The Uncomplicated Homeschooler

I am the uncomplicated homeschooler. At least, I want to say that; I wish I could say that. Why does homeschooling seem so complicated sometimes? From the number of letters we get from readers all over the world, I see a common running theme. It’s like what public schooled high schoolers sometimes put on their Facebook profiles regarding their latest status of "relationship" with whomever significant other they have (at the time). They say, "It’s complicated."

That’s what these letters convey, too. Things are difficult, confused, hard to keep up with. Their lives are crazy and lacking peace. They can’t balance it all, nor are they necessarily even sure they want to anymore. They feel like failures, ready to give up and put Johnny back in school again where they think by doing so will soon make things "less complicated" once again in their lives. What they don’t realize is that so many others, just like them, are saying the same thing. Why is this and what does it mean to live in a complicated state? Is there hope for change?

It means to muddle.

Do you feel like your life is a puddle of muddle? Are you blundering through your days looking for direction? Are you a top which needs to quit spinning? Round and round you go, but nothing really happens. The antonym for muddle (which is both a noun and a verb by the way) is order or organization. To muddle through your days is to have a deficit of organization. Hours pass, you look at the clock at the end of the day and say, "What even got done here?" It’s discouraging to go through the day without a plan; it’s walking directionless. Or even worse,

It means to confuse or make difficult.

Are you "Homeschool–Mama–Speedy G"? Is it possible you’re making things difficult without realizing it? Don’t get me wrong; your motives are probably all good. You simply want to homeschool those kids properly, get them graduated with their future schooling or careers successfully launched, and see them as happy, responsible, God–loving adults. But you’re sweating the small stuff and moving too fast all the time (that’s me right there). Maybe you’re not relaxing with them for long enough, making time for lingering conversations. You keep checking the clock because your public school upbringing taught you to respond to the bell so you could move on to the next indoctrination session. But in your homeschool, you don’t necessarily need a clock to get through each subject. There should be no such thing as "fourth period" or "assembly hall." Let’s drop the confused flurry of difficult expectations on ourselves and on our children. You’ll get so much further with them if you slow down and make learning fun. Seriously, ditch math today (or spelling) and go outside and play. Or head to the park where you can sit on the swings together and talk about what he/she wants to do when they grow up (or chat about something else they want to spill their hearts about).

It means things are tangled, or even twisted.

Kid–tummies can get twisted. If Mama is mad or rushing them along, it can be really stressful. I remember when I was in third grade, my mom (bless her soul; she is with the Lord now) was having a particularly hard morning with me (I was being a stinker like I often did), trying to get me ready and out the door. It was picture day at school where all the kids were herded into the hallway near the office to smile for a cameraman so that our mugs could be recorded forever in time on those little school picture sheets we got to pay a fortune for when they came back from the studio. Smile! Say cheese! But in my mom’s haste (and perhaps a few cross words) in getting me dressed up nicely for picture day, she sent me off to school maybe without enough closure after our "tangle" that morning, and I arrived having cried angrily on the way. I remember feeling very frustrated in the picture line, and not at all desiring to smile for the cameraman, yet I tried. The picture recorded my twisted–tummy–smile, and even today when I look at it, it’s a reminder to me that really, I should have been kept at home where I belonged. Back then, though, few knew about homeschooling, and my mother certainly did the best that she could under the circumstances. In fact, as soon as she finally heard about home educating, she did it! My younger sibling was homeschooled until Mom passed away from cancer when I was in my 20s. Now is the time for relationship, when they are young and so needy of us. Our words can twist. I know my own can at times, and even typing this out is very convicting for me. I need to go hug my children; I am sure I have given every one of them a twisted tummy at one time or another. Slow down––help ensure that their smiles can be genuine.

It speaks to things convoluted.

When we complicate our homeschools, things start to feel very convoluted, or they can. Doubts creep in just like dark thunder clouds, and you begin to wonder why you’re even doing it to begin with. Let me remind you, ok? The Lord your God has called you to it. He has given these children to you (for a time) to train up in Him, to bring Him glory. He loves these children even more than you do, and look what He’s done: He’s given them to YOU to cherish, to raise up. He has placed them squarely in YOUR care. God has equipped you through His word to do this task that’s set before you. You just walk; you follow. He will do the rest. Our homeschools do not have to be convoluted, confused, tangled up, nor must we slowly and without direction muddle through the season of homeschooling we’re in. It can be orderly, lovely, light, and fun. Rewarding, fulfilling, blessed. Drop the extra junk even if it means the house doesn’t stay as clean as it used to. Shrug off the daily stresses that come from those "spelling words tantrums" or the messy bedroom you expected cleaned up three hours ago. Exhale all of that.

Start anew today. Look around your house and at each child. What is living, what inanimate, dead? Will the living room care in ten years if you clean it today? Will your kids care ten years from now that today you dropped everything to play and talk with them, smile instead of scowl, skip instead of drudge through the day? Believe me, friend, I am SO speaking to myself right now. Bummer to me for not being the poster child for this (since I so easily advise everyone else). But I can’t be that poster mama; I won’t pretend to be what I’m not. No one is perfect except the Lord, although we are called to strive for it, to be more like Him (Matt 5:48). I have to remind myself at times to stop and grin. Stop and chat. Stop, put away the laptop, and spark a conversation. I think tonight Paul and I will choose ONE kid (one of the middle ones) and take him on a date. Just us and him. He needs to know he’s special. I want to stop and smell the flowers with him—while I still can. What if I, like my own mother, pass away when he is in his 20s? Lord forbid it. But it can happen; it happened with my mother. Now is the time for relationship.

I am quite the complicated homeschooler living in a very complicated world in a rather complicated day and age with an even more complicated life than some. My house is a whirlwind of activity, I get too many emails per day, and we travel a lot (thankfully, with the kids). Yet I am determined to change my moniker. I want to be the uncomplicated homeschooler. I want to simplify. I will choose to be an uncomplicated homeschooler from this point forward, Lord willing. And He will help me if I stop and read His word, pray, and lean on Him for direction. Lord, make me like You, orderly and lovely, without complication. Remind me to stop and smile on my children the way You have smiled on me.

Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally published by The Old Schoolhouse®. Visit The Old Schoolhouse® at theoldschoolhouse.com to view a full–length sample copy of the magazine especially for homeschoolers. Click the graphic of the moving computer monitor on the left.