I have been a mess in so many ways lately. I am a mess thinking about how fast these homeschooling years are moving. I am a mess thinking of the future as we are working on graduating our seventh child, and considering the high school years of our eighth. And what a mess I am in the present. I feel a sense of urgency to fit everything in, yet always feel like I am not doing enough. I have great plans, but some of them get stuck at implementation or carry-through.
If you are just starting out and feeling the same, I would love to say these feelings will pass—but maybe not. I think they are very normal. I have had them for thirty years now. We are doing a big job, and sometimes big jobs are messy. And hopefully you know that though you may often feel like a mess, you are a blessed mess. You are blessed to have your children home and blessed to have the freedom to direct their education and discipleship. What an honor and privilege to walk with God in this calling.
A Messy Past
They were just babies, rocking in my arms. I was just teaching them to walk. I was singing over them. I was reading their favorite books a thousand times. I was taking them to zoos and museums and on nature walks. I was teaching them addition while adding more babies to the mix, and adding more children to the school schedule every couple of years. In those days not only were we a blessed mess in multiplied numbers, but in multiplied physical messes of more dishes and laundry and baths and bedtime routines. In those messy days, one of the main things I craved was quiet. Here is a journal entry from one of those past days in 2005 that may resonate with some of you now:
“I NEED QUIET!” That has been my plea lately. It’s not that it’s a zoo full of wild animals here, but it is a home of very active children … who all need me. Among the seven, I have one young teenager looking for something constructive to occupy his free time or else he is found picking on or micromanaging the others, one is in prepuberty emotional meltdown, one is a very “challenging” defiant child, then come two little boys who are full of energy and full of dirt, a two-year old who is either being disciplined or getting into something or (as of an hour ago) quietly cutting all the hair off of the top of her head. Add in the mix a new infant who needs regular attention and feedings—usually when I am in the midst of a crisis—it’s a messy chaos. And wherethere is chaos, there is discouragement. Why discouragement? Because there is always someone or something that needs my attention, and it’s never enough and never ending. I feel as though I am forever fighting fires instead of lighting the fires of those things I want them to love and learn. I know this is a season of intense busyness on my part, but I sometimes long for a wee bit of space and definitely a little quiet, a little peace. Lord, quiet my heart. Give me Your peace. Give me Your gentle, quiet spirit even in the middle of the mess. I am not enough, but You are. May I offer You to them.
Rather than quiet, I learned that I needed peace. I needed the peace of heart that acknowledges the Prince of Peace in my life. If I could quiet my heart before Him, I would find the peace I desired. If I could focus on Christ and His grace, and my mind was “stayed on Him” instead of focused on my inadequacies, my chaos, or my mess, that was where I found the peace and quiet my soul needed. Instead of being frustrated with my children, I could offer Christ’s peace to my children, too.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
A Messy Future
I know that when you have little ones, it is hard to imagine them ever grown. And though everyone tells you it goes by fast, it may not feel like it is going by fast at all; in fact, it may feel painfully slow. But the future is certain to come. How old will your child be in five years? You have five more springs, five more summers, five more Christmases. Suddenly, the children have grown and they are reading good literature, reasoning, and writing and following Jesus. Then a few more years and they have become adults with careers, college, or ministries. Are you a mess wondering if you or they will be prepared? This is where we trust that the same God with us now is the same God Who is preparing them for their future. We can help prepare for the future by, loving, leading, teaching, and pouring into them in the present. We have an uncertain, maybe messy, future, but we have a never-changing God who will help us redeem the time we have.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17).
A Messy Present
Most days are a blessed mess, and I am praising God for His blessings. Sometimes I fall. I can fall into despair, depression, or discouragement. I sink in the messy waters, often made of my own tears. I forget who I am and who God has made me to be. I forget my children are His precious gifts He’s given me to steward well. It reminds me of when Peter walked on the water. He remained upright as long as He kept his focus on Jesus. As soon as he looked around at the wind and waves, down he went. And down I go, too. Oh, me of little faith. This is a great parallel to homeschooling. We can’t even step out of our boat into the waters of homeschooling if we are going to take our gaze off our Savior. The same God Who created these waters of family life and homeschooling is the same God Who can keep us walking on them without sinking, even when the winds and waves come, and they will. So, today, keep your eyes on Him. Thank Him for your blessed homeschool mess. And if you fall, His hand is reaching to pull you back up to walk with Him another day. Truly, if the Son of God is before you, you need not worry about the past or be anxious about the future. He is with you.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:27-33).
Need help with managing the mess and gaining peace?
Here are some practical tips:
- Create a weekly schoolwork and chore chart for each child. They will know what to do without coming to you constantly. Each day, they check off the list as they go.
- Make extra chores fun. Write those jobs that are calling you, but you can’t get to, on slips of paper and put in a jar. Things like dust the living room, clean bathroom sink, wash sliding glass door, organize a drawer or cupboard, etc. Once a week, have an extra chore day. Everyone picks a slip from the jar. Put worship music on and enjoy the time working together. When all done, have a reward or special snack for everyone.
- When you have large loads of clean laundry, have a “laundry party” where you put on a favorite movie and everyone folds together.
- Take the youngest child’s daily naptime and make that everyone’s quiet time. Even thirty minutes of rest is a huge blessing to everyone. Quiet time rules: children may read or play quietly on their bed. No talking or loud noises. No bothering mom unless it is an emergency. Give everyone a journal that they can write or draw in during their quiet time.
- Take a fifteen-minute break once a day where everyone cleans up something that you have listed on a white board for that day. (They will also have their separate assigned chores at other times). Set a timer and go fast. Erase the chore from the board when done.
- Put a daily alarm on your phone to remind you to return your focus to Christ and thank Him for this blessed homeschool mess.
Copyright 2022, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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