One of my favorite television shows is the one which follows the Duggar family’s life. If you aren’t familiar with this family, they are Christian, they homeschool, they have church in their home sometimes, and they have 19 kids, to date. They felt early on, after a miscarriage due to the use of birth control, that they wanted to follow the Lord’s plan for their family; and His plan meant allowing the Lord to decide how many children they have. I have all the books the mom and dad have written and I have all the episodes of their tv show on dvd. I find it very inspirational when I watch the shows. I have also felt like a failure too, as I have compared myself to Michelle Duggar. They run their family with love, with orderliness, and the Lord the head of their family. Another really interesting fact about this family is that they live with 0 (zero!!) debt. They own their land outright and they rent out other properties for income. They built their home and have no mortgage or car payments. The Duggars speak openly about the seminar which changed their financial lives, and share all their resources in their books. It’s not Dave Ramsey, but along similar lines. So yes, I really enjoy learning everything I can about how the parents run their home. They have children who make very good decisions and who love the Lord dearly. It is evident more in their action than in their words.One thing I noticed early on in watching the shows and reading the books is that I compared myself to the mom, Michelle. She’s calm and patient and manages to complete all her homeschooling each day. She has daughters old enough to do the cooking, cleaning, and laundry so that helps, but she still has little children to care for and a large family to manage. Although I am in a place where I feel confident in my mothering skills and I feel very confident in our homeschool, in the past I have been filled with doubt when I see the Michelle speak to her children so softly and gently and I think darn it, I was so harsh with Ben this morning, I wish I could be like her. As a homeschool mom, I have sometimes looked to others and drawn comparisons for who I should be and where I am lacking. I look to the right and admire the sweetness of character of this mom and the I look to the left and admire another’s discipline or organization. And then I look ahead and I see who I am in the Lord and I am who I am supposed to be.
I try so hard to be consistent with the boys, to teach them academics as well as manners and important character traits. Sometimes I even go so shallow as to wonder why some moms have such nice clothes and how they manage to get their hair blow dried and make up done amidst all the home-making. And then I learned something that changed my life. People put their best selves forward. In order to excel in one area, we must sacrifice in another. Often times the answers are clear. For me, I prefer to make my family a healthy dinner from scratch (because prepared & frozen foods or take-out is not so good for us) so I have to forgo styling my hair and doing my make-up every single day- I don’t have the time. I want to be attractive for my husband so I make sure to dress comfortably, but in shapely clothes so as not to look frumpy, keep my hair healthy and my skin clean and moisturized. That’s all I have time for. But you know, even if I had to wear baggy sweats every day so that I could raise and school our children and cook healthy meals, and keep the home clean and healthy, and stay under budget, my husband has said I would still be beautiful. I have one of the good ones. When I compare myself to the mothers who look amazing, I remember that they had to sacrifice in one area, on order to have the money for the clothes and the time for upkeep on the beauty regiment. One exception in my routine is working out. Exercise is really important. Staying in shape for health is great for both mom and kids and it’s a great way to meet others. We have only belonged to gyms that have wonderful children’s programs, so I don’t sacrifice their needs for mine. Again, there is nothing wrong with making sacrifices the other way, but when the Lord directs our paths, it’s important that all sacrifices are for His glory and the betterment of His kingdom.
My identity is first and foremost as a Christian wife and mother, and that includes homeschooling. I am not a teacher in our homeschool, I am a mother. My strengths and weaknesses have been magnified in hs’ing and I am very grateful for what we do. When I compare myself to other families and begin to notice a path they’re taking, I have felt inadequate and other times I have felt content. The Lord says in 1 Corinthians that He is pleased with each member of the body, and that means me and you, fellow parent. We all have strengths. And as a homeschooling parent you are very unique and special to other homeschoolers and to the Lord. We have diverse roles in this area of His kingdom. We run our schools and our homes differently from one another. But nothing is set in stone. As our children grow older, our homeschool identity is an ongoing, evolving activity.
Homeschooling parents… for every decision we make, another is sacrificed. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and our personalities shape who we are as homeschooling moms and dads. I am not a gentle and quiet homeschooling mom, but I am a very hands-on, project oriented, get dirty in the mud, and loud mom. My personality fits well with my three rowdy rugrats! When I decided to forgo a social life, such as mommy and me classes (which is more for the mommy and less for the “me”), in order to make sure my kids are having their time outdoors in nature, or building their projects and models, I sacrifice my social life for them. I have had many opportunities to spend time with other moms and have my own social life and I could not do it, because it’s not the plan, and it’s not my sacrifice.
