Redeeming a Disaster Day

This was a bad day. A horrible day. A day which has made you question why in the world you ever dared to think that you could homeschool your own children in the first place. This was a Really.Bad.Day. You would be tempted to call it The Worst Day Ever Possible, except that you are afraid that tomorrow may sink even lower.

Parents who are new to homeschooling, as well as those who have been at this for several years, will all experience Disaster Days from time to time. Books will disappear. Previously learned lessons will evaporate from memories. Chores will remain undone. Pencils will remain untouched. Children will fight. Children will scream. Parents will scream back. Tears will flow.

Right now, you need to take a few deep breaths and try to stop shaking. Let the children go outside to play in the relative safety of the back yard or send them to their respective rooms for a period of contemplation and personal reflection, while you and I work at redeeming this Day of Disaster.

Your first assignment is to look back over the day for anything positive. Did most members of the family perform their daily routine of personal hygiene? If not yet, maybe they can still get it completed before bedtime tonight. Was enough food consumed to be considered a meal? If not yet, you can have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk for supper or a bedtime snack, covering the four basic food groups in the most basic way.

If a single workbook page was completed, you have made progress. If a single lesson concept was explained or discussed, you have made progress. If a single page of a single book was read, you have made progress. No, it is not a giant leap of progress, it is not a baby step of progress, and it is not at all what you had planned to complete today, but it is progress, nonetheless.

Maybe the dirty dishes piled up to new record heights, but that is probably a good indicator that your family ate today. Maybe your toddler escaped from the house and ran around the neighborhood stripping off his clothing as he went — but that is an indicator that he is mastering the skill of dressing himself. Ok, undressing himself, but it is still a necessary skill in life. Maybe a pipe burst under the bathroom sink and flooded the whole room, but once the proper repairs have been made and the mess is finally cleaned up, that floor will be cleaner than it has been for quite some time. Give yourselves a hearty pat on the back for any subject that was actually completed today. Bonus points will be awarded to any family who completed an entire load of laundry — even if it was only the towels that soaked up the flood in the bathroom. Partial credit will be given for any load that has made it through any single step of the washing-drying-folding-restocking process. Progress is usually present, even in a Disaster Day — but sometimes you have to look closely to find it.

So what about those of you who cannot find even one step of forward momentum in your Disaster Day? There are times when we all must accept the lack of backsliding as a sign of progress. You may not be inching forward, but you are not sliding backward, so, therefore, you are holding your ground. Maintaining your position — that position you worked very hard to achieve — is progress in itself. You may feel like you are just hanging on by your fingernails, but you are still hanging on.

Perhaps sickness has invaded your home, stopping everyone in his tracks. Perhaps you and your family have been pushing yourselves too hard, and this is the only way any of you would get a day of rest. Rest, therefore, and know that your bodies are purging themselves of nasty things and will regain the strength needed to continue on once this vile sickness has passed. Stop reciting the lists of tasks completed by the over-achievers down the block, concentrate on getting well first, and then tackle what you can do, when you can do it.

Perhaps you have been the unwitting victim of some outside influence: a weather-borne disaster, an accident, a death in the family, or another serious, unforeseen disruption. Life happens. None of us can plan for every possible contingency, but each of us can learn from our circumstances and be better prepared for the next time life throws us a curve ball. Becoming better prepared is learning a lesson, and learning a lesson is a sign of progress.

When my children were toddlers, their meals and snacks were often unbalanced combinations of foods. I learned to view their entire day of food intake and balance that, rather than attempt to balance each individual meal for picky eaters. Similarly, when we began homeschooling, I learned to “balance” the entire week of lessons, instead of trying to do everything on each separate day. Some days we did no spelling lessons; some days we did only math. Considering the entire week, we covered all of our lessons. Usually. Once in a while, I had to expand my view to balance two weeks together, but I could see that, in the end, we would still accomplish all of the important things that we needed to accomplish. Our local public school operates on a six-day schedule (don’t ask), proving that not even the “professional educators” can get everything done in a week’s time. Make your plans, do your best, and stop beating yourself up for things you have no control over.

