I wrote this post for another homeschool site that I blog on. I ran across it again today and decided to share it here, as a record of my journey, and of God’s faithfulness through trials and times that appear dark. The following was my experience with homeschooling at the end of 2017.
As a blog writer for this group, and for my personal blog, I have never before experienced the writer’s block that I am currently going through.
I am a week late on my deadline, and not for unconcern. I do not take my commitment to this group lightly. Through the past month, I have frequently had ideas for blog articles buzzing around in my mind, but when the time came for me to harness them, they just didn’t seem to fit. So, I am going to write from my heart, and pray that what I share will connect with someone out there.
Sometimes on a homeschool page like this one, we present information, and it seems like we are some sort of experts on the homeschooling process. Just forget about that portrayal. I can assure you that when we share anything, it is because we have tried many ideas and finally found one that has worked, or that we hope will work out. We might not share the umpteen flops, failures, and moments of sheer desperation that led us to our “instant successes.”
This school year I prayed for opportunities for our boys to learn practical skills. I meant that prayer. But, I had no idea how that would play out. Even that is an understatement. My husband and I made plans for apprenticeship opportunities, in controlled settings, at predictable times, in mind for learning skills. I would drop off our eldest for a couple of hours with a mechanic, and go pick him up, or something like that. The details hadn’t materialized, but we had plans. Beware of plans. Of course, we have to make plans, but just be careful about holding too tightly to them.
You see, we had other plans too, plans which involved property, dabbling in homesteading, and clearing land. We had plans to ease into a “build-as-you-can” project, and slowly work our way into our off-grid Home-Sweet-Home. Through some unanticipated life turns, we suddenly realized that we would need to crank up the schedule of land preparation, and that “easing into it” would change to “get it in gear!”
The high-gear stage began when we needed to rent a piece of heavy machinery to help with the clearing. When you’re paying for a big machine, everything begins to revolve around efficiency so that you don’t waste rental hours. That’s sort of when homeschool began also to revolve around whatever we needed to do to “get ‘er done!” Early hours, late nights, and a picnic every day became the norm, since the property is about an hour away from our home. We all got a sudden immersion into the ins and outs of putting in septic lines, rock characteristics, soil types, and so on.
This process has been exciting in many ways. After all, we prayed that God would lead us to a piece of country property, and He did. When we chose this property, we knew full well that to make it work, we would have to put in lots of work, and even that seemed like part of the romantic charm of carving out our own homestead, like in the olden days. We were all on board, eager, and gung-ho! Every day was a new challenge, but we knew that we would figure it out. Our boys suddenly had the chance to jump in and learn some practical skills as the oldest two ran the transit for the leveling of the septic lines, and everyone got to help install the field line components. Progress was clicking along pretty well, considering all of the rock we encountered. We got our garden and greenhouse site prepared, and holes dug for our orchard — 3x3x3 so we can plant them the Ellen White Method, that the angel showed her in a dream. I remember standing up at the top of our property in the future garden, and thrilling as I looked over the wooded hills, just feeling blessed. It was my mountaintop time, when faith was easy.
Life is not all mountaintops, though, and as my husband had to go out of town for work, the full responsibility suddenly rested on me. This was fine, with what we initially had planned to accomplish. Then, additional projects popped up that needed immediate decisions. Every day another challenge came that eventually left my head spinning, as I tried to make important decisions on the fly, figure out yet another DIY project, purchase supplies, and just keep life running. Let me say that I totally get the fast food concept now. I’m afraid Taco Bell became a more regular part of our lives, and home-cooked meals have become more a rarity than our regular fare.
This season has honestly been the most stressful season of homeschool that we have gone through, and are currently involved in. When I have more projects on my plate than I know how to deal with, I short circuit, and then we certainly experience the trickle-down effect through the ranks. As challenge after challenge has hit, I have seen myself at close to my worst. I have analyzed what we should and could be doing differently, but just keep coming back to the fact that life right now is not our ideal situation, but we have to keep plugging away. I have cried many times, overwhelmed with what new thing we must handle. And, I am finding that it is not always the biggest challenges that I crumble under, but the little annoyances — the loud noises when my mind screams for some silence, and the mental load of trying to understand multiple projects simultaneously.
