That Guilty Feeling: Fighting the Spirit of Failure
- Deborah Wuehler Senior Editor, The Old Schoolhouse
- 2010 6 Jun
I have birthed eight children and have homeschooled them for the past nineteen years (I like to say I've been teaching them since birth), but I still feel like I am an unqualified, unorganized, undisciplined, under-educated and a full-time failure of a homeschool mom. I am often overloaded with feelings of guilt. Feelings of guilt can eat away at us body, soul, and spirit.
What do I do with this load of guilt I seem to always be carrying? Do I suffer in silence and depression and hope the guilt goes away some day? Do I let everyone know how badly I feel and possibly gain some compassionate friends to commiserate with me? Do I go into overdrive and try to fix all the things that are causing these guilty feelings? Do I put on a martyr complex attitude and go around like Eeyore without his tail? Or, maybe I put on a fake smile and pretend everything is just fine. I have tried them all and have learned that none of those things provides the answer. Let's get to the root of the struggle.
Why Do We Struggle With Guilt?
I have found that most of those guilty feelings come from one thing: expectations. Whether it is something I am expecting of myself or my children or something I feel others are expecting of me, those expectations can carry with them loads of guilt if we feel we don't measure up.
Here are five common areas of struggle:
1. How everyone else teaches their children has got to be better than the way I do it. After all, I am not teaching using the classical method (or whichever method you feel guilty about not using), and therefore I must be failing my children. I am not using unit studies; therefore, I am probably not accommodating my children's learning styles. I am not doing narration with my children; therefore, they must be suffering. I am requiring too much from my children, or I feel like I am not doing enough with them. I feel guilty about the curriculum I have used (or not used), because there might be something even better out there that I am missing.
No matter what we are doing, the grass will almost always look greener in somebody else's schoolyard. But just as every family operates differently, and just as every child learns differently, and just as we have been created in uniqueness, in the same way we will have a completely unique way of educating our children. No two homeschools will—or should—look alike. We can erase that guilt off the blackboard of our minds.
Let's look at the facts of the matter here: no matter what philosophy of education you use or don't use, no matter how much formal "school" you do or don't do, your children will most likely perform above the level they would have performed in the public education system. If you do a little research on homeschool statistics, you will find that homeschoolers excel across the board, no matter how you teach them. If you need to convince family or friends, pastors, or even yourself, go to the following link: www.nheri.org/Research-Facts-on-Homeschooling.html.
2. I am an inadequate teacher. Want to know a secret? I don't have enough patience, organization, motivation, or creativity, nor do many of us. But I have found that as I obey God's command to teach His children, and as I listen for God's voice on how to do that, then I begin to learn all these things as I go along. When I bear the yoke alongside the Lord and follow His lead, I grow in patience. As I work in harmony with my meek and patient God, I grow in motivation as I begin to realize God's purposes for my children, and I grow in organization and creativity as I am refreshed by helpful resources, conventions, and the like-minded friends He leads me to. Although I may not feel like I have what it takes to do what I believe is a sufficient job at teaching, the grace of God is sufficient in my weakness, and His strength is even made perfect there!
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
3. I feel guilty about not getting it all done: not enough schooling, housework, recordkeeping, lesson plans, or meal planning done. Getting it all done has never been my forte. There are lots of helpful materials about time management and planning out there (if you are so inclined), but I'd rather fly by the seat of my pants and allow urgency to dictate my actions. I wish I had time to actually think about implementing some order. I definitely need help in this area (some options I've looked at: The Schoolhouse Planner, Econobusters.com free planning help, and Managers of Their Homes—Titus2.com.) What things are truly important: the physical needs around us or the spiritual needs around us? If you have to set aside that pile of laundry to take one of your children to the foot of the cross, you have chosen the better thing. When I am overwhelmed with guilt and stress, I go to the Scriptures, where I gain a higher perspective of life:
"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:2)
And an old familiar song fills my mind and erases that blackboard once again:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His Glory and Grace.1
4. I feel guilty about my slow learner or my rebellious child or my tomboy girl or overly active boys. I feel guilty about my overly shy and tender child. To put you at ease, nearly every family probably has at least one of these kinds of children. But we tend to feel that if we were doing it right, we'd have no rebels or kids who don't have a clue about learning or sitting still or fitting some other mold.
