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What I Learned from Spelling Workbooks: An Open Letter to Homeschool Moms

What I Learned from Spelling Workbooks: An Open Letter to Homeschool Moms

Dear Homeschool Moms,

It’s mid-July and another academic year is beginning soon. Some of you who are reading this are considering giving up homeschooling, because you may feel like you aren’t good enough at it, or because you and your children have fallen behind.

Other parents seem to have it “all together,” and you feel like you have it “all apart.” You once may have thought that homeschooling would produce a great relationship among you and your older children, but after years of doing it, homeschooling seems to have failed at that.

You don’t see the fruits of your many hours of homeschooling labor, and you wonder whether you ever will. Particularly in our weaker moments, it’s a human response to wonder where the payoff is. Looking back, I’m sure my own Mom must have felt that way at times when teaching me. (And—if she has any sense—there ought to be a part of my Mom that is still wondering.)

There are times when your homeschooling has seemed less than tranquil. In fact, it has often been a disquieting reminder of how chaotic your life can get. Homeschooling hasn’t helped your bank account either. Though you and your husband may fall into the category of SILKs (Single-Income, Lots of Kids), that hasn’t made your financial situation run smoothly.

And now, you see that July is almost half-over, and another year of homeschooling is bearing down upon you. All in all, the thought of another year of homeschooling is just too much. I understand. I’ve experienced the struggles of homeschooling both as a parent and as a child.

But while you’re making this decision, please do yourself a favor. Go to your homeschool room/bedroom/closet, and pick up a used spelling workbook. Open that book, and take a look inside.

I know what you are tempted to do. You are tempted to look in the back workbook pages that your child never finished. Those empty pages scream out to you that you failed—that teaching is a skill that you clearly don’t possess. “My son didn’t even finish Spelling for Young Catholics 3. How could I possibly do this for another year?” you think.

But I want you to look a little closer in that book. Look at your child’s pencil marks in that book. Look on those workbook pages and tell me what you see. You might see only paper and carbon. You might see “D’s” where there should be a “B’s.” You might see some misspelled words.

But I’ll tell you what I see: I see a mother who loves her child. It took me a while to learn this, but now I’m sure. It may look like a spelling workbook, but I see a love story. If the world doesn’t view it that way, I feel sorry for the world.

One thing I don’t see is failure.

In his famous poem, If, Rudyard Kipling writes:

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same…”

Why imposters? Because triumph and disaster do not define us. A human act or endeavor does not need to wait for results to determine its goodness. As St. Therese so beautifully taught us: regardless of the results, it is love that determines whether an action is a success or failure. It is love that defines us.

Not money.

Not prestige.

Not fame.

Not complete or incomplete spelling workbook pages.

But love. Money and fame are the imposters, but love is the real deal. Love is the real success.  And you’ve got it.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. God loves you.


About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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