I started to officially home school 3 years ago. My daughter was 5 years old and my son was 3 years old. I had planned to start kindergarten and preschool with them respectively. I thought I was doing what was expected of me. I had no idea what their learning styles were and for that matter – I didn’t think twice about my teaching style.
I had one focus: Do every-thing-right.
“Right” was a growing vacuum taking into it every good thing that could possibly be done, and it also meant matching the ideal picture in my head of what a home education looks like.
So, at the beginning of the last week in August 3 years ago, I began to panic. I had tried to read all the Instructor’s Guides to the curricula we purchased – desperate to follow all the rules, check all the boxes, and thereby educate my children.
I wanted my gold star.
But one thing was wrong with the ideal picture I was trying to create for our learning environment – we didn’t have desks. I knew there was no chance of having a schoolroom in our house at the time, so I decided to adjust our living room to section off a quarter of it for a learning center.
I searched Craig’s List for desks, bookcases, and anything I felt would give me the security I was lacking.
All this searching masked my fear. I felt like because I was doing something right, I could ensure the outcome would be what I wanted. I put all my hopes in looking right. I thought that if I had the right desks, the right books, and the “start date” (because every one who knows that we home school would ask, “so when are you going to start?”) then I could ensure that I would get the affirmation that I craved.
Doing, working, searching, gathering never brings security. But that’s what I was hoping for – I wanted to get my security from the outside in.
At the end of each day, nothing was enough. I was still scared that I wouldn’t have the right stuff. I was scared that I would teach the curricula out of order. I was scared that I would confuse my children and mess them up. I was scared of my own laziness and defective parenting.
I was scared because I knew I was the primary one responsible for the education of my children, but it felt like I was the one with the least control.
And 3 years ago when I began to panic on the inside, I channeled all that energy into controlling our environment.
I bought 2 desks from 2 different people. 1 on Sunday, and 1 on Labor Day. I had my mind set that we would start “school” on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. I knew we needed school supplies too. But even though I really had no idea what we needed, I went to Walmart anyway.
Because nothing feels better than spending money carelessly when my soul feels insecure and out of control. Yeah, right.
When we finally arrived home, to carry into the house all of the items that would make me feel secure. My physical proof that we were in fact a home educating family, my husband said that he couldn’t bring the desks into the house right then.
He didn’t know that he was basically stomping all over my emotional craziness, and I kind of freaked out at the potential that all my planning, controlling, and setting up was being thwarted.
I had a full blown meltdown.
In my mind, everything was going to be ready by Monday evening, so that I could wake up Tuesday morning to the bliss of starting our first day of school.
Instead I was having to deal with a change in my plan. The pain of failure threatened to crush me, and I was having to face all my fears coming true.
All my effort, priorities, philosophies, and desires for what was best for my children hinged upon this plan and it wasn’t going to happen.
I rested all my security on having desks in place and plans in motion by Tuesday morning.
After crying and begging my husband to drop everything he had planned for the day to help me, we got everything set up by Monday evening.
But instead of relief, I still felt panic.
Because no matter how many books, desks, pencils, papers, notebooks, crayons, or charts on the wall – none of it could give me a sense of security that this was going to work out for our good. I rested all my hope that I would receive the affirmation I craved on the amount of work I could do to look the part, but I never prepared for the daily work of doing the part.
I wanted to earn the prize for Best Home School Mom on the first day of school, instead of committing myself to looking forward to the prize of finishing strong on the last day of school.
The panic was lying to me.
It said that I could have relief the easy way – on the outside – when I needed to go through some really hard stuff on the inside before I would ever truly face down my panic.
So, let me fast forward 3 years, and there has been a slight shift in my focus – lots of imperfect progress gained from recognizing more and more the lies that panic feeds my mind and heart. I have had to learn slowly through so much failure that this home school life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
Motherhood is a marathon.
I’m learning to prize the long view, to take the scenic route, and to slow and steady myself especially when I feel pressured to plan, control, and design my own success.
And I’ve learned that I’m not allowed to go shopping when I start to feel panic. I’ve banned myself from Target.
3 more important lessons that help me prize peace even when I feel pressured to panic are:
- Remember to see my children as growing, changing, and developing – when I panic I subtly believe that I can in fact control them, when peace trusts that my job is only to guide and train them.
- Lean into greater levels of self-discipline. Panic says that I can rush, force, and procrastinate to get the same result as patiently tending to the roots. Self-discipline has taught me that progress is hard fought in a daily battle and the fruit from this work is good, organic, and eternal – a sharp contrast to the manufactured fruit of the rush of emotion I get from swiping my debit card to surround myself with the stuff of learning.
- My children can sniff out panic from a mile away, and they will fight against it with everything they have. This is not a sign that I should press into the panic further (even though I have, and it hasn’t ever ended well for me or them). I take this as a sign that I am prayerless. Filled with prayer = filled with peace with or without all the right stuff.
So my kids, at ages 3- and 5-years old refused to play a part in my panic, and they refused to sit in their desks. Their refusal made me feel even more the weight of all my failure, but it was a gift because it made me let go of the lie that said I could have complete control of their education.
Since then, we’ve all grown. Now, they happily sit in their desks, learning and growing in their interests every day – because I finally let go and allowed them to use their desks on their own time and in their own way.
And at the beginning of this August, when I felt a small pang of panic that I had only 2 desks, but 3 children I chose peace instead. And wouldn’t you know, just like how God always provides, a dear friend of mine (a fellow home schooling mom with 3 kids graduated and 2 more on their way) wrote me and offered us a desk – free of charge and full of blessing.
So, today’s challenge for the #Back2School in #31Days series is to record and remember all the ways that learning is in the daily, the small, and the patient. An education isn’t kept in a room, or a book, or in having all the right stuff – education is a lifestyle; it’s a living.
This is Day 24 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.
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