Schedules, School and Grace

 When I began my homeschool journey, I didn’t know anyone who homeschooled. I was alone and frantic. I wasn’t sure what I should or shouldn’t do when it came to doing school at home. Should we have a schoolroom? Should we sit at desks? Where those important parts of education? Was it okay to accomplish everything one day and not the next?
I met a few families during the first year and that just seemed to put more pressure on me. These families were clean and well coordinated. The kids wore khakis and polos. My youngest son wore the same shirt with a _____ on it, all the time. My eldest daughter preferred boy’s tennis shoes to girls and liked her hair kept short. My middle daughter wore dresses all the time and thought she lived in a musical production, all the time. She had breakdowns if her hair-bows and socks didn’t coordinate.
When these other moms talked about schedule, the importance of this textbook, that curriculum, I just wanted to hide under a table. Most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t know who Charlotte Mason was or Kathy Duffy, Sally Clarkson or fill in the blank.
Sunflower- honey-flavored
I went home from events with other homeschooling moms determined to schedule better, to get it all done and find out who they were talking about. I began a round of re-educating myself. Most of the process was great, except for one thing. I put my schedule, my schooling on a pedestal. I thought if I did all the right things, at all the right times and read the right books, my kids would be well educated. I could pat myself on the back.
It backfired. When I had my schedule on the altar, when I worshiped it, checking the time, plowing through when the kids were frustrated, when I was tired and no one was learning anything, my sticky-noted schedule became my frenemy. It could have been my friend, but I let it push me around, just like those feelings of inferiority I got when I listened to those more seasoned homeschoolers talk. They weren’t trying to make me feel badly, I did that all by myself.

You think that in two decades I would make exponential progress in the area of giving myself grace when it comes to schedules and school. You’d think I would have pushed those ideals off of their pedestal.  Some days I leapfrog forward and sail through with God’s peace and joy as my companions. Other days,

I am waking up in a panic.
And why?
After all these years?  My baseboards have to be clean to start school?
I was working on my schedule for school today and I told myself, after I started getting worried about whether I could do it every day or not, if I can do it all two days, three days, a week…isn’t that better than not doing it at all? When I say “it all” I mean everything on my schedule, all the school subjects, perfectly completed by joyful, compliant children. All the chores accomplished. Baseboards sparkling. Kitchen shiny. Errands run. Pantry full. Doctors appointments, meetings and practiced attended with nary a whine by child or parent. Check. Check. Check. Check.
In my dreams. Reality is more like chores somewhat finished most days. Load of towels in the washer too long. Run it again. Clean up the kitchen most of the time. School subjects worked through completely some days, other days we chuck it and go for a real life field trip.
I’ve studied some of the works of the names mentioned above. I’ve changed my philosophy of education. It’s been tweaked, but I am the same person who wants to do everything, every day, perfectly.
So, give yourself some grace. You may hit some weeks where you do all the stuff every day and then you have that under your belt for when you can only hit two good days one week.
It's not about
It’s not about perfection, it’s about persistence to keep going. It’s about what you have under your belt, not what you don’t. It’s about grace in the journey, educating your child and enjoying the trip.

Why You Should Break Your Bio Kids’ Hearts

This post was written by Audrey Simmons as part of the Totally Broke Tuesdays series.

Last month, our focus was PLAY and ways to play or use home therapy for free. We’ll have more posts on that in the future, but the theme for the month of June is “Adoption.” And today, I’m going to talk about the why of adopting while your bio kids are at home, from personal experience, for those who already have bio kids. This is a different kind of Totally Broke Tuesday.

First, some disclaimers: You should not adopt for your bio kids. This is not a post encouraging you to adopt to benefit them. This is also not a post encouraging you to go out and find very traumatized children while your bio kids are little and exposing them to abuse from a child who has known issues before they can defend themselves. Just want to make sure that’s clear.

So, you’ve adopted or you’re in the process of adopting or you’re thinking about it. You should know:

Adoption will break your bio kids’ hearts. It will.

Bio kids in adoptive homes will be broken by adopting. Maybe the experience is a little different if you adopt as your youngest bio is finishing high school or leaving for college, I don’t know. But in our house, we ranged in age from five to 12 when our adoption was completed and we grew up together, in the same house with the same rules and the same parenting decisions at the same time. And we were broken by adopting. You try growing up in a household with RAD/FAS and skip being broken by it.

