“I should prep better for teaching.”
“I never have enough time to get everything done.”
“I should prioritize more one-on-one time with my kids.”
“I should get down and play with my little ones more.”
“I should designate more time to read-alouds.”
“I should be more disciplined to stay on track with the academic subjects.”
“Why did I use that tone with my child…again?”
“I should sign them up for more social/community activities.”
“I should really do more organized art projects with them.”
“We should go on more family walks.”
“I should work at trying not to let my stress levels show so much.”
“I wish I was as patient/calm/creative/positive as ___________.”
Sound familiar? Me, too. In fact, all of the above phrases came straight from my very own brain at some point (if not multiple and/or daily points) along our homeschooling journey.
Notice a pattern? There are an awful lot of “I’s” and “should’s” in there. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I am familiar with the bad habit of negative thinking. In a way, I think that’s our conscience’s way of using the Law to convict us of our sins. As a mom, and specifically as a homeschooling mom, I have lots of opportunities every day to sin and fail. And boy, do I! However, I’d like to encourage you with the same advice I should give myself: when you start to dwell on all the ways you’re “failing” your kids, first and foremost run to Jesus. Beating ourselves up with the Law isn’t going to help anything or motivate us to change where change is needed. But understanding that our sins and failures are forgiven by the blood of Jesus gives us comfort and motivation to face each new day.
Here’s why you aren’t failing your children:
- It’s not about us, or our failures. It’s about God’s grace to us and our children, despite our failures.
- We often underestimate the benefits we’re bestowing to our kids by choosing to be all together under one roof every day. They go well beyond structured, academic learning! Sibling interaction, family bonding, family meals, more time to play/imagine/be outdoors, opportunities for deep conversations, a more relaxed schedule, time for extended family, relating to different age groups, contributing to housework, less interruption when pandemics strike…you all know the reasons!
- Life, with its ebbs and flows, usually balances itself out. There will be periods of good, structured learning and motivated mothering; but also times of sickness or distraction or a new baby or life disruption when not as much gets “accomplished.” Those times are highly valuable learning opportunities for your kids, too. Observing life and vocations in action help build your children’s character!
- Understand that by undertaking homeschooling you’re essentially taking on two full-time jobs: mothering/homemaking and teaching. That’s a lot, and it’s ok (good) to give ourselves grace. Especially since the COVID-19 outbreak, many moms are finding themselves in this blessedly satisfying yet frequently overwhelming dual-vocation. Take heart, sisters! First Jesus forgives you your sins; then He helps you pick up your “mat” (whatever earthly trials are overwhelming you) and walks with you. With His help we do what we can to meet as many needs as possible during the day, but at the end of the day when we fall into bed, place all of those unfinished tasks, failures, and mom guilt on Jesus. If you are a visual person, it’s helpful to picture yourself literally throwing your worries and failures at Him on the cross. Here, Jesus, You can have this one. And this one, too. Oh yeah, and this one… (Don’t worry; He can take it!)
- Ask yourself: Is this a matter of salvation? I love this phrase because it’s so simple and soothing, and kids get it too. There literally is only one thing needful; all the rest is just icing on the cake. I can hear my grandpa’s cheerful voice chirping, after one of his beloved MN teams loses, “Well, thank goodness that’s not a matter of salvation!”
- Along that same vein, are you teaching and modeling for your children the Christian faith, albeit imperfectly? Then you are not failing; knowing Jesus as their Savior from sin is that one single most important thing they will ever learn. And the Holy Spirit is the one doing the instructing and strengthening; you need only present the Words.
- Believe it or not, it’s actually comforting for children to see that their mom (or dad) fails too, and runs to Jesus for strengthening. Children need to know that adults are not perfect either; we all require God’s help, big and small!
A few practical solutions that have helped me organize my own scattered brain and time are:
- Making a printable weekly (or daily, or monthly) checklist, with goals for each individual child, joint subjects, and the number of times I’d ideally like to do them to stay on track. If you are a list-maker and motivated by checking things off, this is highly motivating! Or, have your children cross them off to visually see their accomplishments. My list usually changes a bit every year, or semester, as our curriculum and academic needs change and grow. (Just FYI – we rarely ever do everything on the list each week, but it does at least keep me on task, especially with multiple children to teach and keep track of.)
