Sunday, August 2, 2009

Overcoming the Myth of the Perfect Homeschooling Mother, part 1

In my last post I alluded to the myth of the Perfect Homeschool Year. In this post, I want to explore the myth of the Perfect Homeschooling Mother. I presented a workshop on this topic a few weeks ago, and would like to share the highlights with you.

There are several myths which are prevalent among homeschooling mothers. The most common one is the "You can do it all" myth (a.k.a. Superwoman Syndrome).

What is your picture of the "perfect homeschooling mother?" You might imagine a woman who does an excellent job of teaching her large brood of children, who are well-behaved at all times, a grade level ahead of their peers, and involved in a variety of stimulating extra-curricular activities. This woman also bakes fresh bread daily and prepares nutritious home-cooked meals (from her organic, backyard garden), while also keeping an immaculate home and practicing hospitality every Saturday night, before preparing her Sunday School lesson, which she creatively teaches on Sunday mornings. This woman also ministers to the poor and needy in her community, knows how to bargain shop, and sews beautiful garments for herself and her children, which she keeps perpetually clean and pressed! She also finds time to exercise every day, so that she is a perfect size 6, and of course, she always has time for her husband, and never has a headache!! ;)

The mental picture we all have of the "perfect homeschooling mother" is realistically a conglomeration of the positive qualities and characteristics of many different women we admire. We all know many outstanding women who excel in a variety of areas; however, there is no woman alive who is able to excel in every area at once. That is simply impossible!

I appreciate what my favorite author, Sally Clarkson, says in Educating the Whole Hearted Child, "The phantom home-school mom keeps your expectations unrealistically high -- orderly home, schedule under control, children who do all their work, lots of field trips, baking bread, keeping a garden, ministry with children, and able to leisurely read all the home-schooling magazines. But she doesn't exist! In reality, all you can do is accept each day from the Lord, live it as wisely as possible, and stay flexible. Learn to expect inconvenient interruptions, incomplete goals, and time-eating bouts of immaturity in your children. Don't expect more from yourself than God does -- faithfulness." (page 184.)

Because we can't do everything well, we must learn to prioritize. This is not something I claim to have mastered! I often bite off more than I can chew! However, with much guidance from our husbands, we need to pray over our commitments and then decide together which items we will focus on for this season of our lives. We have to agree to let some things go in order to be successful in other areas.

Sally Clarkson reminds us: "You'll never accomplish in one lifetime everything you want to do, much less everything you think others want you to do. You will always run into limitations -- sinful attitudes (yours, your husband's and your children's), insufficient time, inadequate resources, weak skills, poor relationships, ad infinitum. No matter how strong you are in some areas, you will be correspondingly weak in others. Yet God is not limited by your limitations -- he will accomplish by his grace all that he intends to accomplish in your life and in the lives of your children, if you trust him." (Educating the Whole Hearted Child, page 184.)

Sometimes our priorities are pre-defined by our season of life or our circumstances. There will be times when caring for a newborn or an elderly parent consumes vast amounts of our time and energy. However, other seasons will allow a bit more time for other pursuits.

A few years ago, when our daughters were in high school and I still had little babies, our extra-curricular activities mostly revolved around music lessons and church activities. Then, as our boys grew up and became interested in athletics, we began the adventure of being involved in team sports. First, we waded in with "little league" baseball; then we added homeschool basketball, and eventually, the boys transferred to a Christian school where they could play basketball, baseball, and even football at a more competitive level.

Being involved in team sports comes with a high price tag for the family, in terms of sacrificed family meal times and peaceful nights at home, more running around, more money spent on gas and meals out, and less time available to spend on house cleaning and home management. However, there are many advantages as well. One unexpected advantage we have seen is that when teenaged boys use up a lot of their Testosterone-induced Aggression on the athletic field or court, they are far less likely to direct it towards their brothers! ;)

Anyway, the point is that when we say "Yes" to some activities, we automatically say "No" to others. We cannot do all things well! The only SuperMoms out there are vitamins! :)

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