Homeschooling Myth #1: The Myth of the Patient Home Schooler

This post is the first in a new series I am calling “Homeschooling Myths.”  I hope you will share it with your friends and let me know what you think in the comments!

I began homeschooling in 1990.  It was a time when homeschooling was still very much on the fringes (and in some states still illegal).  Frankly, like many homeschooling moms I tried to not have my kids out-and-about during school hours because I quickly became tired of having my decision to homeschool questioned by every single person who learned we were homeschoolers.

Still, inevitably we would be somewhere, say the grocery store, and my children would be asked by someone, say the bagboy, “Where do you go to school?”  An innocuous question perhaps but without exception the conversation would quickly head south once my children replied, “We’re homeschooled,” or, better yet, “We don’t go to school.”

Now those of you who have been homeschooling as long as I have can probably predict what came next.  First the look.  Then the question: “But what about socialization?”

I will address the “myth of socialization” in a future post but suffice it to say that after 20+ years of being asked the “socialization question,” I’m totally over it.  Don’t ask me.  It’s stupid.  Moving on.

Over the years the #2 comment I have gotten from people after I tell them I homeschool is, without a doubt, something that goes like this: “If I homeschooled my kid I would kill them!”  Yes, people actually say things like that.

The idea that homeschoolers are inherently more patient than other parents should be so utterly, apparently false that it is a wonder parents think they can get away with this excuse…but they do!

In my whole life I think I’ve met two people that I believe had a natural tendency towards patience.  And both of them, interestingly enough, are nurses.  And I suspect that if you asked them if they believe that they are naturally patient people their response would be, “Say what?”

I can tell you I am most definitely not a patient person by nature.  Far from it.  Have I learned patience over the years?  Sure.  On the other hand, is it patience that causes me to just not care anymore when my 9-year old son takes over the kitchen to make it his raceway while I’m in the middle of fixing dinner, or is it just being oblivious?  I’m not sure.  I’m getting so old that the number of things I get huffy over keeps dwindling year by year.

In any case, I didn’t say to myself one day, “Wow, I am such a patient person I should homeschool my kids!”  And I can’t tell you frustrating it is when someone tells me, “You must be incredibly patient!” or “Oh, I could never do that – my kid and I fight over him doing his homework!”

I’d like to let you in on what seems to be a heavily-guarded secret: if you battle with your kid over their homework there’s something wrong with your parenting.  You’re the parent.  If you haven’t figured out how to get your kid to do their homework without it being a battle then I would say you might want to work on your parenting skills.  I suggest you read my post on “How To Be a Not-So-Average Parent.”  Of course, that would also mean that you have to be willing to change your parenting methods.  Are you?

Let’s take that one step further – don’t tell me that you can’t homeschool because you aren’t patient enough.  That is an excuse for not homeschooling, not a reason.

Over the years I’ve heard lots of excuses why parents don’t homeschool but I don’t think I’ve yet heard one good reason.  When you consider that there are single parents out there raising and homeschooling their kids on very limited budgets, it becomes even clearer that perhaps there aren’t any legitimate reasons not to homeschool, only excuses.

I have decided that when parents declare that they aren’t patient enough to homeschool what they are really doing is making a self-deprecating statement intended to elicit a certain response.  The response they are looking for is something on the order of: “Oh, how wise you are to realize your limitations.”  In actuality when I hear that statement I know that what that parent is really saying is that they have made the choice to not homeschool their children.  They are saying that it’s not worth it to them to work on their character a little in order to be able to give their child a superior educational experience.

I also know that it’s not worth trying to change that parent’s mind about their decision not to homeschool, because their choice really has nothing to do with whether they are patient or not – that is merely an excuse.  I’m very willing to help parents who want to homeschool by giving them advice, whether here on my site, in person when I meet them, or those who contact me via e-mail (by filling out the form on my “Contact” page).  But my time is valuable and I will not waste it on a pointless exercise.

On the other hand, I will also not run away screaming the next time a parent says to me they are too impatient to homeschool.  I might like to but I will choose, instead, to be patient with their rather patronizing remark.  Because patience, like so much else in life, is really essentially a choice.

P.S. The “myth of the patient homeschooler” is alluded to in #23 of “The Bitter Home-Schooler’s Wish List.”  If you’ve never read the “wish list” I suggest you do because it’s a hoot!

Print This Post Print This Post
  • Captious Nut

    Well said.  Clearly it was a whole lot harder for the *pioneers*.  Tell the bag boy that you don’t want your kids ending up like him?  Kidding…

    Although I’m pretty upfront and in-your-face, chauvinistic about my homeschooling.  People are instantly afraid of arguing with or trying to patronize on me.  The only doubters are in my family!  See http://bible.cc/mark/6-4.htm

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately that Scripture proves all-too-true far too often.

      It really was a different time back when I started homeschooling.  While there are still haters out there (as evidenced by the comments on my NYT op-ed) for the most part people these days have experience with homeschoolers, and positive experiences at that.  When I first started homeschooling it was a completely foreign concept to people and therefore (naturally) suspect.

      While I still get annoyed and frustrated with some of the comments I get from people (such as the comments I discuss in this post) – I’m very rarely, if ever, on the receiving end of the kind of aggressive questioning that was common back in the ’90’s.  On the other hand, having two grown children who have turned out so well certainly shuts up the doubters.  I imagine that will be your experience in years to come given the outstanding job you’re doing with your kids.

  • rye

    thanks for this blog post! i wrote about my struggles with patience over here last night: http://www.hayeschooling.blogspot.com 

    • Anonymous

      Read your post!  It totally confirms what I am saying here: being impatient is no excuse not to homeschool.  Shouldn’t we be working on our character throughout our life?  We teach our children to be: patient, polite, forgiving, loving, persistent, and so on.  Should we expect less from ourselves?

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 

  • Sweetfyb

    I came to this site to see if I could get some encouragement or guidance about my lack of patience while I’m homeschooling….I feel like I just got stomped on……I knew I was impatient when I started…I too thought it was a lame excuse……but now, I know that I’m really impatient….I’m having a super difficult time, I already feel like it’s my own fault, but unsure how to change it.  People who don’t have patience, I believe, should work on it…..my question is…. should my child be personally subject to my lack thereof while I’m “working on it”….I’m beginning to think not, despite his need of academic help. 

    • annegalivan

      I’m sorry that you feel like you just got “stomped on.”  That certainly wasn’t my intent.  In fact, just the opposite.  

      My point in this post is to tell parents that there is no such thing as a perfectly patient parent.  I have heard so many parents use the excuse that they could “never” homeschool because they don’t have the patience.  But no parent is patient all the time…I certainly wasn’t when I started out parenting and homeschooling!

      When you say that you question whether your child should be subjected to your impatience, that implies that there aren’t other problems, or even the same problem, that your child would be subjected to in school.  Personally, I remember my sixth grade teacher screaming at us and throwing his glasses if we got too loud in class.  To assume   that your child’s teacher, in whatever school you sent him to, would be this incredibly patient person is an assumption that may turn out to be very wrong.  Couple that with the other problems in the schools today and I think an impatient mom is not the worst thing your child can deal with.

      Certainly, as parents we want to be growing.  We want to become more understanding, more patient, more loving.  And those ARE things we can work on, and pray about.  In the meantime, maybe you need to look at some of the triggers for your impatience.  Are you trying to do too much?  Do you need to scale back for a while and just have more fun with your child?  Would getting involved in a support group or homeschool co-op help?  There are plenty of options out there and maybe one (or more) of those would help take some of the pressure off.  If you have more questions e-mail me at: anne@homeschooling911.com

  • Jess Lewis

    I kind of take it the same way when people say to me, “wow. I don’t know how you do it. I could never foster parent, I would love them too much and couldn’t let them go.” I suppose if I were a blogger I would write just as much about how that statement is an excuse and completely insulting. There may be legitimate reasons for not opening your home to an orphan and giving the best and maybe only example and chance of a normal, stable, functioning family, surrounding them with love and prayer for however long you have them with you – but that statement is not one of them. It is hard work and you have to have a reason beyond yourself, which is what I think you were saying and why it reminded me of the things I hear as a foster parent. And now I will be homeschooling my adopted son, so now I get double comments – no make that triple, with us being a bi-racial family. 
    🙂

    • annegalivan

      I’m sure as a foster parent you must hear many things that make you wonder why more people don’t heed the adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

      I always thought my husband and I would adopt, but it never worked out.  I have known many people who have been foster parents, and I admire them immensely.  I think foster parents tend to get a bad rap, because of the rare instances of abuse or neglect, but all the foster parents I knew were incredibly loving.  And they did adopt too, in some cases.

      It’s the same with homeschooling.  The vast majority of homeschoolers are conscientious and diligent, but all it takes is one family, who sometimes are using homeschooling as a means to hide abuse, to bring out the naysayers and calls for more government regulation.

      I want to say, “well done” for opening your home to these children.  You deserve a lot of credit and praise.  I hope also that your homeschooling adventure is full of joy, and should you ever have any questions, just shoot me an e-mail at: anne@homeschooling911.com
        
      And don’t forget to subscribe to this website.  You can do so either via e-mail subscription or RSS feed.  

      Thanks for stopping by to comment as well!

  • Tori

    Why am I only finding these blogs making fun of people who say they don’t have the patience to homeschool? I am homeschooling my son and I’m so impatient and get frustrated 25% of the time, so I googled “too impatient to homeschool” to find some tips. All I’m finding is people writing blog posts because they think they need to justify their decision to homeschool. Now I’m more impatient because I wasted 5 precious minutes and 2 more precious minutes to read then comment on this. That time could have been used finding some actual advice! Okay, glad I could rant on here because I feel a little better.

    • This post was meant to encourage, not discourage you or make you mad. I hope you will take the time to peruse my site to find (many) posts that will help you find answers to your homeschooling questions. You might want to start with the “Encouragement and Inspiration” link you will find under “Topics” in the right sidebar.

  • Kim

    I realize this post is old, but I am not entirely sure what I am supposed to think about this. I was of this same opinion when I started homeschooling over a year ago. I knew I was an impatient person, and everyone who knows me is aware of this as well. I looked at it as an opportunity to allow God to work on my impatience and improve it. I have worked diligently to try to improve myself over the last year. I have been to counseling, read books, done Bible studies, everything I could think of to try to improve this aspect of myself. In spite of all this effort on my part, I seem to be spiraling down, going from bad to worse, as my apparently limited amount of patience is pushed past the limit every day. As someone else commented, should my child be subject to my lack of patience while I am desperately attempting to improve it (and failing)? Add to my limited patience the fact that my kids (adopted through foster care) apparently have learning disabilities and issues that I was previously not aware of, and the need for patience increases exponentially. I am at the point of deciding that I don’t think I can do it, and I am probably causing more damage to my kids by trying to continue in my current course. I do not feel like I am making excuses for not homeschooling, I feel like I am trying to make the best decision for the health and happiness of myself and my children. Like I said, instead of getting better, everything is getting worse with time. I am not happy homeschooling, my kids are not happy, so maybe sometimes it is wise to realize our own limitations and choose our course of action accordingly. If there is something that I haven’t tried that you think would somehow dramatically improve our situation, then by all means, I am open to suggestions. However, I think, for me at least, maybe it is time to admit that I do, in fact, have limitations.

    • As I replied to the person you mention in previous comments, I feel that maybe you are trying too hard to have the “perfect” (or maybe nearly-perfect?) homeschool. If your children have true disabilities there is help you can get for them through other channels that may take the pressure off of you without having to give up homeschooling. I would suggest, if you haven’t already, that you join a local homeschooling group. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be someone in that group who also has children with learning disabilities that can help you navigate getting the specialized help your child needs.

      I don’t want to belittle your difficulties at all. But I will point out, as I did before, that the school system often fails children with learning disabilities as well. I don’t think you should assume that putting them in an institutional setting will inevitably bring about a better outcome, when the opposite may be true.

      Perhaps you also need to relax some. Most new homeschoolers burn out to some extent after a year or so because they are trying to look like the school down the street or because they are trying to prove to someone (grandparents, for instance) that they can succeed as a homeschooler. You may need to take a break in some way. Maybe even do as some homeschoolers do and homeschool for six weeks then take a break for two weeks, and so on.

      These are just some suggestions. But as I said, a homeschool support group could be just what you need to gain confidence. God bless and good luck!