True Confessions of a Homeschool Mom

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the number of articles and posts I’ve read where fellow mombloggers are confessing that their lives aren’t perfect. The buzz words today are “authenticity” and “transparency.” Whatever your vocation or message, it has become important to emphasize that you have many flaws and sometimes bad things happen in your life.

OK. So I recognize the need to know we aren’t alone, to gain encouragement from the idea that others have faced similar circumstances, to feel understood. But I thought it was a given that even if someone appears to be blissfully successful, they still have real life problems like the rest of us. I mean, haven’t you noticed how many Hollywood couples can’t seem to stay married (or faithful), for longer than 5 minutes?

Death, disease, betrayal, and fear are felt by everyone—just read the headlines while waiting in the checkout line at the store. Money, fame, and beauty don’t immunize you to sorrow or pain. Tragedy is not a respecter of persons.

I admit—I’m not really into sharing my feelings or talking in detail about personal issues or family life. Not because it would be embarrassing, but some stories don’t belong to me, and I value the privacy and confidentiality of my relationship with family and friends. I’m a forward thinking person, so I don’t see the world through the lens of my past. My writing really reflects the optimistic way I view the world.

However, based on some of the most common confessions I’ve seen on parenting and homeschool blogs, I’m going to share some stuff about my own household and family issues. Trigger warning for those disturbed by reality.

My house isn’t always clean and organized.

Does it sound cranky to say “Well, duh”? I mean, several people live here. As a homeschooling family, one of us is always home doing something that involves creating dirty dishes or piles of laundry, leaving the guts of their latest hobby on the table, games on the floor, books on chairs, and clutter near the front door.

But we deal with it. Everyone has a responsibility to help maintain our home to a reasonable standard of organization and cleanliness. Every so often we do a sort of inventory of our belongings and get rid of things we don’t use or need. I make spaces for our stuff, so when I remind certain members of my family to put their things away, they know exactly where said things belong. If I have to pick it up, it becomes mine because obviously they don’t want it anymore, and if I don’t need it, I give it to Goodwill or throw it away. Problem solved.

I think it helps that we view our home as a tool we use to accommodate our lives. I don’t serve this house with expensive collectibles, decorative tchotchkes, and a furniture arrangement that looks good in a picture but isn’t comfortable. Anything that makes it hard for me to maintain order and cleanliness goes … away.

I don’t spend much time worrying how this house looks to people who compare everything to HGTV and Pinterest. A few years ago I took down all our pictures to give the walls a fresh coat of paint. It took me about three years to put them all back. I don’t feel a bit bad about that, because hanging pictures is not a priority when you are caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s while homeschooling and working a part-time job.   

I highly recommend we all stop feeling like we are being held hostage to illogical expectations of home and family and get on with the business of living.

Our homeschool life has its ups and downs.

Home repairs, illness, and other emergencies both major and minor inevitably happen. Sometimes we are just tired. There are days when we feel unsatisfied with what we’ve accomplished. Frustrations arise at the oddest moments for the strangest reasons. Right now there is a stinkbug buzzing around a lamp and I want to beat it to death with a shovel.

Because we know ups and downs are normal, we must develop strategies to deal with the days when we are forced to navigate stumblingblocks.

I’m prone to systemize everything, so we have an outline to follow when dealing with a crisis or just a “terrible, horrible, very bad day”:

  • We stop to assess the situation.
  • We choose a response that moves us toward a solution.
  • We keep our overarching goals in mind.
  • We understand times of refreshing are as necessary as hard work, so we take a break when we need it.
  • We recognize that even when we aren’t “doing school,” we are still learning while reading or listening to a book, or having a conversation about an interesting topic.
  • We work as a team to support and encourage each other.
  • We know unpleasant situations are temporary and don’t allow it take over our life.

We gave up on detailed lesson plans.

Many years ago, never mind how long precisely, I used to try to plan the entire year down to the minute. It made my Type A heart happy to see little squares on planning pages neatly filled in with everything we were going to do during the year to meet our goals.

Then my children’s needs and interests changed and the lesson plans went into the paper shredder. Online planners are somewhat better because I could use the Delete button to make changes that didn’t involve big inky blotches of strike-throughs or a huge pile of eraser guts on my desk.

After a year or two of trying to put our round-ish homeschool in a square hole, we started creating long range goals, composed of the subject knowledge and skill sets the kids wanted to acquire by the time they graduated. These were broken up into four week segments of topics and assignments. This allowed for the kind of flexibility that delight-directed, sanity-preserving homeschooling required. As an ambitious, perfectionist mom, I had to learn to create an environment that ministered to the actual homeschoolers—my kids.

Our kids act like kids, and parenting is hard.

Children are immature. Isn’t that a masterful statement of the obvious? They are growing, changing, exploring, questioning. They look to us for guidance, for boundaries, for inspiration.

This is not some sort of parenting secret. Just like yours, our children disobey and push to see if the limits we’ve set are really and truly limits. They ask hard questions because they are curious or they don’t have enough experience to understand the consequences of their actions. They get cranky when they are too cold, too hot, too tired, or too hungry.

So do we.

Each one of our children are unique, and we marvel at their individuality. Then we struggle to meet their individual needs while still being consistent in our expectations. Some children are more challenging than others. Their desire for independence at three years old is terrifying, but we don’t want to stifle it completely because we know how valuable self-reliance will be when they are adults. A sensitive child that feels everything so deeply will one day, with the right kind of guidance, become a caring adult who invests in others.

I think one of the reasons we can gain some good information and insight from parenting blogs and books is that even as children develop and mature along individual paths, they follow some very similar behavior patterns. We as parents can commiserate, comfort, and advise each other because of these similarities. We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and share what we’ve learned with others, such as in Titus 2:3-5. I’ve personally discovered how healthy and helpful it is to share our experiences, and have seen the ways isolation—real or imagined—breeds fear, and fear keeps you in a corner with your hands over your eyes.

But I’ve also realized how sharing can lead to comparing, and comparing is not wise (2 Cor. 10:12). Why do we need to know that someone else’s house is messy or they have bad hair days? Do we feel a sense of satisfaction when someone fails or experiences a loss? Are we using their faults to excuse our own failures? After all, if someone else is setting the bar nice and low, we can tell our conscience to shut up and stop nagging us to do better.

When someone’s life looks successful and happy, are we consumed with covetousness, insecurity, resentment, or despair? Let’s face it—comparing yourself to others never results in true change of your mind and heart and behavior, and it certainly doesn’t lead to happiness, contentment, and an abundant life.

When our focus isn’t healthy, we aren’t moved to love and serve Christ, to seek out and meet needs, and minister to others.

The stories we share can serve a purpose, such as seeking help and forgiveness, to encourage and minister, to lighten burdens, build relationships, and support and strengthen others. But let’s keep it all in perspective, and recognize the only true source of the wisdom and answers we seek.

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There is 1 Comment

pvawter's picture

Susan,
I appreciate these recent articles on homeschooling, as my wife and I are only just beginning the process. At 3 years in, we've got many years ahead of us, but it's encouraging to hear you share some of the lessons you've learned. The reminder to keep our long-term goals in mind, especially with respect to the individual personality of each of our children is very helpful today.
Thanks,
Paul

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