The truth is, our children are unique, and we know them best. We can teach around and to those special gifts God has blessed them with. We can keep a tight rein on our rebels. There would be no putting up with them in the education system of today. Can you imagine these kids having to sit still for hours? Can you imagine how they would interact on the playground? Can you imagine the damage that could be done in the name of relieving our guilt and just going with the flow? I think you would suffer from much greater guilt by placing them in the hands of others who don't care for your children on the deep level you care for them.
Public education isn't made for these children. All agree that a specialized program of instruction is required, and what could be more specialized than your own home, where they receive individual attention and individualized curriculum choices? Not only is public education not made for these "special" children, but I also believe it is not made for any Christian child today. That is a strong statement, but here is where instruction in public education is heading: "President Obama's ‘safe schools' czar, Kevin Jennings, sees his transgender plans for public and private schools within reach. . . ."2 Jennings, who founded the homosexual activist group Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network is attributed to authoring a "heterosexism questionnaire . . . raising questions such as, ‘What do you think caused your heterosexuality?' "3 Public education is fast becoming a forum for leftist political viewpoints. Look at the National Education Association's report on GLBT's "Stepping Out of the Closet and Into the Light." Or what about this headline: "N.C. High Schools to Replace U.S. History with Environmental Issues."4
In our public schools, it's okay to teach children about sex and abortion but not about God and Creation. Children can chant but they cannot pray. Don't feel guilty about not sending your children to these godless institutions. Don't let that cute yellow school bus fool you for a minute; once your children get on that bus, they could be driven away from you and your God. You are doing the right thing.
5. Others make me feel guilty because we are different and don't fit in. Others make me feel guilty because they think we are not doing the right thing for our children. Homeschooling will always garner scrutiny, and that scrutiny can breed fear and guilt and the feeling that we must make sure we are doing right and looking good and fitting in. Are we really to be fitting in? We should look and act differently than the world. We should not do what the world dictates but rather what God dictates. We should not be yoked with unrighteousness but be a separate people as unto the Lord.
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Guilty Before God
When we stand before the Judge of all the earth, what will be our plea? Guilty. But the good news—the magnificent news, is that we have an advocate: Jesus Christ the Righteous One. Not only are we cleared of guilt, but when no one on this earth advocates or encourages our obedience and desire to live a righteous life, Jesus Christ not only advocates but also blesses and rewards our efforts.
Jesus Christ lays out the course we are to run and then runs the race with us. He is before us and behind us and cheering us on to the finish line. He authored the race and He will help us complete the race. There is no guilt in feeling tired from running or in sweating from exertion or falling over a rock in the path or even tripping over our own two feet. We might feel clumsy and laugh a bit, but our Coach reaches down, picks us up, gives us a drink and a hug, and then starts us off again. We get up and keep going because it is all part of the race.
So what do we do with all those expectations? We cast them off since they are too weighty to run with. The eternal expectations we need to fulfill are what the LORD requires. Micah 6:8 says it all:
"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
*This article published June 7, 2010.
Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor forThe Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, editor of the Schoolhouse SupportE-Newsletter, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate!
Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Spring 2010. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store. View our new and free resource, the Homeschool 101 Digital Supplement.
1. Helen H. Lemmel, 1922, Public Domain, http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Turn_Your_Eyes_upon_Jesus.
2. www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=126233%0A, accessed February 27, 2010.
3. www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=119332, accessed February 27, 2010.
4. www.examiner.com/examiner/x-35976-Conservative-Examiner~y2010m2d4-High-schools-to-replace-US-History-with-environmental-issues, accessed February 27, 2010, and www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,584758,00.html?mep, accessed February 27, 2010.