The first year of homeschooling was difficult for me. It did not always go well. We had some amazing days, but at the end of it, I just felt like a failure. (I wasn’t a failure, though. My sister challenged me about why I felt I had failed, and I had to reframe it in my mind. Failure is just a framing device anyway, a way of labeling what happened even when the label doesn’t fit.)
We had some good moments and my kids were actually learning, even if we lacked consistency. But I was also learning how to do it better. And I wanted to keep trying.
This year, I’ve been trying to completely eliminate that failure label. We won’t fail at homeschool. We’re going to keep trying through rough days. I’m going to keep adjusting expectations, changing things up, and becoming better.
I feel like I do a really good job some days. I love learning, and that filters down to my kids. They read so many books. Their handwriting has improved. Their spelling has somewhat improved.
I’m also improved at being a teacher. I had no idea what I was doing at first, and I’ve practiced and I’ve made mistakes and I’ve persevered even when I didn’t want to. There was a lot of complaining and I still don’t want to do this long term.
But I’m glad I kept trying. I was not that good at being a homeschool mom. But now I do okay. Progress can be slow and seem impossible, but it does happen.
I read a few articles lately about people leaving their 9-to-5 jobs in order to live the life of their dreams. And it sounds like a good story. It makes me question for a minute: would I be happy if we were financially independent and self-employed in some creative task?
I think the answer is no. I enjoy having my husband’s predictable income, sending him to work five days a week, and having the safety of good benefits.
Some people like to take risks, but I don’t enjoy it much. I’m not afraid of it and I’m not limiting myself through my fear; I just prefer stability. It’s like when I go to a theme park and I feel pressured to ride the intense ride. Sometimes I do. And it’s okay, but I don’t enjoy it enough to actually pay money to go get motion sick.
I always wanted to be a writer, but in my adult life, I realized that I despise promoting myself. Which means that I would also hate being a successful writer.
I get caught up in what other people think is successful. It might be nice to go to nice schools and get high-paying jobs. It might be nice to travel all over the world. It might be nice to get a homestead and work from home. But just because someone else loves their life doesn’t mean I would love their life.
I have to be careful: I asked myself the other day if I wanted to pursue graduate school because I actually wanted to be in that environment or because I felt it would be prestigious. Did I want to tell other people I had a specific degree, or did I really want to actually get that degree?
I really enjoyed working as a legal secretary, even though it was a low-paying job that didn’t require many qualifications. I have to look at myself and what I want to do instead of just copying someone else’s success.
Being true to yourself sometimes that means abandoning dreams. Sometimes that means being completely normal and boring and eating vanilla ice cream because you like vanilla.
There are things that I know about myself: Money does not motivate me. I never want to be famous. I don’t enjoy taking huge risks. I like working on computers. I like spreadsheets and math and paperwork. I like being told what to do. I like teaching and I like creating as well.
Ultimately, I want to live in a way that helps other people in small and simple ways.
If that means my life is boring, then I’ll live a boring life.
I’ve been happier lately, and part of the reason is because I stopped shaming myself for not being perfect. I dealt with a lot of shame in my life, feeling that I was never quite good enough: I never did enough when I was homeschooling. I never kept my house clean enough. I never balanced my computer time right. I watched too many videos. I didn’t go outside enough. I needed to get in better shape.
You know those voices. I’m getting better about not listening.
Because I realized that if I listened, then I wouldn’t improve at all. I would actually get worse. If I shamed myself for yelling, I would yell more. If I shamed myself for wasting time, I would often waste even more time. I would punish myself by continuing to do the activity that was causing me pain. It’s not helpful.
I still make many mistakes every day. But improvement does not come from shame; improvement comes when I look ahead and when I focus on the good things I can do and keep pressing forward. If I spend a day yelling and wasting time and hurting other people, then the best thing I can do is apologize, let it go, and do better.
Whenever my kids hurt each other, I don’t make them go sit in a corner so they feel bad. I tell them to make it right by hugging the other person and saying they are sorry. I don’t need them to feel ashamed of what they did; I just want them to learn how to do it right the next time.
In a way, we define what enough is. And enough for me is that I keep on trying, no matter how many mistakes I make. Being enough means that I’m not going to listen to the voices that say I always need to more; instead, I’m going to know that my messy efforts are worthwhile.
On the other hand, I tend to get really proud sometimes. I’ve been very privileged in some ways: I can learn quickly. I understand well. I can do a lot in a day.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else, or that the way I live is superior. I like to be on time; I like to keep my house clean; I like to have clean closets and minimal stuff. I like to plan in advance.
There are other people who are always late. They have messy closets and bursting schedules. They make quick decisions and they enjoy taking risks. And that’s awesome.
There are many different types of people and they are all important. I’m not better than someone else just because I know what derivatives are or I’ve read lots of books or whatever.
And someone isn’t better than me if they can run five miles or make homemade bread or they run their own business.
There is a balancing act in all of this: don’t be ashamed of who you are. Be confident, but don’t be proud. Celebrate others, give to them and love them. Don’t worry if you aren’t enough. Don’t be complacent and content without moving forward and improving.
