I used to think I homeschooled for my children. Through homeschooling I would teach them about Jesus, give them a strong academic foundation, develop their moral character, and bind us together in family love.

After 16 years of homeschooling, I still hold onto these hopes (though with less idealism), but I'm finding that the Lord in all His wisdom chose homeschooling for me. As my children have learned to read, simply fractions, and write essays, I have learned a much more valuable lesson. I've learned how much I need Jesus.

Every day.

Every minute.

Homeschooling is a tool in God's hand used to unmask me.

Before I began homeschooling I had a job away from home. I could drive there, work hard, get along with my co-workers and please my boss--at least most of the time. I could maintain a certain image--project a measure of success.

Then I had my first child. While beautiful and the delight of my life, she was also a colicky baby with long crying fits. It didn't matter how hard I tried, there were times I couldn't make her happy. Three boys quickly followed and with those four precious children came mounds of laundry, incessant clutter, and unending emotional demands.

I went into motherhood planning to play with my children, never putting my work before their needs. I'd give them tons of love and attention, cook fabulous meals, always understand their needs, and never become impatient.

Yeah, right.

Then, as if I didn't have enough to feel guilty about, I entered the world of homeschooling, holding to another set of ideals about a home-centered, God-centered, academic life. My children would put God first because I showed them how. They would love to learn because I would make it so much fun. They would be free to express themselves creatively and fully while I kept a beautiful home and even temperament.

You can probably guess where all that idealism got me. I wasn't a perfect Christian so I couldn't show them how to be one. Not only was school sometimes plain ole hard work, but I discovered I often didn't have the energy to even try to make it fun. Creative expression and a clean house were usually in opposition and all the times I didn't live up to my ideals didn't help me keep an even temperament.

Often, I struggled with feelings of intense inadequacy, even failure, as I realized I couldn't be all I wanted to be. On those really bad days when I lost my temper or felt I'd accomplished nothing, I wrestled with my self-worth.

Being home full-time, struggling to keep all those mothering and teaching balls in the air exposed a vastly imperfect me.

And sometimes I didn't like myself at all.

That's when I met Jesus in a new way.

As God peeled off my mask as an accomplished, godly woman, He began reveal to me precious truths I hadn't understood before. First, He whispered His unconditional regard.

I'd known most of my life that Jesus died to forgive me for my sins, but somehow I'd gotten the impression that once I'd accepted His sacrifice, it was up to me to be perfect. When I fell short in my ability to parent or homeschool, I agonized over it. Sometimes my failures made me hide from God. Self-condemnation could overwhelm me.

Our tender God taught me (and is still teaching me) that His love and acceptance has nothing to do with my performance. I can run to Him when I blow it. He knows I will sometimes mess-up and He wants to help me through it. Christ's blood has covered my sins and there is truly no condemnation in His eyes. As He looks at me, He sees Christ's cleansing perfection instead of my failures.

Another thing I'm learning is that God wants my identity to be fully in Him and not in how well I perform. I can tell when my identity is misplaced. A child doesn't test as well as I think he should and I fear I'm a failure as his teacher. One of my children misbehaves in public and I think I've fallen short as a parent.