Friday, March 23, 2018

The difference between a mistake and a regret

mistake versus regret, regret free homeschooling, parenting tips, God's grace

Dear discouraged Mama,

There is a huge difference between a mistake and a regret. 

Today I'm going to share just a few of the mistakes we made while homeschooling, and how we learned from them. What I really want you to know that this idea of mistake versus regret not limited to education, as it applies to all of parenting. When we learn to differentiate between a mistake and a regret we can learn from our experiences, and become better parents, instead of dwelling on our mistakes, and becoming bitter. 

To begin, let me share a little with you in case you are a new-to-us reader. My name is Carol and my husband Kurt and I have been educating our daughters at home for 15 years. From Kindergarten all the way through high school graduation. Our oldest is finishing her first year of college, and our younger daughter is about half-way through her senior year of high school. Home education has become a way of life for our family. Yet, soon, that will all change, as Arlene reaches her graduation day later this year. I say this to let you know we have been in it for the long haul. Some families homeschool for a year or two, for a few years, or for the elementary grades. Whatever your situation, you might be tempted to have regrets about something you chose along the way. Do not give in to the feelings of regret, but rather, choose to learn from your mistakes. Allow God to heal the brokenness you have experienced, however big or small it might have been. He IS the great physician!

I'll share some of our story

When Emily was not even a year old, we were on vacation and walked into a little bookstore in the middle of amish-country Pennsylvania. After looking around for a while, the man running the store that day asked if we wanted to see the other half of the bookstore. Curious, we asked some questions and he showed us the back room where they sold homeschool curriculum. His comment was something to the effect of "you seem quite discerning in the books you were looking at around the store, and I see you've got a little one's future to think about, maybe you should consider homeschooling."

Along this journey there have been plenty of up days, and a lot of down days too. We have made mistakes, but thankfully, God's grace has carried us through them all, and taught us how to be better parents, and better learners. 

What were some of the mistakes we made?

In no particular order...

Well... there was that one year when we decided to try a more structured program for the year. We jumped into a rather rigid schedule with a group we were learning with. I won't tell you all about it, but let's just say that we learned that year that we were not enamored with the classical style of education or the structured style of schedule that being in a group setting required. It could have easily turned into a year filled with regrets. I could have needlessly beat myself up because of choosing this path for the year that was so vastly different from the gentle style of Charlotte Mason education we had used with the girls for so many years. Fortunately for all of us, God intervened and showed us all much grace.  Before the school year had even ended we had ALL decided that we wanted to go back to the short lessons and living books we had always enjoyed. We wanted the freedom of our own schedule to work around, and we wanted more time spent outside each week.

Another year I made the mistake of letting the girls have too much freedom in how they talked and how well they responded to me and the things they were instructed to do. Have you ever had a year when you feel like it is just too hard to keep going? A year when everyone is snarky and rude, where no one gets along, and the children are disrespectful? Yeah, we had one of those years, two of them actually. I might mention right now that each of those years coincided with a daughter hitting puberty. Yeah, those were rough years. Been there, done that, I feel your struggle - it is real! I yelled a lot more than any one person should. We fought a mental war against apathy and disrespect. It was hard. If I had let regret stay, it would have taken us down an even darker path. But God showed me that my mistakes in parenting, my times of being lazy or unkind did not have to define the relationships I had with our daughters. By choosing to own my mistakes and ask both God and our daughters for forgiveness, I was able to learn how to be firm without being callous, how to be loving without being a pushover. As the girls got older, those were valuable lessons to remind myself of. Moments of grace to look back at and remember that God has been strong enough and wise enough to help us through those years, and He will be strong and wise enough to help us through anything.

One of the biggest mistakes I have made over and over again along this journey is falling into the dangerous comparison trap. Have you fallen in that pit before? I think we all struggle with this one mistake. We look at what other families are doing and wonder if it would be better for us than what we are doing now, we wonder if our children are learning enough with us as their teachers, and we wonder if the nay-sayers are right in that we cannot offer them an education comparable to the one offered in the local schools. Let me tell you that I have seen so many families make this comparison mistake and then turn it into regret. They listen to the world around them about how their children should be raised or how many activities they should be involved in or which books to use for homeschooling. Too often then I have seen the families stop homeschooling, send their children off to public school for the wrong reasons, and suffer the loss of the closeness the family had when the children were younger.

Is there ever a time when you should stop homeschooling and consider sending your child to a public of private school? 

Yes- but only when God tells you to do it! 

There are some families where God has not called them to home educate for the long haul. But these are fewer than you think, so don't jump up and down and think you're now off the hook and can sit and eat bonbons all day while your child boards the big yellow bus. If God is calling you to change your child's education, you'd better ask Him for some real specific details. And you had better be in prayer, both about your decision, and with your child about their future. Having our girls at home for high school has been one of the best experiences we have ever chosen! It is not easy, but none of parenting is easy. It has not really been any more difficult than all those other years of educating at home have been, it just presents new challenges. I will tell you that we have not offered an education that compares to the local schools, we have offered our girls so much more than they could have gotten at a school building! Tailor-made education allows for daily hands-on learning, for relaxed learning, for following your passions while still covering the basics needed for graduation. Our girls have not just been educated so they can receive a diploma, they have learned how to live real life!

The biggest mistake I have made (many times over the years) was in not trusting God to do the work. Too often I have doubted His goodness and His provision for our family. Thankfully, He has given us much grace, and this mistake of not trusting has been turned into a blessing of learning to trust, and being able to let go of the worldly visions of what educations should look like.

Do you know what I have enjoyed the most about homeschooling? That our journey does not need to look like anyone else's! I have found freedom in knowing that for every family and whatever their reason for choosing home education, God has a plan to work His will in their lives. 

Some of my friends love having textbooks for very subject, having tests or quizzes every week, or worksheets for each child, or even for their children to take dual-credit classes during high school. Guess what? None of those appealed to us, and we did not need them, because they were not a part of God's plan for our family. Knowing that His grace is sufficient  to supply all of our needs has been the best lesson I have learned dover these fifteen years!

Fifteen years is a really long time. I am thankful to say that I have no regrets about our homeschooling journey. I have ad mistakes, just as we all do, but by allowing God to use them to teach me along the way, we have grown closer.

Mistakes? Yes.
Regrets? No.

May you be encouraged to rely upon God's grace and not your own strength for this journey!

Want more encouragement for the journey? Check out the other posts in this round up by clicking the graphic below!


  1. Carol, thank you for sharing your thoughts here on your journey over the years.

  2. that was a lovely piece to read, so glad I stopped in tonight. :)

  3. Love this!! The secret to avoiding regret really is to learn from the mistakes, ask forgiveness when needed, and move on!! By the way, I love the little story of the bookseller introducing you to homeschool curriculum - that is pretty cool!

  4. The bookseller story is so neat! I think it is awesome to hear how God uses people to plant the seeds of homeschooling in our lives.

  5. Fantastic...we are just starting our journey and I love seeing that it is possible to homeschool through high school. It will be a long time and take a lot of work but thank you for the advice your provide in this post. No regrets.