Have you ever felt like you are in a pressure cooker or a pot of boiling water just trying to stay cool? Home schooling can many times be like a pot of water placed on the stove. The water starts out cool within the confines of the pan, but somehow, at some point, someone turns on the stove, and little by little the water that used to be cool heats to the point of boiling and eventually bubbles and splashes out, burning anyone who might be standing near. Hmmm . . . does that sound at all familiar?
Could we look at it from the viewpoint of the water as a home schooling parent, the pan as the boundaries, and the heat as lesson plans set for the day and our idyllic expectations of what our day will entail?
Home schooling can in many ways be challenging, especially if a family has children of various ages and grade levels. Teaching only one child is a full-time job, much less teaching multiple children. It is a challenge that takes prayer, planning, and effort, but it is very possible to achieve great success. We know it is possible because countless families conquer this challenge year after year. There are many “experts” who have written books that tell you exactly what you need to do for your family (some are even laid out for you like a ten-step system). Yet, I believe that, while you may be able to glean helpful hints from their books, you are the only person who can find what fits your family.
God created each of your children as incredibly unique individuals and chose you, not the “experts,” to parent these amazing creatures. He has and will continue to give you the ability to teach them, train them, and encourage them in the path He has for each of them exclusively. I wish that was something that I had realized when we first began to homeschool. Instead, I sought out every book, program, curriculum, chore chart, etc., to solve the problem of chaos in our household. Each time a new purchase did not play out as expected, I took a hit in the “Good Home School Mom” category and felt like a failure. I cycled through this routine again and again. I admit it may take me a while to catch a clue, but finally the cycle was broken. A steadfast decision was made that I would not purchase another thing . . . and I think I even stomped and pouted at that particular moment.
At my rope’s end—that is usually when we do what we should have done from the very beginning—I finally began to get up in the morning, usually before my kiddos, and spend time with the Lord in prayer and/or reading and meditating on His Word. When my mind was so filled with the day’s “to do” list that I had a hard time concentrating in prayer, I began to journal my prayers. This particular discipline is a huge help for moms like me who have a difficult time with “Be still and know that I am God.” I used the A-C-T-S acronym to remember how to write out my prayers. “A” stands for Adoration and is the perfect place to journal your love for God; “C” stands for Confession; “T” is our opportunity to Thank God; “S” stands for Supplication and gives us an opportunity to tell God our needs. I added “I” for Intercession to reserve a place in my journal to pray for others. Using this system brought focus into my prayer life, and it also fostered gratitude. Instead of talking to God about something and then forgetting about it, I was able to look back and see the many ways that He had answered my prayers.
This routine of prayer and reading God’s Word was not an overnight sensation, but I resolved to follow through and seek the Lord for guidance for life in general and specifically for help in teaching—in a loving way—so many children at so many different grade levels with their own individual needs. Once I made time with God a number one priority, I gained clarity for each day. I will not say the chaos was eliminated, but I was definitely more like the cool water in the pot and better prepared to handle the chaos.
As the light of clarity shone brightly on our home schooling days, another realization dawned. Apparently I had many expectations of what our day should look like, and when I took a hard look at those expectations, it became obvious that the majority of my expectations were unrealistic. There it was. Clearly I was that “someone” who was the main culprit in turning on the heat under the pot and scalding many in my family. When I expected that the day would adhere exactly to my lesson plans and ideals for that day, I put pressure on myself and on my children to fit into the perfect pot. However, as many of you know, seldom do our days turn out the way we expect. The end result, I can assure you, was not pretty. I was constantly frustrated with myself and with my children. Nothing ever seemed to work out as planned.
God began to show us that lesson plans are a necessary part of our day, but they do not rule. We have learned to live more in the moment, to accept some spontaneity, and to be flexible to explore further into areas of interest that present themselves throughout our day. When we begin to feel frustrated with our schedule, we change it. There is a well-known idea that moms, many times, are the thermostat of the home. Relinquishing extreme expectations and learning to go with the flow takes a lot of pressure off. These strategies lend themselves to a more loving, enjoyable atmosphere in the home.
As we begin to remove the top of the pressure cooker by placing God as the number one priority in our home schooling journey, we gain clarity in what each day will look like and what each individual child needs. When we learn to be flexible and move as God directs, His lessons are rich, lasting, and perfect. Instead of taking it all on ourselves and heating up, boiling over, and cooling down over and over again, we become cool, refreshing water to each child whom God has given us the privilege to parent.