It's been "one of those days" in our homeschool, where nothing seems to be going right. There have been tears over assignments, poorly completed (and incomplete) work, interruptions, siblings with bad attitudes toward one another, and time wasted as children wait on me for help. It's as though our vessel is in the water, fully loaded, but we aren't moving. Or worse yet—as though our homeschool is slowly moving off course. 

If this sounds similar to days in your family, you are one of many in this large homeschooling fleet. If you are new enough to homeschooling that you haven't yet experienced "one of those days," just wait a little longer. They're coming! The highs and the lows, the ups and the downs of homeschooling are inevitable.

Man-Made Frustrations

The most obvious source of problems in our homeschool is often . . . me! I'm the main educator, so I've got to admit my own weaknesses and failures. Tough as it is to admit, poor planning on my part can be a big contributor to our struggles. If I don't wake up early enough, if I don't get books and schedules organized ahead of time, if I don't reserve necessary library materials, or if I don't pre-read the teacher's guides or purchase supplies we might need, I can be the number one cause of our struggles and lack of learning.

Another way I can add to our difficulties is by allowing interruptions to master us. When I answer unnecessary phone calls throughout the day, our school time can be squandered. I've learned to turn off the ringer during school hours or screen calls using our answering machine. In other seasons of our schooling, I've gotten carried away on the computer, doing Internet searches or e-mail instead of having the self-control to postpone those tasks. I can also add to our struggles by saying yes to too many outside activities. The result? We are harried and stressed out, gone from home too much to do our normal schoolwork.

Thank the Lord I'm not the only human source of disappointment in our homeschool! Other man-made issues can and do challenge our homeschooling. Sometimes equipment or electronics don't work; computers, DVD players, and printers can be a major thorn in my side! Science experiments don't always go according to plan either. Those are the sorts of things that require a joyful spirit and a flexible response from me. What a great chance for me to model Christlikeness to my children!

On other occasions, my disappointment in homeschooling stems from a curriculum that's not as challenging (or relaxed, or structured, or flexible, or fill-in-the-blank with your own adjective!) as I had hoped. When a curriculum is not meeting my expectations over weeks and months, I can lose heart. There are two possible solutions to the not-as-I-had-expected curriculum. One is to make a fresh start by dropping that curriculum. Yes, you'll eat the financial loss, but making a change now—not waiting until fall—can energize the rest of your school year and be an encouragement to both you and your child.

Many of us latched onto a curriculum early in our homeschooling days simply because another homeschooling mom recommended one that worked for her. But is that God's best for my family and my child? If not, no wonder I am discouraged! Learn about the vast number of curriculum options from the many ads in this issue of Home School Enrichment or the product reviews near the end. Or grab Cathy Duffy's helpful book, 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child's Learning.

As I have studied each of my children and researched their God-given learning styles, I have made wiser curriculum choices, those which better suit their individual strengths. For example, at times I've steered the course of our science study away from books and worksheets (geared to a visual learner) toward experiments and building projects (suited to a kinesthetic learner) or Jonathan Park's creation science audio dramas (for an auditory learner). I have also played some of G.A. Henty's audiobooks as our primary history source for a while, meeting the need of one of my children and overcoming my frustrations with another, poorly suited text.