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Feeling Like a Terrible Mother

image - upset mother

Way last June (!), I received this note:

Please, please could you help me out with something?  Sometimes I think I missed out on your “foundational fours” and need to spend time going back to that.  Our multi-grade classroom is not working, and I’m going crazy.

It’s like everyone is talking at once and needs my attention and butts in — and I could just scream!  I’ve tried scheduling, but neither my 1st or 3rd grader can work alone completely.  We use Christian Light for language arts, reading and math, which is so good and is teaching them to be more independent, but how do I teach them to patient and take their turn?

To be honest, I’ve been made to feel so guilty by these “all clad in white, home sewn garment” homeschool families, who use no curriculum and have FUN!  I tried a looser approach… Bottom line? My children need structure to progress in math and language arts.  Pictures of moms cuddling on sofas, reading to children, make me sick.  If you came to my house, you’d see me yelling!  Add to this mix a delightful 4-year-old who would like to start doing school, too.  The only enthusiastic one.  When I schedule our day, I hear, “Why must I do this first, I wanna do my math” or “This many pages?” and such.

If we just get through Bible and those subjects once a day, I am exhausted.  Mostly it is all we achieve in one morning. Then the never-ending list of “supposed to’s” like nature study, social science, art, poetry and… and… and… just gets pushed to the back of the pile.  I’m beginning to wonder if we’re ever to do anything fun again.

I’ve tried so many things I feel like crying: work boxes, re-arranging furniture, tote boxes, a myriad of curricula, charts, rules, etc.  My husband says I should punish the children, then I see the “love to learn” slogan flash before my eyes and I think, “Oh, what am I doing wrong.  How come I have to spank my children to do school, while other children lay about the couch and have fun?

Please, please help.  I feel like a terrible mother.

I feel badly that I’ve taken so long to write back to this mom. Her email was one of those “hmmm” emails that has had me thinking for months.

I can see myself in what she has written. I’ve thought much about her words, and I want you to know that just because this is on my “Official Blog” and looks all fancy, doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with this, too! In fact, she just about nailed every struggle I’ve ever had, on a realistic morning with wiggly children and a splitting headache from all the noise.

So after many months, here are my thoughts, spoken mostly as reminders to myself:

  • I will be much happier if I don’t compare myself to other homeschooling mothers.

I especially shouldn’t compare myself to other blogging homeschooling mothers, because the Internet has a way of making imperfect things look perfect.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise… For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:12, 18).

Even though we are blessed to have so many other wise mothers who have gone before us, from whom we can learn, we homeschooling moms need to be careful that we aren’t trying to get the imaginary approval of experts. As this verse says, it’s the one “whom the Lord commends” who is approved.

  • God’s Word is the only standard for good homeschooling methods.

“Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
   and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).

There is so much advice on the Internet! By the time we surf the web, read magazines, go to conferences, collect how-to books, and discuss it all with our friends, we can get thoroughly confused and disillusioned.

We would be wise to step away from the screen and put down the books — and pick up the only Book that matters.

Practically speaking, open up the Bible to the book of Deuteronomy. Read it. Devour it. Brood over it. If you have any extra time, open up the book of Proverbs. Load it on your mp3 player. Put it in your purse. Place it on your coffee table.

If those were the only parenting books you ever read, you would certainly prosper!

  • Parenting isn’t about having fun.

I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. Yes, home should be a pleasant place to be. However, we are to disciple our children, which is very. hard. work.

“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18, KJV).

Here are two things I’m working on emphasizing in my own home this year. (In other words, these are areas where I still need work, but they are goals.)

  1. Keeping my children with me, so I can immediately teach and correct. As the Bible says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15, KJV).
  2. Teaching my children that God is watching and that others are precious. This is the most important “content” of my homeschooling day, no matter what else we accomplish. As the Bible says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

How am I doing on this? Well, it’s a work in progress.

  • The rest of my advice is to try to find satisfaction in the job God has give you as a mother.

When I wake up in the morning, I have high expectations, both for myself and my children. Sometimes I spend so much time thinking about my life (and what is wrong with it) that I can get myself really worked up. It can keep me from smiling and even from sleeping. Who wants to be around a wife and mother like that?!

