Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with other homeschooling moms who are struggling in some way or another. As rewarding as homeschooling may be, it’s also one of the hardest things a mom will do. And often times, we wonder if we’re doing enough for our children.
As a veteran home school mom, I’ve encountered seasons of success, when my days are full of learning, we’re keeping to our schedule, and I can see visible progress. But I’ve also encountered seasons of wilderness, when we’ve barely gotten by, and when the school days seemed more frustrating than joyful.
Many circumstances contribute to the wilderness seasons: New baby, illness, many littles, husband’s unpredictable schedule, morning sickness, the list goes on.
But in order to keep our minds and hearts focused on this very important and rewarding task, there are some principles we can adopt that will help us from growing weary, or help us come out of the wilderness when we’re already there. Here are some of the things I’ve learned that have made an impact when I’ve put them into practice.
Tune out external voices.
Sometimes, though not intentionally, our biggest discouragement comes from others. Whether it’s comparing ourselves to other moms or getting unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family, we can quickly feel like we’re not home schooling up to par. We wonder if our children are learning enough. We wonder if we’re giving them enough opportunities outside the home. And we wonder if we’re truly equipped for the job.
The answer is….you are!
Take some time to truly evaluate your situation. Are you allowing other voices (friends, family, blogs, Facebook, etc.) to make you feel like you’re not doing enough? Only you know what your days are like, your family dynamics, your energy level, your circumstances. Give an honest assessment of your current dynamics and make the necessary changes.
But sometimes those voices are our own! We can be our own worst critics. This is my struggle at times. I get discouraged when I fail my own standards. I don’t like lowering the bar or not accomplishing what I set out to do each day. But I’ve learned that some of my standards weren’t God’s to begin with, and I must rest in that.
Focus on what’s most important.
In times of weariness and struggle, don’t give up, just simplify. Decide what is most important to accomplish each day and just do that! For some moms, a couple of days on a skeleton schedule is enough to regroup and refresh. For other moms, it may take a month or more on a simplified schedule before coming out of the wilderness. And that’s okay! Write down a few things that are most important to you to accomplish each day and purpose to do those things. And when you’re feeling less overwhelmed, add other things in slowly.
I think what’s most important is not becoming a slave to the ‘work’. Because while academics are important, it’s not our only focus in homeschooling. Giving ourselves some freedom and leeway in the book work allows us more time and freedom in the other areas of family life. When you’re weary, invest your energy in loving on and enjoying your kids.
Don’t be fooled into doing too much.
One sure way to drive us to weariness is to take on too many outside activities. Have you heard these?
Your kids are at home ALL DAY? Do your kids play sports? Are your kids getting enough socialization? Are your kids involved in extra-curricular activities?
We’ve heard these questions before, and they can prompt us to extend ourselves too much if we’re not careful. God will lead and direct your family. He will prompt your heart to know what child needs what at any given time. And He will not lead you to a hectic, unmanageable schedule. If that’s where you are, and it’s the reason you’re feeling weary, it may be time to pare down. I have ten children, nine at home. If I felt the external pressures to place each one of them in some sort of activity because I bought into the “I’m not a good mom if I don’t” mentality, I would be in BIG trouble. I would never get anything done. Ever! My kids won’t die and whither away if they don’t get to do everything their hearts desire. And I am not a bad mom for knowing our family’s limitations. And neither are you!
Listen to God. I sensed my oldest son, who is 12, needed something more. He wanted to take guitar lessons, but I knew I couldn’t squeeze in another activity, not to mention the gas to get him to lessons. So I bought him DVD lessons for about $15. It fulfilled a need and desire for him, yet didn’t stretch me beyond what I knew I could handle. As I write, Seth is upstairs now, strumming away on the guitar he saved up for and bought on his own! Makes a mama proud!
Try and think of alternatives solutions to some of the things your kids want to do.
Let God direct your day.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again in terms of weariness.
Have you ever woken up in the morning only to feel like you were exhausted before the day even began? And you wondered how you would even survive the day? When you’re feeling this tired and weary…..PRAY! First ask Him to strengthen you and help you with your day. Then ask Him what He would have you accomplish in that day. For one friend it was feeding the kids, minimal chores to function properly, and then piling on the couch with books. For another friend it was a short Bible study, a documentary on mammals, a math lesson, and then free play the rest of the day. On days that I feel this tired (mainly during pregnancy and newborn stage), I pretty much decide from the beginning that I’m probably in no shape to deal properly with a rough phonics lesson, or helping with complicated math equations. So I make an executive decision to have an easy day. Minimal school work, lots of play time, bake something yummy, read a passage of Scripture, feed the kids, and just reserve my energy for loving, leading, and guiding.
Don’t get discouraged and think you’ll be stuck in this weary phase for long. You won’t. And in fact, when you’re willing to give yourself a break once in a while, you’ll find that you’re ready to get back to more productive days, and you’ll do it with vigor!
Remember why you’re doing this.
I will be the first to admit that I sometimes put too much focus on completing all of our work. And for me, that in itself is a mountainous task. I am schooling six kids, grades 12, 5, 4, 2, 1, and Kinder. I have this incredible schedule that allows me to know what I need to be doing at any given time. However, it can be stressful. I have a responsibility to educate my children, and I want to do that well. But sometimes I get tunnel vision and only measure a successful day by how much work we completed. Moms, if we define our success by school work alone, we’re missing the beauty of the very freedom we have to home school, and all that it encompasses.
When you’re weary, rest! Ask God to strengthen you, and use this time to refocus and regroup. Don’t lose heart, Mom! You really are doing a great job!
Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
How have you handled periods of weariness? What helped you to come through it?