Encouragement

I’m Not _____ Enough Either

“I think it’s amazing that you homeschool, but I could never do it. I’m not _______ enough.”

If you homeschool your children, you have probably heard a version of this statement. If you don’t homeschool your children, maybe you have made a version of this statement. I never know quite what to do with this one. I know it is meant as a compliment, and in a way I appreciate it. There is an acknowledgement there that the thing that I am doing is difficult, and it can be. There is an expression of respect for me and admiration of my abilities. That’s kind. But the main assertion of this statement is that the speaker is somehow lacking in comparison to me. How awkward, and probably untrue! I know that this statement is not meant to be the opening of a conversation, but the close of one, and so I usually just let it lie and we move on to some other more comfortable topic. But there is so much that I want to say about it.

Maybe you think you aren’t patient enough or smart enough to homeschool. Maybe you aren’t motivated enough or organized enough. Maybe you aren’t self-disciplined enough. The thing that I want to tell you is that I am not enough of any of those things either. Certainly, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, but homeschooling parents don’t exist on some higher plane of sanctification or sheer awesomeness. We are just like you, and we are every bit as inadequate.

“I think it’s amazing that you homeschool, but I could never do it. I’m not _______ enough.”

The thing about that statement is that it cuts both ways. Not only has my friend just disparaged her own abilities, she has also pointed my focus inward on mine. And my mind immediately takes the next step. If she is not _______ enough to homeschool, am I?

The answer is a resounding “no,” and I am painfully aware of the fact.

From the outside, it might seem like the hard part of homeschooling would be the teaching. After all, academic instruction provided by an outside institution is the thing we are choosing to forego. And sometimes the academics can be tough, and even require changes. Different curricula, outside classes, tutors, and schools are all tools that we can make use of when we see that they may better serve the needs of our children. There are solutions to academic difficulties. But too often, my view of how things are going in my homeschool is completely untethered from our academic progress. I find that the hardest part of homeschooling is the battle that happens in my own head. Do I feel energized about lessons today? Do I feel competent to manage the workload? Do I feel like a good mom? My feelings, and especially my feelings about myself, are fickle. They change. They lie. I know they are not a reliable barometer of how well homeschooling is accomplishing my goals for my children. To assess the effectiveness of my homeschool, I need to look, not at myself, but at my kids. Are they learning? Are they thriving? Are they receiving Law and Gospel? Is the current course serving their needs and the needs of our family best?

I can look objectively at our academic progress and see that we are on track; I can look at my kids and see that they are thriving. Even with clear evidence that this is all working very well, I can still feel overwhelmed, incompetent, and unfit. Why?

My negative feelings about my homeschooling are rooted in my awareness of my own inadequacy. My efforts at homeschooling can feel hopeless because I know in my core that I am not enough.

If you could look into my home, let me tell you what you would see. You would see a mom who yells at her kids too much. You would see a mom who becomes so focused on the list of tasks she must complete today that she fails to see the precious people in her care. When she looks around a room, she sees, not the blood-bought souls, but the endless work that they create for her. You would see a mom who gets frustrated when her kids don’t understand a concept the first time (let alone the fourth or fifth time); a mom who reacts with anger to interruptions and messes; a mom who forgets family devotions and uses emails and social media as a distraction from the good work of service that is her right vocation. She fails to discipline her children in some areas and then comes down too harshly in others. You would see a mom who collapses on the couch in front of the TV at night instead of washing the dishes in the sink or folding the clean laundry or previewing tomorrow’s lessons. She stays up too late at night and then struggles to drag herself out of bed in the morning to face another day. A day full of failures shockingly similar to the ones of the day before. Yes, she struggles mightily to do better. But, while some days look a little better than others, she remains hopelessly lacking. She is not patient enough, not smart enough, not self-disciplined enough.

You don’t see most of my failures. I’m usually pretty good at hiding them. Sometimes I can make it look like I’m pretty good at this homeschooling thing, like I might be enough. Some days I might even fool myself into thinking that I am especially bright and capable, that there is something great in me that will fashion my children into the fine adults I want them to be. But there is One who sees all the anger and frustration that I don’t show in public, who sees the swelling of my foolish pride. He knows the sin in my heart intimately and he sees fully those failures of mine that even I am not aware of. He could have rightly condemned me for them, but he didn’t. He sent his Son to die for them instead. As unbelievable as that sacrifice is, he then turned around and did something almost equally incredible: he entrusted precious souls to my care. Knowing my weaknesses and flaws, all the ways that I am not enough, still he gave me these children. And in his Word, he said “Bring them up. Teach them.”

God knows I am not up to the task he has set before me. There is nothing about me that is enough to meet that imperative: “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” But our God is good. He doesn’t just give imperatives, he also gives promises.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

My sinfulness isn’t a problem specific to my homeschooling. It is a problem that touches every aspect of my parenting, every aspect of my life on this earth. But “homeschooling” is the umbrella under which my insecurities gather. Perhaps yours do too. Parents educating their own children is not the norm in this time and place (although it has been in others), and so there is a perception that it takes a really good parent, a really good person, to homeschool. But there are no really good parents, no really good people. There is only a good God.

The Christian life is a life of repentance. The Christian mother’s life is a life of repentance. The Christian homeschooler’s life is a life of repentance. We strive. We fail. We repent. We strive again. We are ever growing, ever learning, ever being sanctified as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the Word. And yet, in this life, we will never be enough. The educating of children is part of the vocation of parent. God gives us this vocation, places these children in our care, not because we are enough. He knows we are not. But we can be assured that he is enough, for us and for our children.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:8-12

Amanda Moldstad
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their five children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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