There is a modern, cultural pressure that we do everything, even that we do everything well. It has taken most of my adult life to learn there is a difference between doing all things well and doing well at all I do. The first emphasizes quantity––how much I am doing––while the second emphasizes the quality of the work itself. Although the language is nuanced, the second statement implies that not all things are done; in fact, some things are not done at all.
When I first began homeschooling––and several times since––I often wondered, how will I do it all? How will I handle multiple ages and stages at once? How will they each get everything they need in education, experience, character, and life? How will I teach in my weak areas or in subjects I have never studied at all? Here is the short answer that stands true even now: One day at a time. One thing at a time. One request for help at a time.
Over a decade into this journey, we have yet to “do it all.” We have accomplished and learned so much together! Still, our homeschool––and I imagine many homeschools––have been more like a Bob Ross painting than a color-by-number project. We began with a blank slate and vision, but the early years look more like seemingly random white or green or blue formless blobs on the canvas than anything else. Although we kept to formal reading and math lessons, these lessons often seemed inconsistent juggling so many young children and needs. I looked at lesson plans (and created them!) with their tidy lines and congruent messaging, welcoming the path toward redeeming their education, but the reality never seemed as tidy as planned. One child might have been able to detail every type of dinosaur or shark but could not recite math facts––green blob. Another child might have regularly eschewed reading lessons for experimental baking or drawing or climbing trees and building elaborate imaginary worlds and forts––blue blob. Another child might write poems and letters and short stories but also droop shoulders at the study of grammar or spelling––white blob. I have story after story about the seemingly random blobs of paint on our educational canvas.
The details are clarifying as my older children grow older into young adults. I now catch glimmers of specific shapes in our metaphorical painting––perhaps the fortitude to practice difficult maths as an avenue to other ventures or understanding the community books can create with friends or the application of Logic or other critical skills to the movies they watch and the games they play. My favorite details have been the ones I didn’t imagine in that early vision, the gifts and endeavors that have sprung from their own design or personal vision.
The rub is always that I want to know the end from the beginning––in my life and in theirs––but for all our vision and observation and planning, I will never truly know how we each will become. This journey is simply a commitment to walk out the unknowns together. I have been aware of my weaknesses. In fact, those shortcomings can be the first voice within me to rise up and convince me not to do something, not to try something. Maybe you, too? Here’s a marvelous reality: our weaknesses do not disqualify us from teaching our own. If anything, they give us an opportunity to share a primary life lesson with our children at their earliest ages––we are all humble learners; we also need others.
Perhaps you are in a stage of days that feel like paint blobs. Perhaps you are frustrated by your own shortcomings or theirs. Perhaps you feel like you are drowning in it all. Let me whisper a small piece of hope: you do not need to do it all. Are there lessons or extras you can let go of for a time to create margin, to create room to breathe? Are there methods that are not working for your child/ren or for you any longer? Are there people around you to ask for help? I have hired tutoring help and home help at various points on this journey. I have bartered for help in times when our budget was slight. I have tossed our plans in the air and allowed each of us space to be inspired again and remember why we enjoy homeschooling or why we enjoy one another. I have shared my frustrations or tears with people who support me and tucked myself in bed early with books to strengthen my soul. I am not perfect and neither are my children, but more than a perfect experience, homeschooling is a commitment to one another, to each of us becoming. So we begin again: One thing at a time. One day at a time.