When life with homeschooling feels messy and useless, take a lesson from your junk drawer.
Do you have a junk drawer? I do. It has dry pens, broken pencils, grubby crayon stubs, rogue staples, crumbs, and erasers that some long grown baby tried to eat for breakfast. But that isn’t the real problem. The real problem is that the junk is all mixed up with good stuff – working pens, sharp enough pencils, bright new erasers, paperclips, post-it notes, and spare change. The drawer weighs more than my pots and pans but I keep adding to it anyway. Somehow, I rely on it.
But anybody who ever had a pet junk drawer knows that eventually, it turns on you. You reach in to get a paperclip and a staple bites you. You go for a pencil and they’re all pointless. You grab pen after pen, tearing up post it notes trying to start one. It’s time to bring in the garbage can. But you can’t just throw it all out. You need to sort it.
Do this and the drawer is light again. Paperclips come out of hiding; pens roll around freely, eager for service; pencils await your command like little soldiers, capped with colorful erasers. Everything is clean and everything works.
On to homeschooling.
Sorting the Good, the Bad, and the Grubby
Let’s bring in the garbage can and assess the mess. Here’s a quick and dirty list to get you started. Check off all that apply:
- You feel like your curriculum runs you; not the other way around.
- You’re always driving somebody someplace.
- Your friends wonder why you can’t just do school later – like midnight.
- You say yes to people but feel resentful or you say no and feel guilty.
- You own so much stuff your walls are closing in like the trash compactor in Star Wars.
- You start more projects than you finish.
- You get mad every time you go on Facebook.
- Your little kids reenact Lord of the Flies whenever you’re in the bathroom.
- Your big kids are nicer to their friends than they are to you.
- You had a meltdown and your spouse either didn’t get it, said you were just cranky, or got mad.
- Fill in the blankety-blank. Turn the page over if you need more space. ___________________
If you checked off anything on this list, it is time to stop letting your junk drawer control you. You need support.
Guess what? Some of the support is already there – it lies within you. The other support you need will come from outside sources. Here’s how get it.
First, put your list into three categories.
The first category holds the things you did not pick or, if you did, they are the least offenders. These things are going well or well enough. This is the good stuff that is buried in your junk drawer. If not perfect, maybe they just need a little sharpening. This is the stuff you keep. Gaze at it fondly when no one is watching.
The next category holds the stuff you can fix yourself. Is social media making you hate everybody? Do you need to draw a boundary with the friend who drops in on Monday mornings? Do you drive the kids everywhere but they won’t walk across the room to get you a glass of water? Those little things, like rogue staples, can bite you if you don’t purge them from your life. Once you do, you will find that a few other items on your list also get better.
Making small changes empowers you to face big challenges.
The last category holds your worst problems. If possible, think of the worst of the worst. Chances are, it is the root cause of the others. The unfixable, impossible, if-only, not-in-my-lifetime, thing.
If you believe in God, then there is no reason to think that way. Nothing is hard for God.
Will it be hard for you to face? Probably. It could take hard work and time and resources. Ask yourself if it’s worth it. Are you okay with still having the problem in a year? How about in five years? How about in twenty years?
Don’t have the energy, the time, the resources? Think of it this way, life’s big problems always cost you somewhere.
For example, people who don’t get marriage counseling because it’s expensive or embarrassing often end up getting expensive, embarrassing divorces. Whatever your issue is, the support is out there and with God the victory is possible.
Did I Mention Prayer? Forget that.
Prayer needs more than mere mention. It needs an increase, a commitment, and a higher degree of intensity. God is listening. I have seen so many drastic situations turn around because people dialed their prayer up to eleven. Even a little prayer – as long as it is of God and not “Gimme a beach body” – often receives an immediate answer. God is just waiting to be asked. “Ask and you shall receive.” Matthew 7:7.
Reach out to me and I will join my prayer to yours. Talk to me if you need support. If I can’t help you, I will help you find someone who can.
When homeschooling feels messy and useless, clean out your junk drawer. Don’t wait until it gets so heavy it collapses. It’s always harder to pick up the pieces.
This article originally appeared on the Homeschool Connections Blog, May 2021, and is reprinted with permission.