Thursday, 29 September 2016

Home Education Struggles

Our choice to home educate is something which sets us apart, and which, though it brings many joys, does come with sacrifices. Often, it is difficult to talk about these; perhaps because it is easy to feel that I need to defend our decision not to go the usual route, or because I don't want to talk down something that many can be critical of so easily. If I say to someone that I've had a tough week, the last thing I need is a suggestion that I send my children to school!

However, there are difficulties, and if you are considering home education, it is good to have a realistic idea of what you are getting into. If you are already home educating your children, I am sure that you will have struggled at times, and it is good to know that you are not alone in this.

So, here are some aspects of home education that I find difficult. I'm sure that not everyone will find the same aspects of this life a challenge in the same way, and many of these struggles reveal my particular weaknesses and sins, but here they are none the less.

Identity. Many of my contemporaries with young children (home educating friends aside) have jobs outside the home. Some are part-time, some full-time, but overall I feel in a minority. Many times, I have wished that I could have a better, more respected, label: "doctor" or "lawyer" or "civil servant". Instead, I'm an amateur trying my best at the tricky job of educating children.

Responsibility. The weight of responsibility for my children's well-being lies heavily on me. This is true of all parents - I know that my friends who send their children to school feel the same too - but the added pressure of choosing what to teach and implementing that can feel overwhelming at times. It is only September, and I am already beginning to make mental plans for next year. Even when the day's teaching is done, the term is over, the school year is finished, my brain never switches off from thinking about what we will be doing next with each child.

Time. As with any full-time occupation, teaching your children at home takes up huge chunks of time. This is, of course, a good thing - it is good to be occupied well and profitably. The particular burden is that there is no division between "school" and home, and there can be little respite from the intensity of life with young children - at least not without careful planning.

Weariness. I'm not just thinking about late nights marking books or close-to-the-midnight-deadline shopping orders (though this is certainly part of it), but about repeating "start with the verb" fifty times a day during Latin, or trying to teach my children to eat cake without getting crumbs on the floor yet again. Children need routine and repetition, and it is costly to be committed to being there for the boring bits, day in day out.

As I look back at what I have written, I see my selfishness and my worldliness. The answer doesn't lie in change of circumstances, but in change of perspective.

My identity is in Christ, not in my role. He has called me to himself, and, for this season, to teach and train my children in his ways. I may crave recognition for my gifts, but he teaches me humility.

My responsibilities for my children are significant, but I cannot do what only Christ can do - save them. I know I need to pray more, not worry in an ungodly way, and rely less on my detailed planning.

I think in our culture and our times we feel entitled to time for ourselves, time to fill with idle pleasure. When I think about myself, I can resent the sheer amount of time my children take up. However, I need to look again to Christ, who gave himself for me. He gives me real rest in him if I seek it - better than any number of lie-ins, or quiet hours with a cup of tea and a book that I often long for.

I am weary - but lifting my eyes to Christ refreshes.

I am weary, but serving my children and my family is worth being weary for.

I am weary, but I follow Jesus who calls his disciples to come and die to self, and live for him.

My children - who do bring so much joy!


  1. Hi Lizzy, I agree & can definitely vouch for other homeschoolers feeling like this at times as well!II also agree with your conclusion about a change of perspective being the key. I had a couple of thoughts to add...
    - Sometimes I think it is also a case of "the grass is greener"; we can have a naive outlook on how much easier our lives would be in different circumstances when the reality is very probably that we would fill any spare time there might happen to be with further task-related things, meaning life would be no different.
    - I do think that rest & spiritual/physical refreshment is not only biblically supported but also an investment in others, therefore not selfish: in order to continue to have something to pour out, we need to replenish our stocks. I appreciate this is not always easy to achieve in practice but nonetheless, I believe in the principle.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lizzy :-)

    1. Thanks Sinead - I'm sure that you're right about "the grass is greener" kind of thoughts - not helpful to have that attitude.