- The book Accountable Kids, by Scott and Traci Heaton. It was very eye-opening to me! We don’t follow it to a tee but kind of made up our own version of it – and it has really helped the kids be more self-motivated. (The goal of the book is to teach intrinsic responsibility and motivation in kids. Plus, it has inspired built-in ways for me and my husband to get some of that elusive one-on-one time with them.)
- Reading some of the other articles on the Blest the House blog! They are highly encouraging and inspiring and have helped me realize I’m not alone in this quest to educate my children in the truths of God’s Word.
Now, I can offer all the tips in the world that work for me and my family, but at the end of the day, only you know your children best – what schedule works for them, how much they can handle, whether they need a day off to play outside, how to discipline them, how to love them. Will you fail them? Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that you won’t. But thankfully God has not failed one of us. The cross and empty grave absolutely guarantee it!
This article was partially inspired by an article that inspired my own dear mother, a Lutheran high school Spanish teacher for over 20 years, now departed to be with her Savior in the failure-free mansions of heaven. The original article can be found here, and I highly recommend it!
Karyn Lukasek is a graduate of Bethany Lutheran College, where she majored in Studio Art. She and her husband, Mike, have been blessed with four children – Isaac, Matthias, Abel, and Elsiana – who keep them on their toes. In her sporadic free time, Karyn enjoys writing and illustrating children’s books, reading, and spending time with family and friends.
5 thoughts on “Dear Sweet Homeschooling Mom Who Feels Like She’s Failing Her Kids”
I agree with your insights, and they are very valuable. I do, however, refuse to call this time “homeschooling” for those of us who abruptly made the transition, with teacher oversight, to learning at home. I would not choose to homeschool this way, with this coursework, and this oversight. It is teacher-led learning, with parents mostly along for the ride. Some days are fantastic, some aren’t, but we are still held to a schedule that ultimately the parents did not make. It has been mostly a success for me, the blessings of having them at home are huge! However, I definitely see the drawbacks in fitting my own teaching style within someone else’s. That being said, I don’t have to correct anything or plan anything, I just have to get it done. And mostly our learning has been screen-free, which I appreciate. Just my two cents! Prayers for all of the parents leading their children.
The biggest blessing of all, perhaps, is that some parents may re-evaluate the benefit of school vs. homeschool. I do wonder if the fall will bring more “choice” homeschoolers. It is actually a decision we make every year, which in the past has led to my kids being in school for the past 5 years.
Absolutely, Julie! I agree that the balancing act that parents are doing right now in facilitating their children’s distance learning is very different from typical homeschooling (if there is such a thing). None of this is what you chose, and choice is usually one of the great benefits of homeschooling. I think Karyn is writing specifically to homeschooling moms here, but so many of the “I shoulds” that she lists probably are felt by moms who use schools too, especially right now. And the encouragement she offers applies broadly as well!
Right now all of us, homeschoolers and distance learners alike, are making the most of a situation that is less than ideal. But God is with us and and working this too for our good! I’m so glad that you are having some good days, and I hope this school year ends well for your family!
I concur with both of you! And I feel like I should clarify that the title in no way was meant to imply that moms who are home with their children – by choice or not – “must” or “should” feel like failures. Many have successful, happy days, and I rejoice with them! Also, those days look entirely different for each family! But a great deal of us struggle with moments, days, or even entire seasons of feeling like we are letting our children down in some way or another. My hope was to encourage them (& myself) with the good news that Jesus has fulfilled the law in every single place where we have failed, and loves us and our children dearly. God bless our schooling, however it is done!
The first paragraph of your article brought me to tears, Karyn. It is amazing to me how the printed or audible reminder of Jesus’ love assures my heart and snaps it back from the tendency to compete, compare and feel like I’ve fallen short. I’m reminded of the simple truth behind the first line of a hymn: “Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus can my heartfelt longing still.” It’s true. The mention of His name can put my heart at ease.
Your words, though designed to encourage homeschooling families, end up being words for everybody. It is so easy to unknowingly create a personal environment of living under Law. Our natures are born to strive to please. But, along with you, I thank God he is pleased with Jesus who already fulfilled the Law for us. Once, for all.
Thank you for taking the time to write this. I can tell that you are my sister’s daughter–Grace is woven into your perspective on everything.
Thank you, dear Aunt! That hymn line is a KEEPER.