When confronted with a Disaster Day, encourage yourself with these pointers:
1) Look for any signs of progress.
2) Accept the lack of backsliding as a sign of progress.
3) Learn from the Disaster Day and call those lessons a sign of progress.

You can survive a Disaster Day, and you can draw strength from it to tackle tomorrow as the fresh start that it is.

If you still need more encouragement, see:
What Didn’t Work for Today Can Be Changed for Tomorrow
Your Children Will Not Always Be Like This
Homeschooling Is Hard Work
Looking Back on the Bad Days
Topical Index: Encouragement for Parents

People Who Nearly Scared Me Away from Homeschooling

The following are examples from actual homeschooling families that I met throughout our homeschooling days. These are composite examples in that they each represent multiple persons and not single individuals. If the majority of families we met had been like these, I would probably not be here now, encouraging other families to try homeschooling. These people have the power to startle even the most dedicated of homeschoolers. If you meet any of them, please learn from my experience and do not be afraid. Look the other way.

The Pioneers

The Pioneers had more children than could comfortably fit into the average elevator. The number of children was not what bothered me: it was their mannerisms which I found slightly unnerving. Whenever I saw them, their darling girls could have balanced a book on their heads throughout the entire day, and their truly adorable boys were uncommonly quiet in cleaner jeans than most little boys like to be caught wearing. However, these children all moved with determined slowness and rarely made eye contact with anyone outside their family unit.

There was something eerily unnatural about that many children being that quiet — always that quiet. Seeing them for the first time, I made a mental note to train my own, smaller brood to behave so well in public. Seeing The Pioneers multiple times, in various circumstances, left me wondering if these children were ever allowed to play or act like children. I could not help but wonder if, when they played tag (did they play tag?), did they still move so slowly and sedately?

Every member of The Pioneer Family had a dour, gray complexion; they were all skinny and unhealthy-looking, like anorexic, cave-dwelling mannequins come to life. They attended every homeschool conference, stationed at their booth in the vendor hall, selling some type of nutrition products. I wanted to take the children outside to play in the sunshine. I wanted to give them puppies and kittens and candy and tell silly stories to make them smile. I wanted to lead them in a rousing game of hide-and-seek or tag. And I wanted to stay far away from whatever they were eating (and selling), if that was what made them look and act the way they did.

The Pusher

Not an illegal drug dealer, but the gloating know-it-all type of man or woman who pushes other people into doing what he or she wants them to do. One Pusher I encountered had very small family, she did every activity imaginable with her very small family, she seemed to detest anyone who was part of a larger family, and she refused to understand why other families did not want to do all of the activities that she was doing. She bragged about all of the activities they had done in the past, she bragged about what activities they were going to do in the future, and she told you how you should be doing any activity you were foolish enough to mention in her presence. She had more confusing rules for homeschooling than the IRS has for reporting income, and she ordered people around like a drill sergeant. She gave me a strong desire to go AWOL.

The Dragger

A puller, as opposed to The Pusher. This overly enthusiastic person also wanted to do every conceivable activity, but this one insisted on dragging everyone else along with her. She did not tell you what you should be doing — she picked you up in her car and took you there. One Dragger that I knew intended to return her children to public school after a brief stint in homeschooling, and she crammed more studies and activities into each year than some homeschoolers will cover in five years. She put enough bells and whistles into her lessons to make Martha Stewart tired. Then she stopped homeschooling, and I felt like I could breathe again. I even opened my curtains again and unlocked my door.

Goldilocks

The Goldilocks Family, to be precise. The family I met had all little girls, who were all dressed in perfectly pressed plaid dresses with perfectly tied bows in their perfectly curled golden ringlets. They recited perfect poems and sang perfectly harmonious songs and wrote perfectly penned essays. They were never loud or boisterous. They never ran or cut in line or pushed or shoved. They never got dirty — hey, they never even wrinkled. Point me to a soft bed — I think I need to lie down.

