Thursday, January 13, 2011

dealing with sandwiched criticism

Ooookay, then. I'm going to do something I've never done: publicly address a private email sent to me. Because, first of all, I don't really know the sender. Second, if this is how I come across, or these concerns are shared by others, then I want to deal with that. And, lastly, this is my space. I appreciate constructive criticism, really. And I do want to know what you think, how you feel. I did specifically ask for thoughts...
I appreciate some of this; good rule of thumb used: if you're going to criticize someone, manage to use a "praise sandwich." Good work. ;) I do appreciate many things you said.

Wendy, you really lay your feelings out big time, something that I could
never do.

I never realized that I was a PEEP, but if the shoe fits, so be it.

I urge you to read your second paragraph over and concentrate on what it means in
reference to the remainder of your written thoughts and wishes. Sometimes
quality over quantity is the better.

You have children that you put a lot of love and effort into for their future. I have been amazed that you home-school all, and I wonder how long you can carry this out, especially with the age differences. There is a lot ahead for you to think about.

You yourself are very multi talented and have the appearance of being very good at each (something others would love to have).

Again don’t overload as this can have a telling affect. I probably said more than I should, but I wish you the best.
Take Care

When I read this, I immediately took out the second paragraph of my last blog post, that he's referring to:

As I was saying, Lately I've been putting so much effort into house, school,
crafts, behavior, that I'm finding myself drained when evening rolls around.
It seems that all of my updates are roughly 400 words; I can only think in
facebook posts now? Sad, yes.

After all, am I really being that "telling"? Am I coming across just stressed out, worn out, and possibly incompetent (my questions, not putting words into his mouth)?

And then I put it back in. After all, that IS how I was feeling. And, frankly, I'm not sure how that emphasized quantity over quality? My first ministry is to my family, and I try to emphasize that.

As a wife and mother, there are certain things that must be done every day. I have to feed the kids (cook, dishes, other clean-up) and do laundry, floors, bathrooms, plus other basics that MUST be done, and can't all be completed on weekends. The house stuff has to be scheduled in. The kids do a lot of this, and I consider it part of their education. Who wants to marry a slob? How many people end up with organizational flaws that hinder their adult lives? (*raises hand* I learned some things the hard way.)

Crafts also go into homeschool. And it's part of the quality, as far as I'm concerned. I firmly believe in hands-on do-to-learn education. We make. We create. We do art. And it's part of their quality education. It's also a part of who we ARE. Even outside of "homeschool," we do art as a way of life. Teachers and students are all entitled to a life outside of "school."

Behavior-- possibly the most important aspect of education, as this reflects the condition of their hearts and minds. I'm not trying to spread myself too thin; I'm trying to concentrate on each aspect of what I believe defines Quality Education. And, yes, it drains me. As I will assume every other mother and teacher feels at times. Some days I love it, some days I'm ready to quit, and sometimes I just plain don't want to think about so I go through the motions and cut out the extras. That's just the honest truth. But I wouldn't trade it in for anything.

I don’t need or want everyone to agree with me. This is not a Stepford-esque blog, and I am not a cultural robot. You can approach me. You can ask questions about homeschooling, how it works, why I believe what I believe, and you can tell me what YOU believe.

I both welcome and encourage readers across political, cultural, educational, geographical, religious divides to read and embrace what I have to say, or throw it to the curb. I acknowledge that I sometimes fly by the seat of my pants, can spit fire when provoked, and protect my home more fiercely than a lioness. But that doesn’t mean that I cannot listen objectively.

I homeschool; I listen objectively to all sorts of nonsense from well-meaners. I’m well-practiced right now!

Okay, it's a legitimate question: "I wonder how long you can carry this out, especially with the age differences. There is a lot ahead for you to think about." But knowing the intention of the person who asks the question is just as important as the question itself.

For the record, I plan to "carry this out" until completion. Straight through high school. And beyond, if my children end up taking some college courses while they're still in high school, like I did.

In case it's not as well-known as I thought, I was also homeschooled through high school. I loved it, and believe I turned out well-rounded, "socialized" (in a good sense of the word!) educated, and pretty likable... Right?

