Eighteen years ago, I embarked on an unlikely journey of teaching my children at home. I only planned to continue until they reached high school, but the three oldest chose to home school through grade 12.
We learned a lot of things during those years, but what sticks with me the most isn’t the multitude of things we gleaned from books, but the things we discovered about life and ourselves. Those years weren’t always easy. Life still happened. And though I was far from a perfect teacher or mother, we came out the other side loving and respecting each other. Today, I am humbled and blessed by the close relationships we share.
Below is a random list of some things I learned. I’m sure I can’t think of everything, but these are a few that easily came to mind. Although it refers to our home schooling journey, I have a feeling you’ll be able to relate, or, at the very least, may find it an encouragement!
52 Things I Learned From Home Schooling:
1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Any effort is better than none. It all compiles.
3. Bear with one another.
4. Patience is necessary – it grows when exercised.
5. If it’s not working, try harder. If it’s still not working, try a different approach.
6. Meant to and actually doing the job are two very different things.
7. It’s hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
8. Quitting isn’t an option. Redirecting your effort is.
9. There’s no such thing as perfection, but hard work, perseverance, and a good attitude are a close second.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others or you risk feeling both inadequate and missing what you were created for.
11. Laugh. Cry. Start again.
12. Speak truth when needed.
13. Don’t worry about what others think.
14. Character, integrity, and wisdom are more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. There are plenty of intelligent jerks.
15. Figure out what your passions are and build on those.
16. Nothing is wasted. No effort, trial, or experience.
17. Put down the books, leave the work, and go outside.
18. Play often.
19. Be kind. Speak gently. Smile freely.
20. Not everyone will agree with you. That’s okay. Accept your differences.
21. Make your encouragements more prolific than your critiques.
22. Those entrusted to you rise to your expectations. Set the bar achievably high.
23. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
24. Even if it’s difficult, monotonous, or thankless, you are still making headway.
25. Nothing stays the same forever. Cherish now.
26. Life has seasons. Learn what you can from each one.
27. Read beautiful stories out loud to your kids.
28. Besides God, be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
29. Expect the best in others.
30. Catch your kids doing good.
31. Tell your kids what you like about them, and about the good you see in them.
32. Keep hugging your children even if they appear to no longer appreciate it.
33. A little mess won’t kill you.
34. Say sorry when you’re wrong, then ask for forgiveness.
35. What you do speaks louder than what you say.
36. Talk your kids openly about your faith and failures.
37. Let them work alongside you so they learn from you.
38. Help your children see the beauty in nature and in other human beings.
39. If possible, travel with your children. These experiences offer priceless bonding and provide hands-on experience they won’t get from books.
40. Teach them to serve others so they won’t be self-serving, but compassionate.
41. Guide, don’t control.
42. They aren’t you. Don’t try to make them be. Give them ample space to be who they were created to be. Celebrate their individuality.
43. Take each child out on one-on-ones. You get to know them better this way.
44. Love your spouse.
45. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
46. Help them form strong habits to achieve their goals.
47. Champion their dreams.
48. Let them make mistakes.
49. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
51. Let your children go and be the miraculous humans God made them to be. It was always the end goal.
52. Choose love first, always.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
After home schooling my four children – the collective sum of eighteen years – my youngest recently decided she would like to go to school. We looked into schools in our area and chose one that seemed the best fit. The school required she take a placement test. If you’re a home school mom, you don’t need me to tell you how that feels.
While I waited for the day to arrive, waited as she wrote the test, and waited for the results of the test, all manner of fearful thoughts played in my mind. What if I hadn’t done enough? What if there were gaps in her learning? What if she writes the test and they tell me she can’t go into her grade? What if…
My husband and friends encouraged me. She’s fine, they said. You’ve done a great job. I tried to remind myself that there was much treasure in all that we had done, so much precious time together as a family and with grandparents, and opportunities for them to dig deep into their natural bent – so much that could never be measured in a test. But still it was there, that nagging voice whispering, You didn’t do enough.
I shouldn’t be surprised. That’s the world’s daily mail, isn’t it? You’re not good enough. Do more, be more, have more…more, more, more. And the frenzy is real. And it was real inside my head too. If my daughter failed the test, I would have failed. Would that mean all those years were wasted?
Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
Such true words. True of our home school journey, and true of our lives too. If you are looking at where you’re at right now and wishing it were different, or thought you would be further along in your goals and dreams, or could have done better at this or that, know that there is much to be said for the things that may never be seen, praised, applauded, or awarded.
Because all those times you got up, showed up, and did your best when it was hard to do anything at all, mattered. The times you smiled when inside you were breaking. The times you chose to laugh when you wanted to cry. When you kept silent instead of using harsh words. When you retaliated with kindness. When you held it together even though you felt you were falling apart. All of those, though they may never be counted, COUNTED.
Because how on earth can you measure compassion, kindness, humility, sacrifice, grace, gentleness, tenacity, faith, hope, love, and all the brilliant, imperfect, fiercely beautiful moments in-between that fill our lives? You can’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t count or that they remain fully unseen.
I think of Jesus’s life. For three years he ministered to crowds and individuals. He healed and told God’s message of love and salvation. Then he was brutally killed on a Roman cross. At that point it appeared as though his 33 years on earth were wasted and counted for nothing. But though his life’s work seemed a failure, that wasn’t the end. Three days later, he rose again, conquering death and making a way for us.
I can’t help but think we’ll be surprised at the end of our lives too. We don’t have to be the best, or perfect, or fully together for our lives to count. And here’s another truth, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never feel good enough or be good enough anyway. That’s meant to be reassuring! Here’s why: it’s not up to us! Jesus makes you good enough. His blood shed for you on the cross covers all your sin. Believing by faith this love offer makes you good enough. In fact, it makes you spotless in God’s eyes. He’s the one for whom all your unseen effort matters. He’s the purpose for your purposes. And one day, when you and I arrive in glory, it will all make sense. We’ll see that even the smallest act wasn’t wasted.
I hope the voice we hear louder than the others is God’s who tells us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) That sounds vastly different from our daily dose of be better, be perfect, and you’re not enough, doesn’t it? Through Christ, we’re not only enough, we have all we need to fully live the life we’ve been gifted with.
It all turned out well. My daughter tested at grade level. But even if she hadn’t, I know she understands many beautiful things that test couldn’t possibly measure, things unseen that count all the same…maybe even more! The same is true in your life!
May you understand your true identity as a whole, fully loved child of God, and live out your purpose in the midst of His spacious love.
In what areas do you not feel good enough?
How do you think God feels about those things and about you?
Align your thinking to God’s in this area, and continue on in His strength and peace!
Trust in Jesus and place your life, your purpose, your plans, in God’s care.