No one warned me that I would experience periods of real hopelessness in our homeschooling journey.
These feelings were not so much because of a child’s slowness in grasping phonics, or mastering multiplication tables or coping with writing and spelling (although those struggles are real and difficult to cope with at the time), but I suffered from a deeper, insidious anxiety of not measuring up to the ideals and images of what I imagined of my parenting and homeschooling.
My struggle was that my children did not reflect what I thought they would be if I “did it right”.
I had visions of my children happily homesteading, singing songs, crafting and learning like the girls in the “Little House on the Prairies“. I thought we would all be praying, singing, being kind to others … that kind of Christian-thing. The gratitude, the persevering, the teachable, the compliant child-thing. And I thought it would all develop into young adult expressions of that image. But our children did not embrace or demonstrate that vision.
Actually my children started out a lot like that, back in the beginning of our homeschooling journey, so it was not that we couldn’t do it. It just didn’t carry on into my children’s teen years. That is when things changed. They changed. They took charge, and it was really scary for me!
My children are amazing, unique individuals, and they were way stronger than me. No matter how hard I persevered, persuaded, cajoled, pleaded, reasoned, lectured, they did things their way. They made choices and insisted and persisted. I watched my dreams fade away. And, looking back now, it was a good thing. My children were not supposed to turn out the way I intended, but the way the Lord purposed.
They abandoned, subjects, ignored Charlotte Mason’s methods, made decisions for the all “wrong” reasons (in my mind). Instead of continuing with Charlotte Mason principles, my high school children opted for textbooks. Instead of narrations, they chose tedious workbook lessons and stressful exams. Instead of a rich cultural Fine Arts, they chose dry bones “compulsory” subjects. Instead of delight-directed – they opted for minimum requirements. One child became the master-procrastinator! She managed to complete everything by the skin of her teeth and it was a nightmare trying to work with her.
I sat watching each of them move further and further away from my ideals, and morph into “let’s get it done the easiest and fastest way possible” and I became sadder, more and more hopeless. As each teenager entered into this phase, I lost perspective and became really sad and depressed.
Both my graduate daughters chose not to study further. They did not want specific careers. They opted for part-time work and entrepreneurial experience. From the outside, it looked like my husband and I had “lost the plot” and we came under prolonged, severe criticism from both our parents close family. I felt judged and a failure. I wondered If I had instead sent them to public high schools and forced them to follow the norm of ‘Matric followed by university studies’, then we would have done it the “right way” and we would have “succeeded”.
As I sat praying, I realized that I had laid an excellent foundation in their primary school years. We established outstanding basic skills. I had instilled a love for reading, for good literature, for Fine Arts and we had a lifestyle of both productivity and creativity. We have a deeply spiritual home where we share the reality of the Lord’s word and work in our lives.
I turned my eyes to the Lord and trusted Him to work out those promises He gave us for each of our children.
After my eldest daughter got married earlier this year, she flourished as an amazing young woman who loves her husband. She happily creates and keeps her home beautiful, and she cooks healthy, wonderful meals on a tiny budget. She is a deeply committed member of a small, but tightly connected community and she and her hubby practice hospitality in ways that really bless others.
My 18-year-old graduate daughter currently works as a freelance graphic artist. She is developing her skills as a photographer and amazed us all by becoming a singer and musician, performing among the emerging musicians in the Garden Route. There was no clue that she would choose to sing publicly. She was so shy as a child that she wept and just couldn’t give me speeches or prepared reading, not even for me, all alone in our homeschool study. And she never took a single formal music or singing lesson!
Last week, as I sat among a crowd of over 370 people at the Live Event in the George Botanical Gardens, and I just marveled at her courage and her talent, her vulnerability. She shares her own songs with the world. I didn’t see that coming!
May I encourage you, just as I encourage myself, to keep hoping and praying and trusting in the Lord for your children, especially when they take charge as they grow up. He is faithful and He has a vision and purpose for each person. He is able to “make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes”.
Don’t allow periods of hopelessness and despair cause you to give up. Have grace towards yourself for being out of your depth and have grace towards your children for working out who they are becoming. It is Grace for grace.