When I begin to feel like another mom is doing a better job than me, I remember that 1) she made sacrifices in order to have the things she has and if I choose to, I can make those sacrifices as well. We all choose what’s important, and hopefully base it on the Lord’s desires for our family. I can go to school next month should I choose to, but I am not willing to sacrifice the time raising my kids in order to do that right now. That could change in a few months or a few years, but right now that’s the sacrifice. I could choose to spend time with friends almost every day, because I’ve known moms who do that. And I have felt left out in staying home, or going places with the kids most days. But that is one more sacrifice that I am content to make right now. One day I will have a full and exciting social life, but now’s not the time. Next year we will be joining a very large homeschool in our area. I will be taking the kids to the groups and making friends with the mothers and so we’ll see how those dynamics change in our daily life. Right now the kids have fencing, zoo class, and the little ones have art and science classes, but it is 100% for the kids and I haven’t met friends through that, although I have enjoyed talking with the other moms while I wait for groups to end. 2) When I begin looking at another mom’s homeschool with defeat, I have learned to bring it back to the kids. Be content with the kid’s accomplishments, Jackie. The kids are flourishing and when they struggle and I am here to raise them through the struggle.
When it comes to curriculum I have either bought it, used it, or looked through it and sold it… I have seen it all and am very comfortable with what we use. Because I have learned that it does not matter what we use, as long as it’s not workbook/textbook (our family hates school-at-home style books), we are going to learn a lot together. The times spent with kids is the best curriculum. We use unit studies and are heavily influenced by Charlotte Mason. It creates a memory file and my boys learn best and create these files when they are using hands-on discovery learning. Let me tell you, when they build something and spend hours doing it and then mess it up, they are not going to forget what they did wrong! I have learned that when we learn together as a family, the information that trickles down to my youngest is more complete and full than if I would have had a completely separate curriculum for him (this doesn’t include math and phonics, they get the trickle down, plus we have a program just for them). In my busy life if I can’t kill more than 2 birds with one activity, it isn’t an activity for us, in our homeschool. I am happy and confident in this and it has been proven successful.
Another area in which I am still finding my way, but am beginning to feel more confident is in the area of housekeeping. I have learned how to make many of my own cleaning and personal supplies. Many of my friends, old friends, and acquaintances have borrowed my recipes and ideas in order to make their home more healthy and thrifty. As I learn to make more and more of my own items, remedies, body care products, and foods, I want to pass the wisdom along. I have become quite interested in organic life and hope to one day make a living either counseling others in holistic health or midwifery, in addition to following the Lord’s plan for helping women in need. After raising my kids, of course.
At times I have felt like I was failing at this mom thing. I felt like I was falling short because I couldn’t measure up to other moms in the area of fashion or social lives, or even keeping up on the cleanliness of the house. I have strived for stay at home mom perfection and I’ve failed. The good news is that God does not call me to be perfect. All He wants from me is my best at raising my kids and that’s what I’m doing. The sacrifices I make, asked of me by the Lord, is all I need to remember. In the end, I am gaining skills, experience, knowledge, and wisdom and I am proud of what I do.
We are all capable of feeling bad about ourselves. That’s not going to do any good. I stopped comparing myself to others, instead when I feel as though I am falling deeper and deeper into the “bad mom” hole, I remind myself of how far we’ve come. It’s not my success or my failure. We are a family. When I see my children growing in faith and love and wisdom, I share in that success. When I succeed, my husband is happy for me and celebrates with me. I could not write or do anything without his support and encouragement.
I am going to quote Lincoln as I end my post. During the Civil War he stopped by the General’s home at night. He had Secretary Stan with him and they knocked on the door and asked the butler to ask General McClellan to come to the door. The butler returns and tells the President, “Sorry sir, but the General is retiring for the night. Would you come back tomorrow?” Secretary Stan was appalled and couldn’t believe the President would “suffer such insubordination from this man. The General is to answer to the President! Here’s what the President said to Stan…
“If it would help to win the war, I would hold the man’s horse.”
If it would help to further the kingdom, I will sacrifice my life. Right now my life is a living sacrifice. And I am proud of who He has made me. Thank You, my Lord.