Friday, March 20, 2009

True Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom
Hello, my name is Michele and I am a homeschooler.
Yes, I’ve been at this for awhile and I know that it is the best choice for my family. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Phillipians 4:13 is true and that God will equip me and strengthen me to do the job. I love my children and consider myself blessed to be able to truly get to know them, to spend time with them and to help shape them into the people God is calling them to become. Homeschooling is truly the best choice I’ve ever made, apart from choosing to follow Christ with my life.
Sometimes I feel like I’m failing my kids.
Sometimes, I see that big yellow bus when I’m drinking my morning coffee and wonder if they wouldn’t have been better off in public school.
Sometimes, I want to run away and join the circus, or lock myself in my room with a bag of Hershey’s kisses, or have five minutes of time to myself to sort out my thoughts. Just sayin’. Sometimes, those things are just as true.

The thing is, when I get too focused on the wrong things, I lose my perspective. I’ve had my fair share of messes and mistakes along the homeschool journey. There have been days when I’ve lost my temper, or yelled at my children. There have been days when I felt like any certified teacher would surely be a better alternative to my frazzled, frustrated, worn- out self. There have been days when my objective was the standardized test, the academic performance, or what the neighbors think when we end up outside in the middle of the afternoon. I’ve spent too much energy on other people’s opinions, comparisons and commentary.
Over the years, I’ve learned not to give too much power to my fears. Yes, I’m flawed and fallible. I’m not the perfect teacher or the perfect parent….but I am the perfect teacher and parent for my children, because God put me in that role. I am equipped to shepherd them through life, helping them navigate the waters of toddlerhood, adolescence and the teen years and all of the emotional and spiritual ups and downs during those years. I’m equipped to help them learn to spell, to read, to write and to learn about the world around them, as well. It’s all in the perspective.
If I focus daily on meeting academic goals and standards set forth by the powers that be, the latest classical education trend, or even the curriculum I choose, I am setting myself up. All of those things—standards of learning, curricula, scope and sequence, learning style profiles—have a place and a value, if I use them as tools to help me in my journey instead of allowing them to be task masters. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that I get to be in charge! I get to choose what we study, how much time we spend on the topic and when we go outside….no matter what the neighbors think. We can garden and paint, journal and cook, do science experiments and read great literature….it’s up to me.
I have found that when I give myself the freedom to pay attention to my kids, to observe their passions and interests and to invest in their hearts—what they love—then our school has a greater impact. Yes, we have some non-negotiables: math, grammar, writing, but if I give my kids the freedom to learn and give them the confidence to make mistakes, show grace for failures and imperfections, then I’m teaching them that life is about more than the standardized test. Our children aren’t cookie cutter people, God wired us for so much more than to be judged on the bell-curve.
After eleven years of homeschooling, I’ve found that the education that has been the most significant is mine. I’ve learned a lot about grace for myself and grace for my children, I’ve learned how silly and superficial I can be and I’ve learned that God has a much bigger agenda for our lives and the lives of our children than can be encompassed in a K-12 core curriculum.
If you are a young homeschool mom, or if you’re simply feeling frustrated and inadequate as you try to juggle the roles of wife, mom and teacher, let me encourage you to relax and enjoy the journey. You are not failing your kids, even when you have days that are failures. Your kids wouldn’t be better off on that big yellow bus, no matter what you might think on a hormonal day. The circus doesn’t provide very good benefits from what I’ve been told, so that’s not a great option either, in spite of the travel opportunity. (However, there is something to be said about a hidden stash of chocolate…) Give yourself permission to fail on some days, have grace for yourself when you do. Give your kids permission to fail at some things, too! Have grace for the fact that they are children, remember that their failures and struggles aren’t about you or your role as their teacher. They are just learning, and you are their best guide—their mom, who loves them and wants what is best. When they turn into young adults who are interested in the things around them, value the things of God and make wise, godly choices---the fact that they stink at spelling or fidget during their math lesson will pale in comparison.