The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination.
– C.S. Lewis
My homeschool does not go as planned. In fact, in recent years, my life has rarely gone as planned. This reality is particularly frustrating for me because I am a planner. I love to make lists of goals—short and long term—and methodically work toward accomplishing those ends. Generally this works for me, but as the poet Robbie Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
In the last ten years, my life, and my homeschool, have been interrupted by illnesses—both mild and life-threatening—injuries, hospital visits, intense physical therapy, family tragedies, legal battles, pregnancy and childbirth, natural disasters, and long-term home repairs due to those natural disasters.
Every year for the last ten years, I have watched my carefully planned school year fall apart. And I have been so discouraged. I’ve had to learn to re-assess, re-adjust, and re-prioritize. Instead of thinking of yearly goals, I’ve learned to think more long-term and to realize that there will be lean years and fat years. And I’ve comforted myself that even if I didn’t accomplish everything on my list, I accomplished a lot. My children are learning; they are moving forward in their education. Dare I say that we have succeeded in spite of all of our recent difficulties?
Yet, I continued to pine for that perfect school year. I desperately wanted my children to have a year free from interruptions, a year to finally achieve everything I had planned.
And then it hit me. I wasn’t managing to teach my kids in spite of life’s interruptions; I was teaching them something far more valuable. I was teaching them how to live life. Real life. The life that is messy and is filled with unexpected difficulties. Not the “real life” that only exists on paper and in my imagination. The real life that I never experienced as a child and was completely unprepared to encounter as an adult.
In my childhood, going to school every day, I lived in an artificial bubble of steady, secure existence. My school days were exactly the same day after day and year after year. They were predictable and on schedule. Surely my parents struggled and went through hardships and interruptions, but I never saw it. My siblings were born and I never even missed a day of school. My parents had serious conversations in whispered tones; surely there were difficulties but I knew nothing of them. Come what may, my life was uninterrupted. As a result, I thought that life was steady and predictable: list some goals, make a plan, succeed. It never occurred to me that unforeseen circumstances could derail my meticulous plans.
Once I had my own family and began to experience the inevitable difficulties, I was unprepared. I struggled for years to learn how to carry on during seasons of trials. God was gracious and brought me through those dark years, but He intends to teach my children those lessons much earlier, and I am grateful.
Life is not predictable and steady. It is filled with unexpected joy and unexpected sorrow. There are easy seasons and seasons filled with difficulties of all sorts. And we must somehow persevere and keep moving even when it seems impossible.
During our time of greatest sorrow we took time to grieve and to heal, and then we learned to carry on. We learned to rebuild our lives little by little and move from a place of grief to a place of joy. Most importantly, we discovered that the only way to persevere is not to trust in our strength but to cast all our cares and burdens and sorrows on the Cross. This may be the most important lesson I have taught my children, and it can’t be learned in a book or in a classroom. And it can’t be scheduled! It must be lived. Daily.
That is, of course, the greatest benefit of homeschooling. It’s not just that we teach our children academic subjects at home. We teach them how to live. Developing our minds is only one part of the full human experience. We are blessed to be able to teach it all.
When life’s inevitable difficulties and interruptions occur, my children won’t panic like I did. They will persevere. They’ve been practicing for years.