Doogie Howser’s Family

Actually, that name is unfair to young Dr. Doogie. In the television family, Doogie was mature beyond his years, and his parents had endeavored to give him “normal” childhood experiences to balance his extraordinary achievements as a 16-year-old medical intern. The “Howsers” that I met tried to convince everyone that their children were geniuses and child prodigies. These pushy parents valued pride and progress above the innocence of childhood. Their incredibly average children were raced through double lessons each day, more for the sake of making progress than for actually retaining anything. The parents were obnoxious beasts, and the children were equally obnoxious beasts. I do not know what they intended to do with obnoxiously beastly 12-year-olds who were supposedly ready for Ivy League colleges. I do know what I wanted to do with them.

Oddly enough, the few children I have met in my lifetime whom I actually felt were geniuses or prodigies were neither obnoxious nor beastly, and their parents did not have to force them through lessons but rather found themselves in a constant race to keep up with their insatiable offspring, quite similar to the characters from “Doogie Howser, M.D.”

The Paper Shufflers

One Shuffler kept track of every book he had ever read — title, author, publisher, number of pages, genre, and so many more details that I had to stop listening. I must also mention the Shuffler families whose children wrote so many essays, reports, poems, stories, novels, and other compositions that their year-end displays resembled a tax-preparer’s office in April — piles of papers everywhere you looked.

Another Shuffler had a large room in her house with a massive filing system for any paper her students had ever used or that she might ever have a desire to use — coloring pages, worksheets, maps, lists — and again I had to walk away before I heard any more. (Do not mistakenly assume that she would ever share her vast resources with anyone else — she just wanted everyone to know that she owned it all.)

Yet another Shuffler kept obsessive amounts of detailed records of their lessons — lessons planned, lessons in progress, lessons completed, lessons graded, lessons filed away for future reference. I started out keeping moderately detailed records, but I had too much fun homeschooling my children to spend our days shuffling all those papers and writing intricately detailed records. Writing it all down would indicate that someone, somewhere, someday, might be obligated to read it. (And write yet another report on it all!) I will not be that someone. I will be outside with a flock of giggling children, covering the sidewalk in grand Seuss-ian murals with multi-colored chalk.

The Activists

Political activism can be a wonderful thing. After all, it was the foundational element of this great nation. However, I have met a few scary homeschooling families who took their political agenda to new heights. I have received phone calls from The Activists, deceptively sounding as though the purpose of the call was for homeschooling matters, only to have them suddenly turn toward political issues once they had my attention. Believe it or not, there are times when I just want to enjoy an activity with my family — without being pressured to sign a petition first.

Learning to Look Away

The Pioneers might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that I must have an enormous family to make homeschooling worthwhile, or that my homeschool would only be successful if my children were perfect models of grace and dignity at all times. I did not succumb to the implied guilt message that proper homeschoolers eat only hard, crunchy things that look like they could survive a nuclear holocaust. Their food, clothing, and lifestyle choices were really not the disturbing issues: what really bothered me was the robotic, Stepford Wives-aspect of the children’s actions (or lack of said actions). I chose, Guilt-Free, to envision that they behaved more normally at home, especially while waiting for a dawdling sibling to vacate their home’s single bathroom.

The Pusher might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that I was not doing enough activities with my children. I did not yield to her implied guilt message that the only worthwhile activities were the ones that she had chosen, and that skipping any of her chosen activities would leave my students with a woefully deficient education. While I will admit that, in the beginning, I did try some of this Pusher’s activities, I soon left her extensive list behind, Guilt-Free, in favor of things we chose ourselves.

The Dragger might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that I must do everything now. I did not give in to her implied guilt message that there is no time like the present. While some things are worth doing now, many things will still work just as well later — when my family’s schedule has more time available. I learned to give The Dragger a firm “No, thanks” and scheduled lessons and activities in accordance with our own desires, Guilt-Free.

