If you are a young homeschooling family, I'm going to give you a glimpse into the real world of your future. I do not do this to be cruel or to discourage you, but to encourage you in the path you have chosen. These are the days when you must cement your mission, learn to lay it all at the foot of the Cross, and above all, discover that homeschooling success does not rest on your shoulders but on God's grace. It is also best that you learn early that homeschooling will rarely look like what you want it to be... and most importantly, that this does not mean that you have failed.
I look around me and see many little homeschool castles falling. Mothers focus on the details and all they see is their failures. We mamas like to use the word "behind" as in, "my child is behind in this or that" and the temptation to give it all up rises before us in a way that we never would have imagined in earlier days. We start to ask Who am I? And what on earth am I doing? And we allow the world to dictate what it means to be a success.
I have lived through the very common mistake of giving up my domestic church to the powerful outside forces of success and sport and social achievement. It is a potentially life-sucking machine that breaks up the family unit and slowly draws us away from sacrament, quietness, focus, and Eucharist. Too many of us sacrifice God's time on this cultural altar and we wonder why we are empty and filled with anxiety. I see families so afraid to give up the busy that they give up their homeschooling dream in order to keep pace.
I see families burdened by college debt and mothers going back to work while still trying to raise and homeschool little ones. Trying to do it all and somehow, maintain the vision... the dream... of what home education means.
I see the tears of the mamas who let that dream die when they meet the depths of their own weakness and quake in FEAR.
And I feel it and see it in a way that I have not felt before. My children grow and we have become a homeschool high school for the first time. The kids grow and my failures grow. And my kids' failures grow. This is simply the lot of mortals and we tremble before that gigantic vision of ourselves. There is nowhere I walk in this home where I do not face my limitations. It is a giant of a beast with which to do battle.
This myopic vision is hard to defend against. Yet it is deadly.
I tell you this now because, if you are not there yet, it is coming. And if you are there, I want to encourage you to hang on. Because FEAR is a poor leader. The worst of leaders. Remember when our beloved Blessed John Paul II said BE NOT AFRAID! and we hung it on banners and wrote in on our notebooks. We did not see ahead to a time when we would need to really live it. Or when we would say it and it would be drowned out in the mighty waves of anxiety.
This is rubber meets the road faith not youth group rally faith and pizza night faith. This is not for the faithless or timid or those without a clear mission. It is not for those with one foot in the door and one foot out. It is for those who intend to follow the Lord all the way to foot of the Cross.
What is the primary goal that you have for your family and how do you intend to get there? Answer that question. Write it down and burn it into your soul... and NEVER stop fighting for it. Your answer should lead you to the heart of love first. If dreams of college scholarships are appearing on your list before LOVE than you will struggle more than others when the harder years arrive.
I have a confession to make to you. I am tired of this journey. Not tired of the dream but tired of the work that is involved with the journey. And the more I take onto my own shoulders and forget to give to God, the more burdened I become. The essence of "burnout" is a turning away from mission. And that is why I am tired. Because I forget. Lent is such a blessing... a time of remembering and a returning to love. I am a pitiful figure during this season. Between this pregnancy and fatigue, I feel I have very little to offer. My greatest hope for these 40 days is to come to the lap of Divine Love and Mercy more often... to receive the grace and strength that I do not possess on my own. To open my life once again to the adventure of His choosing.
There are those of you who believe passionately that homeschooling is the dream God has for your family. To fully live out that dream, you must be willing to have the courage to face your own failures every. single. day... and to face the failures of your beautiful children. That is the biggest obstacle that you will face as a homeschooler. There are days when you will envy your neighbor's ability to pass along that struggle to the school teachers. You, my friend, will not have that luxury.
If your homeschoolers are still small, don't worry as much as you do and stop comparing. Do the work. Train them in love. Ignore the haters. And PRAY twice as often as you are inclined. Don't be fooled by the blogging mamas who post their successes... trust me, every family has struggles and crosses. They joyfully share the beauty and blessing of their homes and hold their crosses a little closer to their hearts. I haven't met a mama who doesn't cry in her closet sometimes (or the bathroom or wherever). You are not the only one.
And when you feel like giving everything up, please send me an email and I will do my very best to talk you out of it and help you rediscover the dream. Because it's not really about you at all... and when the going is toughest, it's time to look away from the mirror and remember His glory and mercy and grace. And to begin again with humility and courage.
The tough times are coming. Prepare now. Love passionately. Pray unceasingly. And try to make sure some math gets done in the meantime. Homeschooling is a beautiful way of life... but everything worth doing in God's kingdom has to pass by the way of the Cross. His ways are marvelous indeed. Don't throw any of it away out of fear. That is not what He wills for your dreams.
Thanks be to God!