Consistency versus perfection


One of the hardest things to figure out as a homeschooler is whether or not we’ve done enough. I hope the questions in my last post helped you to evaluate the environment you are providing and the subjects you are covering. But what happens if I know it’s a worthy subject and I’ve missed days teaching it? This is something I struggled with for years until I finally understood the difference between consistency and perfection.

Let me give you a quick example before we get started. We all know that reading aloud to our children is a great thing. Unfortunately, I had this picture where we cuddled up every night and read five books together. Well, that never happened. And because that never happened, I felt like a failure in this department. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

What is perfection?

Perfection provides you a picture of what is expected and demands that you meet it. If you miss a day, or don’t complete all the details, you are a failure. When we feel like a failure, we tend to not want to try again. When you plug perfection into the book reading scenario, you start out with high hopes. On Monday, you sit down and read those five books with your child. On Tuesday, you are tired after running errands all day. Your child is cranky. You are happy just to get them settled down for bed and eat some chocolate. When Wednesday arrives, you suddenly realize that you completely forgot about reading. You may mange to fit in 1 or 2, or give up entirely, because your record is no longer perfect.

What is consistency?

Consistency is being faithful over time. We are human and we mess up and we forget. But, if we are focusing on being consistent, we keep showing up. Let’s look at my first example of reading books. Consistency seeks to read books to our child. It doesn’t demand five books, and it doesn’t demand that you read them every night. When you are able to read 5, great! But, if you aren’t able to read or are only able to read one, it’s okay! Consistency tells you that just reading one book is better than reading none. If you didn’t read at all, tomorrow is a fresh day. You just keep showing up and reading as often as you can, forgiving yourself when it doesn’t happen. If you were to chart yourself over a month, you would probably be surprised how many days you showed up and read, when perfection would have made you feel like a failure.


What gets the job done?

I think you can see that consistency is a far better plan. Perfection, while it seems a worthy goal, can cripple us when we fall short. It’s just like being on a strict diet. When you mess up by eating a piece of cake, you may end up eating half the cake because you feel like you already failed, and might as well enjoy it.

I want you to be consistent in your homeschool. I want you to see each day as a fresh opportunity to give it your best. I want you to forgive yourself when the day doesn’t quite go as planned. I want you to take time to look back and see how far you’ve come. I want you to show up today for your children. In the end, consistency will help you to give your children a solid education. Perfection will leave you burnt out and feeling like a failure.

Which do you tend more towards?

I have struggled with perfection in the past. I saw it mostly in having a family Bible time. I would do really well for 2-3 weeks, and then miss a few days. I felt like a horrible mother. I felt like a hypocrite that couldn’t manage to teach my own kids the Bible. But when I decided to just read the Bible with them today, my whole perspective changed. YHVH showed how much I had been reading with them. He showed me how much they had learned. He reminded me to simply show up today. If I mess up today, I can show up tomorrow. I know the importance of teaching my children about Scripture, and I’m trying hard. Consistency doesn’t give me an easy out. It doesn’t say, “Oh well, I’ll do it tomorrow.” It says, “I wasn’t able to do it today, but that doesn’t ruin my whole effort. I am thankful for the opportunity to try again tomorrow.”

Where have you been struggling with perfection? Do you feel like if you don’t finish the entire textbook, you’re a failure? Do you feel that every day must be a full school day, or you aren’t doing your job? Where can you change your thinking from perfection to consistency, and help yourself be a better mother and teacher?

I know sometimes we need to prove our “consistency” due to our state laws, so I created this simple printable to help you and your child create a visual record of your learning together. It’s great to use even if you aren’t required! There are two pages for older students, and two for beginning learners. You can get your free printable by clicking below.

The first post in this series is How do I measure homeschool success.

The last post is How do I save a bad day?

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