By Judith Jolma
Take a deep breath and put it all behind you. Those are the words I’m repeating to myself this spring as we close the books on school-year 2021/2022. Lord willing, this past year will go down in family lore as the worst year ever. At least, I hope we never face a year worst than this.
Even seasoned, intentional homeschoolers like us have bad years. What makes the difference is how we move forward — learning from our mistakes and not letting our failures define our future. Honestly, it is okay to have a bad year. Our kids will have bad years as adults and in our bad years, we can model for them grace and strength so they know how to cope in their difficult seasons. In the end, that is a better education than anything they could learn in a textbook.
Okay, but what went so wrong this year? It all started when the lemon tree died. We’d been struggling financially for several years and I grew accustomed to having broken appliances, malfunctioning vehicles, and depriving the kids of sports, dance, and other opportunities. My heart ached for my children. I wanted them to have more. Now the lemon tree! I loved that lemon tree. Animated by emotional disappointment, I decided to step into the role of provider and protector. I circulated my resume and within a few short weeks moved the family across the country to Tulsa, Okla. where I began a new full-time job. It was a good job working directly with Andrew Pudewa at the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I was doing work I loved and was very good at. The stage was set for a mom-to-the-rescue story. But there was one flaw in the plan. I’d failed to take my own advice.
In the Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass, I advise parents to know the dynamics of their own family before jumping into something that works for friends. Because each family is different and what works for one may not work for another. Some (few) families function very well with mom working outside the home and dad being the homemaker. But for so many reasons, my family is not oriented that way. At Sophia Homeschool I promise to teach parents how to become the hero of their child’s education without losing their own dreams. I did not stop to consider that my dreams are tied up in the nurturing and education of my children. For me to work full time outside the home was the very definition of giving up my dreams — my calling. No one can be at peace outside their calling. And when mom and dad are not at peace, they cannot be anyone’s hero. I failed to consider that my husband’s calling lies in protecting and providing for the family. My going to work and him becoming a homemaker placed him outside of his calling. The prize of our homeschool — the peaceful, joyful learning environment vanished in one year.
I failed to consider our homeschool mission statement — our purpose. I wanted the children to have dance and music lessons. I want them to play sports and travel, but those things are not at the heart of our homeschool mission. So looking back, it is easy to see that I left my mission for something I wanted temporarily. Rookery mistake.
When choosing our curriculum last year, I also failed to consider the kid’s true needs. I simply looked at what was available and went with it. Our stint in the local co-op was a mismatch for our needs even though it is a good program that serves many families beautifully. Although the children loved the community, their instructors, and their time while there, the co-op’s structure added to my burden, failed to move the children forward academically, and increased the frustration in our homeschool.
This is always the result of choosing the wrong curriculum. Wasted time and So. Much. Wasted. Money!!!!
I failed to consider our prime hours (as I teach parents to do in the Masterclass). Working full-time meant that I would have to oversee the academic work after dinner. Our family dynamic is not oriented for rigorous evening work. Our hearts were not in it. We began approached school as something that we “just needed to get through.” The consequence? For the first time, we faced homework battles that threatened to fracture the relationship between me and my children.
Perhaps the greatest failing on my part last school year was that I did not look at our financial struggle as part of our education rather I looked at it as a problem that needed to go away at any cost. I did not hold my place in the phalanx rather tried to step in and do the job that was not mine to do. In our home, I am the nurturer and educator. My husband should be the protector and provider. Our home just works best this way.
Removing all blame and emotion from the situation, I can acknowledge the truth: that was a bad year. The children were tearful. We lost a full academic year. There was a serious relapse in good habits, manners, and routines. We replaced a peaceful, joyful environment with one filled with strife and striving. But we did enjoy financial success. Was it worth it, though? I would say, no.
So how do we learn from our bad years and move forward without letting the bad devour the future good? Well, two things: first, it is just as important to truthfully acknowledge the good that came out of last year as well. No year is ever all bad, right? There were many ways that we could clearly see the hand of God still directing our steps as we groped our way through the fog of war. The children did learn independence. I was not there to oversee all their work, and they had to learn how to learn better than ever before. And you know what? They rose to the occasion. I’m so proud of them. They watched mom and dad, grappling with difficult choices and watched us come through wounded but triumphant. We also are so thankful for all the kindness and opportunity we received from the good people at IEW. We are now settled into a wonderful new home, city, and community. So there is plenty to be thankful for and that gratitude prevents bitterness.
The second thing is to go back to what I should have done in the first place. I developed the Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass to teach parents the techniques that have served me so well for so many years. I’m going back to my workbook to evaluate my family's true needs. With gratitude for the opportunity, I quit my job and will happily resume my duties as the nurturer and educator of my children.
I hope my husband will be successful in his role as the protector and provider, but if not, I at least know how to create an environment in which the little souls in my care will have all they need to grow into mature, happy, successful adults. I know how to teach them arithmetic, reading, writing, and all other academics on the cheap. I know how to place them in communities of supportive friends and companions. That does not cost money. I know how to play with them and support their growing bodies, minds, and souls.
Should circumstances fail to improve our financial status, at least I can do my job. I know how to create an environment of peace, and true delight so that when my children are grown, they can come back to me and ask, “Mom, when we were growing up, were we poor? Because we didn’t feel like it.”
By Judith Jolma, Founder of Sophia Homeschool.
Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at Sophiahomeschool.com
Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.