Sunday, February 21, 2010


I know I have blogged on this subject before, but it's one of the main issues I struggle with and which keeps me from both joy and trust in God. Logically I know we are all imperfect and that God loves us regardless. I love my children and my husband, and they are not perfect. I do not need to be perfect in order to be a child of God and do His will.

But I don't want to do anything unless I can do it well. I know that's a big part of why my book is languishing, 6 years into the writing of it, at about 2/3 complete. I fear that it won't be successful, that it won't be my best work, that people won't find it interesting or worth the read. In my mind I know all of these things are not only probable, but certain. Of course my first novel will not be my best! What a sad situation if I cannot improve on my first work for the rest of my life! And of course many people won't like it. In fact, I bet most of the people I know won't like it because those who share my love for speculative fiction will find it quaint and moralistic, while those who would appreciate its religious message probably won't get past the kings and magic element. As for success...what is that? Many bad books are published, many good books are not. Besides, I'm not going to reach heaven simply by writing a novel that receives wide public acclaim. I know all this. But knowing and accepting are two different things.

I know, for instance, that I will probably never be able to save 10% of my husband's income simply by reducing my spending. With the major purchases already accounted for (mortgage, insurance, savings, etc.) my impact on the budget is simply too limited to achieve a full tithe. Which is as it should be. A sacrifice like that is something a family must do together because it makes such an enormous impact on quality-of-life. I'm just starting to accept that perhaps my ideals cannot co-exist with reality, and that I am not able to accomplish things through desire alone.

I have similar angst about my decision to homeschool. As deeply as I desire to mimic a Charlotte Mason education with its emphasis on living books, nature studies and active discipline, the reality of my and my childrens' personalities have not made it easy. After five months of effort with my son, we are still fighting over every single assignment (though he is as proud and enthusiastic about his work as he can be once we finish.)

The sin of pride keeps me focused on perfection. I want so badly to look back on my day and think, "Yes, I have done well. I am worthy of God's love because I am a good person who does God's will." That thinking is sinful and dangerous. It puts up a barrier to keep God in a particular role and doesn't allow for grace or trust or the childlike attitude God wants from me. So I must look hard at my plans for the future and ask myself: When it becomes clear I cannot reach my ideals, where does the path lead from there?

The answer, of course, is still "To do God's will." Do I believe it is His will that I homeschool? Emphatically, yes. He has led me here deliberately, through decisions that I weren't even mine, and through contact with faithful, inspiring Catholics whose words I recognize as wisdom. I believe I am called to homeschool even if I can't do it in a perfect manner. So with that as my base, it seems obvious that I need to re-examine the TYPE of homeschooling that I'm doing.

If I can't maintain a calm and encouraging environment while trying to teach my son narration, then perhaps he's more of a workbook and textbook kid. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. If I can't celebrate the Church calendar and have a Saints Tea every week, then at least I can mention to the kids what the feast day is and read them stories about the Saints on occasion. I need to be open to lowering the bar without removing it entirely. So often I get discouraged and think, "Oh, forget it! It's not worth it! It's too hard!" I need to keep fighting. Even if my tactics change, my mission doesn't. So I can't save 1/3rd of my monthly budget. Okay. I'll work on saving 1/10th instead. I need to be firm in my convictions and respond to well-meaning concerns about my kids' socialization and the quality of their education with statements like, "I believe this is best for them at this time." And I have to believe in my heart that it is true, that God has called me in all my imperfections. He wants me to reduce spending and set aside money for the poor. He wants me to homeschool. He wants me to be the mother of my children because I am the best mother for them at this time, even if I could still be better.

And then I need to pray: God, help me be better!

Picture credit.


Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

I loved this. I'm definitely a "throw out the bar rather than lower it" type of person.

I can also relate to your hesitation about finishing your book. I realized recently that I too have probably been unintentionally dragging my feet because while it's still unfinished, I can imagine that it will one day be perfect; but once it's done, I'll be forced to see that it's imperfect.

Thanks for another great post!

Liz said...

I learned a lot over the years that I homeschooled my kids. I made a lot of mistakes, bought a lot of "pigs in a poke," did a lot of rethinking curriculum in the middle of the year. We tried the Charlotte Mason approach and ended up modifying it greatly. As in we did the lovely read alouds, and generally skipped the narration. The kids sometimes did pictures of stuff we were reading, they occasionally seemed to use the books we were reading as springboards in their pretend play, and once in a great while someone did a book report.

I'm not sure how old your son is, but let me tell you one thing I learned with my own. Little boys are not like little girls. My son was pretty much a couch potato type kids (i.e. he loved quiet activities), but he was really not able to sustain more than an hour a day of formal school work until he was past 8. Aside from read aloud books (which we did nearly all the way through high school), neither of my kids did more than 3 hours of school work at any point in their pre-college school career. My son did shockingly little writing. I really worried about that when he headed off to college. Then he made dean's list his first semester, made the honor society his first year and did far more than ok in the very subjects I was weakest in.

I honestly think that homeschooling is far more about providing an atmosphere that makes learning possible is far more important than any particular textbook, or curriculum plan. Having watched not only my own kids, but my nieces and nephew as well, I can honestly say that they have discovered their own ways of learning and their own things to be interested in.

Sometimes the detours can end up being not only interesting, but productive. When my daughter was about 13 and her cousin 10, they made what they called operation dolls. They scoured medical texts that my mother-in-law owned to make these dolls as realistic as possible. They treated them with IV's and used my brother-in-law's used syringes (or used ones from our vet supplies). Now this particular activity never made it into any curriculum plan or parent report. It was totally generated by the girls and I knew very little about it since it all happened at Grandma's. A couple of years ago my now grown up daughter was delighted to find that one of the books she had to use at her new job was the same medical text she and her cousin had used all those years ago (an updated version of course). Much of what she does in her current job actually draws on some of what she learned back then.

My kids are not all that unusual, I've seen all sorts of different homeschooled kids do similar types of things. You just never know what direction your particular kid is going to go. Some head for science, some for history, some for creative arts, some for math and computers, some for mechanical skills. The beauty of homeschooling is that aside from the most basic skills we really can let them have those interests.

Lest you think all was perfect, let me disillusion you. My 28 year old knows very, very little history (only what I managed to sneak in with historical fiction) despite all the history texts we used and her geography skills are woefully lacking as well - but she graduated from college magna cum laude and got accepted to grad school with a teaching fellowship. My son has wonderful history and geography skills (knows far, far more than I do and took college geography for an easy A), but he still doesn't particularly love to write while his sister already has some stuff published. Their cousin taught herself Chinese and is an accomplished musician, but her math skills aren't all that terrific.

Tienne said...

Liz: I honestly think that homeschooling is far more about providing an atmosphere that makes learning possible is far more important than any particular textbook, or curriculum plan Awesome point!