One of the mottos in our Morning Time binder this term is a Shakespeare quote: “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

As we’ve repeated this saying day in and day out for the last 5 weeks, I’ve been contemplating how true it is. It’s biblical, echoing James:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

and then later:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder.

and of course there is also Proverbs 11:23:

The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath.

Shakespeare was on to something. Our expectations are desires that we believe should be or will be met. And how often are our desires, our expectations, truly those of the righteous? Our reactions when we don’t get what we want are key to discovering the root.

As James says, “You desire and do not have, so you murder.” Jesus said being angry is having a murderous heart, and 1 Corinthians includes irritation as a form of anger or hate – that is, love excludes irritation. When we are irritated and upset when we are not getting what we want – even if our expectations seem good and right – we should be clued in that our expectations are not righteous.

They are expectations for our own good rather than for God’s glory. And such expectations will end in heartache, so that we can give them up.

Is homeschooling hard for you? That doesn't mean you should give up. Did you expect homeschooling to be hard? Homeschooling is hard, and good for us.

Homeschooling is hard when our expectations do not match truth

What do we expect out of our school day? What do we expect out of our children? What do we expect out of ourselves?

If our expectations are out of line, if they are wrongheaded or self-centered, then God is gracious to us when He frustrates them – and us. And our days will be hard in the land rather than long, because we are seeking our own glory rather than God’s.

Of course we want only good, so we believe our expectations are righteous.

We want our children to be educated.

We want our days to be smooth and without conflict.

We want ourselves to be calm and organized.

Is there anything wrong with these desires? Of course not. But are they motivating desires that we ask of God (James again: “You do not have, because you do not ask.”) and submit to His way of working them out, or do we grasp after these desires ourselves and lash out when we don’t get them? James yet again:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

We seek God’s glory when we obey Him and love Him above our own expectations, when we respond with love when others sin against us (even our own children), just as He loved us while we were still sinners and loves us though we still do sin against Him each day.

If our expectation is to seek wisdom and love and God’s glory, we will also expect to run up against and have to deal with sin – our own, and other’s. As Jesus reminds us:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Our peace and expectation is in Christ, not our circumstances.

Homeschooling is hard when our expectations are not matched by our efforts

The temptation we face when our expectations are first frustrated is to just give up. Why have expectations at all? Why try at all?

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

By God’s grace we can withstand the common temptations of the homeschool mom, knowing they are common – we are not alone, it’s not just us.

And we do face the temptation to give up homeschooling.

Perhaps, if our expectation of conflict-free days are giving us heartache, we should give up our expectation of giving an education and simply do whatever the children want to do so that we can get along.


Perhaps, if our expectation of the education we’d love to give our children isn’t happening, we should double-down and give up our expectation of conflict-free days: just drill-sergeant and pester and nag our way to our expected ends.


Perhaps, if our expectation of our own awesomeness isn’t being met, we should plop our kids in front of the tv until we get the whole house organized and clean and figure out the right combination of exercise, vitamins, devotions, and coffee to ensure we meet our own standards each morning.

Not a good plan.

Rather, we have to know that we are called to be faithful, not successful. What’s the right thing to do? It’s hard to know, so we must pray for wisdom. What’s the right thing to do? It’s often hard to carry out, so we must not grow weary.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

We will reap good from our faithful efforts. Whether it’s the good we’re expecting or a different good God has for us, we will find out, but so often the smooth days or the conflict-free math lesson or the energy-filled morning are not a direct result of the hard work put in the first day, but the fruit of weeks or even months of hard work, of sticking it out, of continuing along the right path.

Is homeschooling hard for you? That doesn't mean you should give up. Did you expect homeschooling to be hard? Homeschooling is hard, and good for us.

Homeschooling is hard when our expectations are not submitted to God’s will

So we put in the faithful effort and we start seeing some fruit. We’re relieved, and think we now have this homeschooling thing figured out.

Heh, heh.

Something will change. Perhaps it’s pregnancy, or a move, or a health crisis, or simply a child or every child hitting a new phase of development – the equilibrium will be thrown off.

Is that your expectation?

Why bother figuring out the right thing to do now if the situation will only change and I’ll have to figure out the next right thing to do?! Put that way, it’s more clear: because doing the next right thing is what we’re supposed to be doing – that’s faithfulness.

It’s not “Let me figure out the right math curriculum to eliminate conflict forever and all time” nor “Let me figure out the right vitamin and coffee levels to ensure I will never be overextended or exhausted again” nor “Let me figure out the right chore routine so that the house will never get chaotic again.” Those are harsh expectations that will end in heartache.

Rather, we need to figure out the right math curriculum, the right nutrition and rest, the right chore routine – for now – and do it – knowing it will change as life changes.

When one good plan stops working, it’s not necessarily due to failure or because it was actually a bad plan, it’s because it’s time to level up.

God’s will is our sanctification, our growth in Christ, and that is never stagnant or figured out once and for all (until His return).

Thus, our expectation should be that there will be smooth times of reaping fruit and rough times of tilling and planting new fruit.

Our expectations should be that education is a life, and life is hard, but God is good.

That expectation will end in joy, not heartache, even when homeschooling is hard.

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  1. What an awesome post. Thank you for sharing. Do you mind if I quote you at a curriculum sharing night next month that I am helping with to encourage home schooling mothers?

  2. I needed this today (and lately!). I have felt too much stress and exhaustion in our home lately, and I think you hit it on the head. Thank you for sending the link to this post in an e-mail as well, otherwise, I might have missed it.

  3. This was so timely as I’ve been really struggling with the chaos of 2 toddlers and schooling 3 others. Sometimes I wonder if i should quit, but I know this is our calling. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It gives me a lot to ponder.

  4. Thank you so so much, Mystie. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this, but we’re actually in the middle of our Sabbath week of all times, and I am feeling majorly discouraged by how hard things have seemed recently. Think I’ll spend some time in James tomorrow.

  5. Do your childrwn colour while you Circle Time? If so, whhere do you find beautiful coloring pages? That might help my younger children get through Catechism, waiting for their turn.

    Excellent post. Expectations of my own awesomeness…. A perfect description of what is going on in the heart there. Thank you.

  6. I was catching up on old e-mails today and happened upon this post. Wow, it’s exactly what I needed!

    “we have to know that we are called to be faithful, not successful” -and- “doing the next right thing is what we’re supposed to be doing – that’s faithfulness”

    I love this!…thanks. Also, I’m realizing my idea of success may be different from God’s plan or more specifically, his idea of success.

    I’m linking your post today :)

  7. Thank you for this wonderful, thoughtful post. It led me on a three day Scripture study with James, Wisdom, 1 Corinthians and more. What a blessing! Thank you!

  8. Please remove your spy cam from my schoolroom! Wow! This was my day to a tee! Thx so much for the encouragement! Growing weary was just what I’ve been doing.

  9. This was perfect for me too! We are easing back into school today! This was a perfect reminder as we dive into a new year to keep my head full of expectations for the new year in balance with God’s will and follow His ways, not mine! Thank you!!

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