Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not Losing--I'm Gaining!

My husband and I were having a heart-to-heart talk during a long car drive back from visiting family in Cincinnati recently.  I was confiding in him how I felt about this past year of home schooling my two boys.  It has been a really difficult school year for me.  I hesitate to even admit that because there are some aspects of home school that I absolutely love.  I am certain that I will greatly miss the parts that I love.  We are moving very soon and will finally be in a great school district.  Currently, I have one who attends preschool three mornings a week and three children at home with me all the time.  The plan is that we will send the children to public school.  So, next school year I will suddenly have three children attending school during the day and only one at home with me.

There have been numerous challenges for me home schooling my boys this year.  I suppose the  biggest challenges have been in finding balance and exercising patience.  They go hand in hand.  When I have struggled to find balance between school-time and mom-time, I sometimes become impatient.  When circumstances have made it completely impossible for me to accomplish anything besides sitting at the table with my boys the entire morning, I feel impatient with those circumstances.  When it seems unlikely that I can devote any time and attention to my daughters or to other responsibilities, I become impatient.  Once I recognize my impatience, I struggle with discouragement.  I feel discouraged because I want to do better.  I feel discouraged because I believe that I should do better.  Mostly, I become discouraged wondering if I've done more harm than good.

On the good days, I know that much has been learned and accomplished.  On the good days, I see what a good reader my kindergarten son has become with my help, day after day.  On the good days, I see that my second grader can get through several pages of multiplication and fractions without ending in tears.  On the good days, we have a nice time reading the Bible around the breakfast table...and everyone wants to listen!  On the good days, my girls play nicely and stay occupied the entire time we are busy with school work.  On the good days, I have at least 15 minutes after we are finished with our afternoon reading and before my girls wake up from naps.  On the good days, my girls actually take naps!  On the good days, I can change out of workout clothes and shower before 11 in the morning!  Ah, but sometimes it seems as if the good days are few and far between.

I have spent time feeling sorry for myself.  I have spent time wishing I had a different daily routine.  I have spent time feeling sad because I haven't had the kind of play-time with my young girls as I would have liked to have this year.  I have felt sad that I have missed out on other opportunities due to our schedule.  I have felt frustrated that, at times, I have had to be a strict school teacher to my boys...and not just a mom!  During our heart-to-heart chat, I was telling my husband all of this, although he has already known how I felt about this year.  I suppose that my prevailing tone was how many things I felt that I had lost or missed out on due to our decision for me to home school, as well as not feeling very graced to do it.  My husband then gently said to me, "But look at all that you have gained."  

Wow!  How truly distorted my view can be at times!  I have never considered myself a glass-half-empty gal, but in this scenario I guess I had become just that!  I was even feeling sorry for myself that I would have to adjust to just one child at home next year rather than continually being thankful that my kids will have a great school to attend.  I realized during our conversation how desperately I needed to flip the switch on my outlook!  I needed to go from feeling sorry for myself to feeling ever thankful for the extra time and opportunities I have had with my children.  I wish that I was someone who felt a strong love for and desire to home school my children until graduation...but that is not me.  I am convinced that I don't have this desire because it is not God's intention for our children and family specifically.  I think God has other plans for us and I'm excited about that!  But, how blessed I have been these last two years to have my children with me most of the time.  God has given me the grace and has provided for us every day despite how I feel!  He has provided resources and has given me something to be thankful for each and every day of this journey!  My boys have learned and grown!  My girls have developed a pretty close friendship with each other while spending so much time together.  I have been able to enjoy some relaxing moments around the breakfast and lunch table with ALL of my children.  I have seen many times when my older son has helped my younger son with some learning process.  We've read some pretty great books together; we have learned and grown together!  

I am realizing that this is how life is.  Most of us have heard it said--have learned and re-learned--that our outlook makes or breaks us!  But in certain situations, it really can be difficult or seemingly impossible to maintain the right outlook even when we know that's what we need.  For instance, I have been attempting to write this for the past two and a half hours; I have had more interruptions than I care to mention.  However, during most of the time I've been writing, my kids have been playing games together:  indoor soccer (feel free to gasp!), musical chairs, button-button, and indoor hurdles (that one was pretty hilarious...until Luke got hurt).  None of these games have been without occasional disagreements, but my kids are playing together by choice!  I never said they needed to play together.  I realize that I could have children who would be happier in their separate areas of the house playing video games solo.  I realize that I could have two boys who come home from school with homework that usurps most of the afternoon hours.  Instead, even amidst the bickering and distractions, I am happy to see my children playing together.  And, I'm thankful that I have a computer which allows me to easily compose my thoughts.  Heck, I'm thankful that I can still compose coherent thoughts with four children between the ages of 2 and 8 in my house!  I have so much to be thankful for!  Sometimes, we just need someone to remind us of what we are gaining rather than what we feel we are losing!