“Get used to being passed by, if you take walk breaks,” reads one of the forums for those using Jeff Galloway’s ‘run-walk-run’ method for runners. (1)
I’m fine with that. I wouldn’t have been fine with being passed up, ten or fifteen years ago. But as a forty-something-year-old <cough, cough>, I’ve struggled with some nagging aches and pains for several years. Yet I knew I needed to step up my exercise to offset all the sitting inherent with my writing job. So, I figure it’s still progress. Whether I run 3 miles straight or take a walk break, I’m still moving forward. And, actually, one of the tenets of the “Galloway method” that seems counter-intuitive is that run times can actually improve, when taking well-timed, short breaks. That you don’t always have to go all out.
What’s my point? Metaphorically speaking, I wish I’d comprehended this message as a much younger woman, as a young mom. Beginning homeschooling was an exciting time for me. We’re blessed with children of varying learning styles, some of whom would be considered behind or ahead in various areas like all normal children, and I was delighted to be living and learning along with them, while tailoring how I taught to their individual needs.
We’d gotten a little ways into our home educating journey when I seemed to lose sight of that. I have a teensy streak of the Type A overachiever in me, and it seemed that suddenly this thing called Classical Homeschooling was everywhere (yes, I’ve been homeschooling long enough to remember when the classical movement really became popular!).
Oh…I’d better try that. Here, kids–memorize this, study that—whether I felt it was age-appropriate or not. Didn’t matter if we liked it or not either, an expert told us to. I worked hard to ignore the fact that the method simply wasn’t working for our family—it was supposed to be SO GOOD.
Oh wait, accelerated academics? Yep, sign us up. Seemed like the thing to do to put off the homeschooling nay-sayers, if my early elementary students could rattle off a list of the Ancient Egyptian pharaohs or the periodic table.
And I may not want to touch the stickier topics of “lifestyle” that seem to go hand-in-hand with some segments of the homeschooling movement, but I’m going to go there.
Want to be a good Christian homeschooling mom? Wear only dresses…feed your children only organic food…bake your own bread…get up for your 5 a.m. devotions…schedule your day in half-hour increments…live a rural lifestyle…do, do, do…
Which resulted in, for me: stress…pressure…unrealistic expectations.
I so deeply desired to follow Christ whole-heartedly, to feel like I was doing the right thing for my family, that I was easily swayed by voices who sounded like they knew just how to get there. It took me awhile to discover that, in the words of Diana Waring, family life is best lived by principles, not formulas. (2)
I was striving so hard to be the Perfect Homeschool Mom. I exhaustedly gazed in the mirror one day and no longer recognized the person staring back at me. Where was the fun-loving, light-hearted me? This person was scowling and grouchy, because she was crumbling under the weight of the pressure to keep up a standard that God had never given her to bear.
I’m not saying that any of those choices are necessarily bad (except maybe the pharaohs list…). They just weren’t my convictions. Or my husband’s. And somehow I’d lost sight of why we’d begun homeschooling in the first place.
I was struggling to follow a standard I didn’t even really embrace, and was actually impossible for me to live, anyway!
I was so worried about what other people thought of me, of our child-rearing, of how we homeschooled, of how we appeared to others, that I was losing the excitement I’d started with. The waters of my Christian life had become muddied by all the competing voices, insisting their way was The Right Way. I had become concerned with meeting an outward, appearance-based standard that was sucking all the joy out of my Christian walk. Not to mention the expressions on the faces of my little children, which told me that they were not having such a terrific time, either.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Colossians 2:20-23, emphasis mine).
I needed to remember why we’d started this whole thing in the first place. Since I’m visual, I decided to make a list. I conferred with my husband, and we came up with a “Why We Homeschool” list:
to build family togetherness
to weave God and our faith into all of our subjects, and not have ‘Bible’ be just another subject
to tailor our children’s education to their strengths/weaknesses
to remove our kids from some of the public schools’ negative influences
And that was it! There are other reasons, but they’re OUR reasons (and I don’t want to put a standard in front of you that is not yours to meet!).
But, may I point out, there was not one bloomin’ thing on there about meeting other people’s standards of education, lifestyle, or anything else; wearing or not wearing a particular type of clothing, or using a specific curriculum or method?
I wrote my List over a decade ago, and I still look back on it, when I begin to feel that old pressure mounting. It’s a good reminder for me– helps me regain my bearings and focus on the important things.
And the running metaphor? I realized that it was fine if it seemed other people were “passing me up.” That holds true for my Christian walk, as well. My turn to run will come at some point. I may be walking while someone else is running, but it may happen the other way around, too.
I’m not to compare my weaknesses with other people’s strengths, and vice versa. It’s so easy to do that. I realize my race is just that…MY race. And for me, not always running, full-speed ahead, is a good thing. I am in great need of a walking break now and again. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self a few things, like:
Life will bring enough hardships all on its own. Don’t make it harder. Try not to give a hoot about what such-and-such thinks of what you’re doing—they’re not perfect either. You have a Bible—read it. Talk to your husband about what’s important to both of you, and don’t be swayed by the latest teachings and fads circulating in the homeschool world, no matter how good they seem, if you know they’re just not for your family.
But the thing I’d most like to go back and tell my younger self? They’re the words of Jesus:
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
it’s ok to walk, sometimes.
Originally written for the Home Educating Family site. Used with permission.
2) Bill and Diana Waring, Things We Wish We’d Known (Emerald Books, 1999), 222.