Maintaining confidence in home education

does require some effort, especially
if confidence isn’t innate in you.

Home education is a wonderful, positive path, and it’s a journey well worth the undertaking. There are factors involved, however, that can quickly leave us feeling deflated, demoralised and dejected, with all our confidence and enthusiasm severely eroded.

These things happen, but I do encourage you not to wallow in those sad places. If your confidence in your home education receives a knock, don’t allow it to be more than a bump on the road. Regroup, refocus on what your doing and why, and move on.

Things That Go Knock on the Confidence

All around you will be people who are doing things differently, who hold different ideals, who may seem to be bigger, brighter, better, bolder than you. They talk in glowing terms about things that may be the polar opposite of what you’re doing or thinking about, or so far removed from anything you’d consider that they may as well be talking a different language.

Your children go through phases of not connecting with the resources that you’ve so carefully and lovingly researched and chosen for them. They sometimes do everything they can to avoid anything that has the faintest hint of being educational. They may be smart enough to talk the talk without walking the walk, so to speak, and that realisation in your heart can deflate you completely.

Inside your own being, too, there can be all sorts of things going on that impinge on your ability to stride through, full of confidence and courage. Whether you face health issues, relationship issues, or any other sort of challenge that is external to your home education, those factors all play a part in how you cope with what you’re doing.

What You Can Do

These are my suggestions for helping to maintain your confidence as you home educate.

Keep a check on your emotions

In the section on the Components of Confidence, each of the factors discussed requires personal insight and connection with what the individual is thinking and feeling. Some people aren’t overly comfortable with such inner awareness, however I do encourage you to consider becoming familiar with these things in yourself. Knowing yourself is part of being an adult in your family situation.

A parent who indulges their own tantrums and outbursts sets themselves up for some very negative outcomes. One is that they lose credibility in the sight of their children. Another is that the parent relinquishes confidence in favour of guilt and self recriminations as they beat themselves up for their own bad behaviour. It’s perhaps over-obvious to state that such behaviour also teaches a child that it’s okay for an adult to behave that way, so they’ll see no need to moderate their own tantrums as they age.

It’s something of an on-going exercise, if my own experience is anything to guage by, learning to pay attention to those emotions in the early stages rather than waiting until they explode, implode or otherwise run amok.

Being attuned to your emotions, and knowing how to manage them is, I believe, worth the effort. You’ve got a much better chance of maintaining your confidence if your dignity (even just in front of your family) remains intact.

Keep a check on your hormones

For women, hormones do play a significant role in how we feel each day – all jokes aside. As someone who is hurtling toward those change-of-life years, let me just say that it was a complete revelation to me to understand that the peri-menopausal phase can be a whole lot worse than the actual change.

After years of experience, I have to say that the one big clue that my hormones are running amok, rather than just my emotions operating in hyperdrive, is that hormones are completely unreasonable. I’d like to think that I am (generally speaking) a fairly reasonable woman – when my hormones are askew (and this does show up on blood tests), reason flies out the window and all my attempts to be practical with myself fail miserably.

Sadly, the only hormones we’re really taught about as we’re growing up are the raging variety that might ‘get us into trouble’. Let me just tell you that the out of balance, aging variety have caused me a lot more grief than the raging, youthful ones ever did.

Hormones running amok have more power to undermine your confidence in your home education (and everything else) than just about everything else all put together.

If you find yourself behaving (or seriously wanting to behave) in ways that are quite contrary to your usual mode of operation, it can be very worthwhile going to have a chat with your doctor (or alternative medicine practitioner). You’ll cope much better if your hormones are behaving as they ought!

Keep talking, within your own family unit and with others

If things are going well in your home education, talk about it within your family and externally. When things aren’t going so well, if dialogue is already the norm, it’s far easier to just naturally air concerns and ask for input without it being a big deal.

When things are a big deal, participants in even moderate conversations can be defensive and even antagonistic. For adjustments in home education to be discussed productively, and existing easy flow of talk habits can be a really helpful start.

The other good thing about making a habit of talking, is that you get used to the sound of your own voice, so becomes less odd to phone a stranger, explain a predicament and ask for their insights.

It’s actually very good for your confidence to face an obstacle and find your way through it to the other side, hand in hand with your family, having taken into consideration input from many sources. Your world becomes a bigger place, as does your child’s, and your confidence is bolstered.

In our early years of marriage, Brad and I developed our own little ‘system’ for discussing difficult stuff. Whichever one of us needed to do the addressing of the issue at hand would preface it with something like, “I’ve got something I want to talk about, and I think we’ll need to talk it back and forth for a while to make sense of it. Can you just let me get the first bit out into the open, even though it’ll sound messy, then help me talk it through till it makes sense to both of us?” You’d be amazed what tricky stuff we managed to find common ground over, with that kind of approach.

If you haven’t already got a ‘tricky subject starter’ deal going with your partner, find something like that which makes sense to the two of you – it’s worth it, for both your sakes. Keeping the flow of communication happening is what’s most important of all.

Keep on educating yourself

It doesn’t matter what your profession is, in this day and age, you have to keep your skills up to date. In some industries, on-going development requires deliberate on-going study. In others, periodic short-course workshops or seminars are mandatory. For many, development is in-house and far less formal.

Not every home educator will have either the time or the inclination to constantly read books or do internet research on the subject, or do anything particularly formal. By the same token, not every home educator will be satisfied with casual chats with other home educators over a cuppa.

How you choose to keep your knowledge of what you’re doing current is up to you – who you are, the time you have available, and your own preferred style of learning. How you stay informed is not important; that you do is vital to your ongoing confidence.

