His brother, older than him by 1 grade, needed to be in school. Because of the exorbitant American tuition of private school, we could not afford to put the 4-year-old in school too.
Fortunately, Hashem had me irrationally (or so I thought at the time) save all his older brother's weekly sum-up sheets (daf kesher) from school last year, so I actually had all the material necessary to homeschool this child.
I decided to get started homeschooling via candy.
That, and this 4-year-old being a particularly well-behaved, acquiescent, and intelligent child, made me believe that homeschooling would be a breeze.
Only it wasn't.
The child refused to learn. He got distracted easily. He wouldn't listen. He wouldn't participate.
I tried different methods (rewards, a this-is-fun! approach, calm yet firm, calm yet stern, etc.) and absolutely nothing worked.
I started to feel like a failure. I also started to panic. Planning return to Eretz Yisrael at some point, I felt frantic about him being place a year behind.
Then I decided to consult with one of the other young women who'd also come from Eretz Yisrael in our kiruv group.
She'd been teaching in Eretz Yisrael for several years and loved her profession. She was also a determined, passionate, intelligent, and organized person whom I was sure could offer me good advice.
(In general, she was good at giving good advice.)
But when I explained my goals and my problems to her, she gazed at me intently without answering.
Finally, she said, "I don't know how to tell you this, but in my experience, parents can't teach their children. Children simply refuse to learn from their parents."
Flummoxed, I began stammering my response. But what about all the homeschooling parents? And what about parents who do homework with their children (knowing full well that homework is often a miserable stress on the parents and the cause of much child-parent tension)?
She shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "It could be that because homeschooling parents started off that way, like the children were never in school, so the children simply adjusted to that reality. Or maybe because they don't offer any other choice, so eventually the children come around."
She sighed and looked at me with great seriousness. "But I really don't know how homeschoolers do it. Because in my experience, it just doesn't happen." She paused. "Even me. My children won't learn from me."
"Really?" I said. "And you know how to teach!"
She nodded with a rueful smile. "Yeah. And I REALLY know how to teach! Parents love me because I give my all to my students and make sure that every one is working up to her full potential. And I've tried teaching my own children. But I just can't. They simple won't learn from me."
It was a comfort to know that I wasn't doing anything wrong; the situation was simply a genuinely challenging one.
So I mostly gave up and baruch Hashem, we were back in Eretz Yisrael a few months later and the 4-year-old was able to catch up.
(Interestingly, it was the older child who got messed up with school and switching languages & programs twice in one year.)
But why I am telling you this story?
Regardless of the Current Results, You're Doing a Great Job. Really.
By the way, I'm also homeschooling my 5-year-old now. We started off with a couple of minutes of morning davening. (Disappointingly, that was a grueling & frustrating activity for the first week, but then got better). Then we started doing very small amounts of reading. I also expected that to go well because this child loves reading his worksheets from school, but has suddenly dug in his heels about reading with us with no impetus from school (although that also improved a bit recently).
I decided to make parsha and weekly topics his bedtime story, so hopefully that will go well.
And no, we're not overwhelming him. Literally a couple of minutes for davening and then for reading should not be a huge pressure. (Except that for some reason it is. Even with chocolate.)
This time, there really is no choice and I know I must keep plowing ahead. (Asking Hashem to make this go more smoothly has definitely helped.)
But the point is for you homeschoolers to realize that teaching your own children, ESPECIALLY after they've been habituated to classroom schooling, is a real transition and a real challenge.
If you're not accomplishing what you hoped with homeschooling (even if you made sure to start out with minimum standards) or if you're finding it very frustrating and stagnating...then please know there is nothing wrong with you or your child.
It's the situation.
It's a genuinely difficult situation. As we saw above, even a successful, experienced, professional teacher struggled with teaching her own children.
Yes, it ultimately can be done, and Hashem grants siyata d'Shmaya in situations like this, but please don't blame yourself or think that you're doing something "wrong" or that you're missing some secret "key" to homeschooling.
You're not. You're totally fine.
And also, I've read accounts of committed homeschooling moms who described days that, even for them, the kids just won't settle down to learn or the mom just can't bring herself to teach them that day. (Or even a few days in a row.)
So it's not easy-shmeezy for anyone.
Also, we're all getting ready for Pesach right now.
So...please don't feel bad.
Please feel good.
Because whatever you're doing (even if you haven't actually accomplished much with the kids) is all part of the effort and the transition, and you deserve a lot of credit for any efforts you are making.