I received a text from a sweet friend last night, one who is in the thick of her first year or two of homeschooling. As she'd spent many sleepless nights cradling and nursing her newborn infant recently, thoughts and concerns flooded her mind over the progress of her 6-year old daughter's reading.
Anyone who has been in the thick of homeschooling for one year or 10 remembers those days well. Not one of us is impervious to fears, second-guessing, unmet expectations, and the torture of comparison. What follows is a version of my response to her concerns, that she and I agreed, should be shared with you as well. These words were offered to me, small doses at a time from the women who were ahead of me, speaking Truth into the midst of my fears. Some of these words are words I never heard but my heart desperately yearned to hear. And some of these words- many of them- are the effects of hours and weeks and years, of pouring my aching heart out to a Father who understood and cared about it all.
Dear Scared, Worried, New Homeschool Mama,
If you're reading these words, you may have an area of concern with a particular child that's keeping you up at night. Or, you may actually be questioning your sanity over choosing to homeschool at all, in the first place. You may have friends and family, with the best of intentions, offering you the reminder that you can always just put your child in school- to make things "easier for yourself." You likely feel a little lonely and a lot overwhelmed.
Whether it's a child who isn't quite reading as well as a friend's child yet, a kiddo who can't sit still to complete a singular math problem, or a child who's exhibiting a few awkward social traits that are a little undesirable... there's never any end to the opportunities for us to question our choices and worry if this really IS "the best" for our child.
I want to lighten your load for just a second- from every fear and concern that has wedged itself into the corners of your mind. I hope you'll take a deep breath and let this sink into your soul. For that child who just isn't quite where you want him to be (academically or socially)... you can't make him learn. You're incapable. You can expose, offer, vary, and repeat again and again. But you can no more open up your child's mind and pour knowledge into it anymore than you can cause the sun to rise or set tomorrow.
Your responsibility is to keep offering the opportunity to learn again and again. Offer it in different ways, in different places, under different circumstances- but accept that you are solely responsible for doing that alone, not for the knowledge which makes its way into your child's being. Here's an even more important truth: Your fears? Your anxiety? They do nothing to add peace, effectiveness, or joy to your homeschool atmosphere. As a matter of fact, they will completely destroy it. Ask me how I know.
God made your child and knows exactly what she needs to know and when. He will either open her understanding or give you the wisdom and resources to do it in a way that she gets it. He will work it out. Don't get caught up in all the doubts and lies, sweet friend. I 1000% UNDERSTAND. But be smarter than I was. Pray. Pray the worries, the fears, the hesitations and doubts and leave them in that mercy seat, with the ONLY one who is capable of giving wisdom and knowledge to anyone. (Maybe incorporate this Daily Heart Check into your routine? Grab it at the bottom of this letter.)
There's a good chance that if your child seems "behind" in some way, you're giving yourself the old 1-2 for not doing something different earlier. Maybe you didn't buckle down earlier. Maybe your weren't as consistent as you feel like you should have been. Maybe you chose the wrong curriculum. Maybe... maybe... maybe....
But God. God, who knows all and is all and is capable of all, gives you abounding grace. With humility, offer some to yourself.
You of last year and every day since had valid reasons and seasons for making each choice you've made on the way. You've ALWAYS done your very best. When we look back on what we did and posture what we could/should have done, we are looking back through an unclear, incomplete lense. You did just what you needed to and could do. And that was exactly the right thing. And now you are where you are, and you can do exactly what you can do- your best- like you always have. And God will cover every single thing else.
There's a good chance that you didn't just jump into this homeschool calling on a whim. There's a good chance that you prayed over each decision as you made it. Rest in those choices that God led you to, and let go of all the questions and regrets. And if you didn’t pray about it- let go and learn from that too.
We can't control the future, we can't change the past- we can only live to do our best in this singular moment, trusting God with the rest.
My favorite scripture related to homeschooling is that "his grace is sufficient for me, his power made perfect in my weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) And after homeschooling for 7 years, I can PROMISE you, his grace is very truly sufficient. Even better, his power will be magnified in the areas you count as weakness. Whether you're fretting over "failed" reading instruction, your lack of knowledge about biology, or your ineptitude in math, HIS POWER will overcome that area- he will provide, stand in the gap, and lead you to exactly where you need to be.
The more you lay your homeschool at the foot of the cross, shutting out naysayers, critics, Instagram and the millions of voices that seem to echo your failures and insufficiencies, the more freedom and joy you'll find in your homeschool.
You weren't called to this by mistake, and God didn't call you to it for you to do it alone, judge yourself harshly, or call yourself a failure. God loves you and your child too much for that.
So take a deep breath, sweet friend. In those long nights of nursing or in the moments you're questioning this calling, seek Him. Trust that he has been, is, and always will be there. Trust that he cares about the details just as much as the overall goal. Trust that he is a God of process, both in your child, but in YOU as well.
Love ya, friend!
P.S. If you haven't had an opportunity to listen to Hayley and I chat about sanctification in the process of homeschooling, check that out here.
P.P.S If you could use this Daily Heart Check printable, it's free for subscribers. Log into the Resource Library (and go to page 4: Faith/Family) or subscribe below for the password!