Christian. Wife. Mom. Weirdness Magnet. Choosing Laughter and Joy.

I am Officially a Failed Homeschooler. And I am OK with that.

I have been a homeschooler for seven years. Before we even had kids, I was super excited about the thought of homeschooling. The bonding! The fun! The books! All those school supplies! I bought a pre-k curriculum for Ethan when he was three. I was pumped, people! Then the actual attempt at “schooling” began. Almost from the very beginning, heels were dug in, arms crossed, chin tucked for a battle. Up was down, left was right, black was white. The kid who loved to read books hated it when it was “you have to.” And I mean I read the book to him.. Oh, the story of reading…. Lets take a rabbit trail here…

I worked some on teaching Ethan how to read. We mainly focused on just “learning.”  Not on “how to read.” We studied letters and sounds, I read a lot. We played games that helped. Once it came to actually trying to read actual words in an actual book, nothing. He’d guess based on the picture (if there was one), or he’d say “hippopotomus” when it was “it.” I bought 4 different “teach your kid to read” curricula/plans. He was seven and not reading. I wasn’t super worried, I’ve read Ruth Beechik’s books, I knew he’d get it eventually. Enter my pregnancy with Riley. I puked/was nauseous daily for eight months. Four months in, when I finally realized the sickness might not stop, we enrolled Ethan in the Academy at our church, because I couldn’t teach him plus take care of the three and five year old. I talked to the teacher before he started school. I told her that Ethan was really smart, but he wasn’t reading and had a horrible attitude about reading (Noel even got frustrated trying to teach him to read. Noel NEVER gets frustrated). She was ready to work with him and do what needed to be done. First day of school: I go to pick him up, ask the teacher how the day went. She tells me, “Great! He read a couple books and….”  I don’t know what else she said, because I fainted when she told me he’d read… He. Could. Read. He just wouldn’t. For me and his dad. I wanted to hug him and strangle him at the same time. Don’t worry, I only hugged him.

Anyway, that’s a little snapshot of what I’ve been dealing with. Add to all that a high maintenance toddler, a husband who works a lot and travels for work, almost constant/chronic migraines and two other school aged kids who have had this strong-willed defiance modeled perfectly for them and are wonderful mimics, and it’s a homeschool nightmare. At least for me. Last year I cried almost daily for two months. The energy and battle of just getting one subject done was exhausting. I felt like a complete and utter failure. As a mom. As a homeschooler. As a woman. Just at life. We switched curriculum (curriculae?) so there was less of Me teaching. Things improved microscopically. Through all of this, I have prayed. I have prayed. I have prayed. I have googled. I have asked for advice. I have homeschool-boards/blogs stalked. In the deepest darkest places last fall, I realized that this homeschool journey was similar to my breastfeeding journey. Yes, I think that breastfeeding is ideal. I also think homeschooling is ideal. Both of these are ideal- until they aren’t. Once your relationship with your child is negatively affected by something, that something is no longer ideal. Ack! My brain struggles with that. What’s best for one should be best for all! Just make it so! Right?!?!? ( I would make a fabulous Evil Dictator… Just saying…) I’m such a black and white person, this lesson is really hard for me to get. I do not believe in “situational ethics.” Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. God’s word is true, whether we like what it says or not. But there are areas of life that aren’t moral or immoral. Sin or not sin. Lots of those areas surround parenting. Each child really is different. Each family really is different. Families really do have different seasons. It’s not a matter of giving in, but of giving up control to God. Control is only an illusion anyway. Having kids just reinforces the fact that we are not in control of our lives. This is  what I tell my married friends who don’t think they’re ready for kids. “No one’s ever ready for kids! Kids just show you, in the flesh, daily, that you are not in control. God is. We can only listen and obey Him and try our best to follow the path He has for us.”  Thus speaketh Lindsey.

My kids were not flourishing. My relationship with my kids was not flourishing. The rate we were going, I was going to end up with an ignorant High school graduate who hated his mother. And I’m not exaggerating. I had a death grip on homeschooling. Hanging by my fingertips and struggling for survival when all I had to do was let go and fall back onto the soft recliner that was right under me the whole entire time (that would be sending my kids to the Academy.) Be glad you’re not me, people. It’s hard and exhausting having to learn everything the long, slow, hard way!

This year, my three older kids are attending the Academy. They all love it. Their excitement for school and learning is awesome. No, it’s not perfect, but my kids are happier. I have a huge weight off of my shoulders. We all feel free. I have had many opportunities to comfort Ethan, encourage him and support him. I am now the righter-of-wrongs and fixer-of-problems instead of “The Bad Guy.” And yes, I still have innumerable opportunities to teach my children and to soften their strong wills; those opportunities are just separate now from their education.

