Why Do We Quit?
I was discussing abandoned and lagging projects with a friend one day, when the question came up: Why do we start things that we think we will finish, and then not finish them?
I popped up with a quick-fix list of answers, but several days later I had one of those “uh-oh” moments as I saw how well these answers applied to me and my own unfinished home school projects. It then occurred to me that these answers fit many occasions, and might explain why some people feel like giving up-or even do give up-on homeschooling. I would like to share these thoughts with you, in the hope that they will help you to keep on keeping on.
The first reason in my pat answer was that we lose the vision. The Word of God tells us that we perish for lack of a vision (Proverbs 29:18). That is truly sad because it is truly unnecessary: God can give vision to His people, and wants to do so all the time. What does it mean to lose the vision?
An example that I often think of is what the old-timers used to call a “sour-grapes” attitude. This refers to Aesop's fable about the fox and the grapes. Basically, when the fox was unable to easily obtain some grapes that he wanted to eat, he decided that the grapes must be sour after all, and not worth having.
Some people do that. They tell everyone, including their children, that God has called them to home school. Of course, their home school friends are all very excited for them, and their children are filled with nearly uncontainable excitement. As they investigate how to implement this calling, though, they encounter some difficulties, and quickly decide that God had not called them after all. They tell their friends to quit harassing them (their term for what was intended as shared joy) about the issue. They tell their children to learn to think of the public schools as their friend, since it will give them immeasurable gifts that they can obtain in no other way, and that will last throughout their lives. So much for God's call.
The same problem can come when we envision a beautifully harmonious setting for our home school and then realize that we are working with unskilled, unharmonious human beings. How easily we decide that loud and wacky is wonderful! It is “just the way we are.” Forget that vision of quietness and peace, of tidy readiness. Lower the standard! The vision has evaporated and folks will just have to accept us the way we are. Home schoolers have rights too, you know . . .
Related to this problem, yet distinct in a way, sometimes we know what God has told us to do, and we determine to do it, but we fail to count the cost. If we do not count the cost, we can find ourselves unprepared to pay the cost. We can easily find ourselves later thinking that the cost is too steep, although in our hearts we know that no cost is too high for our children's welfare. Still, we pause, we think of quitting, we fail in some degree.
By cost, I do not mean only monetary cost. Although there is a little of that, it is also possible to home school without spending very much money at all. No, the cost I mean is often in the realm of social connections. When we begin home schooling, often we lose old friends, or so it seems. What truly may be happening is that we finally discover who our real friends are. We discover, also, how much loyalty our family members feel towards us. Sometimes it is appallingly little. It hurts. It is a lot to pay. We feel like courting the approval of man.
Sometimes the cost can be in the realm of a lost second income. We find ourselves in the position of having to clean our own house, cook our own food, and perhaps even sew our own clothes. The fact that we are, at last, able to do so, because we at last have the time for it, does not seem to soften the reality, sometimes. Without the usual eight-to-five pushing us ever onward, we discover sleep. This can also feel like loss. Therefore, we may just keep insulting our family with the same old fast food, in favor of staying in that warm bed.
Another reason we sometimes feel like quitting is that we grow weary and faint. Let's face it: to work at home is work. When someone asks me if I work, I tell them, “All mothers work.” Perhaps that is not universally true, but I am persnickety enough to make the point. Yes, I work, and so do you. Therefore, it feels like work. Not all people are accustomed to real work. Being breathless or perspiring can make some of us have panic attacks because we think it is unbearable. It can wear us out. It makes us feel like escaping, sometimes. It sometimes leaves us feeling depleted, left over from yesterday. We want to relax. We want to play hooky. We want to read novels and eat chocolate.
Sometimes, we just weary of the discipline. We are doing well when suddenly, out of nowhere, we find that rebellion is not only for children. We simply do not want to be sober-minded and take leadership over a pack of unruly ones. We feel like going on strike. Sometimes we act on all these feelings.
Last, but not least, we ignore our enemy. This is, possibly, the most dangerous reason for quitting that there is. Our enemy is looking for someone to devour. He tells us stupid things that we are dumb enough to believe. “You are ruining your child's potential. You did poorly in math. You cannot provide a Bunsen burner. You will lose the love of your child. You will get arrested . . .” So run the insidious remarks of the enemy of our souls, of our children's souls, and of our entire existence. He stands to gain if he can make God's people look ridiculous, so he does all he can to make us do the ridiculous.
We do not realize how ridiculous it is to be able to home school, even to have begun, and then to fail to reap the benefits in our children's lives. To hear, to believe God, to have the means, and to know better, and then to quit is just beyond explanation, beyond understanding. Of course, someone may have a unique circumstance (although I have never met that one) but almost all do not. Most are simply listening to the enemy without even knowing that he exists. Most are simply quitting because of the dark things they heard whispered into their ears, dark things that they failed to negate, failed to fight, and failed to turn over to the Lover of our souls.
Most of us entertain a combination of all four of the reasons that I gave my friend that day. From the core of our beings, we know that the home is where our beloved children belong, but we forget, we tire, we listen to others. If we keep fighting, we succeed, but too often, we quit. Quitting is not the way of God's people. We must press on. We must realize that any prize that includes the rescue of our children from hell is worth any effort.
Many do not realize that it takes only a tiny bit of quitting to quit entirely, because the rest is downhill. It is like walking along the edge of the Grand Canyon, where unwavering commitment to careful success is of utmost importance: One slip can spell disaster, two slips most certainly can spell disaster, and few if any have survived three slips. The difference is that we know certain death lies at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but we do not see the danger for our children in our wavering commitments to home schooling. We absolutely must develop a strategy for the times when we are tempted to take that slippery, deadly road of ease.
What should such a plan look like? Why, it must lead in the exact opposite direction from the bottom, just as you would lift a child who was slipping down a great gulf. Therefore, any plan must include the following four aspects.
Keep the vision constantly before you. Pray that God will renew your vision for your children, in your heart. Make a list of all the reasons He gives you to home school, and read it and add to it often. Decide, forever, that home schooling is good. Read good home school magazines books. Remember all of the upright people that home schooling has contributed to this world. Read the scientific statistics that prove the benefits of home schooling. Find a good support group and be involved in it, making good home school friends. Connect with HSLDA for wonderful confidence boosters. Join up!
Determine that any cost is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in the end. Up to 85% of the children who attend worldly schools grow to deny their parents' faith. That does not happen with home school. In fact, better than the opposite is true, with over 90% of adults who were homeschooled continuing to attend church and professing the faith of their parents. What are a few moments of sleep compared to our children's lives in heaven and a “well done” from our Lord? What is a new car? What is a worldly friendship? What is a college education? What is a second income? What, on this earth, is worth the loss of even one of your children? Pay up!
Commit yourself to your children, as unto the Lord. People hear calls to all sorts of missions, all the time. Churches have “charge conferences” to determine what each one's job should be. Tithes and other resources are pledged all the time. You have been called to your children for the simple reason that you have them. They are your charge. Pledge your life, before God, to be what they need, so they can grow up right in this wrong world. Wake up!
Do not slink back and let the enemy succeed with you and your children. Your enemy is looking around for whomever he can devour, just like a roaring lion. Learn to recognize his roaring for what it is. Set your face like a flint. Grit your teeth. Exert yourself. Protect and defend your children, as any good parent should. Provide for them. Pray for them, for yourself, and for all home schoolers. Stand up!
And do not give up.
Katharine Trauger has homeschooled her six children for over twenty years. She and her husband, Gerald, live in Arkansas, and enjoy gardening, reading, and Bible study.