Encouragement for moms Homeschooling Inspiration

When parents feel like failures

I’m a failure. If I’m not currently beating myself up over this truth, I’m actually okay with it. In fact, I’ve realized that even when parents feel like failures, their children–by God’s grace–can still succeed.

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The Colossal Hoax

I think there’s a colossal hoax right under all of our parental noses and we don’t even realize it. We’re always led to believe that the “good” parents of the “successful” kids never fail at anything. But after decades of being a mommy who fails, daily, at so many things, I’ve decided to unveil this hoax for what it really is. It’s fear. It’s self-pride. It’s wasted hours of worrying. But it’s simply not true.

Listen up, all you moms and dads who occasionally fail at a few things. Your children can still succeed at a lot of things..

From Legos to Bomb Detectors

Not too many years ago, a toothless smile parted her chubby cheeks, and deep-set dimples announced her excitement as ocean waves rolled towards her for the first time.

She gave me a few sleepless nights, learned to in-line skate, played a mean third base for years of fast-pitch softball, then–just like that–she was off for Boston. A summer internship as a Mechanical Engineer. Nineteen summers ago nothing would have made her happier than watching waves swirl around her Daddy’s bare feet. But I guess today topped her first beach day. Today she built a prototype for a neutron detector using large, thin sheets of lithium in a gas-filled multi-wire proportional chamber. Or something like that. (I can’t even pretend that I actually comprehend what that really means.) Today my chubby-cheeked baby is working on saving the world by helping design the most sensitive and cost-effective nuclear bomb detector ever known. And not long ago she was building with Legos.

Of course her sister was snatching up the Legos, right alongside her. And ruining her good Easter tights as she insisted on crawling up brick steps. Her wide-brimmed straw hat may have deterred her climbing abilities, but she wore it the way she liked it, down low over her forehead, and no one was going to tell her differently.

when parents feel like failures

The Stubborn One eventually learned to read, mastered the up-hill single-person bike marathon she held every sunny morning of her seventh summer, and learned to capture moments with a camera lens that always leave me breathless. Then–just like that–she became an adult. She works with peers to build 125-pound robots that do some amazing things. And not long ago she was forgetting half of the letters when she sang the alphabet song.

Difficult, Unappreciated Yesterdays

But I’m not going to say it all “feels like yesterday.” There were thousands of difficult, unappreciated yesterdays between the Chubby-Cheeks and the engineer. Between the Stubborn One and the robotics-loving lady. And I’m not going to say their success is all due to homeschooling a particular way, or a certain curriculum we used, or even due to homeschooling at all.

Why are they so successful? After pondering this for the past year (after watching the Chubby-Cheeked Baby pack up and head off to college), I think I have an answer.

Why Do Kids Succeed?

Kids are successful because their parents sometimes fail.

Yep, I think my amazing adult daughters are building fascinating robots and working with nuclear physicists to make the world a better place because I am a failure.

They love learning because I’m a failure.

You see, in the beginning of this homeschool journey, on day 1, I decided I could teach my 4-yr-old her colors and shapes and alphabet and figured we’d just see how long I was comfortable homeschooling her, how long until my own knowledge wasn’t enough. Day 2? I realized I’d have to quit if that was the criteria for being a good homeschool mom: being comfortable and knowing enough. On day 3, after a lot of praying and feeling certain I was doing exactly what God was calling me to do, I decided I was in this for the long-haul, knowing I would fail every. single. day. (I never questioned that again–that I was supposed to be homeschooling my children. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit can give us unwavering, lifelong confidence in areas that He knows we will most definitely need it.)

So I was uncomfortable right from the beginning, and I still am today. With my 4-year-old I was uncomfortable learning all about spiders (euwwww) but that’s what she wanted to learn about.

(If you also have a child interested in spiders or other creepy crawlies, please take a second to follow along here on SoulyRested. As soon as you subscribe, in one of the sign-up boxes below or in the sidebar, you’ll have access to my subscriber resources, which includes several printables about insect ID and more.)

