Way last June (!), I received this note:
Please, please could you help me out with something? Sometimes I think I missed out on your “foundational fours” and need to spend time going back to that. Our multi-grade classroom is not working, and I’m going crazy.
It’s like everyone is talking at once and needs my attention and butts in—and I could just scream! I’ve tried scheduling, but neither my 1st or 3rd grader can work alone completely. We use Christian Light for language arts, reading and math, which is so good and is teaching them to be more independent, but how do I teach them to patient and take their turn?
To be honest, I’ve been made to feel so guilty by these “all clad in white, home sewn garment” homeschool families, who use no curriculum and have FUN! I tried a looser approach… Bottom line? My children need structure to progress in math and language arts. Pictures of moms cuddling on sofas, reading to children, make me sick. If you came to my house, you’d see me yelling! Add to this mix a delightful 4-year-old who would like to start doing school, too. The only enthusiastic one. When I schedule our day, I hear, “Why must I do this first, I wanna do my math” or “This many pages?” and such.
If we just get through Bible and those subjects once a day, I am exhausted. Mostly it is all we achieve in one morning. Then the never-ending list of “supposed to’s” like nature study, social science, art, poetry and… and… and… just gets pushed to the back of the pile. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re ever to do anything fun again.
I’ve tried so many things I feel like crying: work boxes, re-arranging furniture, tote boxes, a myriad of curricula, charts, rules, etc. My husband says I should punish the children, then I see the “love to learn” slogan flash before my eyes and I think, “Oh, what am I doing wrong. How come I have to spank my children to do school, while other children lay about the couch and have fun?”
Please, please help. I feel like a terrible mother.
I feel badly that I’ve taken so long to write back to this mom. Her email was one of those “hmmm” emails that has had me thinking for months.
I can see myself in what she has written. I’ve thought much about her words, and I want you to know that just because this is on my “Official Blog” and looks all fancy, doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with this, too! In fact, she just about nailed every struggle I’ve ever had, on a realistic morning with wiggly children and a splitting headache from all the noise.
So after many months, here are my thoughts, spoken mostly as reminders to myself:
I will be much happier if I don’t compare myself to other homeschooling mothers.
I especially shouldn’t compare myself to other blogging homeschooling mothers, because the Internet has a way of making imperfect things look perfect.
“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise… For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Master commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18).
Even though we are blessed to have so many other wise mothers who have gone before us, from whom we can learn, we homeschooling moms need to be careful that we aren’t trying to get the imaginary approval of experts. As this verse says, it’s the one “whom the Master commends” who is approved.
God’s Word is the only standard for good homeschooling methods.
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of YHVH,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3).
There is so much advice on the Internet! By the time we surf the web, read magazines, go to conferences, collect how-to books, and discuss it all with our friends, we can get thoroughly confused and disillusioned.
We would be wise to step away from the screen and put down the books—and pick up the only Book that matters.
Practically speaking, open up the Bible to the book of Deuteronomy. Read it. Devour it. Brood over it. If you have any extra time, open up the book of Proverbs. Load it on your phone and listen to the audio being read. Put it in your purse. Place it on your coffee table.
If those were the only parenting books you ever read, you would certainly prosper!
Parenting isn’t about having fun.
I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. Yes, home should be a pleasant place to be. However, we are to disciple our children, which is very. hard. work.
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18, KJV).
Here are two things I’m working on emphasizing in my own home this year. (In other words, these are areas where I still need work, but they are goals.)
- Keeping my children with me, so I can immediately teach and correct. As the Bible says, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
- Teaching my children that God is watching and that others are precious. This is the most important “content” of my homeschooling day, no matter what else we accomplish. As Yeshua said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
If my child answers back when I have given him an instruction, this is disobedience. If I ask him to do math first but he argues that he would prefer to read his chapter book first, he is rebelling against what I have asked him to do.
A child’s job is to honor his father and mother (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16). A child is to obey his parents (Ephesians 6:1, Colossians 3:20).
Questioning my authority and announcing that he prefers things done his way? That is neither honor nor obedience.
Working on the obedience and cheerful attitudes of my children will remove a lot of the exhaustion from my day. When I don’t have to fight every decision, then peace reigns. When siblings are kind to each other, we can focus on the activity in front of us. We trust one another. We work together as a team.
Loving to learn won’t come until we have taught our children to be obedient and respectful. We need to pause the homeschooling lessons and work on the heart first. (Here is a parenting book that might help out.)
Find satisfaction in the job God has give you as a mother.
When I wake up in the morning, I have high expectations, both for myself and my children. Sometimes I spend so much time thinking about my life (and what is wrong with it) that I can get myself really worked up. It can keep me from smiling and even from sleeping. Who wants to be around a wife and mother like that?!
I was recently reading through Ecclesiastes, especially chapters 5-7, and I learned that life will be more pleasant if I just don’t let myself get ruffled by so many things.
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, NIV).
Since reading these verses, I’ve been trying to find satisfaction and enjoyment in the little things and to be happy in my work. I’m certainly not perfect at this, as any of my children would quickly tell you, but I feel like it has given me a new freedom. Life will not be perfect, and schedules will not work out the way I hoped. Regardless, if I stop reflecting on every little thing, God will keep me occupied with gladness of heart.
I hope this is helpful to you. I suspect that one of the reasons why God says children are a blessing is because being a mother changes me, making me more into the image of His Son. Maybe it’s not so much about teaching my children to be good as it is getting a lot of practice teaching myself to be good.
P.S. If you need more ideas on how to teach your children, check out over 100 hours of free videos that my husband and I have recorded.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.