Homeschooling can be hard, but it shouldn’t be striving. Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Striving isn’t a word we commonly use. I looked up the definition and was surprised by it. Striving may be defined as making great efforts to achieve or obtain something. Cease striving? That sounds downright unAmerican. Tommy Hilfiger said, “The road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive and passion, it’s possible to achieve the American dream.”
Why should we cease striving then? The Bible dictionary defintion of striving wasn’t much help, except that it defines it as struggle. God would have us work hard, but He wouldn’t have us struggle in our own strength. Habakkuk 1:11 describes the Babylonians as people whose own strength is their god. I have so often been just like them.
Here are signs that you are homeschooling in your own strength, that you’re striving.
There’s no joy
Homeschooling is a burden for you. You resent it. You look forward to it being finished for the day and possibly for good. You’re irritated by your children’s slowness to learn, to work, or your family’s lack of appreciation. It’s not exciting. It’s just really hard. You wish you could make time for other things you enjoy doing or you wish you could find the passion for it you used to have.
You worry that you’re not doing enough, that you’re not using the right curriculum, that your children are behind, that your children will have low test scores, that you’ll be evaluated and fall short, that your family won’t be able to pay the bills, that your children won’t get into college or find a job to support them. Sometimes you have trouble sleeping. Your fear leads you to compare yourself to other homeschoolers and you find you never measure up.
The fear and the work are wearing you out. You’re doing so much for so many and nothing seems to go as planned for school, your family, your life. You think the answer is to work harder. You must be lazy or your family is or both. So you will try again with a new approach, a new curriculum, or a new schedule. You will lay down the law with yourself and the kids. But even as you think about trying again, you feel exhausted.
If you see yourself in any of those descriptions, there’s a good chance that at least some of the time you are striving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to recover your joy, your peace, and your energy by ceasing to strive? It IS possible. I’ve experienced it. Here’s how.
How to cease striving
First, determine who your God is.
As I began my homeschooling journey, God was the author of it. It was His idea for me and my family. But after a while, He became little more than an undependable teacher’s helper. When things were bad, I would ask Him to pitch in, but I didn’t expect Him to follow through. In my view, He was even sometimes spiteful — a God who didn’t care if I suffered because it was good for me, a God who didn’t really love me enough to care about my challenges. There is a powerful quiz in the book Sidetracked in the Wilderness by Michael Wells that can help you determine if your view of God is a problem. Find it in the show notes at homeschoolsanity.com/strive
The truth is God is the source of our homeschooling success. If we aren’t abiding in Him, we will lose our joy, our peace, and our energy. He is the only reason I have produced any fruit in my homeschooling. He wants me to succeed because homeschooling was His idea for us. He loves me deeply; He loves my husband; He loves my children. He never wants to see me suffer needlessly as I have in trying to homeschool in my own strength. He isn’t a lame teacher’s helper. He is THE teacher, the principal, the school counselor, the board president, the librarian, the school cook, even the janitor. He definitely cleans up the messes we make. He is our creator and His power is so great that He raised Jesus from the dead and transformed us through the Holy Spirit living in us.
Second, determine who you are.
My inaccurate view of God led me to have a false view of myself. I thought I was the beginning and end of my homeschool. When my child earned a scholarship, that was me. When my child was reprimanded by another adult, that was also me. I was the god of my homeschool. Being god is very discouraging, terrifying, and exhausting because we weren’t created for this role. Even keeping up the appearance that we are the gods of our homeschools is overwhelming.
I don’t know how I’ve borne the fruit of our homeschool–the wonderful blessings I see and that I’ve been praised for–because I didn’t grow it. I don’t have that ability. I’m a self-centered, disorganized, slothful woman in my flesh. I know this is true and it terrifies me when I’ve put myself in the role of god in my homeschool. The truth for you and me is that apart from God we can do nothing in homeschooling or in life.
Finally, abide humbly with your God
Shortly after reading Sidetracked in the Wilderness, I saw a baby being changed at the tennis club where I play. The woman who works in the nursery absolutely adores children. The baby watched his caregiver in complete peace and trust as she changed him. I realized that this is what God wants as He seeks to change me. But I have been screaming, trying to roll away, and trying to change myself. I have been striving.
When we have an accurate view of God, we trust Him to make our homeschools bear fruit. The baby didn’t worry that the woman in the nursery didn’t know what she was doing. We can have complete confidence in God, regardless of our problems. A student who can’t read, a rebellious child, and more month than money are all small things to our great God.
Abiding in Him means that we trust Him to not only solve the problems that invariably arise in our homeschools. It also means that we trust Him to change us. I am not a self-centered, impatient, lazy mother because Jesus lives in me and through me. When I spend more time online than I should, I repent, knowing that my behavior is not who I am. It’s a small blip on the screen of my story that is quickly edited.
Abiding in Him means that I stay close to Him throughout the day, like an employee in training. I don’t imagine that I know what to do. I don’t! Even after 19 years of homeschooling. Instead I call on Him for help and wisdom all day long. I seek to learn from Him by reading His Word and praying and worshiping, not as a duty, but because it is my lifeline. I begin my day by writing to God and sharing what is on my heart and listening for what is on His.
I despise the pride that provokes me to stop abiding in Him. As I experience discouragement, fear, and fatigue, I invariably discover a root of pride. I was hoping to look good, for God to obey my commands, for God to bless my efforts in doing things He hasn’t called me to do.
I have had a homeschool problem with a child of mine recently. I have prayed about it, of course, but more than this, I have been striving. I have applied my education, experience, and my flesh to the problem. But it has persisted. As I’ve taken a fresh look at it through the lens of humbly abiding, I realized that the main reason I see it as a problem is because of my pride. My child has been refusing to do something that would make me look good. My child isn’t concerned about it. Most likely my reliance on myself has made the problem worse. No matter how it works out, I will trust God to manage it. I no longer feel defeated, afraid, or worn out by the situation. I am homeschooling where strivings cease.
This fresh approach to walking with God has honestly changed my life in more than just homeschooling. It has impacted my business and relationships. I’m not burdening myself with trying to produce more and more products on a ridiculous timeline to feed my pride. I’m not fretting about mistakes I make in my business because I’m afraid of looking foolish in front of you. I am a fool and I don’t know how I haven’t made even more mistakes except for the grace of God. I’m finding myself able to let others’ negative behaviors go because I know they come from their own failure to humbly abide and I know I can’t manage them in my own strength. For years now I have tried to determine exactly what to say and do in response to difficult people. Replaying conversations and thinking of what I should have said and what I should say in the future has taken up so much of my time, energy, and joy. I recently admitted to the Lord that I couldn’t manage these people. I had no idea what to say or do, so God would have to do it. Immediately, the tension and unhappiness I have had for so long lifted. I know God will manage it. If I am to say or do anything in the future, He will prompt me then, not now.
I used to understand how to abide and not strive. I wrote the book So You’re Not Wonder Woman about the changes God made in my weight, home, and relationships. What’s sad is that I later thought the book wasn’t good because I don’t give a step-by-step plan for changing your life. I don’t have one! I don’t know how God changed me, but I am so thankful He did. I’m so thankful that He forgives me and brings me back when I have been busy relying on the god of my own strength.
The book My Weakness for His Strength contains daily devotions with reminders of the principles in Michael Wells’s book Sidetracked in the Wilderness. I believe it can help you abide and not strive. Find a link to it in the show notes at homeschoolsanity.com/strive.
My prayer is that you would homeschool where strivings cease. Comment and let me know how I can pray for you.
Have a happy homeschool week!