I don’t know what the future holds for my kids’ educations. I am now smart enough to know that it might not be what I envisioned, but I will obey God even if my pride suffers. I will listen and be patient instead of blustering through with what I “know” is best.  It is hard for me though. I still have this idea in my head of what I wanted homeschooling to look like for our family. I spent years trying to make it a reality and now I’ve accepted that it isn’t ever going to happen the way I picture it- even if we were to homeschool again. It’s a grieving process. I get teary-eyed seeing homeschool blogs with photos of their children quietly working at a table. Then I remember that God gave my kids and I to each other for a reason and it might not look how I think it should, but by golly I’m going to trust in the God of all Creation and I will not mourn for what He hasn’t given me, but I will celebrate what He has given me! And he’s given me FOUR strong-willed, intelligent, awesome kids who happen to not flourish being homeschooled!

A wise person I was talking to about homeschooling asked me this question that stabbed right to my heart, “Did you ever ask God if He wanted you to homeschool?”  Ow! That one hurts! Are there things we do because we know they’re best, but haven’t asked God about? Have we applied morality to things that are amoral? What a mess we make!

My conclusion is that you can be a great parent and have your kids go to the worst inner city school on the planet. You can be a horrible parent who happens to homeschool. The form that your kids’ education takes does not define what kind of parent you are. Your relationship with your children defines what kind of parent you are. Don’t get those things messed up. It all comes down to relationship. (I am of course, a parenting expert being that my oldest is 10. I’m basing this off of observing people, families, parents and kids.)

First Day of School!

I am still adjusting to not homeschooling. A couple weeks ago I met another mom and we started talking about homeschooling. She was a homeschooler and she asked me if I was. I said, “Yes! Wait, I mean no! No, I’m not anymore!  I used to, though….” Pretty sure she thinks I’m a crazy person. I make great first impressions… It’s a spiritual gift…

 

Of Velociraptors and Beards and Mascara

Riley’s attempt at waterproof mascara application… Pretty impressive for a novice!
And yes, my 2 year old still uses a pacifier. Go ahead and judge!

Here are two unrelated stories with two unrelated photos. Well the photos relate to each other, but not to either story.

Last week Riley was helping me with laundry. We loaded the washer up and I grabbed the plastic container that I keep my homemade laundry detergent in and somehow managed to dump it and all it’s contents onto Riley’s head. And eyes. And mouth. And nose. The detergent is veeeeeery fine powder. Not good to come in contact with mucous membranes… I  hurriedly wiped/swatted at his eyes and mouth. He very bravely cried just a little. I raced him to the bathroom, stripped his dust covered clothes off, ran the bath, put him in the tub and then proceeded to half drown the kid by pouring water over his face to clean out his eyes/nose/mouth. Oddly enough he didn’t thank me for my senses-saving speed. We will be working on being grateful this week. What are kids coming to these days?

Here’s a  story from a long time ago.  These stories have nothing in common other than being about my children. La la la… Welcome to my world!

A certain firstborn child was born strong willed. Proof: He was still in the hospital from BEING BORN and he HATED being swaddled. He would fuss and fight and wiggle his way out of the blanket burrito. Less than 24 hours old!  Anyway, he was the advanced age of 3 for this story. It was a Sunday morning, and Noel had gone to church early to run sound or play bass on the worship team. I was getting my toddler (in my world 3 is still toddler), my baby and myself ready for church when toddler misbehaved. I can’t remember what it was, but whatever the transgression was, it was a doozy. Toddler needed to say he was sorry. He wouldn’t. It was a battle of wills and I finally told him to sit on his bed until he said he was sorry. Now this had started at about 8 AM. We needed to leave for church between 9:30 and 9:45. 9:30 came around and he wouldn’t apologize. Would. Not. I called Noel to see what I should do; be late to church if need be in order to be consistent or “give in” and let him down so we could get to church on time. Noel and I both thought I should wait him out. I would go in his room every so often and give him the opportunity to say what he needed to say. I was met with stony silence and complete refusal to talk.  He would not even just repeat what I said. Complete silence…. My blood pressure steadily climbed as the hands on the clock spin around and around. Noel came home from church around 1:30. Guess who was still on their bed. Noel finally brought that “experience” to a conclusion and after dealing with it, I was a shivering, quaking mass of stress, apprehension, frustration, and exasperation. Totally exhausted from this hours long battle with a tiny human! Said tiny human comes out of his room and acts like nothing happened. No big deal to him and I feel like I need a week long spa trip after this epic battle…

Same day. The entire never-used roll of paper from my label maker. Thank you Riley!

