When we say we want to live out diligent and rigorous homeschooling, what do we really mean? What are we really setting out to do?
When I set out to plan a restful year of homeschooling, it’s important to remember that rest is not ease. I am not planning for an easy year.
Rest is trusting that God’s got this, even if I’m a mess, even if I’m not enough, even if I mess up every day. Because I do.
Unshakable peace does not come from getting through a certain amount of material over a specified amount of time (satisfaction might- but not unshakable peace), nor does it come from throwing in the towel and giving in when things get hard. Peace comes from recognizing that our real task is to wake up each day and get our marching orders from God. It comes from diligence to the work He hands us. It doesn’t mean that I don’t use checklists or seek to give my children all the skills they need so that they are fully prepared for the next step (thank goodness- I love my checklists!).
Rigor vs. Diligence
We have this desire to give our kids what we call an academically “rigorous” education. Andrew Kern and Christopher Perrin both taught me a bit about that. In my conversations with them for the audio companion of Teaching from Rest, I asked them how we could pursue a rigorous education while retaining a sense of rest. But what I didn’t realize was that the word “rigor” comes from the Latin “rigorem” which means numbness, stiffness, hardness, firmness, roughness, rudeness.
Don’t aim for a rigorous education, they both told me. If we are aiming to order our children’s affections, learn to love what is lovely, join in the great conversation, and cultivate a soul so that the person is ready in every sense of the word to take on the challenges around the corner and on the other side of the college entrance exams, then, they said, work for “diligence” instead.
Diligere mean to single out, value highly, esteem, prize, love; aspire to, take delight in, appreciate. Which brings me right back to what Andrew Kern said when he told me that what we really mean by rigor is not just doing hard things, but cultivating a habit of focused attention.
Diligent & Rigorous Homeschooling
So what does this mean entrenched in my actual day? What happens when my child throws down her pencil and her eyes well up with tears because she just doesn’t get the math lesson today? (This happens in my home quite a bit, actually!)
When I focus on being diligent rather than rigorous, my measure for success is not, “did I check off lesson 97 today?” I am going to want to check off lesson 97 at some point. But if I can’t do it today because my child is not achieving understanding, I don’t need to fret and worry and wring my hands. I’m not tempted to push her through to the next lesson because we must! keep! up!, and I certainly don’t put the math book on the shelf and shrug it off either.
My child not understanding the math lesson isn’t a reason to disturb my state of peace. After all, this is what we were made for! Now it’s time to troubleshoot, to problem solve, to come alongside her and realize that when she doesn’t understand the day’s lesson, it isn’t a setback, it’s just God showing us our marching orders for the day.
Teaching from rest means we don’t panic when things don’t go according to our plan. This is going to take diligence, attention, and a lot of hard work- and that’s what we were made for. It helps tremendously if we clear enough time in the schedule to focus on what needs tending and smile a lot.
My child is struggling through her lesson today? She doesn’t need me to go global, she needs me to go all in.
When I take on the challenge of this day with both hands and trust that we are right where He wants us, that’s when I experience unshakable peace. Not when the work is all done, the lessons all checked off, the SAT aced and my child sent successfully to college, proving that I did my job well.
The unshakable peace is not tied to my success at all.
It’s tied to my faithfulness. We rest in the fact that if our children grow up to ask us why we did what we did- why we focused on cultivating wonder and curiosity, on learning hard things like Latin and algebra, why we didn’t fill up our days but focused on majoring on the majors and gazing on Him- we can answer with confidence.
This isn’t idealism.
It isn’t simple and peaceful in the sense of being easy or gentle. It is, as Dr. Perrin puts it, “meaningful learning and growth- but without anxiety and frenzy.”
So when I’m looking at my birds’ eye view, when I’m choosing what is worth keeping in my homeschool day, I can do a better job of culling and choosing if I seek to be diligent, to teach from rest, and to do it all for the glory of God.