In the last months, we have stacked up the projects, leaving little time for quiet reflection. As the mental pressures pile up, I found myself unable to process much more mentally, so I have been so grateful that my boys know how to cook. When I hear, “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” before I even have a chance to get the cobwebs out of my head, I am thankful when they just make it happen so that I don’t have to make another decision. My mind has been stuffed with septic line assembly, dump truck rental, fruit tree placement, hole size, distance and diameter, house site clearing, basement excavation, footer dimensions, root cellar placement and size, finances, sick child, phone that quit making calls, floor plans, mud and rain, driveway excavation, packing, and employee coordination. Then our sink and countertop failed us, and we found out just how poor we are at “figuring out” DIY. Did I mention school? Allll this without Dad! Literally, when our month of focused excavation was completed, our eldest asked me what we were going to do the next day. I replied, “School.” “Only school?” he asked. “Yes.” He let out an audible sigh of relief at “only school,” and I realized that we all were just completely exhausted, physically and mentally.
The more overwhelmed I felt, the more time I noticed myself turning to Facebook. I realized it was/is an escape for me, and a natural way to “interact” while my husband and I have had decreased communication because of distance. I enjoy catching up, but I realized that my already overwhelmed mind didn’t need more material to think about. I have consciously been watching my time on FB this last week or more, and I see that it helps me. My mind can only take on so much before it reaches saturation. And then, when things are already challenging, the temptation to compare your life to the lives portrayed by others is quite high. This can compound feelings of inadequacy and frustration. But, what we need to realize is that on any journey, there are shadows and rainbows. Facebook posts tend to showcase the rainbows, and maybe it’s because we all need to cling to those moments where something actually does happen right. We as homeschoolers especially need to keep this in mind.
During this time, I have admittedly fallen behind in reading other blogs in our group. The other day, I randomly (I thought), while weary, feeling knocked down and dragged under the bus, stumbled upon this post on our blog. It’s the only blog post I have read in over a month. I don’t even know how I got through it, I was that tired, but somehow, some bells started to go off in my head. I particularly appreciated the links that were shared to Dr. Caroline Leaf’s materials. I began to listen to some of the messages, and I saw so clearly how, even though I legitimately have real challenges in our situation right now, I don’t have to drown under them. Jesus offers help, and it is with my cooperation, especially in my thought life. Wow. There is abundant material about the brain and how our thoughts form connections that contribute to our health, both mentally and physically. Truly, we are what we think. I haven’t read part two of the blog about our thoughts, but I will soon be doing so.
I feel like that reminder about choosing my thoughts has helped me. It has made me more aware of what I say since it reacts on me and others, like my children, reinforcing the positive or negative. And, I have seen how much the Lord really wants to help me to have a victory, not a defeat.
I will say that old habits are those that surface without our effort, and so much so in this area of what we say. I am literally praying often that God will give me a kind word, because when I feel overwhelmed, my natural reaction is negativity. Barbara O’Neill, a favorite speaker of mine, says that we must “fake it ’til we make it,” and that this indeed is a spiritual principle. This is a very helpful talk about the laws that govern our minds. I highly recommend it, and I need to go back and re-listen to it too!
Don’t misunderstand the Fake It ‘Til You Make It outlook. This does not mean to pretend your worries away, expecting that they will just vanish. Instead, it means choosing what we tell ourselves about what we are going through, and choosing to turn to beneficial sources like Bible promises to get our mental dialogue pointed in a positive direction. The Bible says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in Thee,” Isaiah 26:3. This strongly suggests a partnership between us and the Lord. He promises us peace, but first we choose to train our minds on Him, His power, His ability, His goodness towards us. He is able to help us in every emergency.
Another talk that I appreciated is this talk by Maria Neblett, called The Language of Encouragement. She speaks so honestly about her struggles, and I really can relate to what she shared. But, she also shows us how to strive for victory and change the course of our homes. This talk I have listened to a couple of times, but really need to go back over it until I can truly make it my experience.
I hope that my ramblings have not been too random. God is good. He is real, and He is here for us. Satan wants to weigh us down and defeat us in any way that he can. We do have a part to play to cooperate with our Saviour, even if we have to “Fake it ’til we make it!”