Fast forward a few weeks or maybe months. (I have mommy brain, time is blurry to me) It’s a Saturday night. Tiny human commits a crime that would be a felony if he weren’t a minor (OK, not really, but it was a super doozy). He needs to apologize. He won’t. He has to sit on a chair in the living room until he apologizes. This started near bed time. He is still sitting on the chair at 10 PM; we tell him he needs to go to bed, but he can’t get out of bed until he says what he needs to say. Guess what. I missed church that Sunday because a little boy was stubbornly sitting silently on his bed (for almost 18 hours! Counting sleeping.) When I called Noel to tell him we wouldn’t be making it to church I said, “That kid will sit on his bed until he turns 18 to prove his point.” Again it was brought to conclusion by Dad. And I never made that mistake again.

It only took me those two times to realize that I could not make open-ended consequences like that with him: he would test me every time and more than likely end up sitting on his bed until age 18.(Or maybe later. He would maybe still be sitting there at age 35, only getting down to use the bathroom. He’d have a Rip Van Winkle beard and we could charge people admission to look at him and try to coerce him into saying “I’m sorry” so we could finally let him down and be reunited as a family…. Maybe I went about this the wrong way… That sounds like a great money maker…. Hello Reality TV!)

Strong-willed kids are like the Velociraptors in the movie “Jurassic Park.” Even though their perimeter fence  is electrified and always on, they regularly test it because they are certain that eventually the boundary will fail. Even though they get shocked and it’s painful, the hope and expectation that just once, they’ll get away with it and “win” is worth it. And it was! The power did go off! They got out! They ate the people in charge of the fence. Dude. Did you see Jurassic Park? That’s scary and intense and exhausting. (For the people. Not the Velociraptors. They just ate the people. Slurp.)

So where am I going with this? I have no clue. My kids are like man-eating dinosaurs with rabid beards (and sharks) or something… Where can I go from there? Slurp….

 

And yes I know I was a lot a little over bearing/high strung with my guinea pig first born. I’m better now. Much smarter about which battles I choose to fight.

 

 

 

Once More, With Feeling

One more post about pain and migraines and then I’ll leave it. I promise. For realz. (And this isn’t a “poor me! I is a victim, please mail your pity to my address. There be a point I’m trying to share)

I have had pain, from mild to debilitating, regularly since the age of 10. The last decade it has increased in frequency and strength. But it was gradual. It creeped up on me. Not until I was talking to my chiropractor about if migraines interfered with my life did I really grasp how my entire life, and ultimately my identity, had been altered by migraines; both the actual pain of and the attempt to avoid them. (My name is Lindsey-of-the-Migraines) I’ve given up things I love, I’ve missed out on experiences, I’ve been stressed out and overwhelmed over “catching up” when I do feel better, I’ve felt horrible guilt for not being able to be the wife/mom/friend/daughter/ granddaughter/in-law etc. that I want to be.

I’ve allowed migraines to become the loud, overbearing, control-freak, self-absorbed, lip-smacking, demeaning, dysfunctional dude that we warn our friends away from, but they stay with him because they don’t think they deserve any better. (And that is in no way some secret message to anyone I know. I don’t do passive-aggressive, but I thought I’d clarify)

The point I want to make is that miserable became normal. It was gradual enough and over a long enough period of time that I was blind to my life decreasing. Desperate enough to be content with a half-life. Grateful for scraps when there’s a banquet going on above me that I can’t see. (I do have an amazing life, a fantastic husband and super kids and more blessings than I could ever count. This is not me complaining about my life. I am absurdly grateful for the crazy huge blessings in my life. This is me giving pain a swift kick in the rear and seeking the best for myself and my family)  I know I’m not the only one grown content with misery. Grateful for mediocrity and mere survival. In most people it’s not going to be a physical cause. Most people are trapped by their minds, how they see themselves, the value they feel they have. Lies told and believed. Afraid to hope too much or dream too big or believe the truth.

Here’s the truth about YOU:

YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made! (read Psalm 139:14)

 ”But in all these things YOU overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved YOU. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate YOU from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

“For I know the plans I have for YOU,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper YOU and not to harm YOU, plans to give YOU hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“For YOU are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; Jesus came that YOU may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

(emphasis mine)

These verses are true about you and about me. No matter the circumstance. No matter the failing, the bad decisions, or the sin. Ignore the lies in your head or in other peoples’ words (or actions). God chose to make you and He thinks you’re pretty amazing. You have incredible value and importance to the God of creation! That’s kind of a big deal! You’re kind of a big deal!

Let’s quit settling. Let’s quit accepting mediocrity. No longer be content with scraps. Be who YOU were created to be. Live the life God has planned for you! Fight back against the enemy (He is real, he is out there and he hates you and me. And I’m not talking about terrorists or IRS agents or TSA workers, but Satan.)

My prayer today is that hope springs anew in your heart and life. That peace overfills your spirit and you are overwhelmed by God’s great, immeasurable love for you. No pit is too deep, no situation too dire, no sin too bad, no pain too permanent for Him to reach you and set you free to live your abundant life.