Sometimes I feel silly putting things like time with my husband and kids on my to-do list. It’s important. But it’s not urgent. And it’s not something that I just check off and I’m done with it. It’s important and ongoing.
But when I start putting the important things on my to do list, I do them better. I spend more time with my family. I remember to spend time with other people. I remember that I should be serving instead of selfishly focusing on my own goals.
The important things really should be on the top of the list. Instead of cleaning my house first, I would much prefer to spend time with my kids. Instead of finishing my work on the computer, I would much rather talk with my husband.
So I’m going to leave the really important things on my list, and try to prioritize them above everything else.
Today I was a bit angry and I said, “I never get time for myself!”
That is a lie. I get plenty of time for myself. I take classes, I exercise, I read a lot, I go to book club. I enjoy cooking and hiking and I get to watch the movies I like. I have a lot of time for myself.
But I get selfish, thinking that it’s never enough. And the crazy thing is that time for myself doesn’t really make me happy at all. I am a lot happier when I with other people, teaching my kids and spending time with my husband and other family members and friends.
It’s selfish to think that I need more time for myself. I already have plenty. Happiness doesn’t come in self-fulfillment, but in giving your life to others and helping and serving them.
I recently read a homeschooling book (The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart) that said that you should focus on routines instead of schedule.
What’s the difference between a routine and a schedule? It’s time for some definitions from Google:
A routine is “a sequence of actions regularly followed”
A schedule is “a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.”
This is incredibly helpful for homeschooling, because sometimes we have days off. We can’t really meet deadlines and sometimes we end up doing things before deadlines. When the kids wanted to work on their handwriting books and finish them that day, I let them. There are days we spend reading all the time. And then we drop back into our routine (journals, workbooks, etc.).
Sometimes putting dates on everything makes life a little bit too stressful, especially when those dates and schedules are our own expectations in the first place.
I think there are times for schedules. I’ve made schedules to finish books and classes. But sometimes we put expectations on ourselves that we just don’t need and we forget why we are doing things in favor of keeping our schedule.
Schedules are helpful, but they are a means to an end, not the end itself. If schedules become more important than people, than that’s a problems.
Routines can be helpful too, and at times they can be more helpful than schedules because they are in place when they need to be, and then when life happens, they can be put aside while we deal with things.
And when you are behind schedule, since you can’t change the past, then your schedule has simply changed.
This started with the book 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson. One of his rules is, “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.” He goes on to say that we should discipline our children and teach them social norms. He says:
Because children, like other human beings, are not only good, they cannot simply be left to their own devices, untouched by society, and bloom into perfection.
A child will have many friends, but only two parents—if that—and parents are more, not less, than friends.
Parents need to be parents and help their kids, and kids like limits. They like when their parents set those limits. I have noticed, since reading that book, that after I calmly discipline my daughter, instructing her to do the right thing, there is an increase of love with each other. She loves me more afterwards, not less. It may make her angry for a moment, but she feels safer knowing that I’m watching out for her and teaching her.
This sentiment is echoed The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax. He tells parents to get their kids off screens, have consistent discipline, and teach respect and self-control to my kids.
Command. Don’t ask. Don’t negotiate. Modern American parents are forever rationalizing their decisions to their children. There are many problems with that approach. The mere fact that the parent feels compelled to negotiate already undermines the authority of the parent. When you lay down a rule, and your children ask why, answer, “Because Mommy (or Daddy) says so.
I need to be both supportive and authoritative. Sometimes it’s hard to set those limits and follow through. It’s easy to let kids be on screens for hours at a time. It’s easy to do all the work and not have them help with the chores. It’s easy to say they can do what they want.
But it’s not good for the kids. I’ve been trying to be better: they have to sit down and listen sometimes. We put away the TV for five days a week. We try to do daily chores and dish jobs (still a work in progress). I try not to tolerate it when they back talk and remind them to be respectful.
Growing up, we had a book that was called What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says “Clean Your Room!” I loved that book growing up because it tells you exactly how to clean your room, and I still use some of this methods to this day. I was searching on the internet to get a copy, and I found that there was a whole series called The Survival Series for Kids, written in the early 1980s.
So I ordered a set of 17 books. When they came, I looked through all of them. Parenting has changed a lot.
We don’t teach manners anymore, partly because adults don’t always have manners either. Do you know what you should do when someone stops by your house? Well, first, no one is going to stop by your house without texting you first. But if they do, do you remember to invite them in, take their coat, and ask if they would like to sit down?
Do you ever say, “It’s nice to meet you?” Do you instruct your kids to call adults by respectful names, like Mrs. and Mr.? Do you have regular expectations for your kids, like the chores they need to do and having them help clean up and cook? Do you do things for your kids that they could do for themselves? Do you tell your kids you can’t afford it? Do your kids know how to hold a conversation with a stranger? Do you kids know when to say thank you? Do your kids know how to behave in public, like holding still and not talking out of turn? Do you tell your kids to put away screens when they talk to other people? Do you do that?
