I spent the weekend at our local homeschool convention and there are a ton of things I could write about. How wonderful and encouraging it is to be supported. How overwhelming it is to be surrounded by curriculum. Yet what struck me the most this weekend was how the convention can make homeschool moms like us feel less than.
Now there are highs and lows at every convention and certainly I believe the benefits outweigh the low self-esteem we can struggle with. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about let me paint the scenario for you.
You enter a workshop, looking for great ideas, hoping to be encouraged and find ways to make your homeschool experience go better next year (since we all have things that need improving). But as the speaker starts talking about all the things she does/did on her homeschool journey to make their homeschool great and their family closer we can start feeling discouraged. For example, even though she has grown kids they all still come over on Fridays with their spouses and have a potluck dinner and play games. One son wants to go into politics. Or he takes his teenagers to work with him because they need their dad and every dad should have a job where his teens can be with him.
Now I am not saying any of these things are wrong. In fact a lot of things that other homeschoolers try can bring us great benefits if we implement them as well...BUT sometimes they make us feel guilty because we know we just can't do some of those things, or our husbands wouldn't do some of those things. Or we had a great time at the convention and when we come home our kids are bickering and fighting. We're in such a good mood from the convention that we put on our "good mom" face and discipline the right way. But as the bickering continues we start feeling like our family will never be as successful as those other homeschool families.
Now we all know that those homeschool families have their struggles and downfalls, but it makes little difference to us when our 12-year-old is telling us that we're the meanest mom ever. I must confess that one of my biggest pet peeves is when the speakers say that they did this or that and their kids have never strayed as if homeschooling a certain way is a formula that guarantees wonderful lives for our children full of only good choices. As if homeschooling can protect our children from all the temptations of Satan, as if the enemy can't figure out how in the world to tempt homeschool kids. Now let me get off my soapbox and finish this post.
So I feel like I need to say that the workshops do give us some good goals to strive for, but we need to carefully consider and pray about implementing any idea just because it worked for someone else. I believe that sometimes we are convicted to change something that needs to be changed, but sometimes we are just changing something because we feel bad or guilty just because someone else says we should.
I needed to remind myself today that God uses the good things that we are doing in the lives of our children, but He also uses the bad things. If we as mature believers are shaped by trials and struggles then so are our children. I remember reading once that being married is meant to make us holy and not just happy. That doesn't mean marriage is all the pits, just that God uses those relationships to make us better people. In the same way He will use our failings to make our children the people He wants them to be. Much like He makes us better people (and better parents) by what our children bring into our lives. (Nothing like 4 out of 6 children throwing up every 15 minutes from 9 PM-4AM to teach endurance). Having lived with flawed human beings we have more patience with others. Having a sibling who talks too much might teach us better communication techniques. Having a brother who struggles learning to read might teach us not to make fun of the kids at church who stumble when asked to read out loud from the Bible.
So, at the homeschool conference this weekend I was encouraged. I was encouraged by being around other homeschoolers, by being in some workshops where I was doing some of the things the speakers were doing, by getting some ideas that might help me change some struggles for the better. I was also encouraged by a God who reminded me that just as He is using all the situations in my life (good and bad) to change things that need to be changed, He is using all the things in my life (good and bad) to shape my children into the people He wants them to be.