Today’s post is from Mystie Winckler.
I never thought I was a perfectionist.
I tend toward being a [recovering] slob, so how can I be a perfectionist? Hint: I can’t be perfect, so I totally gave up long ago. When the reality doesn’t match up with my ideal vision (quickly and easily), my conclusion is “Fail. I didn’t do it. Can’t do it. I lose.”
I was never able to wake up one morning and Work the Plan perfectly. I was never able to work intensively for a few weeks and perfectly implement any of the number of habits I wanted to build in myself and in my children. I was never able to be what I wanted to be. Therefore, I quietly assumed it’s not possible for us.
We are doomed, habit-failures, hopeless cases, because my oldest was 10 still didn’t see Legos in the couch. I’ve never had a child describe a plant or bird so that I knew what he was talking about because I have never been observant enough to know myself. My boys have sloppy handwriting because they write so much on their own – and have since they were five – that no 5-minute daily handwriting practice (and we never even did that consistently) would undo their self-taught habits. The kids’ rooms are always a mess 5 minutes after they’ve been picked up. Neatness does not at all come naturally to any of my children (or myself).
So, we’ve been homeschooling for over 7 years and I can point out many, many goals I started out with that we have not accomplished. There are many, many habits I tried with pains to build that are not habits even yet. Fail.
We have all grown in these areas, very, very slowly. If I do think back to our habits 6-8 years ago, I have to admit there’s been progress. But there has been zero “arrival.” I can’t put checks next to any of the habits and mark them off as attained.
But we are growing, and we all have grown more so since I’ve simply started trying to master the habits MYSELF only, without whipping the children into shape. It would be amazing and wonderful if I’d already had these habits and had been able to teach them very early on to each of my children, so they never knew a day that wasn’t attentive, neat, etc. Perhaps then neatness would be second-nature to us all and our house would stay decently in order.
However, just because we don’t have that advantage doesn’t mean our inferior implementation has been a failure. The children are seeing in me and experiencing in themselves growth and maturity, slowly, year by frustrating year.
I tend to discount small steps and get super frustrated by slowness, but that seems to be the only way change and growth happens, despite my efforts to speed it up and master it all, all at once.
In the early years I’d look at Charlotte Mason habit lists or classical education standards and make them [all, all at once] goals for the year. We would then utterly fail. Still, year by year, all those efforts have slowly born fruit, even if it’s so slow I can’t see or feel it. It’s not been wasted effort.
Keep at it, even if you feel like a failure.
You are not failing. You are growing. Allow the time necessary for growth and do not grow weary in doing good – in due season you will reap if you do not give up.
Mystie and her husband, both second-generation homeschoolers, have five children whom they educate at home classically, seeking to cultivate wisdom and virtue in themselves as well as their children through discipleship in a simple life full of Truth, Goodness, Beauty – and a lot of books. Mystie blogs at Simply Convivial about homeschooling, homemaking, and apprenticing our children in life.