It’s been a couple months back in the swing of this ever-morphing, soul-sanctifying, beautifully messy thing we call homeschool. I’m both encouraged and extremely humbled. At times I’m baffled by the push back that can so randomly rear its head in the course of a day. Other times I feel like magic is unfolding right before my eyes. Then it’s all I can do to breathe out praise and shove every morsel of that magic in my pocket for a rainy day.
I was thinking back to when I first started homeschooling. I’ve still never shared how that came about. I will one day. For now, I’ll just say I never planned on it. But once I was in, I threw myself into learning, preparing and planning. Navigating all the information and advice out there felt like treading water. Thankfully, I had one wise homeschool mama who was a gracious buoy for me. Five years later, I no longer have to ask someone how to flourish in homeschool. Experience has taught me what a book never could and I’m still growing. But these are the things I come back to over and over. They are the timeless advice that suits every season of motherhood and every stage of child development.
I revisit them each year and really any time we’re hitting a wall or I need to encourage myself and get my footing in a new (or old) challenge. Truly, it’s a little unfair to call this homeschool advice when all of these 100% apply to motherhood in general. Nevertheless, I offer these humbly in hope they encourage you and maybe help you clarify your own family’s language around what helps you to flourish.
1) Have a guiding vision that’s married to authentic love and connection. Make every decision from that place even if it looks different than anything you thought you would do.
I thought I had it all mapped out in the beginning, which is great. I was being proactive. But not all that’s planned will be fruitful. So much of what I attempted in the beginning was to appease the imaginary cynics that might scrutinize my methods. If it’s true for homeschool, it’s true for a 100 different things about motherhood. Fear is a foolish counselor and love is the greatest force of wisdom each of our unique families need.
Prioritizing love and connection reminds us that our role as parents is more precious than any information or experience we could ever give our kids. Secure in our love, our kids’ hearts are more open to us, which translates to minds that are more open to learning and growing together.
2) Showing up to the process inside of us pays dividends to our kids as we pour into their lives. Abundant life starts from the inside out.
It’s absolutely not true that we need to have it all together to be a great mom, homeschool or otherwise. None of us do. When I used to work outside the home in a corporate environment, I found that I could mostly compartmentalize life and show up as a professional no matter what was going on in my life. I’ve found being at home very different. Home is where we let our walls down, where the filter that might keeping us from spewing anger at work might not work as well when ink pen art covers the wall.
The way to address this challenge is not more self-will or escaping into social media (#preachingtomyself). It’s by being honest with what’s going on inside of us. Sometimes I don’t even know what’s bothering me until I slow down enough to listen. Though it can be hard and uncomfortable at first, the simple start of being honest with God and myself releases a grace for the string of moments that make up my day. When my heart is receiving God’s love, my kids feel it. When I’ve received grace, I become more gracious. As moms, we have an incredible ability to influence the climate in our home. The way we posture our own hearts toward God and in our own personal growth creates a tailwind our kids can’t help but benefit from.
3) Practice presence.
Become wholly convinced of Christ’s union with you in the every day. The awareness of His presence in our lives anchors us to be present for the people we love one day at a time. (If you’d like to delve into that more, I highly recommend The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.)
4) Rest, pray, listen, cultivate, observe, make adjustments…then repeat.
I’ve noticed that if a child or a day feels stuck, I usually need to revisit one of these points. Once we do, 9 times out of 10, we’re moving forward again.
Exhaustion is a hard place and granted there are some seasons, it is absolutely unavoidable. For myself, I’ve found that in most seasons there is a lot I can do to be a more rested person. Even baby steps toward rest can go a long way in helping me in this never-ending loop of prayer, cultivation, observation and making adjustments.
When I pray, I’m trusting that God not only deeply cares about the big and small of our family life, but that He’s also anxious to release the strategic wisdom I need.
When I cultivate, I put action to the direction I feel is right for us. It could be in our family rhythms, decisions about outside commitments or which curriculum/approach to use with a struggling child. Then I keep my eyes wide open. How is this working? How is my child receiving this? What can I do to support him/her better? In resisting the autopilot of assumption and staying curious in the process, I’m ready and open to make tweaks along the way. These are my people. This flexibility is one of the beautiful things about homeschool. We’ll make this work for us.
5) Lastly, apologize quickly. What’s going to stick with our kids more than feast they’re eating is the spirit and love in which the feast was served.
I apologize OFTEN because I make mistakes often. I may lose my temper or make a snarky comment. Owning my part helps preserve my connection with my kids that hurt can deteriorate over time. None of us are perfect, but by God’s grace, we can love our families well even as we point to the One who perfectly loves.
I’d love to hear your take on this. What do think is the most challenging part of being a homeschool mom? And what helps you and your family to flourish?