“I just don’t know how you do it.”
I get the statement all the time, usually followed by, “I could never homeschool, I don’t have enough-
Less often I hear, “I couldn’t be around my kids that long each day and not kill them,” but that’s another subject for another time.
The truth is…
I could never homeschool either.
I can’t do it.
At least...not without the Lord.
You see, any “wins” I have in this homeschooling journey are not because I have super human powers. Any perfectly-executed days with no fighting, everyone doing their work, everyone getting along and finishing everything is not because I made it happen.
I’m just like you. I have lots of short-comings, lots of failings. I’m an imperfect, sinful, tired mama just like you are.
And if I’m being honest here, most days do not look anything like the picture-perfect life that is in everyone’s mind when they think about their goals for homeschooling.
More often, there is chaos.
More often, there is crying and whining (sometimes from the kids).
More often there are unsharpened pencils and lost notebooks and taking twenty-five minutes to complete a task that really should've only taken ten.
The coffee isn’t strong enough, the hours aren’t long enough, and my patience isn’t the bottomless well I would love for it to be.
As long as I’m being honest here…
Homeschooling for us isn’t just a choice. It’s not the “superior alternative” to brick and mortar schools I painstakingly researched and took on as a “martyr” for the good of my children’s education and future. Far from it.
Do the grave issues which define the modern public school education play a factor in the overall decision? Of course they do. But they aren’t *the* factor for this choice, and this is not so much a choice as a calling.
The choice here was not 'will I homeschool as opposed to send my kids to school', but 'will I answer the call which God has so obviously- sometimes blaringly- pressed upon my heart?'
Until two years ago, I was pretty happily sailing along in our homeschooling journey. Yes, of course, there were bad days. Many, many, MANY bad days. The questions of my ability or desire to even continue cropped up in even the easiest of moments. But we had *just* finally settled into a decent routine, were happy with our chosen curriculum, and I felt like I was starting to get the hang of things, finally after five years. I felt grounded in this decision and at peace with our path. I was feeling proud of myself. Almost a little too proud.
And then life got caught up in a whirlwind of so many different things, as life is wont to do, and I fell pretty hard, flat on my face. I was exhausted. I was beaten down. I was depressed. I couldn’t imagine going through one more year with my children at home all day long, in my personal space, depending on me to educate them, some of the littles needing far too much more than I thought I was capable of providing. I was self-focused but in all the wrong ways. Then the self-doubt crept in. Am I even equipped to do this? Won’t I be failing them if I attempt to continue down this road? The questions eventually turned into statements and I had pretty much all but convinced myself that I was completely inept and that it would be best to send my kids away to school. I remember telling my sister that I no longer felt called to homeschool, and as any good sister and friend would do, she dug into my statement and made me think more with logic than with my emotions and heart. With a few short and simple questions, she unpacked all of the junk I had swirling in my brain, challenging me to discern if it really was that I was no longer being called, or if it was that I was just trying to take the helm back from the Lord and steer this ship on my own.
Thank God for wise little sisters is really all I have to say about that.
At this point, we had already looked into sending the kids to a local Catholic school. Our parish was willing to help us with tuition and we had heard from the principal that they just needed us to come for a meeting to discuss. However, encouraged by some very prayerful and holy women who didn’t even know what I was angsting over or praying about, I started a novena to St. Thérèse. I knew that this was a very serious, life-changing decision to make, and I couldn’t see through my emotions, exhaustion and self-doubt to really make a rational one.
I asked St. Thérèse to intercede for me. To join me in my pleadings to the Lord, to offer prayers on my behalf to our loving Father to give me an answer. If this was still my calling, I asked St. Thérèse to send me a rose. But not just any rose, a lavender rose, one of the most beautiful and expensive and fairly rare roses there are. Hardly anyone knows that they are a real thing. I didn’t tell anyone what I had asked for, not even my husband. I wanted to make sure that if I got my answer, that it was authentic and unadulterated. Only then would I know for sure it was from the Lord through St. Thérèse, the little flower of Jesus.
Suffice it to say that I got my rose, and in a most unexpected way! And I knew. I just knew that all of the thoughts, all of my self-doubt and even all the encouragement to stop homeschooling from well-meaning people who really just don’t understand- all of that was for naught. It was a distraction. It was a trick.
The truth is no one has enough patience, enough time, enough knowledge, enough money. No one is equipped to do this thing called homeschooling. Not without the proper focus and the proper truths laid as the foundation can any of us actually make it work – and I mean any of us, not even the most seemingly put together, perfectly organized, public-speaking, book-writing, workshop-running homeschooling enthusiast there is.
And what is that proper focus?
What are those truths you are supposed to lay as a foundation for your homeschooling life?
Here are just a few:
I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I lack. (Psalm 23:1)
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)
And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:4)
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His
purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Commit your way to the Lord; trust that God will act. (Psalm 37:5)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence, rely not. (Proverbs 3:5)
And there are so, so many more truths you can find if you only seek Him out. And not just for your homeschooling life, but for your daily life outside of homeschooling. None of us on our own has anything that we need to make it through, but take heart! We can find all we need in Him.
I’d love to say that our year after answering this call one more time went splendidly. It in fact did not. I was battling depression and anxiety, I was still recovering from some emotional trauma I had experienced the previous year, I was still feeling very much exhausted and depleted. But we spent our days reading, having fun with a different approach to learning with yet another new curriculum, being gentle with each other, and praying. The kids did very well, their portfolios were found to be impressive by their evaluator, and we not only survived another year, we thrived. But there were still LOTS of days where everyone was fighting, kids whined about not wanting to join in lessons, pencils weren’t sharpened on time, notebooks were most definitely misplaced, and the antics of the two littlest who are not school-aged made for some very disruptive entertainment. I was self-focused in many moments. The coffee was still not strong enough; the hours still not long enough, and much of my plans and ideas for our year were thrown out the window on day three. This year has again started much in the same.
But if I remember those truths I mentioned earlier, the very foundation of our homeschooling journey is that God is with us, God will bless us, God will uphold us and all we have to do is put our trust in Him. On our own, we have nothing. But with God, we have everything, and when we get out of the way to let Him steer our ship, we are guaranteed safe passage, even through these ever-murky waters of our homeschooling journey.
Jesus, I trust in YOU.
St. Thérèse, pray for us!