Pacha: What happened?
Old Man: Well, I threw off the Emperor’s groove.
Old Man: His groove! The rhythm in which he lives his life. His pattern of behavior. I threw it off. And the Emperor had me thrown out the window!
(The Emperor’s New Groove, 2000)
Many of you have begun your homeschool year this week. An industrious few have probably already been at it for several weeks. Some of us are still working on the schedule for our year while enjoying the last days of nice weather. What we all have in common is our dreams for the perfect homeschool experience. Whether you are new to homeschooling, or are a decade-plus veteran, we all seem to have starry-eyed hopes and aspirations for the best year ever.
We plot and plan. We choreograph and juggle. We imagine our lives flowing smoothly to our own personal groove. But all too easily this perfect homeschool ideal becomes a self-centered Emperor, ruling our thoughts and actions with no room for flexibility. Then, inevitably, the unthinkable happens. Something will throw off our groove.
Perhaps your little pupils are not exactly thirsting for the knowledge you so skillfully try to impart. They stare at you blankly from their desks as if they don’t understand a lick of English. That subject you were so excited to teach elicits nothing but grumbles and yawns. The curriculum your friend raves about, and that you spent an ungodly amount of money on, completely baffles you and gets tossed in the trash. Homeschooling just doesn’t look like you dreamed it would and you already feel like a failure.
Add into the mix younger children who are teething, sick, potty training, or just acting, well, toddlerish. The car starts making a funny noise and the washing machine dies. Heck, I once had an entire morning derail after doing battle with a monster spider, for Pete’s sake. The number of things that can destroy a perfectly planned homeschool day are legion.
When the groove is thrown, we feel like the Old Man being tossed out the window by an angry Emperor. We shake our heads and with dazed expressions totter off. Muttering incoherently, we wonder what happened to our carefully thought-out program. The house is trashed and school is a chore. Beyond exhausted, the only thing you have the energy to do for dinner is get out the milk and cereal.
And it’s only the first week. (Some years this was me after the first day!)
One thing I have learned in 13 years at this homeschooling gig: the Emperor has got to go. This perfectionist fantasy of eager students, unfailing patience, and genius test scores are self-centered and unrealistic. If I allow my pattern of behavior, the way I live my life to be dictated by this tyrant, my children and I will be utterly miserable.
The point of the movie, The Emperor’s New Groove, is one of change. The Emperor becomes a better leader when he learns to see the needs of others. In the end, his groove changes to one of true harmony, allowing room for the moves and talents of others. The homeschooler’s new groove is not about us and our grand academic outline. It is about finding our children’s grooves: their unique ways of learning, their interests, and their gifts. It is about learning to choreograph this life’s dance in a way that showcases their talents, not our own.
So, my friends, if your week has been challenging and not at all what you wanted it to be just know, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. You’re doing okay. You will find your footing and it will smooth out. Throw out those preconceived ideas of what your homeschool should look like and replace it with a funky and unique groove that works for your family.
Your turn: What one word of encouragement would you give to a new homeschooler? What is the best bit of wisdom you’ve been given in your own homeschool experience?