My parents homeschooled the three of us, all different grades and abilities, and we all look back with fond memories. It can be done. I also know people who have homeschooled from Day 1 and graduated their kids, quite successfully. Not only is it possible, it's pretty standard as far as homeschoolers go. Take a look at the data (not super-current, but the trend has continued.) Regardless of parents' education level, minorities, number of children, homeschoolers outscore. I won't go so far as to defend my position by using my daughter's own scores, but let's just say that she's doing mighty well and I'm a proud mama and teacher.‎ *Ü*

As a friend once said, "Homeschooling is like Cinderella’s slipper. It ain’t gonna fit everyone." Great quote.

It doesn’t take a college education, special training or a degree in special education to give a child the best start. It does take real and genuine dedication to research, read and review, cover a broad range of topics, and the self-discipline to assemble it all. It also takes a stable home with a clear set of expectations and the self-discipline to make sure the environment of learning is created. This is why I'm home a lot. This is why I say "no" to way more outside activities than I would otherwise....a hard lesson learned, for me. This is why I wait to blog until school is done for the day, and why my art waits until evening. I have a lot of work to do, a lot of fun to be had, field trips to plan and papers to grade.

Not to say that homeschool moms don’t waver, second guess themselves or fail. I've never claimed to have it all together. I do claim to love my kids more fully and intensely than anyone. I do claim that my dedication to their educational success is greater than any specially-trained teacher could possess.

I acknowledge that I do not have all the answers, and will never offer my children the “perfect education.” I acknowledge that there will be gaps, as there will be with any educational choice, whether public, private, or home. I hope, beyond my imperfections, that my children develop a lifelong love of learning.

I am confident that they are thriving here at home. I am confident that right now, I am able to provide the tools, security, comfort, drive, discipline, love, motivation, encouragement, educational resources and time that they need. I may be spread thin, but what mother or teacher isn't?

I believe public school teachers have a much harder job, teaching 20+ students, from all different backgrounds and capabilities. They're required to teach all these little people at the same level, and make sure each child successfully masters each skill...especially hard when you don't have the means to "dig a little deeper" if there are family problems, etc. I admire the drive and dedication that so many teachers have.

Believe me, I can handle my four.

I hope that satisfies your concerns. I put all this out there so that other moms can find camaraderie in this journey.

If a family believes that homeschool is the right path for them, I hope they find a support group and companionship in the blogosphere for the journey. And if public school is where your children are meant to be, then embrace that choice and all the benefits that lie within that choice.

I could "play it safe" again and stick to crafts, decor, learning activities (which I still plan to include,) and skip all of my opinions and thoughts...but I'm tired of that. How does the saying go?-- If you hit the target every time, then you're standing too close. I need to stretch out a little. If I'm not challenging myself, then how can I possibly challenge anyone else?


Anonymous said...

I do think you spread yourself thin. Too thin? That's between you, your family & God.

I know that if the Lord came back now, you could honestly say that you are putting all you can into each day. How many of us (not me!) can say that?

I admire you, and I worry for you! Such different personality types we have - so thankful we are all not cookie cutters.

Bless you, dear one!
- s. davis

Anonymous said...


Your post did not come across as stressed or overworked. It came across as a typical Mom. I have had days, weeks and sometimes months when at the end of the day, I'm spent. :) It doesn't matter if you homeschool or work a full time job and come home and still have to do all the daily chores. We can all experience that feeling. I've lived both sides of the coin, so I speak from experience. But every down has an up...things well change, kids will grow. I LOVE that you're so honest and don't act like you have it all together. We're all human and I for one am glad.

Shawna said...

I totally agree with you. I am a homeschooling mother of 4. I only have 2 school aged children so I have a 3 yr old and 1 yr old to entertain WHILE I teach the older children. I also have a house to keep and things that "have" to be done. It's a part of life...and there are days that there will be challenges. There are days we will feel stressed out. Does that mean to quit when things get difficult? As I'm assuming the person writing you that email was suggesting when they asked "how long can you carry this out?". Your answer to that was GREAT! You will carry it out until completetion. You have been called to homeschool your children. Why on earth would you give up when you are tired and worn out? Keep doing what you are doing. Don't let people get you questioning yourself with things like this. This is YOUR blog and your entitled to post YOUR feelings without thinking you have to candy coat everything because of what others might say or do. Shame on the person for making you feel this way. From one homeschooling mom to another. keep up the good work. :) **HUGS**

Living Creatively said...

