I planned to write on this topic because a number of people emailed me to say that feeling like a failure is their struggle. I thought I would be writing on this topic to help other moms, but it’s ended up being me needing the help. Lately I’ve felt like I’m failing for sure! But I’m not. You’re not either. Here’s why.
#1 It’s not about results
I believe that God called me to homeschool. That wasn’t my plan at all. But the call wasn’t this: I want you to raise Rhodes scholars. I want you to produce kids with 36 ACTs and full-ride scholarships. I expect you to have A-students who are stars in sports, music, and activities. Your children must be winners. You must ensure that they never fight with their siblings, never complain, and never dawdle. They must obey you the first time and be so mature that everyone is amazed by them. They must be fully functioning as adults at a very early age. Their faith must be faultless. They must never engage in idle pursuits or waste time. This is how you will know you are succeeding as a homeschool mom. You receive bonus points for sewing, gardening, and cooking from scratch.
I am so thankful that wasn’t the call! Instead, the call was, “I want you to homeschool.” That’s all it was.
Throughout God’s Word, you will never see the Lord holding His people accountable for results, but only for obedience. I am in fact homeschooling in obedience to God’s call on my life. Thus I am not failing. If you are homescholing your children in sincere obedience then you aren’t failing either.
#2 It’s not harvest time
I think of homeschooling like planting an orchard. We won’t see the fruit of it for many years. The frustration we feel with our young children or even our not-so-young children will one day become something to laugh about. We will wonder what all the fuss was about. So many things my children did or didn’t do embarrassed me, frustrated me, and even terrified me. But I was foolish to be worried about how much fruit a young sapling would produce.
Men in Bible times were not considered worthy of military or other service until age 20. I believe we can wait that long to see what kind of fruit our homeschooling will bear. After 17 years of homeschooling, I see my boys doing well in college classes, staying close to each other, and continuing to serve God and others. I didn’t see that fruit in the early days. I worried that they would never stop fighting. I worried that they would never be diligent. I worried that they would never learn certain subjects. I felt like a failure in my worry, but it wasn’t harvest time.
#3 We’re looking for the wrong fruit
I’ve already said it’s not about results, but we homeschool moms just can’t help ourselves, can we? We see our friends’ kids excelling in areas that ours aren’t and it’s hard. One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned in homeschooling is that God’s plan for my kids doesn’t necessarily line up with mine. I planned for my kids to finish college while in high school and be able to step into careers at a young age. Meanwhile, I would be able to protect them from all the temptations of high school and college. As many of you know, my oldest son went to high school. He completely rejected the idea of doing college through CLEP tests. I was sure my second son, an introvert, would want to live my homeschool dream. But he too wanted to go to college.
My definition of success in my homeschooling isn’t God’s definition. I think God is looking at the results or at the very least how many books I read, science experiments I do, or field trips I take. But I know if I could ask Jesus what the most important commandment of homeschooling is, He would say, “Love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s the fruit God is looking for as a product of our homeschooling. Are we loving God and others? It’s amazing how seeking all the other results we’d like to see can lead us away from love. But the Lord always draws us back. Do you love God? Do you love your kids? You’re not failing.
#4 Other people are looking for the wrong fruit
Sometimes other people make us feel like we’re failing — intentionally or unintentionally. Some moms seem to have it all together. I rememer going to a friend’s house and being depressed. She had three boys and it’s true that she didn’t homeschool. But I remember wondering how on earth she could keep things on her shelves. My boys would pull everything down in a heartbeat. And why didn’t she have holes in her walls? And her lamps weren’t beat up looking. What was wrong with me?
Sometimes this appearance of having it all together is more intentional. Other moms are so afraid that we’ll think they’re failing that they are careful to put on a good show. They may be dressed to the nines in public while there’s laundry everywhere at home. They constantly talk about their child’s successes and leave out the tension that pervades their home. I even heard of a woman buying a bakery cake and passing it off as homemade! We can’t compare an honest evaluation of ourselves to a surface one of someone else. Remember this: women who try the hardest to appear successful to others are usually the most insecure. We aren’t failing in comparison to others.
Unfortunately, there are sometimes people who will blatantly tell us we’re failing. If there is something we need to improve on, we should take steps to improve. But telling someone they’re failing isn’t a motivator. There are a number of reasons why someone might tell us we’re failing. They may be angry at us and saying it to hurt us. They may be jealous and hoping that our self-confidence will be as low as theirs. Or they may honestly believe that you’ll be motivated to succeed. In any event, other people do not determine our success.
#5 Feelings don’t equal failure
That’s been my biggest problem lately. Whether because of hormones, fatigue, or stress, my emotions have been telling me I’m failing as a homeschool mom. Really, everything is awful, say my feelings. I’m horrible in every respect. I’m not a good cook, housekeeper, wife, or parent. Everything I’m doing is wrong. These are just lies! I’m far from perfect in any of these areas, but I’m not failing. Neither are you.
If feelings are convincing you you’re failing, I highly recommend truth journaling. This is what I’ve been doing and it helps me more than anything. Spend time in prayer and in God’s Word. Talk to other moms. Admit that you feel like a failure and if you have good homeschooling girlfriends, she will laugh with you. She’s been there. She’ll also give you a hug if you just need a good cry. Sometimes what we need when we’re in this state is rest. I was convinced to rest today and I desperately needed it. I’m already feeling better. I’m convinced I’m not completely hopeless now.
#6 Failure is the path to success
This last time that I’ve been feeling like a failure I noticed that I want every part of my life to be perfect: my body, my schedule, my house, my kids. Notice I didn’t say my husband. I have at least given up on that! I’m happily married as a result. But if everything were exactly the way I wanted it to be, do you know how I would feel? Proud. Throughout the Old Testament we read about people who served God until they became successful. Then pride drew them away from God. If you and I had perfect little homeschooling lives, we would think we were all that. We wouldn’t need God. We would look down on other homeschooling moms who just can’t get it together. I don’t ever want that to happen to me.
In our weakness we are strong because God is working in us and through us. If I never felt like I was failing, I certainly wouldn’t be writing on this topic. And I don’t think I would have any friends! Failure is the path to success.
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