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.