Have you ever done something that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but when it was all said and done, it left you asking yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”
Like going to the gym.
Or getting up in the morning.
Haha…I’m joking, I’m joking…sort of.
Actually what I’m really talking about are decisions that you thought through, planned for and felt really excited about…until the day came and nothing went at all as planned.
For instance the time I thought, “Man, I’ve been stuck inside all summer, pregnant, with three kids under five…I should really do something special!” And then the idea pops into my head, “Hey, I know what sounds like a good idea! I’m going to take my children on a fun family camping trip!” Then I spend days planning for the weekend, packing favourite foods, special toys and blankets – everything to make sure that the weekend is going to be fun for everyone.
Yet when we arrive at the site, it’s raining, all three kids are crazy wild, the mosquitos are terrible and to make everything worse, no one sleeps, ALL night!
And you wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?!?”
I honestly don’t even know!!
Which leads me to this past week when I found myself questioning my decision to home school. Now, I often get asked why I decided to home school. It’s my fifth year of doing this, so I have my response pretty down pat already. But the other day, when I had a million other things to do, when my whole house was a crazy mess, when I sat beside my child writing at one word per ten minutes, suddenly, all my responses I had ever given to the question came crashing down. And I couldn’t get past the question: “Why?!? Why did I choose to do this?”
Suddenly, my good, well thought through reasons seemed as inadequate as my plans for camping while being pregnant and having three young kids.
And here, in my crazy, chaotic household, I had to face a very scary, intimating question: Why on EARTH am I doing this? When I’m having a good school year, like I had last year, the question is actually exciting for me to answer and I feel like I have so many positive things to say! But on years where everyday feels like a long, dragged out struggle, the question haunts me.
So today I sat down and began to read through my list of “Reasons Why I Home School” (yes, I do have a list…I would have quit LONG ago if I didn’t have it) and…are you ready for total honesty? In my discouragement, I really felt like all my reasons for homeschooling were falling short. There were NO good answers for my “why”.
To have more time with my children. Do I really? I mean, I guess if you look at hours spent with them in my presence, then yes…but is home school giving me less quality time with them?
To have strong family ties. And I wondered…are we really any closer than the families that chose to send their children to public school?
I felt God leading me to this. Did I really? Maybe I don’t hear his voice so well after all.
To be forced to work through character issues and personality clashes. But if I’m ACTUALLY at wit’s end, there’s always the option of throwing on a very long episode of “Bill Nye The Science Guy”, or a having a really extended recess…am I right?!? 😀
To teach my children that God can be a part of everything we do. Ok, I do this…but my kids see me ALL THE TIME and what they see is a very imperfect person, trying so hard to keep it all together, but often failing. Maybe they would see less of the frazzled mom and more of the calm, put-together mom, if I wasn’t always with them!
To have TIME to teach serving through volunteer work. OK, really? LOL!! Did I REALLY think we’d have MORE time for volunteering with all my children at home???
To gain patience in my own life. OK, Einstein…More like MAGNIFY MY IMPATIENCE!!!
To not be negatively influence by peers. Ummm… right now their friends are probably a better influence than their own siblings!!! Like, I’m pretty sure none of their school friends decide to pee out in the open on the play ground! Or completely lose their temper over a hard work assignment. AND the fighting, the arguing and screaming… it NEVER ENDS!!!
As I read down my list, every single reason of mine fell short. And the tears fell freely as I wondered just who am I trying to be?
But then, I read the paragraph at the bottom of my list. It was written five long years ago, when I had first felt led to home school. Obviously, the words had been long forgotten, but they came pouring into my heart like a flood:
Parenting was never meant to have the “get it over with” attitude. Parenting is actually a lifelong calling, a calling with a short season where we have the opportunity to shape, mold and teach our children to live up to their full potential. Homeschooling, if done right and intentionally, allows more time for this and is a much greater sacrifice then a “just let the school deal with it” attitude…If one feels called to send their child to public school, this can be a great decision, BUT the “get my kids out of my hair” attitude must not be a part of the decision or it will greatly damage the relationship between child and parent. The same is with home school, if one doesn’t deal with this attitude correctly, they are setting themselves up for a very disastrous and discouraging experience and WILL NOT make it in the long run. The problems we experience in homeschooling lie within our own hearts.
The problem here was with my own heart.
Ahhh, there it was. The painful, hard to accept, truth. When I get too busy, when I volunteer for too many things, when I try to do too much – I end up yelling more, being overstressed and pushing my children away more. And when I do this, homeschooling isn’t beneficial to ANY of us. And the opposite is true as well: If I get selfish or bored with serving my family, I begin to form habits where I’m wasting much of my valuable time on social media or playing games on my phone, and also push children away while I sit in my own little world.
So…Why am I still doing this? Why am I pressing forward?
Partially because I’m crazy.
Partially because I’m weird.
But mostly because early on in parenting, I realized that this parenting thing matters. And I only have one shot at this.
I never, EVER want to look back and say that I could’ve done better. I never want to regret that I was too lazy, too tired, to unmotivated, too selfish, too annoyed, too impatient. I never want to send my child to public school just to “get them out of my hair” or to “let the teacher deal with them.” When I send them back to public school, I want it to be purely for THEIR benefit, not mine.
Who knows! Maybe this will be my last year of homeschooling. Maybe not. But whatever season I’m in, I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, quit because of a few bad days or weeks.
Parenting is a lifelong commitment with a small window where we have the opportunity to train our children.
If you’re reading this, and your like me…feeling like you’re in an exhausting time-loop of wake, work, sleep, repeat…I urge you today to take the time to rest and reflect. Ask yourself the hard questions, the scary questions. Reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and if you find that you are doing too much – cut out the extras. Because once I found my “why”, I discovered meaning to the mundane daily tasks such as endless laundry, preparing lessons, marking, teaching, solving fights and wiping tables. Finding out the “why” is essential to doing our best.
But first, make sure you rest.
Not the “rest” of zoning out on Facebook or Netflix, but the pure, gentle rest of a soul at ease.
Sit down, enjoy the autumn air around you.
Watch the kids playing.
Take a walk and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.
Soak in the warmth of God’s unending patience and love.
Rest. Then reflect…and you’ll find your “why”.