If your knowledge of what you’re doing is confined and closed to new input, if something stops working in your home education, you can quickly feel overwhelmed and even somewhat hopeless.

If you keep yourself informed about home education in general, or one particular facet more comprehensively, when you’re faced with difficulties you’re far more likely to be confident that  a solution, somewhere, does exist and can be found.

Keep fresh

… in your home education

Days when the children muck up and are more interested in aiming rubber bands at each other than doing what they’re supposed to be doing happen to everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you anything to the contrary! I’m told that on windy days, boys in particular are often quite feral. What joy! Days like that either have to be slogged through, or you’ve got to do something out of the box.

Taking the lessons outdoors, up a tree, to a cafe or any other place different can be a solution. Treats and bribery are also perfectly valid, depending on your family policy on such things.

Routine is useful, but don’t ever let it be a coffin for your
day – changing the routine, even simply, can help
keep you, and what you’re doing, fresh.


… in your sleep quota

It’s also vitally important for you, as the educator, to stay fresh. Keep regular hours as far as bedtimes and waking times are concerned – for you and your children. When you have broken sleep because of babies and toddlers, sometimes you have to be innovative in how you make up the deficit.

When our daughter was much younger, there was a period after I’d had surgery where I just couldn’t get through the afternoon without a nap. We discussed the situation, and she really liked me to be in the room with her. So, she chose a television show that went for half an hour, and while she watched that, I slept on the couch. The phone wasn’t answered in that time, and the doorbell wasn’t responded to. After that half hour, Hayley could wake me and we would talk about what she’d been watching and what else had happened.

Perhaps you can enlist help from older children, your partner, relatives or friends – just try not to resign yourself to being a martyr for the cause if something can be done. Sometimes a half hour nap makes the difference between coping and not. When you’re exhausted, your confidence is automatically vulnerable.

Do your best to find a way to ensure that you get
something in the vicinity of adequate rest.


… in your alone time

While we’re talking about keeping fresh, I’d also like to put in a quick word for you getting even a brief time each day that is alone. Even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes, it’s better than nothing.

I recently saw a television show (American) espousing the value of every home having a Mommy Zone. Just this year (2010), I have gained one of these that is a whole room that is my study. Previously, that wasn’t possible, though, so I had a chair in the corner of a room that was mine – if I was in that chair, I was not to be disturbed unless there was blood, or somebody was dying.

Many years ago, I read a gorgeous story (the source of which is long forgotten, I’m afraid) about Susanna Wesley. She had given birth to 19 children, although only eight survived. A famous forebear of home education, she was often only able to achieve her five minutes peace by sitting in a kitchen chair, leaning forward, and throwing her apron up over her head.

However you can get it, don’t despise those few minutes
of alone time – it really can work wonders.


… in your relationship

Regular time with just your partner is also essential, whether it’s a regular date night, a weekend away every now and then, or whatever. Don’t stop being each other’s top priority. Those times allow you to talk through what’s happening in your home education, as well as to focus just on each other.

All these aspects of freshness (and others, I’m sure) will
affect your confidence levels in your home education.


Keep real

There’s a big difference between irresponsible parenting and natural learning, and there’s also a big difference between structured home education and excessive regimentation.

When you have a realistic assessment of what it is you’re doing, you promote your own confidence in your home education. There’s something in the human psyche that is uncomfortable when we lie to ourselves, I think.

Remember in your record keeping, that authorities are looking at what you’re actually doing. If you’re a natural learning family, you won’t actually build confidence as natural learners if you feel you have to maintain the public guise of structured education. You help everyone, especially yourself, when you’re comfortable about what you do and you’re living easily with it.

It can be quite tricky, as you seek answers for your questions along the way, to convey your concerns to others in a reallistic way. You don’t have to fall in a blubbering heap at anyone’s feet, nor do you have to always take a ‘stiff upper lip’ approach. There is no harm or shame at all in saying to another trustworthy adult, “I’m struggling with this. Where would I start to look for help / input / comfort?”

One of the major benefits of realistic self examination is that if we recognise something as true, and that horrifies us, we are already in a good place to begin to adjust that situation. Very often, though, when we assess things realistically, we ascertain that our children are actuallly doing okay, and that they are learning, and that they are maturing.

Such realistic assessment is of great comfort to us,
and of tremendous help in maintaining our confidence
in what we’re doing.

Keep thankful

Never underestimate the influence of a thankful heart, or its power to undergird your confidence levels while you’re home educating. A thankful heart lifts us in ways we don’t imagine are possible.

At one stage, my doctor had received some test results for me, and ordered me to lie down until I could see a specialist. Just lying down when you have an active 7 year old seems impossible, but that’s what I had to do.

For half a day, I lay there and fretted. I did what I could with Hayley, but we lived right next door to a school, and I got to thinking that she’d probably be better off if I enrolled her there. In the course of her play, however, she commented that she knew everything was alright because she could see me and talk to me and be with me.

I began to be thankful about that, and for a husband who would come home from work and cook dinner, and that we had a roof over our heads, and food on the table …

That deliberate turn in my thinking actually helped turn that couch-bound time from a victim-oriented negative, into a confidence-oriented positive. From Hayley’s perspective, she had a captive audience / instructor / reader, etc., so she was happy. Once I stopped fretting and got thankful, I was too.

Please don’t think that I always manage to practice every
one of these – I forget, often! My confidence still gets
knocked – these are simply ideas that I know have helped
me in my journey, and they may be of use in helping
to maintain your confidence in your home education, too.

People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty
is revealed only if there is light from within.
~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross