Monthly Archives: August 2017
My wife and I have been homeschooling our kids for some 17 years now. As a homeschool dad, I have always seen my primary job as helping my wife, Lisa, to have perspective on the whole homeschooling journey. Like most homeschool moms, Lisa has always placed a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to make sure she is giving our kids the best education she can. She has fretted over which curriculum we should use, agonized over whether she is organized or disciplined enough, worried about possible “gaps” in their education, and wondered if other moms (or various private and public schools) might be doing it better.
For you homeschool moms who are putting that same pressure on yourselves at the beginning of this school year, here’s a bit of the perspective I’ve tried to offer my wife over the years:
1. The advantages of homeschooling have little to do with your educational expertise or ability to teach. Sure, a professional teacher specializing in a single subject might be able to explain that subject matter better than you can. But that teacher can never match the personal attention you are able to give to your child. Even if your attention is divided among a large number of children, the biggest families are still a fraction of the size of a typical classroom. And, of course, no teacher can love your child and respond to their individual needs the way you can.
2. Don’t compare your “closets” to other homeschool moms’ “formal living rooms.” A formal living room is a room that always stays presentable because nobody in the family is allowed to go in there. When company comes over, they are ushered into the formal living room and get a completely skewed perspective of your home. A closet on the other hand is a place we throw all our junk in order to keep it hidden when company arrives.
When you look at other homeschool moms, you see only their “formal living rooms”: their organized school room on the first (never the last) day of school, their most creative lesson, their coolest craft. You never see the times when both mom and child dissolved into tears over a math lesson, when a craft or experiment completely fell apart, or when half the week’s schoolwork had to be hurriedly finished over the weekend. You know what’s in your own home educational “closet,” but all you see of other homeschoolers is their “formal living rooms.” Any comparison you make is therefore a false comparison.
When you’re tempted to compare yourself to someone else, remember that if they were to see only your best homeschooling moments, they might actually be intimidated by you!
3. You won’t know how successful your homeschooling (or parenting) was until you see the finished product, and you won’t see that until your kids are grown and nearing the end of their educational journey. So homeschool for the long haul. It doesn’t matter if your kid takes longer to learn to read or multiply than someone else’s kid. If one of your older children learned something quickly and your younger child is struggling with it, that doesn’t mean you’re now doing something wrong. It simply means that each child is different, and hey, that’s where you can take comfort in the individual attention homeschooling enables you to give (see point 1 above).
As my mom told herself when I had a hard time learning to tie my shoes: “No kid ever went to college not knowing how to tie his shoes.” I may have run around a few years with untied laces, but eventually I got it (and thankfully, that was well before college!). Your kids will eventually get it too. One day that inscrutable math concept or point of grammar will just click, and you’ll have the joy of seeing the light of understanding in their eyes. Until then, keep at it and don’t worry. Reassure them (and yourself) that they’ll get it eventually.
As far as I can see, the advantages of homeschooling are such that it takes serious negligence or apathy to really mess it up. And if you’re constantly putting pressure on yourself, that’s a pretty sure sign that you’re not one of those negligent/apathetic homeschool moms. So relax, rejoice, and rest secure in the knowledge that you are giving your kids a tremendous advantage. It may be hard for you to see from day to day, but one day soon, everyone will see it.
More than thirty years ago, an angry young man came to the end of himself and gave his life to Christ. Here’s a brief account of how it happened:
On this night thirty-three years ago, I sat on the edge of a dock looking out at the waters of a small lake. I had come there on a retreat with a friend’s church youth group. Not brought up in the church, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about how to pray, so I just began pouring my heart out to God: confessing my sin, my futile self-reliance, and all the reasons I was unworthy to come to Him. I understood that I was sinner, and I was keenly aware of my need for God.
There is a famous quote, variously attributed to Pascal, Augustine, or Ambrose, which says, “There is a God-shaped vacuum inside each of us which only God can fill.” For me, that vacuum was all too real and palpable. As I sat there praying to God, I remember looking up at the vastness of the night sky and clearly sensing that He was there all around me, filling every space—every space except for the tiny insignificant void inside of me. Then it dawned on me that in His divine greed, He wanted to fill that space too!
While I can remember the perceptions and emotions of that night quite clearly, I recall almost nothing of the things I actually said in that prayer. The only thing I do remember saying is this: “God, I don’t know what kind of servant I’m going to be for you, but I want to the best I can be.” That moment when I spoke those words is the closest I think I’ve ever gotten to genuine humility. My pride was broken, my vanity spent, I knew I had nothing to offer. And yet, somehow, I knew that God wanted all of me, and I wanted nothing more than to be of some use for Him.
As I got up from the dock and headed off to bed that night, I remember feeling as if an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had just been freed from the burden of my sin, and all the separation, guilt, anxiety, and utter loneliness that go with it. That night, my step was light, and my heart was full.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)