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    Wanting to Quit

    August 15, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    I have a day or two each year when I am seriously serious (!) about quitting homeschooling. I am completely stressed out, not enjoying my children, they aren’t enjoying it–or me, or each other–either, and it seems just no good, very bad. I usually call my husband (weeping and gnashing my teeth) and tell him that it is over and this is a foolish dream.

    And so on.

    We all have those days, do we not? And if the days build into weeks, we eventually reach that Breaking Point where something has to give. We cannot go on forever.

    Our homes, to put it plainly, need peace.

    Thankfully, I don’t feel this way today. Last year might have had its occasional bad days, but those were outweighed by the good, and I look forward to this coming year, learning and growing with my children.

    There has been some conversation among Amblesiders lately about feeling like failures, about wanting to quit, and this really has me thinking. When I find myself fantasizing about sending my children to school, I remind myself of two things:

    1. Sending a child to school (I know I have said something like this before, but I need to repeat it to myself, so bear with me) because we have found something we think is best for him and will profit him is one thing. Abandoning him to failure, deserting him, quitting on him…this is another thing entirely, and it is a burden he will carry with him to school.
    2. When we want to quit, there are usually only one or two things going wrong that are causing a ripple-effect of bad things. We have to figure out what is really wrong in order to solve the problem.

    Let me give an example of that second point. Let’s take a hypothetical six-year-old boy. And let’s say he’s generally belligerent and refusing to learn and/or obey Mom. In our house, this has meant any number of things–that the hypothetical boy was having an allergic reaction, that he needed more consistent discipline, that we were asking too much or too little in regard to chores or lessons, that he wasn’t being fed on ideas and so his mind was idle and therefore getting into trouble, that he was struggling with something in his personal life, that he had “caught” Mommy’s anxiety about other things (or crankiness from being sleep-deprived), that he needed more rest, that he needed better food, that he needed more time outside, that he needed more free time for thinking and playing, and so on and so forth.

    The ripple effect might involve ruining meals or, even better, torturing sisters who then begin crying and promptly become overly sensitive and needy.

    And once the ripple effect starts, Mom starts to feel tortured and frustrated, she is spending much time on discipline and counseling, the house falls apart, laundry doesn’t get done, dinner is late…

    Chaos has set in.

    Every single time something like this has happened in our home, I have wasted a number of days putting out small fires without ever getting to the source of the flame.

    And then I remember Charlotte, and her words of wisdom.

    If you recall, Charlotte has foundational principles upon which we build our house of education. It is safe to assume that if the house is falling apart, the foundation is bad. One of the major keys to peace in the home, according to Charlotte, is formation of good habits. Charlotte knew that peace was required for sound learning. This is why it is okay to stop school and tackle habits–because children learn nothing amidst the swirl of chaos. I’m not saying the home has to be perfect to have lessons–if that were the case, we wouldn’t have been able to start school yet! But what I am saying is that on my meltdown days, it would be better for me to stop and assess where we’ve lost our foundation than to force lesson upon lesson without dealing with the problem.

    We can’t underestimate the power of habit in our families. I remember that once upon a time I realized we actually had a Bad Day Habit. I kid you not! I could have written the script! Child A says/does X, Child B says/does Y, Mom says/does Z, and we in short order play the game called Everybody Cries. Once we stopped the cycle and built a Good Day Habit, things were much better. If I can recognize the beginning of the Bad Day Script now, I can usually stop it.

    Until the toddler completely drops his morning nap, of course.

    Another oft overlooked foundation principle from Charlotte is that of creating and maintaining the conditions of healthy brain activity. This is easy to assess…until it isn’t. Back in Charlotte’s day, it was considered a moral duty to feed a child right. Because the child was a stewardship from God, parents did not have the right to overfeed them on sweetmeats. (That is almost a direct quote from either Volume 1 or 3–I don’t remember precisely.) Today, the Robinson Curriculum is considered strict because they forbid sugar and honey as part of their educational program. It has been known for a very long time that sugar impacts behavior. If our day is already going poorly, the worst thing I could do is add unsteady blood sugar into the mix.

    So many other things can cause unhealthy brain conditions–allergens, not enough sleep, illness, consumption of low-nutrient foods, and so on. We can’t prevent allergies, but we can eliminate them or avoid allergens and build healthy habits that promote good brain conditions. Charlotte reminds us that not everything is caused by poor discipline.

    Of course, some things are, hence her emphasis on building good moral habits and good mental habits.

    Last but not least, we could probably review Charlotte’s chapters on School Out of Doors. Charlotte knew that children under the age of nine did best with long outside hours and lots of knowledge gained through the five senses. Sometimes, our school frustrations stem from forgetting all of that and mentally competing with our local Indoor School.

    All of this is why Charlotte said that families who have lessons at home must have a thinking love for their children. We have to learn to step back and assess, rather than get drawn into the fray and chaos. We have to learn to direct rather than respond. We have to have peace.

    Thankfully, we have access to peace any time we wish.

    The LORD will give strength to His people;
    The LORD will bless His people with peace

    Psalm 29:11

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  • Reply Kimbrah August 17, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I keep forgetting to utilize that resource! There is just not enough time in the day sometimes! 🙂

    I agree that I am trying to use CM habit training methods on myself as well. 🙂

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts August 17, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Good point, Kimbrah.

    I had a very good model in my mother, but I built some very bad (i.e., selfish) habits after leaving home and before getting married.

    This sort of thing came up over on the Ning site. I had to confess that part of our bad day habits were MY bad day habits. I mean, the kids had them also, but it wasn’t just them, it was me, too, and even after I broke them of their bad habits, I discovered I had to break myself of mine.

    I am trying to use CM’s habit training methods on myself! 🙂

  • Reply Kimbrah August 16, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for the reminder Brandy. We have had a lot of chaos around this house lately. I think we are finally getting a handle on it, but it is exhausting. I could see where someone would just want to throw in the towel altogether and put the child in school.

    A great book Eddie and I are reading together right now is “Loving Our Kids on Purpose” by Danny Silk. We have about 3 more chapters to go and I can’t wait to finish it! I would say this book is more about the parents forming good habits to pass on to the children. It should have occurred to me long ago that I never had anyone to model GOOD family behavior to me. That has been my biggest struggle because I feel like I only had chaos modelled to me, so how can I not just pass that along to my kids. The book has been really great for giving us tools and direction. I hope to write a review of it on our blog when we are done reading it.

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