The Goldilocks Family might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that my children should always be picture-perfect examples of cleanliness and deportment. I did not surrender to their implied guilt message that the only good child is a well-dressed, well-mannered child. God made the dirt, as well as the water, and if He chooses to bless us with rain, we should not ungratefully refuse to play in the mud. We enjoyed playing, we enjoyed nature, we enjoyed childhood, and we enjoyed occasionally being silly or muddy or messy, Guilt-Free.

The Doogie Howser Family might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that our homeschool efforts had failed if my children ever balked at doing assignments, did not beg for extra lessons, or were not ready for college before they hit their teen years. I did not submit to the implied guilt message that the only truly successful homeschooling method is one which catapults your students years ahead in academics. Lessons actually learned meant much more to us than progressing through workbooks at warp-speed. We discussed things we had learned away from the books and marveled at the simplicity of those lessons, Guilt-Free.

The Paper Shufflers might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that the only lessons that count are the ones that have been planned out on paper and produce even more papers in the form of journals, reports, or other written assignments. I did not believe their implied guilt message that the merit of a lesson is equivalent to the size of the stack of paperwork it produces. Once again, we discussed things we had learned spontaneously, away from the papers and the planning, and marveled at the simplicity of those lessons, Guilt-Free.

The Activists might have scared me away from homeschooling, causing me to think that homeschooling and political awareness must go hand in hand. I did not crumble under their implied guilt message that the only worthwhile homeschooler is a politically aggressive homeschooler. While I applauded their energy and, at times, I may even have envied their involvement in truly important issues, I eventually realized that our own non-involvement in those same issues did not demean or negate our academic efforts. When we had the time and the energy, we did support topics that we felt strongly about, but the rest of the time, we continued our schooling without petitions, telephone solicitations, or informational leaflets, Guilt-Free.

Throughout your own homeschool journey, you will very likely meet a few characters as scary as these, perhaps some who are even scarier. Do not allow them to frighten you away from your desired goal. Look the other direction, change the subject, or just walk quickly away. You are not being rude — you are rescuing someone very vital to your children’s academic future: yourself. Maintain your focus on your own homeschooling methods — the things that you know work for yourself, for your students, and for your entire family. Homeschooling methods must keep everyone relaxed and comfortable, and they must fit your family’s lifestyle in order to be Guilt-Free. Remind yourself as often as necessary that things are seldom what they seem, and realize that something very traumatic must have happened in the lives of The Scary People to send them to their extremes… and you would not want to have to go through that yourself.

Reschedule, Refocus, Regroup

I am convinced that the first thing dogs learn in Puppy School is how to get leaves and grass to stick to their tummies while they are outdoors and then how to sneak back indoors with those leaves and shake them off. Extra points if they can do it just after you have vacuumed. No matter how much time I have just spent cleaning the carpet, as soon as the dog makes one pass through the house, my progress seems non-existent. I pick up the leaves and bits of grass. I adapt and keep making progress.

Remember that time you were running late for an appointment, and you discovered a road closure between Point A (your house) and Point B (your destination)? Whether the closure was due to a street repair crew or a traffic accident, it still caused you to change your route and find an acceptable detour to help you reach your destination by your deadline. You had to adapt to keep making progress.

How many times could your baby be counted on to spit up all over your clothing just as you were going out the door (usually on your way to church)? Now, a little spitty-ness is to be expected, but I am talking about a major drenching. Back inside for a quick change. Adapt and keep making progress.

Today you find yourself mid-way through your homeschool year, perhaps even close enough to the end of the year that you can see The Finish Line coming in to view. However, just like the leaves scattered on the clean carpet, just like the roadblock when you were running late, just like the need to make a complete wardrobe change, you have obstacles hindering your progress. Your schedule has gotten completely out of whack, and you desperately need to get it back in whack. It is time for some serious mid-year rescheduling. You need to adapt so that you can keep making progress.

