Redeeming the Mess

Have you blown it with your kids in some way as a teacher? Do you feel like there is no way to make anything beautiful out of that mess? Or are you so afraid of messing up that you consider not teaching your kids? Yeah, I’ve been there too. Here’s what I did about it.

I listened in utter dismay as my son grieved, heartbroken over having missed two words on his spelling test. It only got worse over time: complete devastation over any incorrect answer or correction of his technique.

I began to wonder, “What in the world did I do to this child that he can be so devastated by minor mistakes? Have I ruined his life? Will he need counseling when he grows up? How will this affect his future relationship with his wife?” (Okay, seriously, tell me you don’t ever go straight to the worst case scenario?)

Do these questions ever find their way into your mind? Have you encountered an area where you wonder what you did wrong that has led your child to a particular struggle? Do you fear homeschooling or parenting because you may just blow it, and your child may have to deal with the consequences of that in some way for the rest of his life?

This may seem overdramatic, but the fact is, we will blow it. I blew it. My training and experience was primarily in high school and adult education, and I became an overzealous homeschooling mom who had no idea what to expect from a young child. So, I pressed my son hard in school from a very young age, and I became frustrated easily when he didn’t meet my expectations. A combination of that approach to teaching in his younger years and his own unique personality led him to an absolute fear of making mistakes.

By the time I realized I needed to change my approach and expectations, we already had a problem on our hands. When I realized the trouble I had caused, I had two options:

  1. Give up. Send him to public or private school, anything but subject him to my warped teaching style. Surely, someone else could do a better job. (Or at least it will be them and not me whom he will be talking about with his counselor someday!)
  2. Redeem the mess, or rather, let God redeem the mess. Recognize that God’s grace is, in fact, sufficient even for homeschooling parents. Take the time to correct the error in my training.

Have you blown it with your kids in some way as a teacher? Do you feel like there is no way to make anything beautiful out of that mess? Or are you so afraid of messing up that you consider not teaching your kids?

As people of the cross, redeemed by Christ’s blood, we have the unique opportunity to homeschool under God’s grace. Our greatest objective need not be to ensure that our kids are spelling whizzes or math geniuses, but rather that they come to a greater understanding of the grace and mercy of God in their lives. We have the privilege of modeling that as we teach. How?

  • When we blow it, we admit it. Out loud. We seek forgiveness, and we accept forgiveness. We move forward rather than living in the sludge of our sin. We recognize that God’s grace is sufficient to handle our inadequacies, our sin, as parents and homeschoolers. We entrust our children to God, knowing that he can and will make beauty out of the ashes of our mistakes.
  • When our kids blow it, we teach them to admit it. Out loud. We offer forgiveness, and pray for them to accept it. We help them move forward rather than living in the sludge of their sin. We point out that God’s grace is sufficient to handle their inadequacies, their sin, as children and students. We encourage them to entrust themselves to a God who will rebuild all that is broken in their lives.

So, you may be wondering what happened with our son and his disproportionate despair over mistakes. Perhaps you have a student with similar struggles, and you wonder: do spelling and math tests still end in grief and devastation? I am so grateful for the way God has redeemed this mess.

As God opened my eyes to my son’s struggle, he also showed me the importance of helping my son understand the difference between making mistakes in school simply from not understanding material and making mistakes based on laziness or not listening. As I spoke with him, I had my own revelation of the expectations I should have for him. Here were some of our learning points:

  • Learning involves making mistakes. The teacher should not expect perfection from her student at all times. Yes, we aim for mastery of materials, but we are in the process of learning (much like, in our Christian walk, we are being sanctified, not already completely sanctified).
  • Mistakes or failures that come as a result of incomplete understanding of the material are opportunities to learn. If you’re like me (or my son), you hate failing—in part because it’s embarrassing, in part because it feels like you’re letting yourself and others down. However, our God is in the business of making things new. He does not wait for us to be perfect, but rather he makes beauty from ashes. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and he offers himself to us in the midst of our failures. Similarly, in academics, mistakes and failures give our students a chance to see where they need to grow more. They give the teacher an idea of where a student needs more help. They are learning opportunities for the student and the teacher. This can only happen, however, if we approach mistakes with a willingness to learn.
  • Mistakes or failures that happen as a result of laziness or not listening are true problems, but they are also opportunities to grow. It’s important to distinguish between these kinds of mistakes so that we better know how to teach our children.
    • “Did you get this answer wrong because you did not understand how to do the math equation?” OR
    • “Did you get this answer wrong because you did not read the instructions?”
  • Our children need to understand the difference between their own disappointment in not making the mark and our disappointment or frustration.
    • I had to help my son understand that he was assuming that I was upset with him when he was actually upset with himself. I wasn’t disappointed or angry.We also had to talk about what it means when I am frustrated with him: “I’m not upset when you don’t understand the materials. Or if I am, that’s my problem, not yours. But I do feel frustrated when you aren’t listening or caring enough to work well. I care more about the type of student you are because that will shape who you become, rather than how well you do on a test. Your character and heart are what are important.”

So, what has the result been? My son is learning to accept mistakes, to accept correction, and to be pleased with a job well done even if it isn’t perfect. He’s learning to recognize and identify for himself when the mistake is a result of lack of understanding or lack of diligence.

And what am I learning? I am learning the deeper heart issues as well:

  • God is big enough to handle the mistakes I make in my parenting and teaching.
  • I need to constantly adjust my expectations as I learn what is a reasonable expectation.
  • I need to be aware of my own attitudes and responses and what they communicate and model to my son.

I shouldn’t be, but I constantly am surprised at God’s eagerness and ability to redeem my messes!

Do you love teaching science class? Maybe not? 😅

You’re not alone. Science class challenges most homeschooling parents.

Too often, the lessons consume too much time, and the experiments have questionable value for the amount of waste they produce. (Paper maché volcanoes, anyone?)

You might find yourself asking, is this really worth it?

We develop science curricula to help you address these problems, and more.

We believe the best science education starts with what you already have in your home and in your yard.

We believe science is less about accumulating book-knowledge, and more about developing powers of observation and the skills to use those powers responsibly.

We believe that the true practice of science honors God by seeking to understand Him better through His creation. Any practice that rejects God as Creator or Christ as King of Creation should be rejected in turn.

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Thank you for giving us your time and attention! May God bless you and your family.

Peace in Christ,
David & Susan Eyk
Oak River Press