Tis the season…for “mid-year” blues! Yes, it’s that time—especially for many who follow a September-to-May “school year” – when it’s very common to feel bad about “being behind.” The curriculum says you “should” be on Lesson 100 in the math book but you just turned the page to Lesson 78; you haven’t done a science lesson since before Thanksgiving; you’re sure your six-year old “must” be reading “real” books but he’s still stuck on consonant blends. As a long-time homeschooler, I get it. But I want to encourage you that what you may be feeling is probably not legitimate.
An encouraging biblical proverb says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16.9). This means that making plans is a good thing! Planning helps us to be organized and purposeful; it’s not condemnable.
However, our plans should not become idols we place on a pedestal. We are to make our plans and do our best by them. But we need to remember to hold them rather loosely, not forgetting that we are not in control of how our days will unfold going forward. And we must always keep the curriculum guide in its proper place—as tool and servant, not master! Thus, what we plan in good faith is sometimes (often?) not actually what God or the universe (depending on your worldview perspective) had mapped out for us.
Now, if you’ve been sitting around for the past several months watching soap operas and eating bonbons, letting your kids do absolutely nothing (which—to be clear—is markedly different from the method known as unschooling!), then, yes, you have legitimate guilt and some work to do to get back on track. We ought not sugar-coat that because educating our kids is a big responsibility, and we should be diligent to our calling. I doubt very much that’s really where 99.9% of homeschooling parents are coming from…but even if you really have been lazy and undisciplined lately, don’t let your guilt pummel you into defeat! You have not failed as a homeschooler. If you realize you’ve actually messed up, then simply admit your error, get up, dust yourself off, and move forward. You don’t need to force-feed your kids six math lessons a day to “catch up.” Just get back to aiming for one a day in which real learning occurs.
When we know we have been diligent through whatever circumstances we’ve faced…we can in good faith work around the details of man-made law if necessary.
On the other hand, if—as I suspect is true in almost every case of homeschool mom “guilt”—you have been doing the best you can within the context of what has really happened to you and your family over the past few months—and if your heart and mind are still directed toward making diligent progress (no matter how limited some days)—you have nothing from which to repent even if your plans have not all panned out. In this case, the feeling you’re experiencing is not guilt…because true guilt only exists when we have actually screwed up. Rather, you’re feeling shame…but shame is illegitimate and deceptive. It masquerades as guilt, but it’s really just a trick to get you distracted from your purpose and calling.
And the remedy for shame is to spit in its eye and make yourself dwell instead on truth. That means choosing to put the facts of the matter (i.e., what really occurred in your life and family the last few months) and faith in your calling—yes, you are meant to educate your kids at home so believe it—ahead of your feelings. Feelings lie; facts and faith do not.
Finally, remember that the true authority for homeschoolers is each family’s personal faith-based and/or moral convictions…not a government bureaucrat and not even a homeschool law. I’m not suggesting we flout the law…but please remember that your convictions for your children—in terms of the learning pace you deem best to meet each one’s individual needs—supersede bureaucratic ways. Thus, we may at times need to be willing to get “creative” with aspects of man-made homeschool law. But when we know we have indeed been diligent through whatever circumstances we’ve faced in recent months, we can in good faith work around the details of man-made law if necessary—again, not to flout it but because we acknowledge that a holistic approach to home-based learning is far deeper and richer than than box-checking upon which educrats depend.
Be of good cheer, my friends. You are called to home-educate, and that means you are being equipped—day by day, moment by moment, at times in spite of yourself—to provide a full and complete education for your children. “Life” does sometimes seem to get in the way of academics. But that doesn’t mean our kids aren’t learning. In fact, children learn something important almost every waking moment of their lives. Sometimes it’s a math fact, a grammatical construct, or the details of a significant historical event. Sometimes it’s compassion as we sit with a terminally ill grandparent. Sometimes it’s frugality and budgeting as we learn to stretch a dollar after a job loss. It’s all important, and it’s all real learning. It all counts! Be diligent in it all, and you’ll never actually be “behind.”
Tina Hollenbeck and her husband Jeff are raising two daughters and have another waiting for them with Jesus. She advocates passionately for home education, provides consulting services for homeschoolers local to her and via of The Christian Homeschool Oasis on Facebook, and is the owner of The Homeschool Resource Roadmap. She also serves as staff writer for Celebrate Kids, Inc., through which she has co-authored the booklet Celebrating Children’s 12 Genius Qualities, and blogs regularly at Views from the Road Home. In her spare time, Tina enjoys singing on her church’s worship team, exercising, and scrapbooking.