have so much power over us. Stress isn’t ideal, and I don’t want to remain stressed.
The more I ponder the frustration we are both experiencing, I’m beginning to think that our problem is not a math problem, but more of a noisy situation.
Need More Tips
There are also times when you just need to take a break. Here’s some tips on how to take productive homeschool breaks. Homeschooling? 7 Ways to Take A Break
What do you do when your children feel frustrated with their homework, classwork or life in general? What are some of the ways you help to reduce stress for both yourself and them?