By Daniella Dautrich
YOUR calling as a homeschooling mom flows out of your calling to live a life hidden in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3). If you experience homeschool doubts at some point this school year, don’t try to overcome them on your own strength, feelings, or goodness. Recognize the spiritual battle that is being waged for your child’s soul, get on your knees, and pray!
C. S. Lewis wrote about our sometimes-invisible but ever-present struggle in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Thirty-one fictional letters from the elder demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood describe the process of tempting human “patients” and foiling their efforts to live the Christian life.
If you are unfamiliar with this literary gem, find a copy and read it for yourself! Until then, enjoy this modern-day “Screwtape Letter” for the homeschool mom, adapted from the second, third, and fourth letters in Lewis’s book.
I leave you with Lewis’s own caution from his preface:
“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”
My dear Wormwood,
I see with great displeasure that your patient has become a homeschooler. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these well-meaning mothers have been recovered after just a few months of school. Meanwhile, we must make the best of the situation.
Our greatest ally at the present moment is the homeschooled child itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the high-achieving youngsters your patient reads about in magazines, or the eager, tidy, and respectful children raised by her veteran homeschool friends.
I mean her real child, that stubborn and noisy human being who worries and interrupts his mother at every waking hour. When your patient corrects a lesson, she finds deliciously scribbled and misspelled words. When she begins to teach, the child cries and argues. Take advantage of this by leaning heavily on those foolish mistakes and childish tears.
Bait Her with Perfection
At this stage, you see, your patient holds to an ideal of “homeschooling” that she believes to be practical but which, in fact, is merely a fabrication. Look no further than Pinterest if you have any doubts on this useful subject of comparison traps.
I get positively giddy when other homeschool moms make her feel bad. The patient’s mind entertains visions of a violin prodigy, picture-perfect schoolroom, and future college scholarships. The fact that her awkward, left-handed child can’t read or write yet is a real—though not verbally acknowledged—difficulty to her.
Here lies our opportunity. Work hard on the cloud of disappointment which will certainly descend on your patient. This anticlimax will fuel her homeschool doubts.
Keep Her Mind on Academics
Always keep the patient’s mind on her flashcards and worksheets. Remind her to dwell on multiplication tables and spelling tests. She thinks homeschooling is something “academic,” and her attention is therefore focused on lesson plans and physical curriculum. (If the textbooks were expensive, so much the better.)
Keep her mind off the most elementary teaching tools—conversation and parent modeling—and direct her mind to the more prestigious academic duties of the homeschool mother. Fill her day with such busyness that there is no time to reflect on the Enemy. If home life becomes strained, let her think that her talents are unappreciated and could be put to more profitable use elsewhere.
Distract and Mislead Her
Do not forget that the best thing, whenever possible, is to keep the patient from serious prayer. Whenever she listens to the Enemy Himself, we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing this. Simply turn her gaze away from Him towards herself.
When she kneels to pray for wisdom or gentleness, let her really try to reassure herself that she is wise compared to other parents, and far more gentle than her misbehaving child deserves.
Train her to estimate the value of a prayer by its success in producing these desired feelings. By no means let her suspect that this kind of success will often depend on whether she is well or ill, fresh or tired, at that particular moment. This is where you want her.
Your affectionate uncle,
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