Before I write this blog post I want to say thank you for the response to my last post, “Change of Seasons.” I was really overwhelmed by all of the comments on Facebook, the comments here, the private e-mails and the conversations that post started.
I’ve been curious what it was about that post that hit people in such a soft spot. I guess it’s just the universal truth that we all are getting older, our lives are changing, our kids are growing up, and we have to adjust to the next phase of life.
That post also sparked several conversations on the topic of school. I have been processing those thoughts and conversations the last week or so, and I wanted to share some of what’s in my head.
I think it’s very tempting to see what other people are doing and compare ourselves. When we see someone having success with something, we question whether we should be doing the same thing.
Last week a friend asked me at what point it became clear to me that I should no longer home school. That is such a hard question because I never chose to educate my children at home out of a strong conviction that home schooling is the best way, or the only way or even my preferred way of educating our kids. I did it simply because we were in a tough spot where we needed to make a change and it seemed like the best option at that time. I did it out of necessity. I did it purely out of love for my child. I always assumed it would be temporary.
As I look back at that time when we made that choice, I can see the huge payoff that came from three years of hard work. Our kids just finished their first quarter of schoolschool. They brought home report cards, and we had parent teacher conferences. It was such a relief to meet with teachers who all had such wonderful and nice things to say about our children. It wasn’t always that way.
There was a day last spring when I was working on a project for my job that was very energizing to me. This project combined so many of the things I love to do. It was creative. It was technical. I got to think about colors and fonts and layout and photos.
I would often leap out of bed at 5 a.m. to give myself three hours to work before we started school at 8. I couldn’t wait to get up! I was so excited about what I needed to do.
One of those mornings, I had an epiphany. “I bet SOME people feel this way about home schooling!”
That thought was so strange to me. But it had to be true. I could tell from all of the conversations with other home schooling moms that while it was a challenge for most, it was a passion for many. It was energizing and motivating.
That’s just not how I’m wired. I absolutely love the part about hanging out with my kids all day. But when it came to teaching them, figuring out curriculum, grading assignments and coming up with creative learning strategies, none of those things came naturally to me. I was operating so much in my weakness that it took about 20 times more energy than it did to work on that project I did at 5 a.m.
This sounds very harsh to say, but I will say it anyway. It sucked the life out of me. It left me dry and empty. By the time 3 p.m. rolled around, I wasn’t the mom I wanted to be who was ready with milk and cookies after a hard day at school. My main objective was finding some space apart from my kids.
On the contrary, most of the work I do for my jobjob fills me up. Plain and simple, it’s just stuff I love to do.
So, does that make me a selfish person that when I had to choose I would choose to give up home schooling? Does that mean I love my kids less? Does it mean I care less about their education?
For the past month or so, we have been walking through the book of Colossians at our church. We had a great conversation at our small group last week about legalism. I have always been the kind of person that I have to guard myself from falling into the trap of legalism.
For me, I seem to think that if something hurts — if it’s difficult and uncomfortable — it must be the thing I should do. If I serve more, give more, work harder, maybe that will make me a better person. All of these things are good things. But if they become the focus of my life and I start thinking that by “doing” more I am a better Christian, this is the “Christ plus” plan. I’m saying that Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t enough for me. I also have to do something to save myself.
It’s tempting to do this in my personal life, too. I don’t think it’s good enough to exercise in a way that I enjoy. I think I have to do the painful thing that I dread so much I never want to do it. I make rules for myself and create a standard that is so high I can’t possibly attain it.
How does this apply to home schooling? Well, anything THAT hard must be good for me, right? It was definitely something that was very refining to my character. It brought me to my knees many days and for that I am thankful.
But is it possible that God gave us all such different gifts and talents because he wants us to use them? Sometimes I feel guilty doing the things that I love to do because it seems selfish. In reality, Paul wrote in Colossians about how we are all part of one body. It makes me smile when I think about how that plays out in real life. When the body of Christ needs someone to love and care for children, a certain person springs into action. When the body needs a teacher or a counselor, someone else gets to use his or her gifts. When the body needs a technical person, God has created a part of the body who can do that job. When a creative gift is required, others get to use their talents.
It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it?
So, I guess what this post is all about is that we simply can’t compare ourselves. It’s so tempting to look at what other people are doing and how well it is going for them, and then beat myself up because I can’t seem to measure up. I envy people who are able to home school their kids and do it so well and with so much enthusiasm and joy! God gave me what I needed to get through that period and do the best that I could.
I’m at a new season in my life. I want to use the gifts He has given me to bring glory to His name. I don’t want to look back and wonder if I’m doing the right thing or look around and question why someone else is doing it better. I want to soar through life as the special and unique person He created. As ME!