What I Wish I Would Have Learned Before I Began Homeschooling, Part Three: Boundaries and Ourselves

Boundaries With Ourselves

I previously shared with you some of the lessons I have been learning about how setting boundaries with our children and with others can help us homeschool more effectively.   However, sometimes the biggest boundary conflict does not come from without; it comes from within.

Have you ever felt like your homeschool day just “gets away from you”?  You have a plan of everything you were going to accomplish, but at the end of the day, you have only been able to do a fraction of it.  How do other moms manage to get it all done?

Are you a good starter but not a good finisher?  You love coming up with cool homeschool ideas but have trouble following them through to completion.  Are you easily distracted by new, exciting curriculum instead of finishing up with what you already began?  Are you unable to say “no” to other pressures that take time away from school?

Do you lose your temper and say things that are discouraging instead of encouraging?  Are you financially strapped because you can’t seem to live within your means?  You keep trying to get your act together, but nothing seems to work.

If you said “yes” to any of these questions, you might have a problem with internal boundaries.

We are often our own worst enemy.  Although setting boundaries with others can be challenging, in the end, we are only responsible to others, but not for them.  We are responsible for ourselves, though, making internal problems harder to deal with than external ones.  In addition, the strategies we gravitate toward to solve these conflicts may be ineffective.  In the book, “Boundaries:  When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life,” authors Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend point out that those with poor internal boundaries may withdraw from relationships when they most need the support of others because of the shame they feel about their personal failures.  Instead, they try to use their willpower to solve their boundary problems, thinking that they can just muscle through them.

As I re-read this chapter in preparation for writing this article, I felt convicted.  I absolutely do this.  Of course, the difficulty of reaching out is that it has to be to someone who will have empathy and respond with love and support.  If one already has weak boundaries that developed as a result of a dysfunctional or abusive childhood, it can be hard to know who to trust.

However, making an idol of our own will is not the solution.  Be honest with yourself about where you are struggling.  Take time to examine what the root causes of those struggles are.  Identify the specific boundary conflict and pray for insight into the underlying need that it is masking.  Then, admit that you cannot heal yourself, and lay it at the feet of Jesus instead.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

If you are interested in reading more about boundaries, you can find part one here and part two here.  As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

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What I Wish I Would Have Learned Before I Began Homeschooling, Part Two

Boundaries With Others

Last month, I wrote about the challenge of setting boundaries with my children and how important that is to homeschooling effectively.  Another area where it is helpful to learn and apply appropriate boundaries is with other adults in your life.

One of the ways that many homeschoolers face an invasion of boundaries is unsolicited opinions.  It can be frustrating dealing with people who criticize your choice to homeschool, ask leading questions like “Don’t you need to be certified to homeschool?” or give your child pop quizzes to test how much they’ve learned.  This can be particularly difficult if it comes from close family or friends.

Initially, I did not know how to handle these intrusions.  Over time, I’ve discovered that the motivation can range from simple curiosity, to ignorance of something out of the norm that they have no experience with, to jealousy, and sometimes, the assumption that you must be judging them if you made a different educational choice for your children than they did.  I’ve found that these conversations seem to go better if:

  1. I’m careful to show that I’m accepting of their parenting choices. Respect breeds respect.
  2. Rather than immediately getting defensive, I consider where their skepticism is coming from. I had a medical professional ask me, “Isn’t homeschooling lax?” only to discover later that one of her neighbors is a homeschooler that doesn’t do any formal lessons with her children at all.  I responded by telling her, that “Homeschoolers are like anyone else.  There are all kinds.”
  3. Answer questions based in curiosity matter-of-factly.
  4. Have a canned response for critics – one that puts a stop to the discussion without inviting argument.
  5. Stay focused on the fact that no matter what others think, the decision to homeschool belongs to you and your spouse, in conjunction with God. Whether others approve isn’t really relevant and you can choose not to let it affect you.

Another boundary that I’ve learned to set is with people who try to interrupt the flow of our school day.  It could be a friend who wants to schedule a play date, someone who calls during the day expecting that you are able to chat, or the friend who always expects you to babysit her child when they have off from school because you are home during the day.  Before you let others interfere with your schedule, consider:

  1. Whether it is important enough to make an exception or how disruptive it will be to your day.
  2. If it’s easier to call or text someone back when you finish your school day (or take a lunch break) or to get your children back on task once there’s been a disruption. This is the main reason that I still use an answering machine that I can screen calls on rather than voicemail.
  3. Could you be setting a precedent of being available when you don’t really want to be? It’s generally easier to set a boundary of “These are days/hours that I am available” than to make exceptions and give a friend or family member the impression that your schedule is more flexible than it really is.  This sets up the potential for frustration in the future for you and hurt feelings for your friend.  Avoid this situation from the start.

Keep in mind as you navigate these situations that, ultimately, your responsibility to your children is greater than your responsibility to your friends or extended family.  God will lead you in handling these moments as you focus on that truth instead of allowing emotions to dominate your decisions.

What I Wish I Would Have Learned Before I Began Homeschooling, Part One

boundaries, fence, homeschooling

When I was preparing to begin homeschooling, I knew that I would need some kind of curriculum, school supplies, a plan and a method.  However, once I was in the thick of it, I realized there was one area where I was desperately unprepared:  setting boundaries.

Years ago, a Christian counselor recommended a book to me, “Boundaries:  When to Say Yes, How to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life.”  I purchased it, but shortly after, began dating my husband and got distracted.  It sat on my bookshelf for a decade before God confronted me with the fact that I still had issues in this area that needed to be addressed.  Once I began reading it, I was surprised to realize how much of my life was being affected by my lack of boundaries.  Having grown up with a mother who struggled with addiction, I was often placed in the position of being the mother instead of the child.  I never learned to say “no” to responsibilities that were not my own or to set limits with others.

This caused me to grow into a parent who did not know how to set the appropriate limits with my children, either.  As a result, the biggest struggle that I have faced while trying to teach my children is simply having them cooperate and obey.  In the summer edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, there was an article by Deborah Wuehler, entitled “The Importance of Obedience and How to Get Your Kids on Board” that outlined some of the steps that she uses to teach her children obedience.  She instills in them as toddlers that she expects them to obey immediately, completely and cheerfully.  That was mind-blowing to me, as my children never respond to any request that I make the first time, which is my biggest pet peeve.

If I would have realized my own weakness in this area sooner, I would have addressed it in counseling long ago and been prepared to lay the groundwork of teaching obedience to my children when they were very young.  Of course, later is better than never.  The challenge of doing it when my children are several years into homeschooling is that habits have been formed that need to be corrected.

If you are having trouble setting limits with your children and find yourself repeating requests ad nauseam before they obey you, I highly recommend reading Deborah’s article and the book, “Boundaries” or “Boundaries with Kids”  by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  Cooperative children are so much easier to teach!  Most importantly, we are not only teaching them reading and writing, but responsibility – understanding what they are responsible for and what they aren’t responsible for, knowing how to say “no” and how to accept a “no.”  By setting external boundaries for them now, our children will eventually develop internal boundaries, which will be invaluable to them in adulthood and ultimately, in parenting their own children one day.

As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.