The days that are anything but picture-perfect: When our unschooling is a hot mess

Imperfect homeschooling: Dirty stove knobs and all

Sometimes, homeschool blogging can make it look like our family – or anyย family – has it “all together.”

Pssh. Not so much.

So when I heard that my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers were joining together today to share stories of ourย imperfect homeschool, I was definitely in!

This is a post that looks at the many days full of pajamas, arguments, glazed eyeballs and too much cat hair.

Welcome to our hot mess.

Here it is, unedited, unfiltered, unpretty – a collection of some of the head-smacking moments of our past couple years.

I’m sharing this in the hope that you’ll read it and see your own family in the way we see ours – NOT as a picture-perfect unattainable snapshot, but as a collection of imperfection all bound together with the grace of God and each other into something more than the sum of its parts!

When the unschooling isn’t so hot

Ah, here’s one for you. In Pennsylvania, we are required to have a year-end meeting with an evaluator who decides if Sarah has made “sustained progress” throughout the year.

Sarah hates talking to people about herself, hates answering direct questions, and basically hates “weird” situations.

So for both of our evaluations, she has been almost silent the entire time (though blessedly speaking up JUST enough to get a “pass”), and at the recent one, she literally hid her whole body inside her hoodie and would not speak or show her face. She did manage to basically gnaw the zipper of her hoodie into oblivion, though.

Then there’s the part where Sarah (who is literal) tells the evaluator that she doesn’t know the last book she read because she doesn’t read books.

At which point I have to jump in and explain that we read as a family through read-alouds, and we all take turns reading (including Sarah), but that means that in her very literal sense, sheย did not read the book, WE did. ::headsmack::

The sad part is that since I feel like, as the legal supervisor of our home-education program, I’m the one on the spot if Sarah doesn’t reflect continued progress, these sorts of things tend to embarrass me, which leads to me getting grouchy, which makes things worse, until we’re ALL going home almost in tears or with stress headaches!

Guess you know we don’t have pictures of THOSE homeschool moments!ย 

When the house and its people are a wreck

What, you work from home, homeschool, and keep a great house? You’re either sleep-deprived or lying. ๐Ÿ™‚

There are days almost every single week where I ask myself, “When was the last time Sarah took a shower? For that matter, when did I?”

There are PLENTY of days where I stay in my pajamas all day, no makeup, hair unbrushed. Sarah actually does a better job of getting dressed daily than I do.

And then there’s the natural casualty of living in a home with a large dog, five cats and a hamster.

Yes, I’m referring to our disgusting floors.

When I show photos of our home in posts, they often look like this:

Homeschoolers' dining room

What you CAN’T see in these photos are the corners, the tucked-away places, the hidden hairball zones. THOSE don’t look like the photo
above. They look more like this:

Imperfect homeschool: Dust bunnies and more

Then there’s my general forgetful nature. That means we have scenes like this:

Imperfect homeschool: Rotten bananas and forgotten pills

Yes, that banana should have left before it started drawing gnats. Yes, those are the antibiotics we were supposed to give the dog after his tooth-cleaning two weeks ago, which we remembered for about four days before slacking off. (And yet, there they still sit.)

My house, like my homeschool experience, is far from from perfect!

When the family is disconnected

Sometimes, the problem is really one of disconnection.ย These are the times when Sarah is SUPER-interested in learning something and we basically fall short as facilitators or coaches.

We went through a phase where Sarah was super-intoย everything space-related. Chris had ideas for dozens of things to watch and places to visit in keeping with that theme, and every evening, around 11 p.m., Sarah would ask if we could watch one of the movies we’d talked about, and that she was interested in.

By that point, we wereย tired. We didn’t feel like sitting through two hours of astronaut documentaries, so we’d put her off. And put her off. And put her off again.

She wanted to do a science experiment at 2 a.m.ย We put her off.

She wanted to go tour a local factory. I had to work on the tour’s only open day.

All of these things are bound to happen. But our worst days and weeks are the ones where we have more “misses” than connections. We’re roommates, but not a family. We ignore each other.

