Homeschool Hopelessness

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.

All was not lost.

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.

 Blessings, Nadene
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26 thoughts on “Homeschool Hopelessness

  1. Dear Nadene,

    I wish to say thank you for these honest blogs you keep sending……you have become an inspiration in my troubled times. I am a natural rule orientated, systematic person (which I am beginning to wonder if it stems from school as it does not feel natural) my 2 children dont thrive under this and I am still learning to let my ideals go and trust the Lord for where He wants them…..it is a challenge but when I lean more into Him I am doused in peace and then He sends people like you into my life on just the days where encouragement is needed. Stay blessed and real. X

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    • @Tracey Botha Thank you for your message. I am always delighted that my blog posts offer encouragement and support to others, especially when I feel that I have failed or struggled so much. You encourage me to spend more time in the Lord’s presence to become “doused in His peace”.
      Blessings to you!

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      • Beautiful! As a mom with an oldest of 8, this perspective is priceless. Thank you so much for sharing. I homeschool because I care so much. Thank you for the reminder of what I can (and should) control . . . myself. And even that I’m not in control of.

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        • @Jen @ Bookish Family I am so glad that my sharing has provided some perspective for you for your children’s high school years.
          I knew that it was vital to give over some controls to my children as they entered their teens, but I had envisioned our homeschooling remaining very much the same … silly me! I was very influenced by reading successful high school homeschoolers’ blogs. They all remained true to the Charlotte Mason method all the way to graduation, and I was not prepared for some of the choices my teens made. Each family is on a unique journey and each child has a unique journey and destination. It is our role to encourage and facilitate that journey. Blessings to you and your family.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Nadene. I’ve been following your journey for quite a while now, and we are just coming into the high school years. Our son just turned 13 this spring and our daughter is now 11. I hope you remember who I am and are still praying for our family as we also travel down the home school river in our canoe behind you. I am finding our prayers change as we travel this path also. Not only for the Lord to lead our two growing blessings but also that he changes us along the way. My husband has a college degree in engineering while I don’t. We see what a college degree can do but then we also see so many people out there not getting one and doing some kind of job they do from the road and they travel around the USA seeing this amazing country and working along the way. That sounds amazing to us but not fathomable. Our son doesn’t want to be an engineer because math is a challenge for him, he says he want to be a truck driver because it’s easy. But when I ask him what he loves doing, he always says he enjoys writing the most. I ask him how he plans to pay the bills, that question always catches him. What I want him to do is what God wants him to do, in my heart of hearts. It’s so hard to forget about the bills that are paid in the process, so I ask the Lord to change me to encourage him to do what the Lord calls him to do. I have heard my husbands thoughts change on college but the doors a degree opens is hard to miss out in this world. So, long comment cut short, please keep praying for our family along this journey. I would greatly appreciate it! * smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

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    • @Blessings! It is so lovely to hear from you again! Every age and stage requires slight adjustments from both a parenting and homeschooling perspective. Some years changes in our children are just a little more complex and emotional than others, and the teen years seem to have the most ups and downs, I think.
      My hubby is a business man and a farmer and he always thinks in terms of making money. He has the most entrepreneurial influence on our children, which is wonderful. I would encourage any tween and teen to develop hobbies and crafts and skills and start from young. In almost every skill-set there is an opportunity to earn pocket money and find an outlet for earning as they grow up. And even the artsy-crafts and creative hobbies can pay the bills these days! Blessings to you and your family and Grace for grace!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much. That is encouraging. *smile* I wish you all the best and thank you for keeping heart felt posts coming.*smile* Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

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  3. Thank you for this post. The title captures our experiences beautifully. Over the years I have really come to appreciate your wisdom. Our homeschool no longer follows my vision, nor the way we started out. Our life has taken twists and turns that were not in my original plan and have left me, and our little homeschool, in a depression. I am learning that these, too, are good, even if they are not changes that I would like. Thank you for reminding me that God is still in His Heaven and all is right with the world.

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    • @Nashie Sending you huge hugs! I think that disappointment and pain are such a dreadful drain on ones’ vision and hope. In all my times of turmoil or suffering, I have realized that the Lord was very near if I didn’t imagine how things “should be”.
      I once spent 6 weeks in bed after a serious burn accident a few years ago. Things in our home looked dreadful and my children all took strain because I was no longer available to facilitate and keep things seemingly normal. My youngest daughter sat on the bed with me for the entire time and well into my recovery. Her compassion and company was utterly precious. Just recently her best friend was involved in a workshop accident and injured 3 fingers and nearly lost his middle finger. Once again, she has kept him company and helped him through all the trauma and pain.
      Our children are learning so much about life and themselves in our times of turmoil and unexpected changes. It is not what we planned or hoped for, but the Lord, in his absolute wisdom and lovingkindness, is at work building and conforming us into His vessels of use. Grace for grace, dearest one.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. I don’t have teenage children yet (they are still elementary age) but I there are definitely some lessons here for me today! Thank you again!

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    • @rockstarma I was always afraid of my daughter’s teen years. I felt that I was really a good mom and teacher during their young years all the way through middle school. I thought that I would manage the moody hormonal changes with grace, but I found that I took things personally which added so much pain to the mix.

      My one daughter wisely told me, “Don’t think that everything is about you, mom. It’s not personal.”

      This helped me distance myself from the problem and I learnt to look at the situation with compassion instead of introspection. I have really loved journeying with my children through their teen years, though! It is always fascinating to see them emerge as unique, wonderful young adults.
      Wishing you much grace for every age and stage!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow. That is exactly how I’ve felt lately & in all honesty, since I started homeschooling a few years ago. It’s very overwhelming at times, I feel as if I’m drowning in self pity for not feeling adequate enough to give them what they need. I hope it gets better. Thank you for some inspiration.

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    • @CC, Sending you big hugs! I believe that we all feel like this and it happens to us all as parents, let alone when we are responsible for our children’s education! Take courage and stand strong in the role you have in your family! Blessings!

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  6. Thanks for your honesty, Nadine! I also feel that our home school journey is not turning out the way I planned……but I realize now that it’s ok! My children will be happy, hard working and unique.

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  7. We’re not in the teen years, but I’ve already encountered some pushback against certain activities or subjects. So together we’ve tried to decide what is crucial to stick with and what we can tweak or drop. I hear a lot about the “Charlotte Mason feast,” and to me, one of the great things about a feast is that there are many choices, so you can have the things that look interesting or delicious, and you don’t have to eat every single dish there. If something really doesn’t catch on with my kids, maybe that’s good. Maybe they are saving room for something even better that will be coming along.

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    • Absolutely, @RD! Having a rich, wide education offers each child choices within the options, and yet one covers the necessary subjects or topics. I found that offering my children different narration options was the most wonderful way of individualizing their expression of what they learnt and understood.
      Wishing you all the very best as you navigate your homeschool journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Nadene
    I love reading your posts and look forward to reading each new one; as I know there will be some pearl I can add to my homeschooling journey. Thank you for your vulnerability, humility and non-prescriptive posts. I find them truly inspiring and liberating. God bless. René

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    • Simple Days Making for Exciting Adventures, I am so glad that my post offered some encouragement in your changing journey! It is always hard dealing with changes when we feel that where we were was “right” and the new seems so uncertain and different, but I believe that the Lord gently leads us and we can follow Him when we listen with our hearts and not our heads. Blessings as you navigate your family in their lives and learning!

      Like

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