Enhanced – read by the author
Mom to Mom with Durenda Wilson
Freedom From Guilt

ur oldest son loved math. By the time he was in junior high, he had moved beyond my ability to help him. My husband was able to continue assisting him for a little while longer but after that, he was on his own. He was determined to continue moving forward, so he tracked down a math website that was able to give him what we could not.

As a homeschooling mom, it was gratifying to see him so passionate about learning when it came to math. However, language arts was a very different story.

He had two older sisters who loved reading and writing, so he was the first who would rather do just about anything other than reading and writing. The inward battle with guilt over whether or not I was doing enough was real. It felt like a continual push and pull to get him to move forward while not crushing him under the weight of what might be unnecessary. But what was unnecessary? I’m not a college graduate and I had no idea whether our son would go to college or what he would do for a living—although I suspected it would be more math-related than language arts-related. But who really knew? What was important for him to know? There was no sure way to get answers at that moment, but I knew that with seven other children to care for and homeschool, I couldn’t let myself become weighed down with guilt over this. There was too much and too many people at stake.

So I did what I often do and asked God for wisdom. I thought through what we were already doing in terms of reading and writing and realized that our son was not overwhelmed by it and never complained, so we definitely needed to keep doing that.

I had to resist the urge to worry and feel guilty that it wasn’t enough and just made sure that he did one thing well.

That one thing was very simple: read for twenty to thirty minutes and write a summary of what he read. I would go over these summaries with him daily to check punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, etc. Occasionally I would add a little extra something, but often he seemed discouraged by it. I simply wasn’t willing to press him to the point of disliking reading and writing even more by pushing beyond what my mom instincts were saying was enough.

“There is a difference between guilt and the necessary tension that is part of the homeschooling journey.”

I realized that this approach was unconventional, and I knew then that there was a chance I was failing our son, but it was a pressure I had to live with. My love for our son and my desire to do things in a way that didn’t cause harm to our relationship—and didn’t squash his love for learning—are what kept me from feeling unnecessary guilt. There is a difference between guilt and the necessary tension that is part of the homeschooling journey. It’s the tension of wanting to do what’s best for our kids, realizing that we don’t always know what that is, leaning into the Lord and our mom instincts to help us figure it out, and then trusting the unique journey that God has our family on.

Woman holding young boy on her back while smiling in snowy setting

When he was sixteen, our son decided to start college through a dual enrollment program so he could complete his last two years of high school and his first two years of college simultaneously.

Much to my surprise he aced the English college entrance exam explaining to me that I taught him to speak well and made him read and write summaries daily and that was all he needed. Did I have this assurance years before when I was dealing with the guilt of feeling like I wasn’t doing enough? No, but that is the nature of homeschooling.

It is a journey of faith, much like that of a farmer. Farmers can’t force a seed to grow. They can water, fertilize, and encourage growth, but ultimately it is GOD who causes the growth.

We as homeschooling moms have to remember that we are not forcing but rather gently shaping unfolding possibilities.

When our son walked into his first English class in college the professor said, “Forget about everything you learned in high school because we do things differently here.” That wasn’t a problem for our son. He didn’t have to unlearn anything. Imagine if I had caved into guilt, pressed and pushed and overloaded him with tons of reading and all that I thought he needed only to find out that precious time with him was wasted and that part of the journey was miserable for both of us. No thank you.

Young boy reading at desk

I read the paper our son wrote for that first English class. I was shocked. It was well written, and he got a B+. It included footnotes which he had learned to use on his own while preparing to write the paper. What propelled him forward in a subject that was not his favorite was that he was working toward a goal that was important to him. He wanted to be a software engineer and that required him to get through a certain amount of classes that he wasn’t excited about. He was motivated to persevere because he knew where he wanted to go, and he owned what it took to get there.

As a homeschooling mom, guilt can be our worst enemy but it’s important to discern whether the guilt we are experiencing is false guilt or real guilt—or what I would call conviction. Just like it is unwise to let ourselves come under a load of false guilt, it can be equally unwise to ignore conviction. Conviction is rooted in sometimes painful truth and tells us that we have truly made a mistake or done wrong and we need to make things right by apologizing and/or changing our course.

False guilt is typically rooted in fear and untruth or partial truth. It cripples us, burdens us, and steals the joy that God has for us on this journey. Conviction will help us be better homeschool moms and to grow in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t. It ultimately feels like something good, unlike false guilt that feels overwhelming and insurmountable.

The joy and freedom that God has for us in this homeschooling journey can never be experienced if we are constantly under a load of false guilt. God set us free from that. He has also set us free from real guilt by convicting our hearts and making a way for forgiveness through Jesus. Because we belong to Christ we can be free from guilt and homeschool in a way that actually works for our family!

Durenda typography
headshot of Durenda Wilson

urenda Wilson is a home-schooling mom of eight (born 1991 through 2004), seven of whom have graduated. She has been married for 32 years to Darryl, and they have 9 grandkids. Durenda has written The Unhurried Homeschooler, Unhurried Grace for a Mom’s Heart, and The Four Hour School Day. She is the owner/writer/host of her blog and podcast, Durenda Wilson, and mentors moms at durendawilson.com. She also enjoys speaking at events where she can encourage homeschool moms to think outside the box and homeschool in a way that is a great fit for their families!