What I learned from (5 years of) homeschooling 

During the recent COVID-19 shut down, I often heard or read others reflecting on their life-changing experiences and deep insights into who they are. In fact, there has been so much talk like that, that it made me feel a little numb and, honestly, even jealous. I had not really noticed any amazing ‘breakthrough’ moments of my own.

One of the big topics of conversation was homeschooling, which I have been doing for the past five years. Yet, sometimes, I feel like I haven’t learned much at all – even during the recent lockdown.

The biggest lesson I learned is that God wants us to ask him for help.

As time has passed, the endless chatter of parents who were homeschooling for the first time made me aware of how little time I spend reflecting on this full-time job of mine. It also prompted me to realise how little I think about parenting as a Christian Mum.

Since then, the COVID-19 crisis – along with reading my first ever parenting book – has compelled me to sit down and actually write about what my homeschooling journey has taught me. And, in doing so, to encourage myself as a seasoned homeschooler, who still makes a lot of mistakes but desires to be better in this role God has chosen for me.

The biggest lesson I learned is that God wants us to ask him for help. He wants us to admit we need it. He loves when we come to him and say: “I cannot do this parenting or teaching thing on my own; it’s way too hard.”

It was hard before COVID-19, it was hard during COVID-19 and it’s still hard …

It was hard before COVID-19, it was hard during COVID-19 and it’s still hard as I continue to teach my three children at home. And I’m a trained teacher who taught at a small school on the far north coast of New South Wales.

I cannot handle the massive responsibility of educating my children on my own. Yet sometimes I can still go the whole day without praying or confessing I need help from the One who has called me to do this role.

As Paul Tripp offers in his book Parenting, “God doesn’t call us to a task without the tools to do it.” I have to remind myself of that when I want to be doing anything but teaching my children.

At times, I’m in a constant war of desiring to fulfil my own personal hopes and dreams (which don’t involve homeschooling ) and the reality of still having to teach my children.

To this day, I can still find it hard to accept what God has called me to do. I often wish I “felt” like teaching them more than I do. It’s as if I am trying to run from God and what he’s asked me to do, like Jonah thinking he could get in a ship and sail away in the completely opposite direction from Nineveh.

But I know I can never flee from His presence and if there’s ever a time I “feel” like I can’t “feel” him there, that’s on me. In that moment (and that happens often) I have to preach to my soul this promise: He never, ever, ever leaves me.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7-10)

There is always one other person in the room when I’m finding parenting and teaching too hard… God is in the room.

There is always one other person in the room when I’m finding parenting and teaching too hard, when I hate the sound of my own voice from saying the same thing over and over again. When I want to run far away and escape all my responsibilities and when I only want peace and life to be easy. When my ugly sin rises up in front of my children.

God is in the room.

The God of the universe who created me and thought of me before the foundation of the world. The God who created everything – He thinks of me. And He thinks of you. He wants to transform us more and more into his son Jesus. The only one who ever kept the law perfectly, so I don’t have to.

I can never be perfect here on earth, but there is a glorious hope that one day I will be when I meet him face to face. Until then I need to trust that God is working in me, to change me; that in front of Him, I don’t have to act like I’m something I’m not; and I don’t have to hide from the only One who is able to help me.

I also have had some other quick reflections about homeschooling:

  • We are more like our children than not.
  • I am an incomplete people being used by God to teach incomplete people.
  • I don’t homeschool because I have a greater dose of patience. I don’t. It’s hard to be kind at times.
  • I need parenting by my Heavenly Father as much as my children need parenting.
  • Our children don’t naturally think of God all day like we hope they would. It’s our job to remind them. It’s not weird to talk about God all day.
  • I think I say “sorry” everyday to my children for something I said to them, or for not being patient.
  • God has used my children to teach me to be quick to forgive.
  • Teach what you love and are passionate about, it’s so much easier. Your kids can tell when you aren’t into something!
  • Shaping their character is more important than ticking academic boxes.
  • I know what they find hard with their school work and what comes naturally to them; this insight is a privilege.
  • Know when to stop and take a break. Stop trying to help them to understand a maths problem when they clearly aren’t getting it. At that point of total frustration, they can not absorb anything. And it also makes you get more frustrated by the minute.
  • Don’t buy every text book on every subject. On the other hand, don’t try to write the whole program for every subject. Both ways will make you feel anxious!
  • Don’t compare yourself to others; I still do it – and freak out that I’m not doing enough. But we aren’t the same as other families, and that’s OK.

Thankfully, God turns up everyday even if I don’t acknowledge that he does. His grace is endless. If there is anything good that happens in the hearts of my children, it’s God at work, not me. He can change my children’s hearts despite me thinking I’m failing.

I fail and my children fail everyday, and starting to come out of COVID-19 restrictions hasn’t changed that. That’s what is normal – making mistakes is normal. I shouldn’t beat myself up over it. I shouldn’t fall into a pit of guilt. I should – and desperately want – to dwell on God’s endless supply of patience and forgiveness. That I might show just a fraction of the same patience and forgiveness to my children. And as a homeschooling parent, I want to dwell on God’s Son. How Jesus understands everything we feel everyday because he too has experienced it.

I want to remember everyday that I should depend on God for everything.

I’m grateful to God that COVID-19 gave me the opportunity to sit and think about these things, to encourage me to keep going with teaching my children at home.

I think that was the “breakthrough’”moment I so desperately wanted.

Angela Burrow is married to Grant and they have two daughters and a son. Living in Sydney’s Inner West, Angela is a full-time homeschooler and is a member of a local church.