This School Year’s Golden Secret to Success
Is there one simple mom-to-mom secret that can make this homeschooling year the best one yet? Absolutely! But it may not be what you think…
The pencils are sharpened. The maps are hung. The books are clean and all in a row.
Our plans are written (or, at least, outlined as much as can be, here at the beginning of the school year).
Our resolutions are strong.
This will be the year we finally teach poetry.
This will be the year we don’t lose our patience during math.
This will be the year we are consistent with Catechism lessons, so we can enjoy rich conversations around the dinner table about religion.
Our intentions are golden!
But we worry, too.
Will I be able to help my son catch up in writing?
Will my daughter find the friends she so desperately wants?
Will some life-changing event, like another pregnancy or a severe illness in the family, knock us all off course?
The answer is…yes, no, I don’t know…and—most importantly—this: It doesn’t matter.
Here’s what matters.
It matters that even when those sharp pencils are thrown in frustration, and even when our daughter sobs that her best friend betrays her, we love our children.
It matters that even when they grow independent and distant, we are still there for our teens in their hopes and heartaches.
It matters that even when our kids find life (and us) unfair, we listen and we guide.
Because homeschooling is love in action.
That’s why it’s so hard. It’s not ultimately about reading and writing. It’s about people.
Homeschooling is about doing the best we can to lead our beloved children to become who God created them to be. It includes science and math, yes. But those people—those children created in the image of God with futures full of hope—are what each and every day is all about.
As mothers, we love our children with passion and ferocity. We want the very best for them, and we do our best to prepare them for it. But in reality, only God knows what’s best for each and every child, and our plans may or may not be His plans.
So how do we recognize and follow His plans?
Expectations, Meet Reality (When Reality Hits)
If you’ve been homeschooling a while, you know that after two, four, six, eight weeks, the pencils are dull (and you can’t find the pencil sharpener). The morning sickness is all day long. And the mountains of laundry are taller than your husband.
Our plans often don’t match reality in any given moment.
When I began homeschooling, that truth was devastating. I didn’t know what in the world to do when the plan got interrupted. So I was exasperated… all the time, on a daily basis.
When this oh-so-common reality shock hits, how do we avoid getting off track?
It’s about expectations.
To go into a new school year bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is perfectly fine, really wonderful, and absolutely needed. What we want to be careful of—you, me, and every homeschooler out there—is to enter the year with realistic expectations that will neither frustrate us when plans don’t go our way, nor set the bar so low that we fail to guide our children to their full potential.
There’s a secret. It’s in the expectations.
The Expectation Dichotomy (And How to Solve It)
Expectations are wrapped in strange dichotomies.
Elizabeth George, best-selling author and Christian speaker, says, “Expectations destroy our peace of mind.” That seems to suggest that if we want to be at peace, we should never expect or plan anything.
But Sam Walton of Walmart and Sam’s Club fame says, “High expectations are the key to everything.” That makes it sound as if nothing will ever be accomplished, without expecting the very best all the time.
Who do we believe?
Perhaps, if we rephrase these quotes, we’ll find the truth:
Elizabeth’s wisdom retold might be, “Unrealistic expectations destroy our peace of mind.” When our expectations are unreasonable, we do set ourselves up for repeated disappointment.
Sam’s words re-imagined might be, “Appropriate expectations are the key to everything.” When our plans consider the strengths and struggles of each person in our family, we succeed.
So they’re both right.
What to Expect (The Key to Success!)
Make expectations real.
Expect the baby will get sick and not sleep.
Expect the teenager will sulk and do sloppy work.
Expect you will fall behind on the laundry and that “must do” thing that’s bugging you.
Expect that you will often—if not constantly—doubt if you are “doing enough” to homeschool these children and raise them right.
And then. Take a breath.
Expect that God has got your back. Because He does.
Expect you will snuggle that baby all day and all night—thus teaching your older children how important the vulnerable are (and how essential caffeine can be).
Expect you will hear that story read to you one painfully choppy word at a time over and over and over – until your blossoming reader’s face glows with confidence.
Expect you will sit down next to that sulky teenager—and (once again) encourage the teen to glorify God with his or her best work.
Expect to tweak the plan and the schedule… and tweak… and tweak… and tweak it again… adjusting it to the needs of your family as you go.
The best days happen when we surrender our plans to the Lord and ask Him to guide us and help us respond to the needs of our children with love.
Because if you focus on loving the living, breathing people in front of you, made in the image of God, you will find meaning in the mundane. You will find peace amidst the chaos. And you will find God in every moment — because that’s the secret.
When we prioritize the person over the plan, everyone learns. Some days will be messier than others. Some days we will be more virtuous than others.
And that’s okay.
Let’s sharpen our pencils, line up our books, and smile. Because we know the golden secret to success: Healthy expectations lead us to Love Itself.
This is the year of learning Love.