The back-to-school pictures are filling up my feed. With every scroll I see your adorable children holding chalkboard signs, sporting new shoes and slicked back hair. You are posing so proudly with your kiddos, as you should be. They are precious and growing so quickly! How does this happen? More importantly, how the heck do you, my friends, never age? I’m only two sips into my coffee and still in my pajamas, sitting there, examining your perfectly wrinkle-free faces, with every hair in place at 7am; when the wave of fear and regret grips my heart. I’m not ready for this. Literally, yes, I need to get dressed; but also, I’m panicked and desperate to chase down the school bus, screaming, “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaait! STOP!”
The first day of school marks the moment each year when I push to the corners of my mind the doubts I dare not admit: I don’t want to homeschool my kids.
This will be my forth year homeschooling. I don’t think there has been a single year that I have started out thinking: This is going to be so awesome! I’m so excited to be doing this! This is exactly what I want to be doing.
Nope. And this year has been no different.
There are a lot of diehard homeschool families and mommas. I borrow lots of their ideas. I marvel at their planning boards and blogs, the rhythm of their day astounds me. We are all clunks and bangs over here. We’re pushing out a melody with bugle and ukulele. It’s hardly harmonious, but we play on.
So why do I homeschool my children?
Here is my go-to answer:
It works well for our family.
Full disclosure: We own a business and occasionally my husband works nights and weekends. Since we homeschool he can arrange his schedule to hang out in the morning if he has to work in the evening. In the morning, this is like a dream come true and we are the poster family for homeschooling. Then evening comes. And we are suffering the consequences of our schedule being flipped upside down. Inevitably, the children or I will be in tears somewhere around 8 o’clock at night, trying to finish a math lesson. By the time my husband gets home I am looking up late-enrollment options for local schools.
Let me assure you, “It works well for our family” becomes less and less true each year. “We make it work for our family”, seems to be a more accurate statement.
Here is my follow-up answer:
Homeschool takes us half the amount of time of a normal school day, which gives us more time to explore other interests.
Full disclosure: Make no mistake; half-days are essential to our ability to homeschool. We can squeeze in work while we wait in the Pediatrician’s office; the kids bring books with them while I’m running errands; or we can go on a field trip in the morning with friends and still have time for school in the afternoon. But sometimes that extra half-a-day destroys nearly every room in my house. Those four hours breed our friends named, Mischief and Mayhem; and they run scandalously through shelves of neatly-held books, and painstakingly-built Lego towns. Those extra few hours feeds imagination and creativity in my children’s minds to the point that I am “not allowed to go into any bedroom in the house because all of the babies at the daycare are sleeping.” Which begs the question, “Is the daycare “Director” allowed to sneak in there and take a nap too; because… YOU TINY PEOPLE ARE EXHAUSTING AND I AM ABSOLUTELY GOING INTO MY OWN BEDROOM. MOVE IT.”
With our extra time, we often explore the interesting world of forgiveness.
Truthfully, my family and I, wax and wane between really loving our days of home education and taking an indefinite leave of absence. How do we decide, how do any of us really decide, what’s the right thing for our kids, for us, for our family?
That question brings me to the God’s-honest reason for heading down this homeschool path:
We asked the One who knows our family best, what He wanted for us, for them. In fact, every year my husband and I ask Him, just to be sure it’s still the path He’s marking out for us. And so far, every year, we’ve heard, “Yes.”
Full Disclosure: It seems simple enough, He says, “Yes”; We say, “Yes” too. The problem is, around this time of year, I begin to doubt that I am able. And that’s where I am today—I’m not in love with the answer He’s given me, but I’m still in love with Him. When I find myself in this place, I go to the verse that first gave me the answer I was not relieved to find years ago when we started this journey:
Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
So that’s what I’m going to do again this year; offer our everyday lives to the Lord and (eventually) embrace what He wants to do with it, because this willful obedience to His plan for my life is the place that I have experienced the most triumphant victories and the most humbling defeats. I know this. This is where I fail and rise. This is where I wrestle with fears and concerns as I work out my faith. This is where I change. This is where He brings out the best in me. This is where I grow. This is also where I want to whine, “Growth is hard! Meh!”
And my tiny people, they see it all. And that’s the very purpose of it. Whatever develops in my kid’s during my growth is the fruit of the work He’s doing in me. When I am loving this calling to homeschool it’s because I see the fruit of it. It’s harder to love something when it’s taking shape, it’s too muddled. Yet, the muddled place is where I experience God’s maturity forming in me, albeit painstakingly slow. It’s all for my good. It’s all because He loves me, and them, and you.
Wherever your muddled place is can we agree, #thestruggleisreal? Thankfully, this very real struggle keeps me standing (I should probably be kneeling) in humility and (for the most part) out of the judgment seat. Lord knows, I’ll need you to be judgment-free if you see me running after the school bus in tears.