I saw a meme on Facebook recently that shared this profound thought: “If parenting were a GPS, it would mostly just say, ‘recalculating.’ ” I think I need to put that as a sign above my computer.
I think parenting, and homeschooling, by extension, are like that. I spend some of my time lost, a lot of time recalculating, then after those all-too-brief glowing moments where I know exactly where I’m going, I sometimes get lost or take a detour again. Every once in awhile, I’ve wanted to capture and hold a brief shining moment of parenting or homeschool where everything was going exactly as planned. But the reality is, parenting, life, and homeschooling are moving targets:
- Another miscarriage
- A newborn
- Another move
- Death of a parent/grandparent
- Academic struggles
- Change of homeschool group
- Jury duty
- Stress in marriage
- Discipline/behavior struggles
- Financial struggles
- Driver’s education
- Buying or selling a house
- Difficult employer
- Losing a home/short sale
- Change of jobs
- Close friend’s divorce
- Friendship struggles
- Identity theft/home burglary
In short, life happens in spite of our best plans. All of the things above have happened during our homeschool journey of the past 15 years, and we’re pretty average. I know of families who have gone through times that make our struggles look pretty tame.
I once read a great little book (secular but I applied it to my Christian walk) called Who Moved My Cheese? It basically says that life=change and we have to decide how we’re going to face and maybe even embrace that reality. I personally hate a lot of change all at once, as do many of us. Change uses up a lot of my brain space, disrupts all the nice, neat stacks I have in order, and my to-do lists. My homeschool and/or parenting have rarely, if ever, fit into nice, neat segments of life, all scheduled, alphabetized, and orderly.
And guess what? Every time we parents or the kids have had to face change and adjustments, we’ve grown in ways we didn’t expect. We have had to recalculate! We’ve met new, wonderful people we didn’t know before. We’ve discovered paths we didn’t even know existed. God has truly brought us beauty for ashes.
A few thoughts as we all navigate through parenting and homeschool.
Set the destination even if you may have to detour later
You need to know where you’re headed. I set goals every year, for myself, our family, and the kids. They set their own as well. We don’t usually complete them all, but without any goals I’m not sure we would have completed anything. We would just wander in circles without any sort of plan. I need to be reminded frequently that God is the only true source of navigation: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV).
Examples: This year we will get through Pre-Algebra with Child #3, Child #4 will take swimming lessons, Child #2 will go to community college. This year we’ll host a Bible study at our home, etc.
Expect the inevitable sidetracks and detours
Two moves ago, our lives were so chaotic for awhile that I made a sign for our refrigerator that said in large letters, “Embrace the Chaos.” I felt that if we got to church, fed the children, washed the clothes, paid the bills, and read aloud to the kids that was the best we could do at the time. We didn’t damage the kids permanently, and sanity and order eventually resumed.
Understand that not all detours are detrimental
This is a hard one for me. We grieve the loss of plans or dreams we once had, but more often than not, God will lead us in a way that’s vastly different from our agenda (see poem at the bottom of this blog). I hate moving, but in the five states we’ve called home (with a repeat on CA), God has blessed us with people, experiences, and growth we might have missed. . .or our children might have missed. We either have to release the plans we had, or God may take them away from us if we’re clutching on too hard. Did I mention I hate moving?
Sometimes we have to rest, be peaceful, and wait for instructions
More than once in parenting/life/homeschooling, I’ve been at a complete and utter loss, desperately wanting direction or an answer, but not knowing what to do. God tells us in His Word to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV). I believe there’s a time to keep moving forward, but often there is a time to just be still and wait. Away from the bustle and noise, in the stillness of waiting, we can release our own agenda and listen for God’s better plan.
Years before parenting and homeschooling, when I was a young, single woman serving as a missionary in France, I was struggling with homesickness and depression. My mom sent me this poem, which I’ve kept ever since. I hope you’re blessed by it as I have been.
He Maketh No Mistake
A.M. Overton, 1932
My Father’s way may twist and turn
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.
Karen Koch has four kids, ages 12-24, and has spent much of the past two decades “recalculating.” This article originally appeared, in a slightly different format, on www.homeschool411.com.