Enjoy this guest post by Elizabeth Ours, who is contributing a prize for our Back to School Blast party. (read more about Elizabeth at the end of post)
Back in 1989 when I first felt persuaded to attempt the mammoth task of teaching my own children at home, I determined that I was going to not just do a good job, I was going to do the best job ever! In fact, nothing short of perfection would work for me! I had high and lofty goals for myself and my children. I just wish I had known then what I know now!
1. There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Homeschooling Mother
I thought that if I tried hard enough that I could be a perfect homeschooling mother. And being perfect was very important to me, because, after all, I’m a first born over-achiever! (Why else do you think I ended up with ten children??) 😉 I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted my husband to be impressed with the job I was doing, and to continue to support the radical idea of homeschooling, which he was still skeptical about at the time. I wanted to prove my critics wrong and to show everyone how superior homeschooling was. (It’s helpful to remember that homeschooling was still the new kid on the block back in those days, and there was a lot of pressure for homeschoolers to prove themselves!)
There were a few problems with my perspective. First of all, no matter how hard I tried to do everything perfectly, I always fell short. It only became more impossible as time went by and I kept adding more little students to my roll! 🙂 Never being able to measure up to my own unrealistic expectations for myself led to great discouragement.
Secondly, you probably picked up on the fact that many of my actions were motivated by that most deceptive of all sins, Pride. Since the Bible teaches that God gives grace to the humble, I was obviously attempting all of this in my own strength, not understanding how to draw from His grace and power.
And most of all, my whole premise was wrong. I desired well-behaved, godly children, and I somehow had the erroneous idea that if I did everything right, my children were guaranteed to turn out exactly the way I wanted them to.
Which brings me to point #2 . . . .
2. There is No Such Thing as Perfect Children
Who doesn’t want perfect children?? We all have some kind of image in our minds of what “perfect children” look like, what they do, and definitely what they don’t do. Primarily, they don’t embarrass us by their behavior (pride again!).
I worked hard to try to shape my children into my idea of “perfect children.” I sought to train my children to demonstrate first-time obedience, to have a good attitude with their school work and chores, to be hard workers, to sit quietly in church, and to be nice to their brothers and sisters. However, no matter how hard I tried, prayed, cried, and beat my head against the wall, my children just didn’t cooperate! They were just not perfect!
I learned that even if you dress your children in the cutest matching clothes, teach them to say “Yes Ma’am,” train them to come when called and to not run in stores, to sit quietly in church, and to quote scripture with hand motions, that they still might be picking their noses and wiping it on the pews, pinching their sisters when no one is looking, feeding their peas to the dog, “conveniently losing” their school work and lying about it, and going to the bathroom in their pants rather than stopping their play in time! Yep, these are all the kinds of things that very imperfect children do! 😉
Don’t misunderstand me — there is nothing wrong with having lofty goals for our children. It’s a good thing to have ideals and to want better for our children than what the current culture produces. Children need discipline and training, and we all want our children to be blessings to others. However, we get into trouble when we have unrealistic expectations for our children, fueled by our own pride, which cause us to turn our children into idols, and may cause our children to feel rejected by us when they can never measure up.
3. There’s No Such Thing as the Perfect Curriculum.
Another trap I fell into was thinking that if I could find the perfect curriculum, then it would help me accomplish my goal of becoming the perfect homeschooling mother with those perfect children we just talked about! 🙂
First of all, there is no perfect curriculum. There are many excellent programs out there that will all work if we work them. (None seem to work too well still in their packaging on the bookcase shelved next to our well-worn volume of “Good Intentions.”) Clearly, some materials are better adapted to the needs of home educators than others, but everything can be adapted.
I have often felt overwhelmed by the many different approaches to home education, agonizing over which one was “the right one.” I don’t believe there is any one right way to teach, just as there is not one right way to learn. We are all individuals with different home situations, different personalities and preferences, different children, and different needs, which often change as we go through the seasons of life.
We should feel free to pick and choose elements of many different teaching styles and learning styles that fit who we are as mothers/teachers and who our children are as learners and piece them together into a unique and beautiful learning quilt that blankets our home with peace and joy. If we find a block we don’t like, no problem! We just take that one out and replace it with another! Each educational quilt should be unique, just as each family is unique!
The most compelling reason for giving up on the idea of finding the “perfect curriculum” is that homeschooling is not all about the curriculum! It is so much more than textbooks and tests! It is a lifestyle of learning that permeates our homes and ties heart strings with our children. Primarily, home education should be about discipleship. Discipleship is heart upon heart, life upon life, iron sharpening iron.
The Bible describes it this way:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ~ Deuteronomy 6:5-9 NKJV
Are you drowning under the pressure of feeling you have to be Superwoman with super children? If so, burn your cape, and come down to earth. Ask God to deliver you from the burden of trying to be perfect, and just seek to be faithful, living out what He calls you to do, hour by hour, day by day.
Elizabeth, who blogs at Yes They’re All Ours, is the busy mom of 10 children — 6 sons and 4 daughters, who range in age from 9 to 28! She has been homeschooling since 1990, and continues to teach her five youngest children at home, while attempting to keep up with the adventures of her five adult children (some of whom still live at home). She has been happily married since 1983, and lives with her husband and children on the Georgia coast, where she enjoys creating an inviting home for her family, cooking great southern food (and blogging about it), homeschooling (when not spending the day at the beach), and learning to embrace being an older woman, while encouraging the younger women in her life according to the spirit of Titus 2. She invites you to connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or email her at Elizabeth@yestheyareallours.com.
Just what I needed! Thanks!
Wow! This post encouraged me sooooo much! Especially your second point about trying to produce “perfect children.” It can be so frustrating when as a mother you’re trying to do everything “right” yet your children just aren’t turning out perfect 🙂 I’ll be referring to your wise words many a time, I assure you!
God bless you as you abide in Him!