I was recently reading through Ecclesiastes, especially chapter 5-7, and I learned that life will be more pleasant if I just don’t let myself get ruffled by so many things.

“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

Since reading these verses, I’ve been trying to find satisfaction and enjoyment in the little things, and to be happy in my work. I’m certainly not perfect at this, as any of my children would quickly tell you, but I feel like it has given me a new freedom. Life will not be perfect, and schedules will not work out the way I hoped. Regardless, if I stop reflecting on every little thing, God will keep me occupied with gladness of heart.

I hope this is helpful to you. I don’t have any of this mastered, but I suspect that one of the reasons why God says children are a blessing is because being a mother changes me, making me more into the image of His Son. Maybe it’s not so much about teaching my children to be good as it is getting a lot of practice teaching myself to be good.

~Anne

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Comments

  1. Thank You. I needed this, this morning. I’ve had other wize homeschool mothers tell me not to compare myself or my children to others but sometimes I need reminding. We do your Bible curriculum every day. Some days it is all that gets done. I’m ok with it. My oldest son has said he wants to be a “gospel preacher” and has since he was 4 (he’s now a month from 7). My daughter wants to be a Sunday school teacher (9). It hit me hard at the beginning of this school year that I had a planned out curriculum for every subject except Bible. We were just gonna read Bible stories another year. I had no idea how to TEACH the Bible!! I was failing my wanting-to-be-preacher son and my daughter. I prayed and cried and prayed some more and was lead to your web site. I am blessed. If my children learn NOTHING else, they will (by the grace of God) know Him and His word. It is settled in my heart that, that is enough. Don’t get me wrong, we still make it to language arts, math, american sign language, and “every day living” science (with history thrown in by my very busy husband!) on most days. I just no longer feel worthless when we don’t.
    Sorry didn’t mean to rattle on. Just intended to say Thank you for sharing with us.
    Beth

  2. Thank you! As a mother of five, six years and under, this was a great encouragement to me today. I feel like I could have written that letter some days. My goal this year is to rejoice in the blessings we have in Christ each day, and to teach my children to do the same. Thanks again for the reminder!

  3. Anne, you are soooo wise, and find just the right passages from Our Lord’s precious Word to ‘splain things so clearly and with great foundation.

    One thing that I’ve found helpful comes from Isaiah 54:13
    And all your children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of your children.

    So when I’m feeling that I’m letting my kids down with their schooling, I try to remind myself that it isn’t down to me: I’m just the facilitator or the helper in God’s plan for my kids.

  4. I have a devotional by Corrie Ten Boom and she quotes Hudson Taylor, “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up by asking God to do his work through me.”

    I too often feel like a terrible mother and struggle with doing and being enough. I yell, break down, wish to call the local school, sometimes all in the same day. Instead, this year my goal is just to ask God to do His work through me, my kids, my husband. Its His work that matters and that is what he will empower me to do.

    On another day, she writes, “God’s resources are not limeited to out natural abilities. We cannot use the excuse that we are not qualified.” The daily scripture is John 15:5, ” It is theman who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For apart from me you can do nothing at all. (Phillips)”

  5. I am going to print this email and keep it in my planner. Thank you for the wonderful reminders. It is so easy to get distracted, to take my eyes off God and His plans for my life and get tripped up.

  6. Thank you Anne! I sat down with my cup of coffee this morning feeling defeated! My next thought was of you…Anne is sure to have something to say about what I am feeling…and sure enough between what you shared on “I feel Like a Terrible Mother” and the additional verse from one of your fans, I have a fresh outlook. We use Classical Conversations and the goal is for the children to know God and make Him known. I now look at that mission with fresh eyes. Thank you for the encouragement!

  7. This is a very timely blog post. I am so much like the mother that wrote that letter! I actually just spent all of Wed afternoon crying about what a horrible job I’m doing. I especially appreciate your reminder that it’s God’s expectations we are supposed to live up to. Thank you for your encouragement. 🙂

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