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May 2017 Subscribe to the Struggling Learner newsletter >>

Finding Joy in the Chaos

Picture of Shelley Whisenant Shelley Whisenant

By Shelley Whisenant
Guest Writer

I am an expert in chaos. I live in what feels like a circus of chaos—all day, every day. I have five children ages 7–17, and I homeschool all of them.

All five are energetic, a few are struggling learners, and none know the meaning of quiet. I keep waiting for God to give me a calm child, but apparently, He doesn’t think I can handle it. No, God gave my friends the calm children, and He gave me the wild ones.

Maybe you can relate?

So here it is—May already. Mother’s Day is approaching, and I am feeling like there is no other mama in the country more in need of encouragement than myself. Maybe you feel the same way. Many of us have been schooling since August or September, and we are spent. So are our students.

Parents and students alike are struggling with motivation right now. We can see the finish line, but it’s still far enough away that we are wondering if the end of the school year is really going to come.

You might be reading this because you have a struggling learner . . . or two . . . or three. Man, has that been a challenge this year. You already have the stress of homeschooling, and you throw a struggling learner into the mix? Stress on steroids!

You look around at your friends—you know, that one whose 7th grader is doing 12th grade math? I mean, she has no idea what you are going through! You think to yourself: I would take her situation any day. School must be a breeze in their house.

Believe me, she has troubles just like you do, though they might be different types of troubles. We all struggle with the day-to-day tasks, the monotony of some days, the craziness of others, the days that we are super-productive, and the days that we stay in our jammies and try to catch up on laundry.

The secret to getting through it all is to find joy in the little things. It’s there. You might just have to look for it. Some days you might have to look really hard. Remember that you took on this job for a reason. You need to remind yourself of that reason often.

Three keys to joy

The first thing you need to find joy is perspective. Focus on the children God gave you. And remember that even if your children struggle, it means their achievements are even greater cause for joy. Quit comparing your 7th grader to the 7th grader who is doing 12th grade math. Your 7th grader might be reading at a 4th grade level, but last year at this time, he was reading at a 2nd grade level. This year, he has made amazing strides.

God gave this child to you, not someone else. He gave this child to you because he knew you were the perfect mama for him. God doesn’t make mistakes!

The second thing you need is thankfulness. Bear in mind that there is always someone who is worse off than you.

For example, when I struggle to keep the house clean, I remind myself how blessed I am to have a house. There are people who don’t have a roof over their heads. When (by my standards) I fail to keep school running smoothly, I remind myself that public school teachers don’t always have smooth days either. I remind myself to be thankful for the privilege and freedom to homeschool, as there are many parents may want to homeschool but are unable to for various reasons.  I am sure there are mamas out there who desire to homeschool their children but can’t. Maybe they have to work to pay the bills or their hubby isn’t supportive of homeschooling, or perhaps they live in a country where homeschooling isn’t even legal. There is always something to be thankful for; you just have to pause sometimes to remember what it is.

The third thing to remember is to cherish your homeschooling years. You only get one shot at this parenting thing and before you know it, they will be grown and gone. You will not get these days back ever again. Savor them!

Every day that you look forward to bedtime (I sometimes do that), remember that the nights of little hands pressed together in prayer by the bedside are numbered. The days of reading books before bed are limited. You will blink, and all of a sudden you will be watching your child raise his own children and remember with fondness the bedlam that you would do anything to have again, if only just for a few minutes. You will watch that child sit down with his own child to read a book and remember how hard that was for him so many years ago and remember with pride that you taught him how to read! And even though it was a struggle, it was so worth it.

Remember that as long as you have breath, you have a reason to be joyful. Most of us have more than just breath. We have wonderful children who have been given to us by God, and we have been convicted to homeschool those for whom learning isn’t always easy. Being a homeschool mama isn’t easy for any of us, but it sure is worth it. Remind yourself of this particularly on Mother’s Day, but remember it on the other days of the year as well. You are doing an awesome job!

I hope you have a wonderful, happy, blessed and joyful Mother’s Day!

Picture of Shelley Whisenant

Shelley Whisenant has been married to Dave for 21 years.  They live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where they are raising their five children.  They have been homeschooling for 13 years.  She enjoys making soap, researching homeschool curriculum, and enjoys a good murder mystery.

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