I go through this every year. Determined that my house will be “READY” for the new homeschool year. Cleaning out closets, rearranging everything from rooms to furniture to the pantry to medicine cabinets. Files get cleaned out, portfolios updated, books ordered—“THIS YEAR I will be READY” is my battle cry! And every year, the school year begins and it’s just…not…quite…there. And I feel like a failure. Again.

This year looks to be worse than usual. How can that be? There are THREE less children living here now! Of the three at home, I’m schooling only TWO—and one of those has most of her classes with our local homeschool group. How can I, the week before school begins, be so completely NOT READY this year?

What really…is…the definition of…“ready”?

Oh well, ready means the house is perfect, the curriculum is perfect, the children are perfect, I…am…perfect?

Granted, there are complications that get in the way of my “perfect” plans. In previous years we had: launching children to colleges in distant states, graduations of children, weddings of children, births of grandchildren, broken bones of children, surgeries for children, elderly parent needs and illnesses, elderly grandparent needs and illnesses requiring travel, job loss and gain, unemployment, self-employment, ANY employment, speaking and writing opportunities, water damage to the house (twice), remodeling our small space…and the list goes on. These never seemed to fit into my “perfect” schedule…my “perfect” plan.

This year it’s me. My surgery is scheduled during the third week of the new school year. This was NOT my “perfect” plan. My daughter is due to deliver my third granddaughter Sept 30. I’ve always been there for the births of my grandgirls and stayed a couple of weeks to help. This time I can’t. My heart hurts over that. My “perfect” plan was to have the surgery October 30—giving plenty of time for new baby to come, get loved on by Nonna, help out with the grandgirls and new (again) mommy & daddy and get back, put my own house back together (to reach “perfect”), get everyone caught up and THEN be down for a few weeks of recovery. Perfect, right?

But my plans are not necessarily God’s plans and He has reminded me of that once again. Neck surgery was definitely not part of my “perfect” plan, but less-than-perfect genetics and injury are a part of our fallen world and time caught up with me. And I put it off far too long and now the price is being paid and it can’t wait.

Particularly frustrating is that the neck issues cause chronic nerve pain and diminished use of my arm. My RIGHT arm. And yes, I am right-handed. This has made everything from ironing a shirt to using a touch pad on my computer a new experience in pain. And even my “perfect” handwriting—a skill which has earned me compliments and even income since the age of 15, is affected by my neck and nerve injury. During the day, I don’t know how much “working” time I will have before it’s necessary to spend some quality time with a heating pad or sitting where a sunbeam can hit just the right spot on my shoulder—the one thing that provides relief. Trying to get my house “PERFECT” for the new school year is no more than a frustrating pipedream that crashes and burns daily. So why don’t I just give it up?

Because all of these things are simply…LIFE. When we took on homeschooling, we did not receive a “get out of life’s jail” free card. Life still happens. Illnesses, injuries, interruptions—the STUFF that IS LIFE doesn’t go on hold while we educate our children—IT NEEDS TO BE PART OF THEIR EDUCATION.

Oh, what a hard reality that has been for me—even after 25 years of this. Why? Partly because I’m a recovering perfectionist (note the word is “recoverING” not “recoverED”). Partly because I set up impossible expectations that no woman (or child) could live up to. Partly because of…my pride.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea that if my house were just clean and organized enough, if my paperwork was all in order, if my children were all perfectly mannered and groomed, if…if…if…THEN and ONLY THEN I would be a good wife and mom. What a lie of the enemy. And how the enemy likes to use those around us to enforce that lie. A pox on any magazine, book or speaker that tries to tell you—through words or pictures or simple insinuation– that this homeschooling journey is “EASY” is “PERFECT”!

Think about it—what LIES am I (are you) believing?

IF my house is clean, then I am worthy of love? That’s a message that has been communicated to me for years and for years I bought it and lived feeling as though I deserved to be unloved.

IF my children sit down at the table and do school from 8 to 3 everyday, THEN I am a good homeschooling mom and my children will be successful! Another lie I bought into and nearly destroyed the joy of homeschooling for them AND walked around for many years with condemnation and fear that I’d destroyed my children’s hopes for the future because we didn’t school like that.

