Great Expectations, the theme story in my homeschool, and other stories I need to let go

Great expectations could be the theme for many new homeschooler’s hopes for their homeschools.

There’s a fairy tale we tell about our homeschools that gradually fades away when reality hits.



Great expectations in our homeschools

The fairytale of the little girls in the white dresses, living happily ever after (that I had when I first began homeschooling), well, I’m still searching for that.

I’ve learned that little girls in lacy white dresses get dirty. And that mom does a lot of laundry.

In the scrapbook, the kids are perfect; the memories are momentous. After the kids are tucked into bed at night, the day seems idyllic.

Real-life, though, and real parenting, isn’t a scrapbook montage.

Homeschooling has been a similar reality check as my experience with parenting: there are definitely things I wasn’t expecting.

Cinderella keeps a constant handle on the broomstick and though the hearth has been swept, it needs to be swept again, and again.

A friend recently said that she sweeps the kitchen ten times a day.

I don’t know if she is serious, but somehow I imagined this would not be necessary now that we were all at home.

I was wrong.

Reality check: when you live in the house most of the day, it most certainly is not tidier.

Only Sleeping Beauty can claim enough slumber.

The rest of us need to regulate our bedtimes.

With inadequate sleep, I fumble with words and I am irritable, edgy, and unclear in thought. Troubles abound when mixed with early mornings. Short nights and impertinent children only result in mountains that could have been molehills.

Is there help for my weary soul? Create a consistent sleep routine (& don’t bring home any more babies).



I don’t know who took care of Jack and Jill after they tumbled down the hill, but when someone in my home is ill, I am the caretaker, whether I am as badly ill as anyone else.

One morning, after a sleepless night of illness, I got out of bed to do the paper route (because we signed up for it and it had to be done).

I was off to the minivan, had Zach strapped into his toddler seat, handed him a bit of banana, and boom, he puked everywhere.

Our oldest, Hannah, bathed and dressed him.

I dismantled the newly-installed car seat and gave it a bath. And then we strapped him in the seat, had the other three jumping in and out of the minivan to dispatch the newspaper from block to block.

Despite illness, the show still must go on.

Snow White’s seven dwarves all required different attention.

Attending to my older girls seems more immediate, as they have specialized requests, like learning to calculate the area of a parallelogram or translating their sewing pattern.

I try to rush through a math lesson because I overhear the toilet flush in the bathroom when every one of “flushing age” in the room I am presently inhabiting requires great patience.

I must create intentional time to read Little Mr. books or throw a ball for my youngest child, whether he knows he needs that special time or not.

Although our youngest kids have had the earliest exposure to all-things-academic, they require me to rejig my priorities for a one-on-one time the most.

There are no fairy tales where the mother figure has a temper tantrum.

Well, I can imagine the Old Woman in the Shoe doing so, but in illustrations, she looks very, very happy.

I’ve spent more time than I imagined determining how to appropriately deal with frustrations because someone won’t listen or someone whacked someone or … you fill in the blank.

I have heard many mothers say they wouldn’t homeschool because they simply couldn’t imagine that much time with their offspring dealing with this exact stuff. (That is entirely understandable to me).

If you haven’t figured out how to interact with them, deal with their idiosyncrasies, or your own, like how not to yell or how not to be unreasonable, the homeschooling lifestyle will definitely afford you the time.



Sometimes when the princess kisses the frog, she finds out he is just a frog.

“I can’t do it if the answer isn’t eleven!” Rachel declared with frustration.

The question: 8+4=?

Well, what is a mother to do? The answer can’t be eleven just because she wants it to be.

How do I cleverly respond to that? Understanding what the child understands is essential.

I can’t just presume that she is going to understand the first time either. It takes patience. A lot a lot of patience.

What better way to learn patience, than to try and try and try again (so many opportunities as a homeschool mama).

Much like the Beauty attempting to tame her Beast, I expected I could make this happen: a pristine, pretty world, orderly, generally quiet, ongoing family harmony, and undisturbed happiness.

The reality: I get all of those things, but usually in no particular order and without continuity, and definitely with a handsome helping of disorder, dirt, and dysfunction.

We all have expectations, but, as Belle discovered, the exterior is never the full representation of the experience.

Though the oldest three kids are no longer homeschooling, the story is unfinished as I continue to homeschool my twelve-year-old.

The plot thickens as each child gets older.

Chapters are added as each year is completed.

No question, though, the homeschool life isn’t a fairy tale. And yet it’s filled with freedoms.


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