If there’s one thing I hear homeschool moms lament over and over it’s their own lack of consistency.
And I’m right there with them.
There were the early years – before I was truly homeschooling – when I determined that consistency was going to be the one thing needed and by George I’d do it. There were the tired years when I was both pregnant and trying to teach someone to read and I realized just how fragile my resolve was. We moved. We were sick. We had another baby, one who wouldn’t sleep through the night.
Can we cling to lifelong learning in the hopes that this all evens out in the end?
Yes, there is much benefit in living this life together, in simply reading lots of books and restoring fellowship when it’s broken time and time again.
But there’s also actually benefit to completing a math book, finishing a paper, memorizing a poem, and parsing Latin sentences. And you can’t do those things unless you put in the repetitions, day in and day out.
I must be getting older.
I find myself smiling when I see moms say they are their own enemy to the education they are hoping to give their children. “I am the one who needs a kick in the pants, not encouragement.” they say. “Ah,” I think, “her oldest is probably 5.”
Because when your oldest is 7 or 8 and you’re pregnant for the fourth or fifth time and you start seeing each child as another person you have to endlessly repeat a/ay/aw with and the toilets are never clean and you know school only picks up from here, then you do need encouragement.
When your oldest hits his first argumentative phase, when one child has a harder time with math or with reading, when the curriculum you thought you’d love isn’t working – then you do need encouragement.
Then one year you realize – I realize – the oldest has made it to middle school and we’re actually doing ok. I’m not pregnant, I’m sleeping through the night most nights, and I’ve taught four children to read. We could be farther along in a lot of things, but we can have pleasant and informed conversations. We had our consistent times and our inconsistent lax times, and we’re pulling through ok.
Then, we’re at a crossroad.
We’ve been through the uncertain phase, where we aren’t sure we can hack it. We’ve been through the exhausted phase, where we just do what we can. We come out the other end and it would be easy to think that we can do what we did during the exhausted phase and keep coasting. But what if that season is actually over? What if the grace we received during those years needs to build some spine and stamina in us now?
We have to steward what we are given, where we are right now. If we have no newborns, adequate sleep, no health problems and no huge life disruptions, the right response is not to rejoice and relax. The right response is to rejoice and dig in, to make hay while the sun shines. This season is not guaranteed to last; this season is a thing to be invested, to be spent, poured out so that there might be growth.
No matter what season you’re in, it’s a thing to invest, to pour out and to pour into so that there might be growth. But what that looks like will be different.
With no excuses to not do the work, it’s time to do the work, day in and day out, maintaining an even keel and not growing weary of doing good, of putting in strong school days.
It’s time to grow in consistency.
What is consistency?
Starbucks is consistent. Mcdonalds is consistent. What you order is the same wherever you go. Is that the kind of consistency we’re after?
I don’t think so.
We can’t always put out the exact same standard effort, doing the exact same thing day in and day out, no matter what happens. Because life happens. And our job isn’t to ignore that and pretend situations, people, needs never change. Instead, we’re to be responsive in our planning. We’re supposed to take into account the needs in front of us and respond accordingly, always moving ourselves and our young ones down the path we’ve chosen and away from the cliffs on either side.
The dictionary defines consistency as “the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time.”
That is, exactly what we are performing, what we are doing, might vary, but the quality does not – over weeks and months and years, not just one strong day here and there.
Quality of effort, not uniformity of actions.
It means we show up and put in the effort when we don’t feel like it, because there will be days we don’t feel like it. And if I skimp on or shrug off school whenever I don’t feel like doing it, we’re going to be consistently slacking, not consistently faithful.
School days do not have to grow tedious to be consistent. Consistent quality, consistently living up to the level we’re at requires staying engaged and changing things up in response to our children’s needs. It means taking rest when rest is needed and not burning out in the name of high performance.
Consistent in affection.
Consistent in attention.
Consistent in patience.
These are the qualities we must be consistent in just as much – more so – than consistent in completing math pages.
This isn’t an overnight resolve, where we undertake to be consistent, tighten up our belts, pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and just do it. Consistency is a virtue, one we grow into, one we learn to love while we learn to put it into practice.