Discovering you are further behind in your “planned schedule” is more than frustrating—it is downright demoralizing. When it happens, and it will happen to you at least once, you may feel as though your entire homeschooling journey has been a failure. Don’t worry! Just because one schedule did not reach completion as planned does not negate your entire experience! It only means that you (like the rest of us) are not perfect—and why do we all exist, if not to learn and grow?
Goals can be moving targets
Did you ever set out to do something and only later realize that it was a small part of a larger picture? I know I have (this magazine is a good example). Many times, as I neared original goal I had set, I realized that there was more to do. I had found a moving target; a target that required some finesse and stamina to achieve. You could compare it to driving down a road full of gentle rolling hills—each hill you drive over gives you a new view, demonstrating not only your progress, but also how far you have left to go; not to mention highlighting things you did not see when you began your journey.
Learning and education are like this—moving targets. We put time and energy into achieving the next thing on the list, setting ever higher goals. Your son finally coded the movement for that robotic arm? Great! Now we can work on connecting it to the body. It goes on like this, setting ever more complicated and difficult goals, until the true purpose becomes clear. Those are fine—they achieve multiple goals, and even though your son may decide not to build that robot, he has learned enough to create something else. Maybe instead, the idea morphed into an automatic laundry folder that even puts them away for you!
I would be fine with that—who wouldn’t?
Fantasies about not having to do certain chores aside, the point is that even though we may have had definite ideas and a clear vision for something, sometimes it grows; evolving into something very different of its own accord.
Frequently, the end goal is obvious: graduating your son from high school with a rounded education, while including plenty of extras in areas of interest to him.
Others, it is less obvious—and it is those less-than-obvious end goals that become frustrating.
Fuzzy goals are like driving through a fog bank
Fuzzy goals, the type where you started without a clear picture of the end result, are the main culprit behind what feels like a failed goal. They cause tears, pulled out hair, and even a few new gray hairs. They are annoyingly persistent, but yet off in the distance behind a fog bank.
These are the goals where the only real solution is to admit that perhaps, your mental picture was not as clear as you originally believed. Then you can begin to make the necessary changes in order to move forward.
Before you decide what to do, sit down and write it all on paper. Yes, paper. Something amazing happens when you physically write on paper, and what was once foggy or ill-defined suddenly becomes crystal-clear.
You may find that the the goals you set were not too far out of this world. They only required a few more steps along the way in order to achieve them.
Destinations are important,
but not always the point behind the journey.
For example: You and your son decided that you wanted to read Plato or Sophocles in their original forms. So, you bought copies in Greek. Your Attic Greek isn’t quite strong enough, but you thought that painstakingly translating it, dictionary in hand, would do the trick.
I am fairly certain that any you, or anyone without a strong foundation of Attic (or Koine) Greek would have difficulty with this. So, instead of following through with the crazy idea of muscling through and translating each word, you quit because it was really hard.
Ancient Greek is not a language for the faint of heart, and while it is beautiful (many of the accents indicated musical responses, such as pitch and duration changes), it needs more than an English-Attic dictionary to do it justice.
A goal like this needs to be broken down, and here is what I would do:
1. Identify the goal, by deciding which texts you eventually want to read
2. Know which form of Greek the writers used (pre-323BC would be closer to Attic and post-323BC more akin to Koine)
3. Seek out a course that will systematically help you read and understand the chosen language.
4. Study it regularly, while periodically checking back with the texts you want to read.
5. After a year or more, you should be able to start reading them slowly, and with more success.
Failed goals were based on incomplete or inaccurate information
The previous ancient Greek example is one of these. You operated on the false assumption that language is nothing more than a collection of words. Language, like so many other things in life, is much more than the sum of its parts. Setting a lofty (yet admirable) goal of reading the classics in their original is all well and good, but you must break it down into components that become sign posts on your way to success.
In raising our kids, it is important to realize that often, our expectations set us up for failure and disappointment. (We thought geometry was easy, so therefore, our kids must also think it is easy.) When we set goals, they do need to be challenging, but also reasonable enough that with proper planning and hard work, they are achievable.
Even well-defined plans sometimes go awry
What happens when you realize that everything looked right? Goals were reasonable yet challenging, the plans well-thought out, and target clear—it should have worked. It is your job to determine what went wrong, and how to get back on track.
Often when this occurs, there was a life event that took up time and mental real estate. These things happen, and rather than allow yourself to become stressed about the situation, take a step back.
1. Was falling behind avoidable? If so, learn from the experience and find ways to prevent it in the future.
2. Is it vital to catch up, or is the topic an elective that can be delayed a bit with no ill-effects?
If getting back on track is your best bet, then you must honestly assess the amount of work required. Afterwards, you can figure out how much to do, and when, in order to get back on track.
If, on the other hand, you decide that those goals you set for your kids were pipe dreams, then it is time to reexamine them with a fresh perspective—and maybe ditch them altogether.
Now that I am homeschooling teens, I can’t help but wonder why some of their high school credits couldn’t be completed the same way as the minimester courses I took in college.
Tavia Fuller Armstrong, Make Mine a Minimester!
In the end, your schedule should reflect the goals you wish to achieve with your kids. If it doesn’t, then you need to adjust something. They need to be realistic but ambitious but, most importantly, flexible enough to allow for life changes. As homeschoolers, we have much more time to prepare our kids for life than we realize, if only we take a look around and realize the truth of the matter: your schedule is nothing more than a roadmap; if you do not deliberately leave room for detours, setbacks and rest-stops you will become frustrated and angry.
When the going gets tough, just remember that life is a journey, not a destination. While destinations are important, they are not always the point of the journey.
Learning Tangent is Gail’s brainchild. When it all goes down, she has to get the magazine out the door and on its way to subscribers. She has four kids, of whom she and her husband David homeschool two. She enjoys a wide range of activities including weaving, photography, writing, is a musician (both a teacher & performer), calligrapher, and is an avid sci-fi- & fantasy reader. You’ll generally find her busy doing whatever it is she wants to on a given day.