Editor's note: I rarely write about homeschooling because I find I'm always struggling with and discerning our decision.
This post is not an appeal to others to home educate. I recognize all to well the pitfalls and weaknesses of home education and I don't think this particular educational choice is for everyone.
This post is a reflection on how homeschooling has refined me as a parent. I guess there is some good to all this after all. :)
I spent the morning compiling last year's homeschool papers in order to prepare for my review for the 2013-2014 academic school year. I'm really late in getting this necessary work completed but with the move this summer, my timing was thrown off and this was the first time I had to work on it.
I hate preparing for my yearly review. I spend the entire time doubting myself.
Why are we homeschooling again?
Is this academic work good enough?
What if the kids are not getting all they need?
I'm such a broken teacher. My kids deserve better.
Where do I fit in all of this? How do I maintain my own emotional, mental, physical stability while educating and meeting the physical and emotional needs of my family?
And so went the internal dialogue while I sorted and filed papers into some kind of order so as to explain what we do to the Homeschool Supervisor.
This morning, after I was finished all the paperwork, I felt exhausted.
I wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.
School starts in just two short weeks and I felt overwhelmed and awash in doubt.
I couldn't shake the nagging feeling, the wondering if this is the best way.
A few years ago, I confessed this chronic, aching homeschooling doubt to my spiritual director. In between tears, I outlined for him the very real weaknesses I saw in myself as a homeschooling mother and within my homeschooling community. Father listened to me for a few minutes and said,
"St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had a lot of doubts when she was asked to start a school and a new religious order. She had young children and it was cold in Emmitsburg and everyone--including her children-- kept getting sick. She wondered over and over again if this was God's will for her. You know, Colleen, given your temperament and everything I know about you, I think you should have confidence that this is God's will for you right now. You can discern later if God calls you to adapt educational choices, but for now, you should persevere and be at peace."
I've never forgotten Father's words, yet I still experience weekly, daily, and sometimes minute-to-minute doubt four years into this homeschooling journey. I lack confidence that I'm doing the right thing for my kids.
This morning, as I signed my name on the homeschool paperwork forms and laid my pen on the table, I was weepy and overcome with prickly questions. I sat back in my chair, grabbed my phone to check my email and I opened my inbox, stumbling upon this story sent via a link.
In a moment, my homeschooling worries and doubt evaporated.
I'm copying the story below.
A man was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with bright light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man He had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might. This, the man did, day after day.
For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down with his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, the Adversary decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the man’s weary mind: “You’ve been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You’re never going to move it” —thus, giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man.
“Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that’ll be good enough.” And that’s just what he planned to do— until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. “Lord” he said, “I’ve labored long and hard in Your service, putting all my strength to do that which You’ve asked. Yet, after all this time, I haven’t even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What’s wrong? Why am I failing?”
The Lord responded compassionately,
“My friend, when I asked you to serve Me— you accepted. I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength— which you’ve done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.And now you come to Me— with your strength spent, thinking that you’ve failed. But is that really so?”
“Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscular. Your back sinew is mighty. Your hands are callused from the constant pressure;and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you’ve grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you’ve done. I, my friend, will now move the rock.”
Just like the man in the story who was called to push on a large boulder, God has called me to push through my homeschooling difficulties. In listening and in responding to His call, I've grown stronger.
My decision to homeschool has made me a better mother.
My decision to homeschool has made me a more patient, understanding, and compassionate person.
My decision to homeschool has made me a lover of truth and a seeker of knowledge.
My decision to homeschool has made me a more savvy parent, increasing my ability able to withstand the tough stuff of parenting.
My decision to homeschool has cultivated my kids in a way that's different from the world.
I'm not perfect, but through the personal trials I've encountered in homeschooling, the parenting abilities I have now surpass that which I used to have.
Homeschooling is one of the paths God has used to refine me. Not everyone is called to this path, nor should they be.
Honestly? Most of my time is spent devising ways to GET OFF THE PATH!
Still, I haven't strayed yet (and if I do, it's OK, God can work with me on any path) and in a way, my actions reflect a decision to trust in God--no matter the sometimes seemingly impossible situations and difficulties I face.
Perseverance on my path is necessary, but not always easy.
Like the man in the story, I've moved no rocks. I haven't mastered homeschooling. I will never be the poster woman for home education. I will not become a homeschooling guru, proponent or homeschooling book author. A lot of times I feel like a black sheep within the homeschooling community.
But I will try to be obedient to God and I will answer the call.
And it's this obedience and faith and trust that God will use when He decides to finally move my rock for me.
The work was never about me anyway. It has always about what God can do with someone who is very broken.