Hope When You Feel Like a Homeschool Failure
Have you ever wanted to leave a homeschool magazine unopened because it just reminded you of your failures?
Or felt sad instead of excited when you saw a homeschool catalog?
We’ve been homeschooling for nearly two decades. I’ve been that mom that was shirt-popping proud of my children and our homeschooling. I’ve also been that mom that hated to even think about the word homeschooling because it was so laden with guilt and sadness for me. How can that be?
We’ve some rough times along the way, like the year that our newborn had a life-threatening heart condition and spent weeks in ICU … and we wrote a book and marketed it … and three children had surgery … and we found out Hal had stage IV cancer. All. In. One. Year. We were in permanent survival mode that whole time and truthfully, school took a back seat. I didn’t think we’d ever get our feet under us again.
So, what do you do when the thought of homeschooling makes you feel like a failure?
- Remember that God’s curriculum for your child may not be the same as yours. When I look back on those times when we were just surviving homeschooling and everything extra went out the window, I can also see so much that our children learned that wasn’t part of our plans. They learned how Christians respond to trials, even the threat of death. They learned how to draw together as a family in a crisis. They learned how to care for, comfort, and support people in need. They learned to step up to the plate and be responsible for more than they dreamed they could. They learned what God wanted them to learn.
- Remember that God is longsuffering. His mercies are “new every morning.” There is forgiveness with Him. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. If you haven’t been as faithful to homeschooling your children as you should have, if you’ve been distracted by Facebook, or doctor visits, or goofing off, or illness–whether a little bit guilty or a lot, confess to Him all that is on your heart and just ask for forgiveness. His blood covers this, too, my sweet friend! Whether your fault is little or much, forgiveness is available from Him. Trust in Christ. Confess your sins and accept His forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the cross.
- Remember we serve the God who is able to restore the years the locusts have eaten. You have more time than you think to make up what’s been missed along the way–especially if your children are younger. Homeschooling is flexible and your children are not locked into a school system’s calendar. It’s much, much easier for us to catch up lost time than a student who missed classes in a schoolroom setting. But when I read the passage in Joel, I’m reminded that God’s restoration came in response to Israel’s repentance. Let’s not miss that part; it’s not enough that we feel regret, God intends for us to change direction and go forward. Also, He doesn’t always remove the earthly consequences for what we have done. We may have to work hard to catch up in some areas, or to apologize for missed deadlines, or whatever we may have dropped along the way. But God is able to bring things back into order, to restore them, to make them better. As we came out of our year of trials, I remember asking one of our college-bound sons for his reading list to share with his applications. I was stunned at what he brought me: he had read far more than I would have assigned to him, and all on his own initiative. The family’s crisis had made him realize his education was his own and that ultimately, it was up to him to engage the learning process for himself. God is so good!
- Pick yourself up and start anew today. I have this recurring nightmare that I’m back in college, it’s finals week, and I realize I’m signed up for a class I haven’t attended all semester. I don’t know why that’s such a horror to me, but I often feel that way in crisis: “I’m supposed to be in control of this thing and I have no idea what I’m doing or even what I’m supposed to be doing!” Stop. Take a deep breath. Start fresh.
- Once you’ve laid any sin or failure at the foot of the cross, walk away from it and get busy doing what you were supposed to be doing. I have a tendency to beat myself up over my failures. That just paralyzes me with regrets and keeps me from working to do right. Instead, leave the past with the Lord and begin again today like it was your first day. Don’t worry about where you wish you were, but find out where you are and start there. What would you do in the coming year, given that you have the children you have, at the age they are, with the gifts and challenges they have, and where they are academically? Okay, that’s where we start.
Raising our children is so much more than spelling and math. Academics are important, of course. They’ll need those things as they grow to adulthood. What really matters, though, is the kind of people they grow up to be. What kind of character do they have? Are they walking with God? Those lessons in character and commitment aren’t the kind which grow out of packaged curriculum; they come from watching and working through the struggles and challenges of life. They are the stuff of discipleship.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years, but God has mercifully and graciously given us adult sons who love Him and serve Him. It is amazing to see what God can create from our own pitiful efforts, our dismal failures, our inadequate attempts to follow Him. He is so good.
Starting right now, begin again and work hard to homeschool in a way that will leave you with few regrets (recognizing that God will stand in the gaps) … but work harder still to disciple your children, because that will leave you with the fewest regrets of all.
By His grace alone,
If you are going through difficult times, our workshop, Homeschooling in Hard Times, may be a blessing to you. You can order it below in CD or in mp3. To download the mp3 immediately, click “Return to The Great Waters Company” in the lower left when you finish checking out.