I had a funny encounter two weeks ago in Goodwill. I was looking with my little boy for Christmas presents for our family. There was a woman who was an army staff sargeant also looking in the same area. I struck up a conversation with her about the pan she was looking at. Somehow we ended up talking about garage sales. I mentioned that there are websites that will tell you where the garage sales are (and do the searching for you). I never remember things like that off the top of my head, so I gave her a card with my blog address on it and said that I'd posted about the sites. Her response was funny. She said she was so glad to meet me and know that I was a blogger. She explained that she had a very different impression of bloggers and then she asked me for a second card. I chuckled. Here I was with Eli in my tennis shoes, jeans, and a long sleeve shirt--carrying my "outdoorsy" style purse that doesn't like to stay shut. That's me. My hair may even have been wet as it often is because I never have time to dry it! As I write that, I realize that my description may give a strange picture of me. Please don't think I'm a slob--I just do things as quickly as I can and wear comfortable clothes that I can do things in.
Her reaction was interesting to me in light of a blog post I scanned last week. During my perusal, I was struck (as I often am) by how idyllic the post made life sound. It's a natural thing to highlight the best parts of life. But, life isn't all easy. The reality of life is day to day frustrations and struggles--with joys all mixed in together! Or at least that's how my life is. Today we had a fun visit with a friend and her kids. But, this afternoon was a scattered mess! I was trying to do December's budget and figure out how it went. My kids kept interrupting with arguing or different needs. I also interrupted my task to do a piano lesson with my oldest daughter. Then, my mom also interrupted asking about the plastic container on the counter---so I went and dried it off and put it under Autumn's bed. Then, I remembered a phone call that I meant to make last week and didn't want to forget again, so that took another 10 minutes. Now, my son is asleep on the couch (yes, it's 6:30 p.m.) because he's exhausted and cranky. I'm going to let him sleep about 15 more minutes. One daughter is working on her cross stitch and the other is somewhere around here. Dinner is beckoning me and I'm typing these words out because I have this impulse to write.
I guess my point of writing all that is that no one has it all together. I think it's easy to read someone's book or a blog and think to myself, "Why can't my life be like that?" or "Why can't I do that?" or "I'm just not good enough." some other such question or statement. It's so easy to get caught in this trap--or at least it is for me.
This is what I find reality is. We each have our own load to carry--our own responsibilities, joys, and challenges. In the world we live in, we are faced with innumerable images of "the perfect life". But, that's not life. The trap I find is the temptation to think that my life is supposed to be "perfect". This leads to one of two situations: 1) being disappointed in my life or 2) feeling horrible about myself.
This trap hits homeschooling moms in ways that are different than when children are attending public or private school. In a school setting, children receive grades/report cards and have parent/teacher conferences. There's a measuring stick (standardized tests and class average) that helps us to know whether a child is keeping up with his or her peers. At home, there's no such stick. All we have is our experience and that of our friends. And on top of that, we are aware of how different the academic needs are of each of our children--in ways that classroom teachers cannot be due to time and situational constraints. One of my friends has been reviewed by the county for her year end report the past two years. On multiple occasions, the reviewer has informed her of modifications she needed to make so that--- her homeschool classroom would be like that of a public school classroom. I laughed outloud when my friend told me what the reviewer asked her to do. The reality of homeschooling is that it is not like a formal classroom. Our year is flexible--we take days off when our family needs us to whether because of sickness, the birth of a child, moving, vacations... I do believe that we need to make sure our children are learning and growing. We need to be consistent as much as possible about schooling--because I believe it's good for them and us. But, we also need to have a huge dose of flexibility mixed into that and adjust our expectations accordingly.
Life and homeschooling is not a formula. If you put in x, you won't get y. It's more like you start with x and then add y and then take away w and then multiply by z and then divide by a and then you find out what you get at the end.
Still, there is a goal in mind. In life, my goal is to glorify God and raise my children in His ways that they might also know and love Him. In schooling, my goal is for my children to progress each year and grow--to gain the academic and practical skills they will need to someday get a job and contribute to the world we live in. I do probably have other goals as well, but those are the two that come to my mind first. I believe that it is important to have a goal in mind in all that we do. Where are we going? Where are we headed? It is too easy to fall prey and simply begin drifting around. I always find that the middle of the school year is a good time for me to sit down and reset my goals with my kids. What has worked? What hasn't? Where are we going?
For us, that means that I am going to become my girls' piano teacher for the rest of the school year. It means that I have not been diligent about my morning devotions with them. It means that I need to get off this computer and go parent! It means a lot of things.
I need to fight the emotional traps that creep into my head and steal my thinking time. I need to get my eyes back on where we're going... And this is what I intend to do starting right now.