You should also know:

You should not waste time feeling guilty that adoption broke your bio kids’ hearts.

You shouldn’t. That guilt and that condemnation are not from Christ. I’m not telling you to go dance in the streets for joy that you watch your kids’ hearts being broken. You can be broken with them and for them. But you check that guilt and burn it like filthy rags, right now.

Being broken is an uncomfortable experience. But you know what else brokenness does? It opens a door to be drawn to Christ. And if you are seeking Him, leaning on Him, crying out to Him– modeling that for your children– you can  talk them through taking their own broken hearts to Christ. The Psalms are full of this. Psalm 51:17 says,

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.”

And Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Sure, your children didn’t sin by adopting or being broken by adoption. But that brokenness stems from an awareness of sinful nature and living out the consequences of sin. That brokenness doesn’t have to be an evil thing. Brokenness can be an uncomfortable, live-altering thing, but if the alternative is a comfortable heart, a socially on-track life, all the right toys, money for a good college, and an obliviousness to the suffering of others, you might “good life” your kid straight to hell. (To be clear, I’m not saying that kids who didn’t grow up in adoptive homes can’t find Christ, so don’t think that.)

I’m saying if we’re feeling hopeless and guilty about our children being broken, we might not have the right priorities.

Are you thinking about their high school years and college opportunities? Or are you thinking about eternity? And i’m saying this as a kid who was broken. I cannot tell you what my life would have been like had we not adopted, because it’s all theory, but I do like to remind my dad that I was on the fast-track for self-gratification and self-obsession. But I can tell you that the ways in which adoption broke me have already been used for good. It has drawn me closer to Christ. I do not cry often. I struggle with empathy. I imagine those things would both be worse if I was not broken.

At 12 years old, I lived in an orphanage for a frigid November month. I cannot walk in a stiff winter breeze with the hint of snow in the air without remembering a dozen faces we left behind and praying for them. My heart still aches and I wish I knew how they were doing. I think of them by name.

At 16 years old, I watched a movie clip in youth group of a father abandoning his family, and I missed the entire discussion that followed because I was in the back of the room bent double in my chair, sobbing. When someone got me a cup of water and I thought I’d calmed down enough to talk forty-five minutes later, all I could give for explanation was the thought that had been running through my head non-stop: Someone abandoned my sister.

At 23 years old, I was in the hospital with newborn twins and I cried when the nurse brought them back from a test. She assured me they were fine and I nodded. I wasn’t upset about my boys. I was upset because I got to hold them and nobody had been there to hold my brother when he was in the hospital, premature and fighting for his life.

When a brother broke something that belonged to me and then screamed and yelled and struggled through not knowing how to regulate his own responses or manage his own brokenness or recognize his own sin, a family member asked me, “How do you keep forgiving him?” I gave the answer I fall on because it’s the only rock beneath my feet: “I have to, because I do to Christ what he does to me, and I can’t help but see that I’m just as awful.”

I have examined knifed couches, I have tumbled down stairs with my hands in a brother’s hair and his teeth on my arm, I have listened to awful stories about being a neglected toddler, I have beat my fists on a carpet floor in frustration, I have sought solace in all the wrong things, I have dealt with secondary trauma and PTSD, I have waited on firefighters to put out a forest fire a brother started right next to our house, I have wanted to kill them, I have been afraid I’d be killed, I have had my bikes destroyed, my Easter candy stolen, I have driven to a field trip with someone screaming and kicking the entire way there, I have chewed out a friend for referring to her as my “half-sister,” I have wondered at the ugly mystery of children being abandoned, I have seen sugar-hangovers from FAS, I’ve lost entire days to tantrums, I know the safe-holds they teach people who work with at-risk youth.

I have seen miracles in changed hearts, I have waited across an ocean, I have watched literal dreams come actually true, I have seen a child brave the front yard, learn how to ride a bike, learn how to say “I’m sorry” and mean it, I have taught a boy to read, I have set up a tent and a laptop for an outside movie night, I have prayed for a preteen just processing what happened to him as a child, I’ve learned to be an advocate, I have been given a real hug from a child who had to be taught how to hug, I have seen real smiles, heard real laughter.

Matthew 21:44 says, “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

I have fallen on Christ through parents bearing good fruit in their faithfulness, I have seen the Gospel lived out, and I have been broken until I can only fall on Him again with the words, “I need You, I need You, I need You.”

Yes, adoption might break your bio kids’ hearts. But maybe you should let it.