Each fall, I would lay out my plan of action for the coming school year, detailing which pages of which books should be done by which days. [See Guilt-Free Lesson Plans and Scheduling] I always seemed to be very ambitious at the beginning of each year, so much so that I scheduled way too many things for my students to actually complete. Each spring, I would revise my plan, reconciling it with the reality that had taken place over the past few months. Some years, the plan was revamped more than once. Illnesses happened, tragedies occurred, and difficult lesson concepts played havoc with the best-laid plans. My mid-year rescheduling time would remove the burden of over-commitment from my students and make their assignment charts look do-able again. I recalculated the number of pages to be completed for each day and adjusted our charts accordingly. Some subjects were finished early, giving my students extra time in their schedules for the subjects in which they were lagging behind. We adapted in order to keep making progress.

As I did, you planned your year’s work with the best of intentions, but you could not foresee the things that would prevent your students from completing that work. You have all done the best you could under the circumstances. Even if you have a student who has been flat-out lazy and neglected his work, heaping guilt on him will not be a strong motivator for progress. Cut back his assigned schedule to an amount that he can reasonably accomplish and help him gain a foothold on success. Once he has tasted the victory of a finished job, he will see things differently. So-called “lazy” students or those who do not work “up to their potential” usually suffer from the curse of perfectionism: I can’t get it right, so why bother trying? I know; I used to be one of them. Scaling back assignments to a manageable level or reducing projects to bite-sized tasks can make a huge difference in whether or not a student succeeds. [See Learning to Walk — Seen as a New Lesson] You need to adapt so that he can keep making progress.

It can be very helpful to sit down with your students and discuss what projects they are enjoying the most, what they would like to continue doing, and what they would like to drop. There may be some half-completed projects on your schedule that no one really cares about anymore. Perhaps the lesson has already been learned and dedicating further time to a certain project is pointless. You may decide to speed through the current section to allow yourselves to spend extra time on an upcoming set of lessons. Maybe an activity can take the place of several lessons, allowing you to skip over a portion of the planned bookwork while still learning the concepts. You will want to identify the most important tasks, lessons, or books so that you can focus on finishing them. You may decide to carry a subject over a few weeks into the summer to keep it from being too burdensome to finish on the same timetable as the other schoolwork. You need to adapt so that you can keep making progress.

We also began to prune back our social commitments each time the calendar promised that spring was approaching. We wanted to focus on our lessons and tie up all those loose ends to finish the year instead of running around to boring club meetings or uninteresting field trips. We reprioritized, rescheduled, refocused, and regrouped. We dropped out of activities if they had become more pain than gain. We did it all Guilt-Free, knowing that we were ranking things according to our own priorities, not anyone else’s. We adapted so that we could keep making progress.

I have a favorite line from a movie that I have quoted to my students when encouraging them to persevere in the face of a difficult task. The movie, Heartbreak Ridge, is hardly commendable because of its abhorrent, R-rated language, but the message of the film is nonetheless very inspirational. Clint Eastwood portrays a no-nonsense Marine sergeant, doing his best to turn raw recruits into something The Corps can depend on. The line I quote is his anthem throughout the film, “Improvise! Adapt! Overcome!” He continually changes the rules on his platoon, forcing them to think, to improvise, to adapt, to overcome, to succeed. When they find themselves isolated in the midst of a fierce battle, it is his bizarre training methods that enable them to survive and emerge victorious. Their ability to adapt allowed them to keep making progress.

As you sense the end of this school year sneaking up on you, take some time to evaluate your progress and revise your plans. Pinpoint the things that are most important and work toward completing them. You wrote your schedule: Guilt-Free Homeschooling allows you to change your schedule. A re-tooled battle plan can bring a tremendous boost of adrenalin to sagging students and a tired teacher. You need to adapt so that you can keep making progress.

What Is Your “Best”?

“Do your best!” We have all said those words before soccer games and piano recitals, and we usually have said them without any reflection whatsoever upon what we actually might mean by them. “Best” can be a relative term, meaning different things to different people at different times. “Best” varies. Apply the following line of thinking to yourself first, and when you have a handle on it personally, you can better apply it to your children for your expectations of them and for their own expectations of themselves.

