I had a conversation with a mom the other day, she was questioning if she was doing the right thing for her daughter. I never, ever claim to have all of the answers so I tried to just listen and let her know what has worked for us. I thought about it a lot though after we left and I’m still there this morning. The thing that gets me is how universally mothers doubt. We doubt our very ability to be the mom our kids need, we don’t believe that we can make the best choices for them while they’re little or lead them well as they grow. We feel as though some cosmic mistake must’ve been made for these people to have become entrusted to us. At least, sometimes I feel this way.
I have to put my own personal spin on this of course and so I’ll stick with the schooling choices here. I know that moms in all walks of life question, they wonder, they worry over their choices the same as I do, but for this moment I’ll focus on these moms I know who make the choice to do school at home. I see this nearly every time I gather with other homeschool moms. Someone always asks about a curriculum choice or what you’re doing for extra curriculars or if you’re joining the co-op of the moment. It seems innocent enough, just making conversation right? The follow up is often laced with doubt though, should I enroll my kid in violin lessons? Should I be using Spelling Without Tears? Should I let them run through the woods behind our house in their underwear? Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. All of the “shoulds”. As if I, the mother, the one who birthed and grew these tiny people, couldn’t know them well enough to help them get what they need out of life in my chosen environment?
It is exasperating, all of the choices I mean. Once we begin homeschooling the questions from those on the outside only increase. A person learns how to manage those well meaning concerns, but the internal questions are harder to put to rest. Here’s my internal conversation after I left my friend the other day; “She is doing really great, thinking of her daughter and trying to incorporate who she truly is into her schooling choice…I wonder will my kid ever learn to spell well enough for auto-correct to know what she’s trying to say?…Should I push my kid into this club, because I know he’d enjoy the activity even though he speaks the words “I don’t want to.”?…Should I try to squeeze in more math fact memorization when we get home?…How will I incorporate the baby into our lessons so that she doesn’t get left behind…”.
Can we please STOP!?!
This is how it goes though, isn’t it? You only want what is best for your children and so you beat yourself endlessly, telling yourself that you can not possibly give them the best. You know your options and so you weigh them endlessly trying to figure out what will be best for this kid. What if -just for this moment, only while you’re reading this blog- you believed that you, totally, got this? I mean, we tell our kids some variation of this most of the day right? “Yes, you CAN do the long division!, Yes, you really can sound out that big word!, Yes!!! You can climb higher in that tree!” We are great cheer leaders for our children, for the next few moments let’s be them for ourselves and for each other. I’ll start.
When you are the mom of many you wonder how you will give each child the attention they crave, you also realize that each child is an individual and the schooling or curriculum choice for one is not necessarily the right choice for the others. This is a huge place of doubting. By simply devoting mental time to these things you are proving that you really (like really, really, really!!!) know your own child and will do whatever is needed to help the child grow. No other educational opportunity gives you the ability to design exactly the right “school day” for your kids. Do you know they need to go run at 8:45 every day? Guess what? They couldn’t just get up from a desk and go do that, are there learning opportunities if they have to sit through that time? Sure, but is there something to listening to a child’s inner urging that holds value to you? Letting him get up and run is a piece of who that child is today, something he will likely outgrow, but for now you are allowing him some small piece of control in a world where he has very little. You offer him this piece of himself momma-you.
You may often wonder how you will provide all of the educational and extra-curricular activities to enrich your child. After all, every single thing is so expensive, how do you make the most fulfilling choice for your specific child without going broke? I don’t honestly know that answer. I know we have schooled for basically zero dollars per year, and I know where we are now. Both options worked, both choices turned out a kid who learned and had fun. Do we want our kids to learn to play sports and build a robot and perform ballet and build a camp fire? Of course! Some seasons of life require us to be more creative is all. My kid wanted to play piano when there were no funds for lessons, we found a free online course and practiced it daily. It worked in that season. You don’t have to provide every activity, every opportunity for your child. Sometimes, growing in your own family is what is most valuable. Sometimes a child will check out every book from the library to learn about building robots or the positions in ballet, this is a good option and should not be overlooked. You are offering creative skills here momma, you are showing them that they may not always get what they want the very minute they want it. Life skills lady, stay strong!
You’ll no doubt wonder if they are getting enough social interaction. Even if you leave your home for children’s activities four days each week you’ll still likely worry about the other three days. The life of a homeschooler is so full of activity that there is really no way your kids can’t get enough interaction. They might be the weird kid, but they may have been that if they went to public or private school anyway. Still, I know moms who worry about this, they want their kid to fit the mold that their schooled peers create. The desire to fit in and be included is strong. For me, the answer to this one is simply to find the kids who are as individual as my own. Seek out the kids with similar interests and invite those people over to play. Ask around, even if you haven’t put your child in a specific activity you could still find out who participates and see if they want to get together. Your child will have friends and they will (if you’re lucky) be as awesome and cool as your own kid. They will also be able to order at a restaurant, ask for help in a store, or make a friend at a park. Much like walking, these skills will come through repetition more than in any other way. You helped your kid learn to walk, you can help them learn to interact socially in the world as well.
As we worry and fret over our kids all day, we forget that we have done well with them this far. We lose sight of the fact that we know these kids better than anyone else does. We spend our days helping them with projects, teaching them lessons, learning who they are…We devote our days and years and lives to helping these children grow, it really is time that we see that devotion as what is best for them. No other person could educate our children better. While we may not be able to give them every extra-curricular opportunity or buy them all of the educational toys or take them to every event that they want to attend, but we know (like, really, really know) our kids. Being known and loved is one of the best things we can give our children. Providing this safe place to grow and mess up and learn is vital to any success they may achieve in this world. You are vital to them momma. You provide just what your littles need.
I read “The Gospel Centered Mom” this past summer and it spoke into my mothering soul, it is a great place to be reminded whose your children really are. To be reminded that we will never be, nor could we ever do enough. That is not who or what we were created to be. I am not enough, only God can be that. Only through trusting Him do I know that I will do what is right for my kids. I’m reminded of Jeremiah here, you know the verse? Chapter 1, verse 5; “For I knew you before I formed you in your mothers womb…” I think about this verse for my kids sometimes, it leaves me awestruck at how God loved and formed my babies. Today I want you to know that He loved and formed you. Yes, He knew your babies before they were born, but He also knew you before you were born. He knew exactly the woman you would become, He has given you the exact experiences you needed to become the momma that He wanted you to be.
There should be no doubt that we are loved by our Heavenly Father and that He will certainly be the “enough” that we can never be for our kids. As we listen to His leading we are doing the exact right thing for our children and for ourselves. By remembering that we are children of God along with our own babies we can perhaps begin to extend the same grace to ourselves that we give to our children. We don’t expect our little ones to be perfect and God does not expect us to be either. Leading our children down God’s path, showing them the way they should go is ultimately more important than all of those worries I listed before. If we follow that call enough, it is possible that our children will recognize their worth far earlier than we ever will. Saving them a lifetime of worry and wondering. That would be a truly wonderful lesson indeed.