The Performance Bug and Stinky Oysters

We did it. We took the plunge. We are homeschooling and I’ve got to say, it’s been rewarding. Exhausting, fun and challenging but rewarding. There were a few tears, a few “I don’t understand…”s and brief moments of meltdown, but I’m feeling better now. The girls are doing great too, by the way.

In the homeschooling world, I keep hearing about theoverwhelming stress of picking out curriculums. The anxiety of finding the perfect learning style for each child. The expense, the juggling, the exhaustion…I’ve recently realized that although it took me months to find a plan that was best for my little family, I had stressed very little over it. Why had it been easy to come up a diverse set of activities for them? Fun activities that challenge them but yet are ‘out of the box’? (For example, in the spring they will be given some cash, taken to Walmart and must shop within their budget, purchase what they need to prepare a nutritious dinner and then prepare said dinner for the family. They’ll be graded on nutritional balance, staying within their budget, presentation and taste.) Sure, we do our fractions, diagram sentences and go through all the normal work that goes into school. Some days are easier than others but all of them have been an adventure. So despite the occasional bump in the road, why do I feel like everything is ‘on track’?

I finally realized it’s because I wasn’t picking curriculum or teaching to win the highest achievement in benchmark testing. I’m not in it to push my kids to do their best so I can plaster that ‘honor roll’ sticker on the bumper of my car. Neither I nor my kids have felt the typical testing pressure. You want to know why? Because I’m not homeschooling them for any other reason than to equip them for life. And every decision I make in the day to day details should be with the intention of leading them towards that goal.

I know some young adults who can pass the Iowa tests with flying colors yet can’t manage their money. Some high schoolers have mastered the complex web of common core yet live with a daily sense of entitlement with no perception of reality. Some adults are book smart yet sadly lacking in critical thinking. And, dare I voice it out loud? There are some Christians who can smoke an opponent in Bible Trivia, know everything about Jesus but withhold forgiveness, engage in gossip and fall for any smooth-talking manipulator our culture shoves our way.

We can get so focused on performance, so focused on achieving a worldly mark of success that we often completely miss the bigger picture. Do I want my girls to be able to identify the parts of a cell? Absolutely. But I also want them to know how to wash their clothes and care for a sick shut-in. Do I want my kids to be able to play piano or name the three branches of government? Of course, but this does little good if they can’t learn to take ownership of their mistakes or show compassion to others.

I guess you could say I know my goal. As my kids grow into adulthood, I have two wishes for them: that they would be independent and follow God regardless of cultural influence.

But some days this is just plain hard. Our society, even our own Christian culture, has been infected with a germ…a germ that is growing and mutating into a monster that will overshadow every aspect of our lives if we don’t learn to kill it. It’s called the Performance Bug.

The Performance Bug makes us feel better because it’s measurable. It’s easy to see so therefore easy to control. It allows a human to assign value to another human based on achievement, a marker much different than value measured through God’s eyes, I might add.

The Performance Bug strokes our pride and egos when we do well but decreases the perception of our worth when we fail. It teaches us to strive for the praise of man but doesn’t reveal how ultimately bankrupting this pattern of living can be. The Performance Bug tells us our children have to hit a certain mark of acceptance on a standardized test or they will be doomed for a life of failure and low-paying jobs. The Performance Bug tells women that if they just lose a few more pounds or dress more provocatively, they’ll snag Mr. Right’s attention. (FYI, ladies, if you have to go to extreme measures to get Mr. Right, Mr. Right is Mr. Wrong.) The Performance Bug says we need to sell this many books, win this award or achieve this recognition and we’ll have everything our soul longs for.

So we kill ourselves to achieve, slap a blue ribbon on it when we do, pat ourselves on the back and learn to think the world is our oyster.

Not to offend my friends in the marine biology community but oysters are slimy. And stinky.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do our best or refuse to celebrate a friend when they’ve accomplished a great feat. Those are good things. The problem is when we let our achievements define us.

The Performance Bug is the opposite of grace. It says you have to jump so high, run so fast or receive this size pay check to be valued and worthy. But Grace says that you’re a broken mess yet more precious than gold in the eyes of the Creator.

Life, homeschooling, relationships and everything in between is much easier, and less stressful, when we learn to squash the Performance Bug and instead focus on the goal. Choose each day to live with the intention of growing closer to God and each other. Everything else is noise.

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