teaching what {really} matters

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I have always sensed that homeschooling my children has been more of a learning experience for me than it has been for them.  Recently that reality became clear to me once again.  I have a child who struggles with math. I’ve been working diligently, day by day, sometimes hours at a time to help him understand.  We’ve made progress, no doubt, but with many bumps along the way.  This particular afternoon I sat down to correct his latest work and was disheartened to find numerous errors – many of which are things we’ve come back to over and over again.  I was alone in the kitchen, the kids having since gone out to explore and play on what was a truly beautiful afternoon. Baby was asleep – the house quiet. Tears began to well up in my eyes as words of doubt and fear crept into my thoughts.  I’m failing him. He’s never going to get this. What’s wrong with him…with me?

I sat in the quiet for a while, sort of blankly staring out the window. I imagined this child outside as he was, hiking through the woods, exploring and imagining…doing what he loves most. I could hear the sounds of the kids’ carefree voices in the distance. I resisted the urge to call him inside.

As I stepped away from the table and the stack of books that lay before me, I began to feel God’s grace wash over my heart. I felt Him speaking gently but clearly…This is not his gift. Focus on his gifts.

Immediately a sense of peace and joy began to dissolve my discouragement, and beauty and love took its place. This child is beautifully and wonderfully created,  I was reminded. My thoughts turned to his many shining gifts, and my love for him wiped away any disappointment I had felt. Perhaps I had been expecting what was never meant to be. Math may never be his thing. It’s okay! Math isn’t everything. For some, it may mean very little at all in life. Maybe there really isn’t anything broken here.

I didn’t ask for it in that moment, and I definitely didn’t deserve it, and yet I was offered grace once again. Thank you, Jesus.

The responsibility of educating my children on my own can feel like a heavy burden at times. I have to remind myself frequently of the reasons I chose this path – reasons that seem to get muddled up and fuzzy in the reality of the long and difficult days we sometimes have.  At times, my own faults and insecurities have led me to unfairly lay that burden on their shoulders as well.  It’s not fair of me to hold my children up to the expectations I have created out of my own experiences and desire to appease those nagging fears.  Teaching isn’t about forcing knowledge upon someone – I’m convinced it is all about discovering the truth and beauty that exists all around us- and in us.  What we are really doing here is forming souls. This child of mine, he works pretty hard at math. Who am I to expect more of him than he may be able to give? It’s there, in that realization, that I need to let go of my own expectations (which are sometimes the product of my own need for self-assurance), and beg Jesus to lead me. Beg Him not to let my own imperfections and brokenness break my children along the way.

I want to help them discover their strengths. I want to celebrate their interests. I want us to enjoy our time together. I want them to have happy memories of homeschooling. I am aware of how fleeting these moments are…the reality of it sometimes takes my breath away.

I realize that math isn’t going to go away, and I’m not giving up. We will keep working, and together we will move along.  Thankfully, through my own growth on this journey of homeschooling – which is all possible through God’s grace alone – my perspective has shifted. Priorities have been rearranged, in which excelling at mathematics (especially with the risk of great cost to ones peace and view of their self-worth) does not rank above knowing and loving the soul that God has placed in my care.  In His mercy, God has reminded me that good math scores don’t necessarily mean success (or bad ones failure), and that real learning happens as we discover our true selves, those traits and natural desires that He has woven into us and which direct us always back to Him. My job (my privilege) is to walk with my children, leading them on a path of love, support, and discovery. A journey that will, God-willing, help them to uncover their God-given strengths and talents, and ultimately the purpose God has for their lives.