The Secret to the Perfect School Year

I spent a few minutes in the back to school section at Target the other day watching parents try to manage the chaos of gathering school supplies for multiple children. I wanted to gather us all in a circle for prayer because I could hear the tension in the words exchanged between a mother and father about exactly which markers were needed. Instead I opted not to linger near the markers. This year I only needed a few things for my ONE high school student who hasn’t even bothered to look at what I managed to find him BEFORE the actual first day of school. (I am determined to be awesome in the eleventh grade.) My oldest graduated in May and I’m still not quite sure how we got here since I was pretty sure I was messing him up the ENTIRE eight years we home-schooled, even though I knew it was the right thing for him. This is the first year as a mother that I feel peace about the upcoming school year and want to share some of that peace with you.

Lean in close because I feel like I need to whisper these sage words…

There is no secret to the perfect school year.

This is actually really good news for us. It means we don’t have to even try to do it exactly the way someone else does their school year for this thing to work out. This means you can send your kids to public school or private school. You can teach them at home or a whimsical combination of homeschool and traditional school. Mama, you have never had more options to educate your children than you do right now at this moment in history. And you have never had more pressure on you as a mother to educate your children as you do right now at this moment in history. So if you feel a little overwhelmed at times, there’s a good reason.

Here’s the one thing that I wish I would have understood and owned FIFTEEN years ago when I dropped my firstborn off at preschool:

As a parent you are the president and CEO of your family. (In a perfect world you are sharing this role, but this is not a perfect world so let’s just focus on you.) You get to manage your children’s education. This means you get to determine from year to year what your family’s needs, your personal needs, and each individual child’s needs are for that year. (This does not mean you get to start firing people in your family for being annoying slackers. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work.) What worked for you last year might not work this year. Perhaps you’ve been homeschooling forEVER and this year you decided to put your kids in traditional school because you are on the verge of losing your mind and dear God let there be peace on earth once again in this house. Perhaps your kids have been in traditional school forEVER but you’ve decided it’s time to try something different at home because you sense a change in environment might be exactly what your children need to grow during this season of their lives.

You get to choose what’s best for your family and for your sanity. Because your family needs your sanity. (You know that, right?)

And here’s the best part. You don’t have to do it alone. Even if you’re not married. Because Jesus will lead you every step of the way.

Isaiah 40:11 says “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

It’s not all up to you. He leads, you follow. This means if he leads you in a different direction that you can trust where he’s leading. If he leads you to keep doing what you’re doing even when it seems like everyone else is doing something better, you can trust him. Mama, you have to let him lead so you can lead well. Maybe that’s the secret after all.

This is my prayer for each one of us as we begin this new school year.

Jesus, you are the good shepherd and you know where we need to go. You know our fears and frustrations better than we know ourselves. You know our children and the destinies you have just for them. Forgive us when we wander off and try to go it alone. Thank you for the gentle correction and loving encouragement that brings us back to the path right behind you. We love where you’re taking us, Jesus. Lead on.

Now it’s your turn. Would you please share some back to school encouragement with a fellow reader today? You can do so by leaving a comment.

Thank you.

 

 

You’re Not Trapped

My seventh grader’s school year ended about a month earlier than intended. It did not end well. In fact, it didn’t turn out like I thought it would at all.

I’ve been trying to home school my sons for a few years. Last fall it became very apparent that my youngest son did not want to be home schooled anymore and I was really OK with that. We made a few phone calls and enrolled him in a local Christian school. It wasn’t easy for me to admit defeat (again), but it was what he needed. It was what I needed. And I really thought it was going to fix everything.

But it didn’t.

Before my boys were school aged I had made a decision to home school them. I knew several other mothers who were doing it and looked like it was a really good thing for their family. I needed to do something good for my family. You see, I was falling apart and not mothering well. My solution at that time was to just do what the good moms were doing and everything would be OK. I tried teaching my kindergartner for about six weeks before realizing something was very wrong. He had a learning disability that I couldn’t recognize. Instead, I assumed it was because I wasn’t doing it right which made my depression even worse. I didn’t know how to get out of the mess I had made.

I didn’t know how to ask for help. Asking for help would alert everyone that I did NOT have a clue how to teach my child. Asking for help would expose me for the mothering mess that I was. I felt trapped. Months went by while I spiraled deeper into depression because I couldn’t fix it.

So now my boys are older, and by the grace of God, I’m not quite the mess I used to be. We have options. We’ve learned some tough lessons along the way.

But it’s still hard to ask for help.

I recently sat down with our home school coordinator and told her how things were going. I told her how my plan to fix everything had failed. I told her that the future plan is to home school both boys unless God provides another solution. The rapture sounds pretty good. I explained how I really just want to facilitate their education. I’m willing to write checks for tutoring or whatever it takes. And then I said the words I’ve been afraid to say to her for 8 years. I don’t like teaching. I don’t. There, I said it.

I waited for her to fall off of her chair or for some denim jumper wearing home schooling mom flash mob to drag me to the dungeon.  It never happened. Instead, she encouraged me by telling me she has friends who feel the same way. Never once did she look at me and say, “You’re right. You can’t do this. You are a failure and I’m calling the school district right now.”

We spent the next hour or so talking about some creative ways to educate teenaged boys while fleshing out the doubt and fear in my heart. It was incredibly helpful.

Now, I wish I had something fantastic to write here about how I woke up this morning with a burning desire to teach my kids and feed their minds with Latin and Shakespeare. That’s not my reality. I will tell you that I don’t feel quite as desperate this morning. It feels good to have admitted that I’m not a hard core educator like it appears most of the other moms in our group are. For the past 5 years I have gone to every single meeting wishing I could wear a t-shirt that says “I Love My Kids Most When They Are At School”. When educational ideas for co-ops were passed around and my turn to volunteer for something (anything) would arrive, I would ask if there were going to be any parties. I kid you not.

And yet, for reasons I do not understand, this is something that God has not released me from. So I need to hang on to that if He has called me to do this, that He alone will equip me to do it. With help. And that the way we educate doesn’t need to look anything like the way other people do it. We’re not trapped. We’re free. Do you know that?

You’re not trapped. You’re free.

I’d like to pray for us:

Heavenly Father, You know our every weakness and still, You call us to do things that are beyond our skill set not to make us look foolish or weak, but so that You can show your power and might. Kill the pride that keeps us from asking for help. You have not set a trap for us, but have set us free to live for You and to trust You with every area of our lives. Strengthen our hands to do the work that You have called us to do. Renew our minds so that we don’t have to spiral downward into depression because we think there’s no way out. I thank you for the encouragement I received yesterday and ask that You spread it beyond this page to every person who needs it. In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 

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