Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Erasing the Scorecard

Bringing up the topic of homeschooling can solicit reactions similar to the topic of breastfeeding. Strong opinions and emotions laced with defensiveness or gracelessness easily surface. I was unaware of this phenomenon until I gave birth to my first son. I felt a mixture of surprise and confusion after I answered the ever so popular question "Are you breastfeeding?" with the affirmative. Many of my non-breast feeding friends felt the need to explain at length why their babies received nutrition from a bottle. (Disclaimer: my first child actually received breastmilk from a bottle because we had a rocky nursing relationship from the start. The responses I mentioned above were intensified when people found out I pumped all of his milk for 10 months.)

So perhaps, I shouldn't have been surprised by the many non-homeschooling mamas that were passionately intrigued by our decision to home educate our kids and voluntarily shared their opinions. But I assure you, my initial reasons were not noble, pure, scholastic or even spiritually driven...I simply fell in to homeschooling. I loved being a stay home mama to my first son, and he loved learning.  I found teaching an excited, eager youngster to be very enjoyable.  And that's how we began.  Oh, how I wish I could go back in time.....

At the beginning of this school year I was far from thrilled.  I was downright miserable.  Day dreams of sending my children to public school were swirling in my head.  Educating an unmotivated preteen with a bent for academics, a creative, big picture child with learning difficulties, and an inquisitive preschooler with similar DNA to his older brother was a juggling act I no longer felt equipped to do. Sending them to public school seemed so easy, and that is how I knew I had to search my heart. Anytime I feel like a decision is a perfect problem solver I know that I am running from something, and it's time to turn around and face it.

I prayed for God to show me why I was so unhappy. In the past I would have prayed something like this -

"God, please change my attitude about homeschooling. Give me a joyful heart, and help me to see the time with my children as the precious gift it truly is. Give me a sweet spirit that I may point my children back to you.  Etc."

Indulge my transparency, but just typing that makes me want to gag a little.  Not because those words aren't ever necessary, but because they are a category of nice prayers I've been encouraged to pray my entire life...not the raw, honest, deep, gut wrenching prayers that I am finally learning to pray. In the book, Papa Prayer, author Larry Crabb points out how silly it is to go before God with a token prayer that covers up our true feelings (as if He doesn't know how we truly feel anyway).  As elementary as it sounds, remembering that each time I pray has changed how I pray.

I set out to uncover what was at the heart of my dissatisfaction.  Through self examination, prayer, quiet time, talks with my husband and reading various books and blogs I kept tripping over something.  It was the ugly face of anger.  Why was I so angry?  I have a good life - a blessed life.  But a good, blessed life doesn't untangle one's heart from the past any more than a tough, unfortunate life does.  In many ways it makes it worse.  And once I faced that anger the blinders began to lighten and I saw the truth.

I was keeping a scorecard.

Oh, it was not a tangible, color coded chart with check lists, but it was just as real buried deep where it could be protected.  Mostly, it was filled with false measurements of success that I had unknowingly picked up over the past eight years of homeschooling.

Before I share this internal scorecard I want you to know I believe homeschooling in it's purest form is a wonderful, worthwhile endeavor.  But I have began to see that there are opinions, attitudes and messages that blemish the beauty of homeschooling much like religion and denominations blurs the truth of Christ.  The untruths can be passed on through blogs, magazines, debates, media, conferences and conversations.  I love my homeschooling family, and many of my best friends homeschool. If I were to list the pros of home-schooling you would surely tire from reading it before the end.  My goal is not to persuade or dissuade you about homeschooling. I simply desire to unveil the joy robbers that twisted me in to a mama that didn't recognize myself in hopes to encourage others that may be experiencing the same battle.  Note that these are not listed in any particular order:

1)  The behavior of my children dictate my success as a homeschooling mom.  If my kids are compliant,  kind, polite and compassionate I am a success.  If they bicker and complain all day - FAIL.

2)  How much we accomplish is the focus of each day.

3)  My children should enjoy learning every day or I am not doing it right.

4)  I should enjoy homeschooling my children every day or I am not doing it right.

5)  I should find enjoyment relearning the tough subjects so I can teach it to my kids.

6)  No matter how miserable my kids may be, we should push through to achieve academic excellence.

7)  The same curriculum will work for each of my kids.

8)  There is only one way to homeschool, and I must buy in to the belief that it is the way.  (Yes, I am the one that used homeschooling and Christ in the same sentence above but homeschooling is not Jesus, which leads me to #9)

9)  God has called every parent to homeschool.  (Personally, I do not believe this, but I respect that others do.  And I have judged myself against that mindset.)

10)  Character training is a school subject.  (Sigh.  I can't help but laugh at the many times I beat myself up for not having a designated time in our school days devoted to character development.  It's much easier to let the character issues surface by living life than to go by a list in a curriculum.  Talk about hindering the Holy Spirit!)

11)  Choosing the perfect curriculum is a must, and choosing the wrong curriculum is reason enough to lose sleep - for more than one night.  (By the way, the perfect curriculum doesn't exist.)

12)  Achievements, future college scholarships, careers/vocations and success in the lives of my children will all be a result of how I homeschooled.  (Sorry, God, I forgot the meaning of sovereignty for a few years.)

13)  Shifting from homeschooling to public school means I didn't complete the task.  (Double Sigh)

14)  Shifting from homeschooling to public school will ensure the moral decline of my children.  (See above note regarding sovereignty.)

I am sure this is not an exhaustive list. And there will always be an imaginary scorecard that I have to submit daily to the One who allowed me to take the path of homeschooling.  I am really good at striving to reach the unrealistic. But by dismantling the defeating, false checklist, I can be free to be the kind of mom I was created to be, not the one that the world tells me I need to be.  For perhaps the first time, I am at peace over whether my children are homeschooled, public schooled or private schooled.  I am at peace with myself.  And I mean it when I say we will take it one year at a time.  I am enjoying this new found freedom.  I am enjoying the grace of homeschooling.  The pressure is off. I have loosened the grip I had on my children and allowed my Father to take over, and I am working on releasing that grip completely. After all, He loves them far more than I ever could.  And who I am to think I can mess up His plans?  And for the first time in a long time I am enjoying my children again.

That love we have for our children - you know the deep, passionate, lay down your life kind of love - that's what causes parents to react so passionately to topics such as how we feed and educate our children. We love them so much that we can't bear the thought of not doing "it" the right way.  We want to be perfect.  But that desire closes the door to grace - grace for ourselves and grace for others.  We live in a world where we compare our lives to our peers instead of the One who created us.  Each of us carry a scorecard.  One we use to measure purpose, self worth and value.  One that says how well we measure up to glowing facebook statuses and pics posted of beauftiful dinners, sweetly smiling children and pinteresty homes.  (Wouldn't it be awesome if posting pics of our burned meals, grumpy kids and messy homes became the norm? Now that would make me feel better!)

So, to all of my friends (whether you homeschool or not), search deep for your scorecards, and erase them. They will lie to you and distract you. Nothing you do should define you (not even your choice of education for your children).  Like most lessons, I wish I could have learned them sooner than later.  But it feels comforting to begin to believe, really believe, that what I do is not who I am.  One more reason to be thankful for and humbled by Grace.     .