Sherrill, I promise I'm not spread at thin as I once was...or at least,it doesn't feel as thin, because I'm home a lot more, bulking up the time where it needs to be. :) You know it's hard for me to back down from social time, but I really have.

Judie, thank you, friend. I know I'm not alone. I think others need to feel comfortable being who they are, admitting their weaknesses, and being "okay" with less than perfect. I love The Nesting Place motto: "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." This applies to LIFE, too. I need a place to be Me.

Shawna, thanks for the support. I honestly don't think this person meant any harm. I believe it was genuine concern...but the problem is WHY. Why be concerned about homeschooling? See, I don't actually "know" him, we've just chatted through emails. So I can't know where he's coming from or why he would phrase things in that way. I don't want to shame him or make him feel bad. My post was to clarify why I do what I do.
I interpreted his comment as "how long can you effectively give a good education to four children in four different grades?" Maybe a genuine curious question? A misconception about homeschooling? But it needed to be addressed. There are a lot of misconceptions abounding.

So, sir, if you are reading this, I'm not angry, and hope I didn't come across as such. I certainly felt defensive, but tried to keep it level. Come back. I'll listen. I'll answer. I'll try to explain. I also wish you the best.

Soaring High said...

This is coming from a "public school mom." I have so much respect for you. You didn't just write a "homeschool mom" post. You wrote a "MOM POST."
I was laughing at an article given to me by our MM Mentor this year on Motherhood. There are so many days a nice shiny office sounds nice, but what is that worth in eternity. God has called you to what He has called you to. You are giving it your 100% and there are just days when a mom is worn to the bone by the end of the day. I appreciate your honesty. It makes you human.

Anonymous said...

You said a LOT of good things, Wendy, and I especially like this one, "For the record, I plan to "carry this out" until completion." Remember you're not in this thing alone. We are "co-laborers" with Christ and He's the main one doing the work. He just uses us to help Him. "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Cor. 15:10

Arato Girl said...

I find when people go out of their way to give unsolicited advice, it's often because they're ignoring what's going on in their own lives. How much better would it be if we didn't label others but only prayed for them, and focused on no one's "faults" but our own (only long enough to confess them to God and repent)? God will ALWAYS give you the strength to do His will, and who is anyone else to say what that is?

Mom of 5 said...

I have to say first, I love that your Papaw left you a comment on this post! Second, how cool that you were homeschooled, and that is what you want to do for your children. And third, I think your previous post sounds SO much like me! So much going on, always need more hours in the day, but you still wish there was more you can do. I think that makes you a spirited, heart-felt person, and a wonderful mom!

Mandy said...

Oh Wendy.. I agree.. what MOM doesn't feel that way if she's giving 100% each day? I am not a homeschooler... but I completely understand why many of my friends choose this for their families. I honestly don't think I could handle it... I am very serious. I agree - total admiration for you! You have the neatest ideas, and you know what I REALLY like about you? You don't seem trapped in your own little bubble. You are interested in so many things that aren't all about homeschooling and mommying.. and I think that rocks!! Trust me, we all get worn too thin. Sometimes it IS quantity over quality b/c guess what.. sometimes quality just ain't happenin'! We all just do the best we can, and you know what... if we REALLY do the best we can each day - our kids, and our families, AND WE will turn out great. :) You're doing a great job from what I can tell from your blog. Any child would benenfit from learning from someone like you!

Twisted Cinderella said...

I agree with everything you read. I liked your last post so much I a read it aloud to Prince Charming

Up2Late said...

I know you, in real life and through this blog. I can say with all certainty that you are the most amazing Mom I've ever met. You're love, dedication, and time spent on and with your children is unbelievable. If I had half the talent and dedication as you, I would be one h*ll of a mother! You are a terrific teacher for your children, better than what they could find in most schools. Not everyone is a good homeschooling mom, in that they don't take it as seriously as you, but you DO. You are amazing. Your children are amazing. Never doubt yourself or your calling to homeschool.

Love you girl!!!