By Katie T. Kennedy, Crosswalk.com
Patience is a key element of the fruits of the Spirit. I think most of us wouldn't mind an extra dose of patience. Patience is a virtue lacking in this world today, yet it's vitally important. If we can grow in patience, not only will it help provide a more peaceful learning environment, but the virtue will follow us out into the world as we wait in line at the store, interact with others, wait for test results, etc.
The more we grow in patience, the smoother things seem to flow. How can we stay patient while homeschooling our children? Let's discuss a few tips.
What Is Patience?
Merriam-Webster defines patience as the ability to remain calm and not become annoyed when dealing with problems or with difficult people.
We know this scenario well; the student gets frustrated, mom becomes irritated, and suddenly, the house is filled with negative anger, and no one is learning anything. When we lose our cool and become disgruntled with our children, the situation escalates. If we know to stay calm and collected while our kids are not, we have a better chance of helping our children recover from their emotional outbursts. That sounds all well and good, but how? How can we grow in patience?
The first step is awareness of yourself and your children. What are the situations where you routinely lose your cool? What are your children's behavioral patterns? Observe and try to identify the patterns that occur. There will always be unexpected curveballs, but at least you can be better prepared for the everyday fastball.
One of my children is dyslexic, so introducing new items that look too hard can set her off. Or she gets frustrated and depleted if my lesson goes too long. My other daughter gets indignant and defiant when she is hungry. These scenarios won't solve every problem I run into, but they are triggers I have noticed. Awareness is huge. Look for patterns. Be aware of the things that upset, frustrate, or set off your children. When you see these patterns occur, you can better remedy the problem—understanding the why behind the outburst can lead to more empathy and moving through the issue more quickly.
Little Changes that Make a Big Impact
Although gaining patience is a lifelong journey and not something we will gain overnight, there are things we can do to help in the moment.
Don't be afraid to take breaks. If you sense yourself getting frustrated and losing composure, or your child is ramping up their emotions, separate and take a short break. You are not giving up on the lesson; you are exercising wisdom. Have everyone take a big breath (including mom). In just a few minutes, you can calm your body down and think more rationally.
I found this verse instrumental as I began homeschooling. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1) It's so easy to match your kid's escalated voice with a louder one. That is our natural inclination. However, that usually turns south quickly. Memorize a few key verses like this that will hopefully come to mind when you need them. It's like the plumber having his toolbelt right next to him when he works. Be equipped with the word so you can utilize its strength when needed. Try dropping your voice instead of raising it; this can do wonders for your school environment.
Check your expectations. Have you set tight expectations for your day, and when something goes haywire, you are disappointed and irritated? A quick reminder, everything is not always going to work out the exact way we planned. Try to remain flexible. Being flexible can model to your students how to pivot when things don't work out.
Be patient with yourself. You will build more tolerance as time goes on. Each day, every experience and nugget you learn about your child will go into your knowledge bank for you to choose a good path next time you encounter a situation that requires your patience.
Start the Day with Success
Every day brings about new challenges, and you never quite know what you will face. What are the things you need to do before the school day begins that set you up for success? What helps keep you in a positive frame of mind when attitudes start declining?
To get my mind and body in the right state to start the school day, there are a few things I need to do. I wake when it's dark so I can relish the quiet time. I slowly wake up as I drink my chai tea, write, and get myself emersed in the Word of God and prayer.
After my mind has come awake, I get a workout in. If I delay this activity, it won't happen. I am a much more balanced person throughout the day if I get physical exercise. Physical exercise does wonders to get me into the positive attitude I need to parent the strong-willed children God has given us. While I am working out, I listen to a homeschooling podcast, upbeat music, or something that mentally prepares me for the good work I am about to do.
Homeschooling is exhausting, and I commend the moms that have been doing it for years. You are doing such good work for your family, but you also need to make sure you are taking care of your spiritual and physical needs. Reading the Bible and spending time in prayer is so good for our souls. We continually need refreshment from the Scriptures, just like a plant needs water. We get dry and withered up if we don't continue to pour God's living water into us. The Bible is a life-giving resource. Whatever your morning or evening routine, make sure you have some included things that prepare and equip you on your homeschooling journey.
The Long View and Perseverance
Have you noticed the women in your church that have homeschooled their multiple children for years, and now their children are grown? They are calm, steady, and incredibly wise. Why? They spent countless mornings working and stretching the muscle of being patient. They know that just because a morning goes wonky, it doesn't mean their children will never graduate college and get a job. They understand that when their child is refusing to do their work one morning doesn't mean they are quitting school.
We are cultivating our children's hearts one day at a time. The fruit of that labor will probably not show up in class the next day. If you are lucky, you might get glimpses years down the road.
Take one day at a time, and don't evaluate the success of your children based on one day. Get up tomorrow and start the next day. I had to teach myself this lesson when I wanted to throw in the towel on day two of homeschooling. I had decided I was not cut out to do this. I had to remind myself this was exactly what I needed to be doing, and it was time to dig deep and persevere. I was not going to give up. I had to give myself a pep talk and remind myself that quitting wasn't an option.
Remind yourself their brains are not fully developed, which is why we are the parents. Our children's brains have a lot of growing to do. Stepping back and remembering this can go a long way to extending grace and remaining patient. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Utilize the Spirit
You will have your ups and downs with homeschooling. Some homeschooling days are going to be very long and challenging. In fact, out of all the jobs I've had, homeschooling my kids is the hardest. It requires more patience than I have to give. Here's the good news, I'm not in it alone. The Lord guided our family to homeschooling, and it is the Lord who provides me with the skills I need. I don't always choose the calm and peaceful route, but I could have never gotten this far without the Spirit.
"Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) Sometimes we forget this. Sometimes we forget that Christ didn't leave us alone. He left us with His Spirit inside of us! This is huge! God is there to help us, so ask for His help, learn to rely on His guidance. The closer we draw to Him, the more connected to the Spirit we become.
God doesn't want you boasting about how awesome you are rocking this homeschooling thing. He wants us on our knees, humbling admitting we are not enough. We are strengthened through our weaknesses. God doesn't want you relying on your own knowledge, wisdom, and experience. He wants you to depend on Him.
"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." (Psalm 37:23)
Here is the great news, God is always with you. He will never abandon, and He certainly will not leave you stranded as you educate your children. The Holy Spirit is in you! You are a child of the most High King, and He will equip you. Are you still going to struggle? Absolutely! God is there for you, and when you hit those moments of defeat and frustration, just remember. Just when you think you can't possibly extend another ounce of patience, somewhere deep down, from a source you can't describe, more is extended. You are not always going to get it right. Guess what? God can redeem those moments too. Those are opportunities to show the kids that moms and dads mess up too. We have a chance to model what asking for forgiveness looks like. How liberating for children to see mom is not perfect and she makes mistakes too.
Katie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream. She would love to connect with you online at www.katietkennedy.com, Instagram or Facebook.