When she was 8, I was uncomfortable helping her learn to sew (no, uncomfortable isn’t the right word– inept would be a better word choice).

At 12? Making pottery.

At 15? Cosmology and all the theories thereof.

At 16? Trigonometry and robotics.

Yep, their interests only get more impossible and uncomfortable for us moms as they get older. So I prayed more and I searched for resources to help her. We got very familiar with the entomology and craft sections at our public libraries. The potter who taught the local class she attended offered her a mentorship when we didn’t have the funds to continue enrolling her in classes. She gave her instruction in her private studio for an hour a week, basically teaching her how to run a studio, in exchange for two hours of my daughter’s cleaning, organizing, and working for her. I found on-line and DVD options for Trigonometry and didn’t stop until we found something that made it finally “click.”

But if I hadn’t been a failure at all those subjects, she’d have never thrived at them. If I had been able to just explain Trigonometry to her (yeah, right–me and advanced math?), she wouldn’t have had to spend months working through many learning options until she could proudly say she conquered it herself.

They are fostered by mentors because I’m a failure.

The best thing she ever did academically, in her opinion? She found an FRC team full of engineering mentors who were happy to help her learn how to fabricate 125-pound robots.

when parents feel like failures

If I had been able to help her build a little robot in our garage from a kit or something (now that’s funny–the thought of me building something), she never would have developed deep, peer-like, mutually-respectful relationships with engineering mentors.

They honor God with their days because I’m a failure.

The most rewarding result of my ineptness? I am a fine example for them, daily, that they can live a prosperous life and honor Him even in the midst of–no actually because of–the fact that they too will fail, have gross limitations, and be completely incapable at some things. I’m reminded every day that I am a mere jar of clay, average, common, and incapable of so much, yet God chooses to be a part of my days. Dwell with me. Be a treasure that shines when I do impossible things, through Him.

Every year now, for 15 years, through sweat and tears, I cry out to God. I ask Him to help me figure out what on earth our next school year should look like. Because I still haven’t gotten it all “right.” So when you see a homeschool mom who, in your mind, is doing it all “right,” whose kids are thriving,  love learning, have real-world experiences and impressive mentors in their lives, you can officially say, “Yep, that mom must be a failure.”

And moms of little ones who want to know how a spider makes her web? Go ahead and admit to them that you’re a failure, then learn right along side of them.

Yep, when parents feel like failures, their children–by God’s grace–can still succeed. Revel in the fact that you’re a failure, and you face the fact that you’re uncomfortable with your ineptitude every day. Because just like that they’ll be off saving the world and you can say, “yep, I’m a failure, but look how well they turned out.”

when parents feel like failures

That’s Chubby Cheeks on the right and the Stubborn One is next to her, with our labradoodle. My other two–my homesteader & entrepreneur, and my writer & artistic philanthropist–well, I still have quite a few years to keep right on failing with them.

Hop over to my resource page if you’d like lots more ideas (including lists of supplies I use and recommend for everything from gardening, to homeschool, to nature journaling, to maple syrup making), but here are a few robotics resources that helped spark that awesome STEM interest in my daughters:

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“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

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5 Comment

  1. Thank you for this writing. I am gonna keep on failing!!! So wish I could have failed our 3 older children(adults). I did get to ‘fail” my child that just graduated with extensive learning delays. Now thoroughly ‘failing’ our youngest. I feel so much better.

  2. This was beautiful! I am fascinated with homeschooling, although I was not called to do it with my own kiddos. They are 6 and 8 and enrolled in a VERY parent active charter school that was founded by homeschooling families and it is a great fit for us. Even still I have my failure moments helping with homework and projects and keeping their brains active in the summer. Thanks so much for writing this!

  3. Beautifully said, Michelle! Hopefully my children become amazing successes! For all that I accomplish around here, there are millions of failures 🙂 Thank you for the encouragement!

  4. I think you’re exactly right. It’s in our weakness that God glorifies himself. The key to raising children is keeping your eyes on Jesus and asking for His help every step of the way.

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