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  • Writer's pictureThe Farmer's Wife

I'm Learning the Hard Way: Throw away the Shoulds

The words clog my throat, choked by my feelings of inadequacy.

You wouldn't think that four words would be so hard.

… Honestly, words aren’t hard --- but the feelings are.

Just spit it out! “We - are - starting - school”

Wrapped in lies of my own creation, I feared the return those four words would bring me.

For many years, I’ve believed I should be a better homeschool mom.

Because my daughter has VERY different learning styles from mine, it has been a STEEP, emotional, learning curve for both of us. I’m disappointed to say I’ve embraced a bit of homeschool PTSD of sorts.

I held my breath - and said into the darkness of the car ride, “hey girls, we’re going to start school tomorrow”

I winced - waiting for the complaints like a hammer on my fingers.


And then a surprising return: - "Yay! - ok. And a request for a prize jar like we did last year."

Wait - what? My brain did not compute. Where is the struggle and the fight? The complaining and the whining?

Sure - that may come, but they aren’t here now. This is not what I expected.

Too dramatic? I don’t think so.

Moms do this all the time. We arrive at situations with a banquet of past experiences (and lies) that we project onto the current circumstance.

Those “mom-fail” experiences quickly become broken records that endlessly play over our subconscious like “This is the song that never ends”.

All of these “fails” carry an ugly “should” with them

I “should” be a better homeschool mom.

My house “should” be cleaner

I “should” be more patient

My voice should be calmer

My kid should be more well behaved

My thighs should be thinner

But is this the truth? Or is the ‘should’ a lie?

As for me and school, I’ve got some giant shoulds….However, in reality, EVERYTHING is different from even just last year.

I have changed and grown, my kids have changed and grown, the curriculum is different, our circumstances have shifted, so why in the world does my brain tell me things will be the same?

In the book “Winning the War in your Mind” (Which should be required reading for every mom!!) Pastor Groschel explains the mom-situation perfectly;

“Your brain is designed to look for patterns and create neurological pathways to help you keep thinking the things you keep thinking and doing the things you keep doing…Every thought you have produces a neurochemical change in your mind. Your brain literally redesigns itself around that thought.”

THIS IS WHY we have trouble stepping outside of our mom-feelings! Our brains are literally wired to find patterns from the past and then repeat them!

I’m here to tell you though: We can CHANGE those patterns with the thoughts that we think!

The war of our minds is where battles are won - it actually has very little to do with our circumstances. Rather, it has everything to do with our *thinking* about those circumstances.

This school year, what if we actually focused on the things we *can* change, (our thinking!) and allowed the circumstances to follow?

How do we do this?

I’m going to start with a quote from Charlotte Mason that I'll paraphrase: “Today, do my kids love learning more than yesterday??”

Charlotte’s quote was much more elaborate - talking about how accomplishment is not the end goal of learning. Rather, she argued that fostering a love of learning is of higher value than checking any number of boxes.

This is hard for me.

Checking boxes thrills me.

Slow, unhindered, exploratory learning does not.

My achievement driven eyes don’t see a happy-fun-time of learning when I look at the weekly assignments from my daughter’s curriculum. These eyes see the hunt and kill of unmarked check-boxes. They see failed achievement when the boxes remain empty.

I have a natural propensity to get exceedingly stressed out about the unchecked boxes. But here’s my face-palm question… for WHAT?

What difference will it make if the whole universe of boxes are checked but my kids hate learning?

Am I nurturing a love of learning, or am I ticking off boxes on my curriculum plan?

Mason also says “the question is not, -- 'how much does the youth know' when he has finished his education -- 'but how much does he care' and 'about how many orders of things does he care'. In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

At the end of the day (or the end of 12 grades of days) I want kids that care.

Check-boxes will fade but the character which is obsessively or healthfully built by those boxes will remain.

In just a “few” years, I have to release the product of my check box obsession into the world as an adult. *insert scared face here*

The question is: Which check-box trumps all?

The most important of all checkboxes hit me square between the eyes on a recent trip to see the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. As my kids turned circles of awe experiencing THE Noah’s Ark, I turned my own circles of awe at their depth of foundational learning.

There isn’t a single checkbox that matters more than them knowing that they were created in the image of God and saved by His death on the cross.

What does that have to do with Noah’s Ark?


Maybe you don’t believe you were created in the image of God and maybe you don’t understand why the God of the Universe chose death on a cross for you, but The Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum give verifiable evidence of both. You can’t honestly walk through those two exhibits without having some serious world-view wrestling to do.

The learning my kids did on this trip was like pouring a cement foundation for a house. If you wanted, you *could* build a house on a patch of shifty dirt, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The house won’t stand for long.

Same with the foundational worldview..

We could check boxes all day long and come out on the other side with a “house” that’s built on dirt.

What if instead we took the time to foster the love of learning, and build a cement foundation on which to put all of the other checkboxes that, in reality, matter far LESS than the foundational ones?

In the end, I think we’d find ourselves much more focused (and much less stressed) about all the individual boxes.

In the release of struggling with all the little check-boxes, I think we’d find that our kids’ love of learning would expand… and maybe even our love of teaching…

So, what now, PTSD mom?
Is this just another “should” to add to the list?
Or perhaps this replaces the list of shoulds and helps us focus on just one thing.

I work with a coach who often encourages her clients to ask themselves, “What is the ONE thing I have to do today?”.

Every time she asks that question, I (internally) fight back.

“What do you mean THE ONE THING? - Crazy lady!” I have 1,000 things to do… before BREAKFAST!!!! I’m a MOM!!!.... Want to see my to-do list? Prepare to be shocked and amazed.

She then calmly reminds us that feeling scattered and overwhelmed by the 1,000 doesn’t actually help anyone or anything.

Who wants a mom that’s a total mess on the inside? (Nobody wants that mom)...

So what if we focused? Like actually focused on the ONE most important thing to do right now.

No doubt, we’d find our days less frantic. Our brains less scattered. And our mom-life more purposeful.

So Today -- I will focus on the foundation of truth in teaching my kids while fostering a love of learning more than a love of box checking.

Now all I need is a tattoo on my forehead, so I remember my “One” thing :)
Who's with me? -- Maybe they’d give us a mom-group discount. :)

Hey friend! Look at you!

You just read a whole blog about being a purposeful mom! You're Amazing!

If you don't know me, I'm Liz Gerdes, and I'd like to be your cheerleader.

I'm a SE MN dairy farmer and friend to anyone who needs one.

I help moms feel awesome about what they feed their families with farm fresh milk!

Visit or follow me on Facebook @gerdesfreshfarm for more info.

Ready for some farm fresh milk (or cream!)?

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