Thursday, May 28, 2009

Staying Mentally Strong: # 7 Take the Long View

I know from experience that there are many days in homeschooling when it looks as though this won't work. One of the kids can't seem to learn the next set of skills or concepts or seems to hate everything you try. Perhaps another one of the kids can't concentrate, can't get the work done, won't get the work done. Maybe everyone in the schoolroom just can't get along with each other. The attitude problems, the character issues, the confusion over how to teach it so they can learn it, the exhaustion are all adding up to a crisis. You feel that you can't take it one more minute. Maybe you are in the midst of a move or a new baby or a death in the family. It all seems like too much. When did you think you could do this? It doesn't matter, because nobody remembers that now. All that is evident is that this is not working.

It happens to all of us. If you are homeschooling for any length of time, you will be overcome by the unexpected. You will feel foolish and inept. How could you not see that this was going to be too much? How could you have understimated the demands and overestimated your ability to cope by such a large margin?

I am going to let you in on a secret. This moment, this place in your life, can't tell you all that. It's too small a slice of the whole pie to be a good indicator of your overall, future success. Yes, it looks from here that you made a mistake, maybe. But don't be deceived by momentary results. The fact that you have problems matters less than you think it does.

There were several points at which I said I can't do this. It isn't fair to the kids for us to continue. I won't do it anymore. It was a good try, but we are really finished with it now. I said as much to my husband, who just looked at me kindly and gave me a hug. He knew what I was up against and completely understood why I was seeing it all that way. He also knew that we would figure out how to make it work, and he gave me the room to get past my anguish and find a way.

At my points of despair, God impressed me with a single thought. Just try. That's all you need to do. Just keep getting up in the morning and trying. Do your best. Trust Me to make it enough. I was self-conscious about telling anyone that God was actually communicating with me along these lines. But I knew it had to be Him. I had nothing left in me that would have possibly produced anything like this. The thought was addressed directly to me and marched strongly through my mind, interrupting anything I was doing. It was there in the morning when I awoke. It was there when I lay myself across my bed and cried. It was there when I wanted to run out of the house screaming.

Just try. That's all you need to do. Just keep getting up in the morning and trying. Do your best. Trust me to make it enough.

If you know our story, you know that wonderful things happened after each of these low times. The problems were either solved or they resolved on their own. The right people who could help us appeared just as we needed them. My boys learned, and learned to love learning. They grew into young men of strength and depth and integrity.

But there were moments when things looked very bleak, even impossible.

I suffered more than I needed to because I didn't understand that the bleak moments were just low notes in the symphony we were all writing together. They were only the contrast to the achievements. What mattered most was how we continued to work through them. What mattered was the ways in which we learned perseverence and problem solving, patience and teamwork. We learned how to navigate the hard times with grace and perspective.

This was illustrated by the last place where we went through one of those times. My son said to me, "It's okay, Mom. You and I know that homeschooling can absorb times like this. We will be just fine." I smiled gratefully back to him and nodded.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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