Example #1: Hello, my name is Carolyn, and I am a procrastinator. (I do not seek to mock any of the stepped programs for dealing with addictions, but I am simply borrowing their easily recognizable introduction line.) I have a problem; recognizing and acknowledging the existence of my problem is the first step to overcoming it. I have realized that constantly putting things off is harmful to myself and also to those around me. However, I have further realized that I am not always able to deal with everything at the moment it arises.

“Controlled Procrastination” is my new motto — some things will be dealt with immediately, others will be dealt with in a timely manner, when I am able. When I become overwhelmed with too much to do, I try to reprioritize what is most important and decide what can be effectively put off until another time. I then make a mental “contract” with myself that I will accomplish the delayed task (or tasks) by a certain time, date, or circumstance, thereby holding me accountable for the task at another time, but relieving me from the burden of unearned guilt. Knowing that I am not over-burdening myself during times of stress makes it easier for me to accomplish more during easily productive times. I do what I can do, when I can do it, and I free myself from the guilt of trying to do my best best all of the time.

Your best is the best you can do. My best is not your best; your best is not mine. My current best, due to temporary limitations, is not the same as my usual best. Let your current circumstances determine what level of performance you will try to achieve, knowing that at other times that level may change. Trying to maintain an “ideal best” under “less than ideal” circumstances will only heap undeserved guilt upon yourself. In the case that you are surrounded by multiple children under the age of eight, you can expect your best to improve significantly as they age and grow closer to self-sufficiency.

Example #2: I have at least one over-achieving child (ok, both of them, but for now I’m only referring to one). That faithful student seemed to believe that “do your best” meant to take on more than was humanly possible. More than once, I sat down with said child for a refresher course in “only your best is acceptable.” If the student is making his best attempt at the task at hand, that is certainly all that should be expected of him — nothing more.

If my child has worked hard to master memorizing and reciting a three-stanza poem, I must not expect him to recite one of Longfellow’s book-length works. However, since this student and I both know he is capable of memorizing the three-stanza poem, we have equal expectations for his success. Never mind the fact that all the children from the ultra-super-more-than-over-achieving homeschool family will be reciting for hours at the end-of-the-year homeschool program — that is their best, not yours.

Example #3: Young students, especially those still struggling with penmanship, tend to strive for textbook standards of perfectionism. Unfortunately, their efforts are often unsuccessful and result in frustration for both student and teacher. Keep some copies of their previous work to review: seeing actual evidence of his progress will help restore the child’s confidence in himself. During their first years of schooling, children’s handwriting may undergo dramatic changes every few weeks or months. Looking back over past work will show the student how his best has changed.

We all need to recognize the limits of “our best,” whether we are temporarily restrained or continually tempted to perfectionism. If you are pregnant or otherwise constrained by health, have multiple children including toddlers, are changing houses or jobs or involved in other serious life-upheaval situations, bring your standards into alignment with your current reality. Recognize the fact that Wonder Woman was only a two-dimensional fictional character. You, my Guilt-Free friend, are much more than that.

Do the Best Job You Can and Pray for God to Clean Up the Rest

I remember the first time I ever heard about homeschooling. We were visiting our friends Mike and Barb Webb in Colorado, who had just begun teaching their three boys at home. As with many of you, my first reaction was, “Can you do that?” Barb laughed and assured me that, yes, it was not only quite possible and legal, but it was also extremely fun. Barb, Mike, and the boys spent the rest of our visit showing us the fruits of homeschooling: taking us on a picnic-turned-berry-picking-adventure in the mountains, making jelly from the wild berries while listening to Mike and the young boys discuss deep scientific topics, watching those rough-and-tumble boys play oh-so tenderly with our 16-month-old daughter, and recounting story after story from their homeschooling experiences. The boys delightedly identified birds soaring high overhead or butterflies and moths with only a fleeting glance.