But there is so much good here!

We’re nothing close to perfect. But we’re trying. And I humbly submit that pajamas, hairballs and moldy food in the fridge, while certainly not super-wonderful, are not what we’re most concerned with.

We love each other. And that happens even when the bananas are rotten and we’re arguing and Sarah doesn’t know what 25 times 2 is.

Thank goodness! ๐Ÿ™‚

29 thoughts on “The days that are anything but picture-perfect: When our unschooling is a hot mess

  1. Love this. Love the head in the hoodie. That could be my daughter. She just did the same thing at her physical. She only came alive when she started talking about her cupcake club and I breathed a sigh of relief.

    I have also told my girls I can no longer instagram pictures of them working because they are always in their pajamas. Nor can I show pictures of my house because since I have been spending so much time in the yard, my house is a disaster. And I have art journaling here today and writing group tomorrow and my sister is coming for a visit at 9:30 and you can’t see my kitchen counters but you sure can see the pile of dished in the sink!

    But through it all, we love and we laugh and we learn.

    • Y’know, I have really decided that I don’t CARE about showering like I used to. Does that sound terrible? I just don’t care. I will shower when I need to, so will Sarah, and life will go on. With super-short hair, it gets “washed” almost every morning, because we both fix it by soaking it and rubbing it with a towel, so… meh. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Your honesty is so warm and one that we can all relate to. We all have imperfect houses and school, because, after all, we are imperfect, too.

    • We are, Phyllis, and I love that I have learned to be OK with that! ๐Ÿ™‚ The most important thing is that we love each other, and we’re always ready to welcome friends even when it’s “messy.”

  3. Thanks for your honesty! Yesterday I noticed I had corn growing in my dish drainer! How does that happen? Cabinet of popcorn spilling out above the dish drainer that always seems to hold a little bit of water! I struggle with taking pictures for product reviews because I don’t like all of the clutter in the background and have resorted to either taking them on the back of the toilet or the couch, where the only background is the couch! I too have missed those teachable moments when I am ready for bed and the kids are set to do an experiment or when I am just too busy!

    • HA!!! I have never heard of a corn problem like that but I think it is hilarious! And… homeschool science? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      One of my best friends is a photographer and taught me a trick how I can use my kitchen table as a “backdrop” using a weird perspective thing. It’s worked well so far, since that actually usually IS clear, and I can easily go at an angle with no junk in the background, just plants!

      But the couch is a good idea too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You know, the funny thing is, they’re really NOT super-awful when you have a good evaluator. The fact is, if we’ve passed the last two, they can’t possibly be too bad. (Our evaluator teaches middle-school special education classes at a public school in the next county, so she “gets” us hardcore.)

      But I can say that NOW. At the moment, I feel like I’d rather have a root canal, despite how nice the poor woman is.

  4. I some times get frustrated when I go to do my weekly-wrap up on my blog because some weeks every picture I have of either Firecracker or Rose shows that they’re not wearing shorts or pants. They’re just wearing t-shirts and underwear! Or they’ve been wearing the same clothes for three days and I wonder if people think I took all the pictures in the same day! LOL…Good post, Joan!

  5. I chuckled a little bit reading this! Oh boy, to know that we aren’t the only ones with the bananas on the counter, or putting off that part of a study because the timing is bad…or especially when asked about themselves, my kids sometimes shrink back.

  6. Can you hear my sigh of relief over here in northern Colorado? You’ve given me permission to be me right now. Thank you, Joan!

    I always say my pajamas are my work uniform. And hey, I see people in pajamas and slippers in public ALL THE TIME!

    Maybe my mansion in heaven will be perfect. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I think you came to MY house to get your images for this post. The floors. Oh, my, the floors. Yes. And he knobs. How many times do I have to say that “doing the dishes” includes counters, microwave, and stovetop/knobs? Always love your writing.

  8. I just love this quote: a collection of imperfection all bound together with the grace of God and each other into something more than the sum of its parts! A great way to describe families in general and homeschooling ones in particular. Wonderful!

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