‘Twas the night before homeschool, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The new books and curriculum had been chosen with care,
In hopes Harvard scholarships were sure to be theirs;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of perfection danced in mom’s head.
Ah yes, the night before the first day of homeschooling each year. We go to sleep with visions of The Perfect School Year. We will be organized and intentional, the kids excited to learn. They will wake up, quickly get ready, and and eat a healthy, home-cooked breakfast. We will start our day with prayer and snuggle on the couch reading aloud together. No one will whine about doing his or her schoolwork. Instead they will ask for more.
But then we wake up.
Reality doesn’t quite measure up to our dreams. The kids don’t actually want to get out of bed. The baby was up in the middle of the night, so after sleeping a bit later, we reach for the box of cereal. And no one can find the read aloud. The book or resource or curriculum that was supposed to be perfect turns out to be less than perfect.
I want to encourage you, though. It will be OK. Perfection is an illusion. It is in imperfection and difficulties that we often learn the most, when character is formed, and flexibility is forged. Our children grow and so do we.
So what can we do when when the reality of homeschool strikes?
1. Pray for wisdom.
In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” (2 Chronicles 1:7-10)
As the new king, Solomon could have asked God for anything. But he chose to ask Him for wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge to lead the ones God had entrusted to his care. God has entrusted us with the care and education of our children. Have we asked Him for wisdom to do just that?
There will be times when you just don’t know what to do— how to deal with obstacles, bad attitudes, disobedience, distractedness, frustration, and trouble “getting it” (and this list applies to both us and our children!). You will need guidance and wisdom from the One who knows your children better than you do. How often do you go to God first? But when there are difficulties in your homeschool, know at least one thing you can do.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
Notice this verse follows the command to “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.” Trials have purpose in our lives. They mature us. But we aren’t left on our own. He tells us to ask him for wisdom in the midst of them. So let’s start with prayer—on the days that aren’t going well and the days that are.
2. Teach the Child.
One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Ruth Beechick:
For some children and for some of the time, certain books will happen to be just right. But if you find yourself struggling to mold your child to a book, try reversing priorities. It’s the child you are teaching, not the book. Bend the book, or find another; make the studies fit the child. (vii, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully)
After you have prayed for wisdom, know that God will give it to you! Instead of trusting a curriculum, book, or other resource—trust the one who created your children. If something isn’t working, then prayerfully evaluate it.
- Is there a way this resource can be adapted for my children’s learning styles?
- How can I approach teaching this subject or concept in a different way so my children will understand it?
- Can I make learning more enjoyable for us all?
- Do I need to address a detrimental character trait in my children or myself?
God makes each of our children wonderfully unique. We have so many choices when it comes to what we will use to teach them. Before throwing out a book or curriculum because it doesn’t seem to be working, first think about how to adapt it to your children. And then if you have to, find a different resource. Teach your children.
3. Recognize the difference between goals and desires.
Goals and desires are two different things. We can set goals for ourselves. We can even set goals that support our desires for another. And we can guide our children in setting their own goals. But we cannot confuse our desires for our children as a specific plan we can accomplish.
For example, my husband and I have the desire for our children to grow up, strong in their faith, loving God with their heart, mind, and soul. But if I make the outcome my goal, I run the risk of becoming bitter and angry if my children don’t turn out the way I envisioned. They have sin natures and free-will, so I can’t make them love God.
However, our goal can be to provide an environment and home conducive to this desire. We can take our children to church, treat them with love and respect, create family memories, be available to talk and listen, and model our own faith in day-to-day life.
When I don’t confuse desires and goals, I can let go of the results. I can trust God and always hope, no matter what the results are.
The same is true for our homeschool. I may have a desire for it to look a certain way, and I can choose to work toward goals that will help. But when it isn’t perfect, I can trust the perfect one.
What should we desire? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I really do not believe this means we will get whatever we want. But as we delight in Him, our desires become aligned with His desires. John 15:7 says, “ If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” We want to skip to the “I ask, then You do for me what I ask.” But you’ll notice the first part. We must abide. His words must abide in us. Abiding involves love, obedience, trust, relationship.
So abide in Him. Allow God to shape your desires. Pray. Be intentional. Then let go.
It will be OK.
Yes, some days our homeschool will look exactly like we imagined when we began homeschooling. Days where things go smoothly, our kids love learning, and our hearts join together in a common goal. We will learn and laugh together.
But there are days when that won’t happen, too—even weeks or months when nothing seems to go as planned. And that is OK. Because we all learn and mature and grow in the process.
We travel a road when we homeschool. And roads are often a bit bumpy along the way. Bends and curves, bumps and grooves, only make the journey better. Our homeschools don’t have to be perfect.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.