Being a total newbie to this idea of educating my own offspring, I was full of wonder and questions. I should probably credit Barb with incubating the idea of being able to homeschool without loads of guilt hanging over one’s head. I had asked questions and listened intently to her answers for hours on end when I finally got around to The Big Question we all dread: How do you know you are doing enough? Barb’s soft but confident answer still echoes in my heart: “You do the best job you can, and you pray for God to clean up the rest.”

Her explanation was most likely prompted by a confused expression on my face. Barb went on to give me a spontaneous teaching on how God only expects us to measure up to our own “best” level, not anyone else’s capabilities. Once we have done our best, we have nothing to feel guilty about — we know we gave it all we had. Any mistakes we make along the way can be laid at the foot of the cross, repented of, and left in God’s hands. He alone is big enough to wipe away the tears and scars of past hurts. He alone is able to call us by a new name and give us new lives. He is the one who makes us new creatures — all things become new in Him.

Moms and Dads, do the best job at homeschooling that you are capable of doing. Pray for wisdom and guidance, knowing that God will give it — He will not give a stone when asked for bread (Matthew 7:7-11). Then pray for your insufficiencies to be covered by His grace. God is more than capable of filling in the gaps we leave. After all, God is the One who invented this homeschooling process in the first place (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Living Your Life with No Regrets

I do not mean to imply that we should do whatever we feel like and just not care about the outcome. On the contrary, I do mean that we should live in such a way that whatever happens, we can live with the consequences. I attempt to live my life in as Christ-like a manner as possible, so that if I do not get a chance to “do-over” an action or a conversation, I am able to be content with it. Easy? Not a chance. Easier with practice? Definitely!

A large part of that process involves doing things right the first time. Doing things right the first time means I have to be thinking and planning ahead so as not to leave undone something I should do. I must say the correct thing at the right moment. I must exercise my faith in God’s leading to know I am doing the proper thing at the proper moment. At times, it will mean restraining my mouth from a tempting word or holding back a hurtful action, but the outcome will leave me at peace, having no regrets, Guilt-Free. It means living my life in the Spirit of God’s agape love and putting selfishness aside for the sake of others.

Sometimes those “others” will be my own family, who must come before anyone else. I should not do for outsiders what I have not first done for my own husband and children, lest they feel neglected and allow jealousy to creep in. Sometimes my children will share with me in giving, learning first-hand about having a servant’s heart as we work together to serve others.

Occasionally, we all have days that do not measure up to our own expectations. When that happens, stop and count the little accomplishments of that day (in schoolwork and/or housework) to gauge success. (“At least we will all have clean underwear for tomorrow.”) Some days, “attaining vertical posture” must be seriously counted as a goal! Living my life with no regrets means I will not set my own standards too high, I will accept what I did today, and I will try to do better tomorrow.

Learning to Walk — Seen as a New Lesson

Do you remember when you were teaching little Johnny how to walk? He would grip your hands with all his might, rock and teeter on his shaky legs, and wobble forward with one reluctant foot while the other remained behind, planted firmly but not really lending support to the Herculean effort being attempted. Eventually, those little feet learned which direction they were supposed to point, the leg muscles strengthened and coordinated their actions, resulting in step after step after step. Still a few attempts failed, bringing the whole body down with a jarring thud, only to be met with the determination and concentrated effort that propelled little Johnny once again to his feet and across the room to your waiting arms. You scooped him up in a giant bear hug, smothered him with kisses, and squealed with delight, “You DID it! You walked to Mommy! I KNEW you could do it!”

Now apply that picture to the latest lesson you are trying to teach homeschooler Johnny. Assure him that you know he can do this. Hold him tight until he gains his footing — do not let go too soon. Expect a few failures along the way, but do not take them to mean all is lost. Help him back up, dust him off, point him in the right direction, and allow him to try again — even if it means he might fall again. Not one of us here today is walking on our own without countless falls in our past. Success has been simplified to “getting back up,” and so it is with homeschooling. We will all fall. Those of us who have succeeded have simply refused to stay down.