It made me realize that we forget to teach our kids how to behave. We pretend kids are adults and we treat them that way, which leads to a lot of disrespect and even confusion.
So I’m working on it. I want to be a little old-fashioned in some ways.
I don’t have many readers on this blog. I’ve been blogging for a very long time (since around 2007 or earlier), and I never had a big following. Other people would get lots of comments and interaction. My stats have always been rather low or even nonexistent.
I’m very happy about that. I am a more private person than I realized and I find it awkward when strangers know about me and my thoughts.
And I think that even if a few people read this, that’s enough. Even if I’m writing for myself, that’s enough. My influence doesn’t have to be large to be enough.
Most people go through life and they only influence and help a few people, like their family and their neighbors and their friends. But that good influence can be amazing. Sometimes the most influential people are quiet and unassuming and unpopular. They go almost completely unnoticed, but they change people’s lives. Maybe not a lot of people, but a few, and that’s enough.
It doesn’t matter how big your sphere is. It matters that you do the best you can, that you love others, and that you help people, even if it’s simply one person.
The little things matter. We don’t have to serve and help in huge ways. But the little things really do mean a lot, and they are noticed, and they are what the world is really made out of.
I think we can get caught up in trying to find jobs and careers and a life that is perfect for people. There is a myth that you should have a dream and work towards your dream and live happily ever after. That’s not how life works. People fail. Dreams crumble. The real world is messy and complicated.
I feel like a lot of people, maybe most people, simply land in their careers and their life instead of carefully picking everything out. I was supposed to be a writer, but now I’m looking at completely different opportunities and learning about economics and business (and mostly, I’m a full-time mom). My dad was supposed to be an engineer, and then he ended up in college administration. My husband was supposed to be a wildlife biologist, and he ended up in park management. My sister was supposed to be a filmmaker (she still might be), but right now she’s a store manager. I even knew of an anesthesiologist who became a UPS driver after developing allergies.
I think it matters me how hard you work in the opportunities you have than finding the perfect opportunities for you.
I’m currently getting another undergraduate degree in economics and I have rethought my choice quite a lot. Do I really want to do this? Does it fit me? But I don’t have to find the perfect path. Good enough is good enough. I’ve learned about Nobel-prize winning economists that have had strange pathways into their fields: One admitted he was lazy and unmotivated and people didn’t expect much of him. Another had an education in psychology. They didn’t really intend to go into economics and succeed; they just landed there. No one fits exactly into a field, and that’s okay.
Sometimes we follow paths that other people choose for us, like the kid who learned how to play the cello because his parents were both professional cellists. He was really good at it. Sometimes we find our pathway by chance: one person literally pulled a random folder out of a filing cabinet and decided that she would major in engineering because she couldn’t make a decision. She became a successful engineer.
There are going to be times when we are bored and unsatisfied, but the best thing to do is to keep working and trying even when things aren’t working out quite right. Try to help other people. Try to learn new things. Ask questions. Embrace your talents and apply them to whatever opportunities you have.
Don’t worry too much about what field you go into and if you’ve found the perfect job. Just be the best person you can be and things will work out.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the Lord’s hand in our lives, but sometimes that’s because we don’t have the right perspective.
I was thinking of pointillism paintings where you have to look closely to see the paint strokes and you have to look far away to see the picture. You need both perspectives to understand the painting.
We may have to look really closely to see the Lord’s help in our life, because he helps with very small things that are easily dismissed. We have so many blessings that we don’t always even notice: How many times have we prayed to be safe and we have remained safe? How many times have our finances worked out exactly right, like having the right amount of savings or finding good deals right when we need them? I have been given strength and happiness in difficult circumstances. We’ve had really good days when I’ve been able to know what to do and say with my children. I’ve been able to complete school work quickly. I’ve had opportunities at the right time. I’ve had such good friendships. And so many blessings have come from a loving Heavenly Father, if I choose to look at them.
For a long time, I wanted to be able to live in a town and send my kids to school and live a more normal life. It’s not what I have right now: we homeschool and we live far away from a small town and life is different. But it’s not bad either. I’ve prayed and hoped that things would change, and they didn’t change. But I’m okay with that right now, because I’ve been blessed in so many small ways: I found good books and ideas that helps us with homeschool. I’ve been able to think of myself in a new and better way. I never thought I could really teach, but now there are days that I absolutely love it. I’ve had inspiration, like I put the TV away for most of the week and we were so much happier. I’ve been able to complete projects on my computer more quickly so I can spend time with my kids.
I have felt this :
And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen. (Alma 33:23)
While I do ask for specific blessings that don’t happen, there are also so many times I am blessed in better ways that I could have not expected.
I have to look at the details, and sometimes I need to zoom out and see the overall perspective as well. I get too caught up in negative moments, thinking that hard times will last forever (they don’t). I believe in a life after this one, that everything will be made right. I don’t need to have everything right now. I want to progress and grow and change, and that requires patience with myself and trust in the the Lord’s timing.