Encouragement Homeschool

I Kissed Perfection Good-bye

I was overconfident to begin with, so maybe I doomed myself from the beginning.

But I’d already brought three children into the world, so why should I be rattled by the impending arrival of a fourth?  I could handle another baby.  I’d done this all before!

kissed perfection good-bye

I was managing life nicely, after all.  Not perfectly, perhaps, but as close to it as any mother of three children could ever hope to do!  Perfection, or at least the appearance of it, had become very important to me, and I was smug in my confidence I could carry on the charade a while longer.

But then baby #4 arrived, all 6 pounds of him, and that beautiful, precious baby boy was cranky and demanding and generally dissatisfied with everything in his world.  He wanted to nurse constantly.  He didn’t want to sleep.  Ever.  He wanted all of my attention at all times and he had the will, (and the lungs,) to fight until he got it.

My 4-year-old and her 2-year-old brother quickly began an all-out war for all the attention their sleep-deprived, emotionally-spent mother didn’t have to give them.  My not-quite-8-year-old was blindsided by all the changes and by a mother who was showing a “Mrs. Hyde-Side” she had never witnessed before.  Having just started a small business, my husband was working ridiculously long hours trying to get things established.  As much as he wanted to help me, he, too, was overwhelmed.

My life was nursing, changing diapers, breaking up fights, and filling sippy cups.  That was it.

And my house.  Oh, my house!  Dusty furniture and soap scummy showers went untouched.  Floors weren’t mopped and carpets weren’t vacuumed and clutter piled up everywhere.  It was all I could do to keep the children fed and mostly clean and on a good day, I might manage to wash a single load of laundry so they could be clothed as well.

I cried and cried, not merely because my house was messy and I couldn’t seem to satisfy a grumpy baby and his siblings, but because my view of myself, my image of what I was supposed to be had been destroyed.  My “perfect life” had crumbled as the fragile, phony dream it really was.

I felt so weak, so inadequate.  I was an utter and complete failure.

So you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with homeschooling.  Well that painful time in my life set into motion a change of mindset that would benefit me greatly in the days to come, though I was completely oblivious to it at the time.

Slowly I came to accept that my house would never grace the pages of my favorite decorating magazine, but I could strive instead to have a warm and inviting, (albeit messy,) home.  I couldn’t prepare gourmet dinners every night, but I could fill our table with love and laughter instead.  I couldn’t be everything and do everything I dreamed of, but I could focus on the four precious gifts God had given me and make my raising of them my top priority.

Now in the role of a homeschooling mom I apply the same principles.  Accepting reality and keeping priorities in place has proven essential to my homeschooling success.  No, I can’t have perfection, but I’ve learned that not being perfect is perfectly okay!

I fully accept that…

I can’t have a perfect house.  It’s a home, not a museum, and our home is where we love and play and eat and sleep and learn.   That’s a lot of living crammed within four walls, so I refuse to fret over some mess!

I can’t have the perfect schoolroom.  I can spend my days moaning about all the things I wish we had, things I’m convinced would make school easier or more enjoyable or the educational benefit greater, or I can just buck up and do my best with what God’s given me.  My attitude will have far more to do with our homeschooling success than a picture-perfect classroom and to-die-for teaching materials.

I can’t have perfect students.  I want to see my children achieve great things, but I want to see it out of love for them and hope for their future, not to satisfy my own ego.  I want to value their differences and never judge their worth, (or mine,) by their academic success.  God created them with unique strengths and diverse weaknesses and it is my job to cultivate the one and mend the other to the best of my ability.  When I’ve done that, I’ve done all that I can do.

I’m not striving for perfection.  Not anymore.  I’m simply doing my best at the most important job I will ever do, striving to bolster my children’s faith and mold them into hard working, respectable members of society.

And if I manage to succeed, tell me what on earth could be more perfect than that?

First and foremost, Tanya Holt is a servant of Christ.  Beyond that she’s a wife to Alika, her Hawaiian-born, Texas-raised husband whom she met in Pennsylvania, and together they’re raising and educating four amazing kids in her home state of Kentucky.  She loves to cook, frequent flea markets and junk shops, work in children’s/youth ministries, and write.  You can follow her blog at www.kentuckysketches.blogspot.com where she loves to muse about all of these things, along with her greatest passion–homeschooling.