IF I feed my children raw fresh organic food, make my own ketchup and never darken the doorstep of a fast food restaurant, THEN I am a good mother. And then, when life hit and fast food on the way between locations when crisis demanded (or exhaustion overtook me), the neon sign “failure” flashed over my head each time I glanced into the rearview mirror.

Only God Himself can achieve “PERFECT”—why do I need to keep learning this same lesson over and over? God’s standard is perfection and no matter how hard we try, we can’t achieve that—and therein lies the cross and the resurrection…the…hope. Christ did what we could not. If you remember only one thing from this entire post, remember this: The distance between our best efforts and God’s standard of perfection is called “GRACE”—and He offers it freely.

Perfection is a bondage…Grace is freedom. So we will begin the school year with what we have and do our best with the circumstances we are struggling in. We will read aloud, play games and crash on the couch at night to watch something innocuous if we need to decompress. We will get up and face each day knowing that God’s mercies are new every morning and we will do our schoolwork with diligence, but not in a prideful, dogmatic pressurized environment as has happened in the past. We will use online and computer based programs when needed and be grateful for the laptop and a king sized bed while I’m recovering. We will work towards getting the house back together as the bedroom switch-arounds and painting continue, but if it’s not done by the first day of school…oh well…it’s OK. If we have to call in pizza a few times, it’s not the end of the world…it’s just part of…well…grace.

Great Expectations…um…Get Real…My battle with “Perfect”

8 thoughts on “Great Expectations…um…Get Real…My battle with “Perfect”

  • 08/24/2012 at 8:51 AM

    Thanks for being “real”, Donna. I could have written much of this. Praying for you 🙂

  • 08/24/2012 at 9:22 AM

    Oh sister – this is beautiful, true, and so desperately needed by many!! I love the way you write but more importantly I love your honesty AND your transparency with this lie that you (and me and a million other moms) believe(d). Thank you. May God continue to write His story on your heart and may you continue to bless us with it! {{{hugs}}} Maggie

  • 08/24/2012 at 9:31 AM

    I had a 5 hour anxiety attack while driving home from TN last night. I wish I would have read this before I took off. THANK you! Now I’ll laugh at the monumental piles awaiting!

  • 08/24/2012 at 11:35 AM

    Donna, I so needed to read this! Grace– what would we do without it?? Many blessings!!

  • 08/24/2012 at 11:55 AM

    Sweetie, we have known each other since we we girls. I clearly recall a phone conversation circa 1988. We were discussing coming of age in the 70’s and the confusing messages given to us. Suddenly it was a requirement that we be sucessful career women AND run a perfect home AND be totally devoted to child rearing (the ‘perfect’ Mom).
    You said something that not only made Mee laugh but stuuuuck with Mee all these years. You said, “They lied to us.” *lol* But you also said that you loving husband tells everyone that you have the hardest job in the world, you are a wife and a mother. Gosh that is beautiful.
    The only ‘perfection’ demanded of us to to be as Perfect as we were made. And that we already are. Continue too live in Grace Dear Lady. . .you are perfect at it.

    • 09/21/2012 at 9:59 AM

      Hi, we met at BlogHer in August. Perhaps it was fate, because we’ve also taken some heat for A) rinmveog our children from the local school district and B) Enrolling our children in a cyber school with a self-paced non-religious curriculum. I teach my children with state certified oversight. I’ve heard it all from you’ve let the government into your house!’ to Your children sit in front of a computer all day!’ It’s rediculous. I’m always looking for new ideas, so I’ll be checking in. We use the Calvert curriculum.

  • Pingback: Saturday Select–September 1, 2012 | Home Educating Family Association Blog

  • 09/20/2012 at 9:30 PM

    The first thing I bought was the enrtie Sonlight Pre-K core. I didn’t even think I would be able to homeschool at that time, but I fell in love with Sonlight the first time I got my hands on a catalog, and I wanted all of those great books to start our English “library”. We enjoyed those books so much while they were getting Japanese at Japanese kindergarten, then we ended up homeschooling after all once my oldest was starting first grade (and are now on our eighth year with Sonlight). We still have most of the Pre-K books – at least the ones that haven’t fallen apart already from frequent use. No regrets at all!


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