More than once, a homeschool mom (usually someone in their first or second year of homeschooling) has said to me something along these lines: whenever I get discouraged or stressed out, I read about you and your family, and look at your pictures, and am encouraged to keep on homeschooling.
Who am I, that anyone would be inspired by the way I do things?
There's a question for the ages.
It reminds me of that song, "Who Am I" by Casting Crowns, the first part of which goes like this:
Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart.
Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.
Well, that's just the thing, isn't it? I am no one of any great significance in and of myself. All good things in my life come from God. This includes my husband, my children, my home, and also my ideas, thoughts, and opinions. Every good moment in our homeschooling day is a blessing from God and nothing less. I know that, now more than ever, there are "secular homeschoolers", who do not believe in including God in their families' lives. I cannot imagine doing such a thing! How would you ever cope with the stress, the frustration, the outright desperation that sometimes accompanies homeschooling without the God of peace and understanding on your side? I'm glad I'm not trying to do it!
Please, please, to all those people who find me and others to be "inspiring" or "encouraging", please know that, while it is nice to be inspiring and encouraging (and, after all, God blesses us so that we might bless others), you must know that every day is not perfect. There are plenty of days when my kids are far from obedient or kind. There are days when they complain about math or whine about reading, and there are days when absolutely nothing worthwhile gets accomplished. There are days - weeks or months, even! - when the house is a mess and I just don't have the time or inclination to spend 12 hours cleaning it (though it does get done eventually). Right now my bedroom looks like it threw up, and here I sit typing on the computer! But this seems more important at the moment, and so here I am.
Please understand that there is no SuperMom. There is no Superwife, no SuperHomeMaker orSuperHouseWife. There is even no SuperHomeschooler. When I first chose my myspace screen name - Heather Homeschooler Extraordinaire, it was as a joke! The joke was on me when so many other moms flocked to my page wanting advice! So for now, I'll clarify. Am I a "homeschooler extraordinaire"? Well, depends on your definition of things, I guess. If, by extraordinaire you mean a mom who loves her kids with all her heart and who has a deep God-given desire to train them up in the Lord, then yes. If you mean a mom who wants more for her kids than the norm, the dumbed-down curriculum and endless standardized testing, who wants her kids to actually learn and like it, then yes. If you mean a mom who wants her kids raised with morals and values and not the "tolerant" views society holds today, then yes. And even if you mean a mom who has been at this for awhile (although 5 years under my belt hardly makes me a Homeschool Hall of Famer) and has some ideas on how to get things to work and new things to try, then yes, that too.
But, if you mean a mom who has it all together and does everything right, whose house is spotless and whose children are angelic little geniuses, then no, that's not me. And I'm glad its not. I read a quote one time (can't remember who said it!) that went something like this: "I'm glad I'm not perfect, because if I was, I wouldn't need Jesus anymore!" How true that is! Although we as Christians are constantly striving to be more Christ-like, it is a life-long striving, an uphill battle against the world, and no one has truly "arrived" until they're dead!
To ALL homeschool moms (and dads!), don't underestimate yourself! Every veteranhomeschooler who seems to have it all together has struggles of their own, and certainly had them in the young, formative years of their homeschool style! Every one of them (us?) was where you are now. We made mistakes, we cried our eyes out, we researched into the night to find ways to help our kids, we changed methods and curriculum over and over. The extraordinary homeschooler is the one who learns from all the years she has under her belt and puts that knowledge to work for herself, her family, and others if she can.
Take a few moments to think back over your own homeschool days this past week. Chances are, you'll find some wonderful little moments of your own. A good homeschooler is the one who focuses on the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. There are a thousand chances to get discouraged (or just downright disgusted!) in every day, but God commands us to think on the good things instead:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~ Philippians 4:8
As you look back on your own homeschool days, pick out those good moments and think on them. Ponder them. What made that moment so good? What was going on? How could we re-create MORE moments like that one? I have found that it helps sometimes to write the moments down (and you never know, you might just end up inspiring someone else along the way!) Keep those moments in your mind when you have those days where nothing goes right. Keep in mind that the longer you homeschool, the more good moments and the less bad ones there are. (Of course, there are still some bad ones!) Realize that your family has just as much potential for being the "homeschool poster family" as anyone else's! All it takes is patience, love, and trusting God to get you through it!
So, with that said (because it really wasn't the original point of the post anyway!), I wanted to share one of our "little moments"....
One day last week, the weather was warmer than usual. The kids wanted to go out so I let them play in the front yard. I opened up the living room window and sat there on the couch, listening to them as I read a book. That, in itself, was a wonderful moment. The cool breeze caressed my face, my children's shouts and laughter reached my ears along with the sound of wind and birds, and the sunlight danced across the pages of my book. Eventually the kids made their way back inside as the weather got cooler, and then came another moment. I was rather immersed in my book when suddenly I looked up, stunned by the quiet of the house around me. But all my kids were within 10 feet of me...they were just immersed in their own activities! Katy had pulled one of next year's books off the shelf (just TRY telling them they can't look at those books til next year!) and was reading about ancient Greek history! Jake was sitting at the table, writing out math problems on a paper and then solving them all! Becca was also at the table, and it turns out she was writing about the Solar System! We have a poster on the wall of the planets and apparently it had inspired an impromptu essay! Quietly I settled back into my book, wonderfully conscious of the quiet unstructured learning going on all around me. Now THAT is a moment!