I tried to be a trophy parent, but I failed. And that’s a good thing. When I began homeschooling, I had inflated ideals. We were going to be the perfect family. My mothering and homeschooling would be flawless. My husband would be the ideal husband and spiritual leader. Of course the children would be scholars, Biblically grounded, well versed in life skills and would probably go to Harvard (on a full scholarship, of course).
Then life happened. I could not have imagined the challenges that lay ahead. I could not have imagined the strength, joy and peace that have emerged. There is a Jewish expression that says, “We make our plans and God laughs.” I often speak to moms who are new homeschoolers or who are considering homeschooling and I see that same dreamy look in their eyes. I know they are thinking, “Oh, this is going to be so perfect!” It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be wonderful. When we can let go of the perfect, we free the whole family to enjoy the wonderful.
Let’s start with you, Mom. While you may aspire to be like Mother Theresa, you may wind up being more like Marge Simpson. It is good to plan and to have standards, but don’t let your plans and standards become your idol. If you strive too hard to be perfect, you are constantly focused on that ideal and can miss the messy, giggly, whirlwind of exploration that home learning can be. Is your house topsy-turvy and your kids more than a little loud? That’s good. That means you can let go of what maybe never will be – for the delight of what is. Embrace it.
How about your husband? While my husband was involved as much as he could and was completely supportive, I always wanted more, more, more. I wanted him to be more than he could be. It is a terrible burden for a spouse to bear to feel that they are always somehow disappointing you. I don’t want to meddle in your marriage, but here’s a secret about men: they thrive when we encourage them; they shrivel when we criticize them. Instead of lecturing your spouse by saying, “Why can’t you blah, blah, blah,” look him in the eye, give him a hug and say, “Thank you so much for blah, blah, blah. You’re an awesome dad.” This is not the solution to all homeschool marriage issues for sure, but it’s a start. A discouraged husband who feels like he can’t do anything right is not likely to jump in to help, inspire and fuel your family’s homeschooling journey. Lift him up for what (maybe little) he does and he will be more likely to do more.
It is true that kids rise to meet challenges to excellence, as they are able. If you have high expectations for your children, that’s good. But have you really explored how God wired them? Maybe God wired them to dance to glorify Him and you are trying to shove them into a box to be an accountant. Forcing our kids to be what they aren’t will be destructive in the end. In the instance of my Harvard ideals, the Lord brought me back to reality by blessing me with kids with learning issues. Yes, I did say blessing me. Why? Because having to deal with challenges that were totally out of my comfort zone has grown me and made me more capable of extending grace and love than my judgmental little heart could have imagined. It is a gift of mothering to offer your children acceptance – to extend a love that does not judge or criticize. Your children will bask in that unconditional love more than they will embrace feeling like that have disappointed your expectations for them. Mom, you still have to make them do their math, but do it lovingly. Harsh failed expectations will ruin your relationship.
Here’s the thing. I doubt the Lord called you to be a trophy parent. (If He did, God bless you!) Rather, He probably called you to completely love the people in your life. Can you surrender your trophy expectations and be more for your homeschooling kids?