I’ve shared before that homeschooling wasn’t my original dream. I planned to work part-time as a psychologist and be home with my 2.5 children the rest of time, giving me plenty of time to write and speak. I knew God had called me to be a writer and speaker and it’s the main reason I wanted to finish my Ph.D. People have asked me if I miss counseling and I really don’t. As an extrovert, doing individual counseling wasn’t a good fit for me.
I didn’t want to homeschool.
I was surprised when I felt God calling me to homeschool. I understood not practicing as a psychologist, but how could I have the time to write and speak if I was teaching my children full-time? I wrestled with the idea and ultimately decided that if God was calling me to all three paths, it was His responsibility to make it work.
Now, of course, I laugh about that as I speak and write ABOUT homeschooling. But I want to back up to my first experiences with homeschooling.
My first experience homeschooling.
When I read a book on homeschooling, I was impressed by the evidence that homeschooling provided a better education. Of course, I wanted my kids to have the best education possible, as every loving parent does.
I was also very impressed by the evidence that homeschooling gave kids better self-esteem. As someone who bore the scars of bullying, I loved the idea that my kids could feel good about themselves throughout their childhood.
Finally, I was impressed by stories of homeschooling resulting in better character. Homeschoolers were more likely to be mature, to be biblically minded, and have a work ethic that would lead to advancement in the activities of their choice.
I chose to obey the call of God and try homeschooling. I certainly wanted what was better for my kids. If you’ve followed me for any time, you know that my initial forays into teaching my preschooler were not successful. I had a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby, but I didn’t think teaching preschool could be that hard. I had a Ph.D. after all. I found a cute preschool curriculum to use and was excited about the fun we would have.
But day after day, I found that I hadn’t done any homeschooling at all. And it wasn’t because I was cleaning or freelance writing or doing volunteer work. My kids were clean and fed, but otherwise I had no idea what I’d done. Laundry would frequently have to be rewashed after getting musty in the washer after days left untouched. I stayed in my pajamas most days. And when my husband asked what was for dinner, I had no idea. He was not happy, but neither was I.
But discovering FLYLady and the power of routines changed everything. I finally understood how other homeschool moms could teach, clean, and cook while having little ones. My self-esteem improved dramatically. I wasn’t the lazy slob I mistook myself to be.
I was actually teaching my kids and enjoying it. The materials created by homeschool publishers made it so pleasant. I became active in a homeschool support group and began spending time with other homeschoolers. It was fun! I was living the homeschool dream. I knew life was better than it would have been if we’d sent the kids to school. But that’s when the terrors creeped in.
I didn’t understand why some of my Christian friends weren’t homeschooling. Why were they sending their kids to an expensive private school or worse yet, in my estimation, sending them to public school? Didn’t they want better for their kids? I preached about our superior education when I could, but I didn’t stay on my pedestal for long.
I learned that there were homeschoolers doing better than I was.
They read more books than we did. They kept records that were also scrapbooks and journals. They finished the entire book before the end of the school year. Their children could play musical instruments in kindergarten.
These homeschooling moms baked bread from grain they ground into flour. They gardened and farmed and cooked what they harvested. They sewed their children’s clothing. They built practical things with their kids. They painted. Some of them even had their kids programming computers!
They took their kids to swim lessons and chess club and bowling. They didn’t let their children play video games or watch television. They had their children memorize whole books of the Bible.
They were leaders in their support group and in church ministry. They wrote newsletters and later blogs. Some had successful businesses.
And it became obvious to me that I wasn’t as better as I thought.
I needed to do more to live the homeschool dream.
I redirected my frustration with non-homeschooling Christian parents to my kids. They weren’t motivated enough. They didn’t always obey the first time with a cheerful attitude. And sometimes they even complained about doing school! I discovered that one child was dumping clean laundry into the hamper just so he wouldn’t have to put it away. Another child wasn’t doing their math homework for weeks.
As angry as I thought I was at my kids, the real anger was directed inward. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I discipline my kids and myself better? Why couldn’t I get more done? Why weren’t my kids wowing people? Why wasn’t I?
I felt even worse after volunteering at an 8th-grade homeschool graduation. It seemed every graduate spoke multiple languages, played numerous instruments, had won statewide competitions, and already had their own business. My soon-to-be eighth grader had none of these accomplishments to speak of. Little did I know that the last bit of pride I had was about to go.
My oldest rebelled in the way he knew would hurt me most–in front of my homeschooling friends. He questioned everything I’d taught him. Most hurtful of all, he suggested that he would be moving away after school and wouldn’t see us much.
That’s when I realized that my homeschool dream was dead.
I wasn’t better. I wasn’t even okay. I was devastated and confused.
Now I am so thankful for the death of that dream. I have said that my oldest saved our homeschool. My homeschool dream was about being better when that is the antithesis of the gospel. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” And Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
The irony of someone who had to be reluctantly called to homeschool believing that they were better than others who either didn’t homeschool or didn’t homeschool the way she did. The Lord not only humbled me but gave me compassion for parents who struggle with their educational choice, with their parenting, and with homeschooling in general.
You may have read about what I learned by sending my oldest son to public school. And as some of my children have become adults and made choices I didn’t like, I have learned more about my role as a Christian, homeschooling mom. My calling is to train my children in the way they should go, not to force them that way. After all, God doesn’t force us to obey. Instead He gives us wisdom, encouragement, and love that motivate us. I now understand that I am not accountable for my adult children’s choices or even my teens’ choices. I have freedom in that. That isn’t to say that I don’t give them feedback.
My dream was to be better and that died.
So what is my homeschool dream now?
To follow Jesus. I followed Him into this homeschooling lifestyle and then went my own way. Now I know that He has plans for me and my family that are good plans. These plans may not look like anyone else’s. We may not be using the same curriculum, attending the same classes, or participating in the same activities. We may not discipline the way an expert says to do it. But there is joy as we keep walking. When we stumble in going our own way, we ask forgivness, and get back on the path.
I am living the homeschool dream. It doesn’t make for a very good Instagram account because I’m not on a farm, reading dozens of books a week, or rehabbing a house. But my kids do things that amaze me. Every day is an adventure, just as it should be.
What about your dream? Is it to be better? Is it to keep up with someone else’s dream? Or is it following Jesus? One way to tell is with Matthew 11: 28-30. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” A misguided homeschool dream tends to become very, very hard.
Of course, living the dream requires diligence. We want to teach our kids well, discipline as needed, and maintain order. But when we are striving in our own strength for the wrong goal, we will be exhausted.
If anything I’ve shared has you thinking about getting organized or your anger in parenting, I encourage you to check out two classes available on my website FunToLearnBooks.com. And I want you to know that I’m praying for you. God will not leave you to live the homeschooling dream on your own.