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  • Perfection in any area of life is a man-made illusion. This is why grace is needed in every dimension and fortunately we have a Father Who is perfect at providing it. So when we do our best with God’s provision, that IS perfect in the opinion of the only One Who matters. Great words and insight. As a matter of fact, just perfect.

  • You have no idea how much I needed to read this today. It was like you were talking about my household- except I only have a two year old and a four month old that is always dissatisfied with life. 🙂 The two year old thinks I should play with her all the time and the four month old thinks she should never sleep. And I think I might lose my mind. lol Thank you for the encouragement and reminder that I don’t have to be perfect.

    • Our house is still far from perfect, but at least I get to sleep now!! 🙂 I remember being so overwhelmed in those days and though other mothers would tell me from time to time, “Hold on, honey. It’ll get better,” it was SO HARD to believe it! But that difficult stage in my life taught me so much and, I think, made me a much better mom in the end. Be encouraged, Mary! It WILL get better!! And you don’t have to be perfect along the way!

  • I needed to read this at thus exact moment, as these thoughts were swirling about. This describesy life to a T, except that it was the birth of my third son which “shattered” my “perfect” life. He’s now 2 1/2, and I still feel u am digging out, and striving to be ok with our new normal. The harder I try it seems the more I see myself failing. Sigh.
    Your post describes my daily mantra. Just need to reset the scale to achieve our balance.

    • Learning to accept the “new normal” was anything but easy, but I truly did learn so much along the way about what really matters most! As women and moms we set such unrealistic expectations for ourselves sometimes. We’re supposed to somehow be perfect wives, perfect mothers, perfect housekeepers, and perfect homemakers and when we can’t live up to everything we expect of ourselves, it’s such a let-down. But just like you said, often we just have to reset the scale, determine what’s really important, and forget about trying to achieve perfection!

      Thanks for reading!

  • I too really needed to read this. I have eight kids and since our last sweet little bundle arrived six months ago I have constantly felt like a failure in everything. It is so difficult to homeschool six kids, and take care of a toddler, a baby and the household of ten people! Then add in a broken dryer, broken dishwasher and other random things to make life interesting. I am coming to grips though that homeschooling does not mean my children will be perfect. If a child is struggling with something – chances are they would struggle at school too and that it is not directly my fault. So thank you for your honesty and sincerity. It is posts like this that give me hope that we will make it after all!!

    • There wasn’t time and room enough to explain all the circumstances I dealt with during that time of my life, but when I began homeschooling I, too, discovered one of my children had some “learning challenges.” It was so discouraging! Not only was I a rotten mother and housekeeper, but I was a rotten TEACHER, too! 😉 But through all of that, like never before I came to realize my need for God’s grace for each day. And I also came to see that SO MANY of the things I thought were so important really AREN’T!

      Be encouraged, Mindy! At the moment, you’re homeschooling TWICE the children I am right now, plus handling a toddler and a baby. Perfection just isn’t impossible! But it’s incredible what you’re doing, and your desire and determination to do it couldn’t be more perfect!

  • Tonya,
    Really great to hear that perfection isn’t the actual goal in homeschooling let alone in simply raising our children. Just doing the best we can with what we have all with a great godly attitude (well at least striving for that) is the goal. I too strived for perfection and SUPER structure in our very first year of school. I created a kindergarten homeschool room with everything in its place thinking that, “Welp, I’m all done. Schoolroom is finished”, as if school would then just take care of itself afterward. Then came the REALITY CHECK! I mean, I knew that it would be work, BUT, wow I didn’t really prepare myself for full commitment to teaching (working on my child’s attitude and mine included). I found out all the uniforms I bought (yes uniforms – albeit super clearanced) and all the visual aids that I put up wouldn’t fix everything. Tweeking my curriculum and my attitude (still working on this part) is what it would take. Thanks for this post. It lets me know that the well established homeschooling mom faces challenges too just like those of us newbies who cringe at the thought of anyone else peeking into our daily “issues”.