THE best vs. YOUR best

THE best vs. YOUR best
Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom

Instead of focusing on giving our children a complete education, or a perfect education (neither of which are necessary or possible), let us strive to awaken in them a love of learning. If we can help them to develop an attitude of lifelong learning, we will have done enough.” ~ Suzie Andres, Homeschooling with Gentleness

There’s a homeschooling mom who lives in my head, and she is simply THE best.

She does all the things and does them well. As a result, her kids progress in a straight, forward-moving line. She is organized, unfazed by emotion, doubt, outward circumstance, or moody children.

She is my hero, though I also despise her.

I am not that woman. Oh every once in a while, I come close. The stars align and the inspiration flows…for a few hours, maybe a day or two. But inevitably real life signals to me from the sidelines: “Remember me?!”, and here we go again…back into the realm of imperfections and inadequacies.

Yet incredibly, even then I’m still on track.

When real life comes along with tough times, it’s not THE best I give to my children, but it’s MY best all the same.

Are you crossing a field or climbing a wall?

Photo by Nicholas_T

My friend Lisa Grace Byrne once described this distinction in a way I could beautifully visualize. She explained that in certain seasons of life it’s like we’re walking through a flat, grassy field. We cover a lot of ground that way, making measurable progress one step at a time.

In other seasons, we reach the borders of the field to find a steep, rock wall towering before us. Turning back isn’t an option, and the only way to continue moving forward is to climb–one slow, shaky grip and foothold after another.

It’s still progress, of course, but it looks nothing like the grassy field.

The best we can offer our families in the meadows of life varies drastically to the best we bring when we’re scaling walls.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been climbing, and I know I’m not the only one.

Your personal best

rock climbing
Photo by Adam Kubalica

God hasn’t called us to be successful, just faithful.” ~ Mother Teresa

Your personal best looks different every day, every hour.

It looks different if you’re facing a chronic health condition or recently had a newborn, if you just started homeschooling and you’re still finding your way, if you have a child with special needs or a teen with an attitude, or if you’re dealing with the loss of someone you love.

We’re not called to give up when things get hard, but we do have to play the cards we’ve been dealt–whatever that looks like in our unique circumstances.

You know inside that what you’re offering really is the best you have to give, however inadequate it may seem. If it is, what else can you do? Why not fall into the arms of grace and rest?

What’s your other choice?

What to remember


When you worry about tomorrow, you are, in effect, saying that today is not worth enjoying. That is not a message I want to send to my children.”
~ Sally Clarkson, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart

In rock wall-climbing seasons, I return to my favorite homeschooling books. I look through where I’ve underlined or written “Wow” in the margins. I feast on truth instead of self-doubt. I’ve scattered a few of those quotes throughout this post, to pay the inspiration forward.

It also helps me to remember, in times like these, that all conscientious parents feel a weight of insecurity and responsibility–no matter where their kids go to school.

One time I wrote out my deepest fears for each of my kid’s educations. Then I wrote out what my fears would likely be if my children were in traditional school. I found it incredibly freeing to realize that doubts and fears would still exist, though the specifics might differ.

Take a moment to remind yourself of all that your personal best, as limited as it is, has already offered to your kids. What are you giving them by homeschooling or by being their parent, that they wouldn’t have without you? 

Perhaps you began homeschooling because of bullying, and now your son is safe from daily torments. Perhaps the classroom was overstimulating for your sensitive daughter, now she’s slowly returning to the happy child you remember.

IMG_1583 (1)

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, though. Your personal best also includes your natural strengths, the things you’re so good at you no longer count because they seem “normal.”

But normal for you isn’t normal for everyone–don’t disregard those gifts. Instead build your homeschool around them when you can, letting your best stamp personality across your home:

To become peaceful and happy, you’ve got to figure out what’s true about you. What creates an environment in which you can thrive? How can you work with your own innate strengths and weaknesses so that your homeschool will be happy and humming, even if you never construct a sugar cube pyramid or help your kids put together a single diorama?”
~ Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest

THE best homeschooling blog writer (who also lives in my head–it’s so crowded in there at times!!) would offer you these words in a few well-organized bullet points, complete with a lovely, colorful printable that she designed herself.

But MY personal best, today, is to send out these scribbles with a prayer for each person who reads them.

When we really consider it, isn’t that what we need most? Not an expert who knows it all, but someone to walk alongside us, to say “it is hard sometimes, you’re right.”

Someone to encourage us to keep right on climbing.

Come to think of it, isn’t that the type of teacher our kids need, too?

And if that’s the case, miraculously our broken best might just be THE best after all.

Then it dawned on me. It wasn’t the meager five loaves and two fish that fed the crowds, but their offering combined with the blessing of Jesus. And Jesus was telling me to give him my five loaves and two fish, my insignificant efforts, and he would bless them, and the needs of my family would be met.”
~ Holly Pierlot, A Mother’s Rule of Life

What kind of wall are you currently climbing? If you need prayer, please leave a comment here. I’ll make it a priority today to pray for each one of you by name. Keep giving it YOUR best, whatever that looks like in this moment!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. What a sweet offer, Jamie. We are working on a yard clean-up project as a family. Please pray that each member of our family feels that they are, and actually is contributing meaningful work. I pray that we each find satisfaction in the work we achieve, rather than wanting to take the easy way out. We are doing this as part of a return to core phase/reset month. I will pray for you all now, too!

  2. Thank you for this beautiful grace-filled post. It was just what I needed to read!

  3. Jamie, that was beautiful!!! This message is so needed. Please join us in praying for financial provision. My job just ended yesterday, so I’m on the hunt for a new job that I can work from home. Thanks. Please let me know how I can be praying for you.
    Alecia Baptiste’s latest post: Encountering Jesus… in Walmart?

  4. This is so encouraging and helpful! Thank you so much!
    Beth @ Pages and Margins’s latest post: Otherwise – by Jane Kenyon

  5. I love these scribbles. I lOVE these scribbles. This is like fresh water to my weary just -moved- and -still -in -boxes soul. My best in this season doesn’t look like what I want – but to quote Tolkien, “Little by little, one travels far.” Thanks for this!
    Erin’s latest post: An Illustrated Pride and Prejudice

    • Oh goodness, just moved and still in boxes? I’ve been there many times and it does look so different to other seasons! And yet it’s so important. May God bless your efforts, Erin, and make them into more than you could ever imagine. Love that Tolkien quote.

  6. Jenn Kushner says:

    Such beautiful words of encouragement today. Thank you for giving me the inspiration to continue on with MONDAY… hahaha

  7. You’re such a great encouragement, Jamie, for all mamas.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: An Update on Writing Smart and Not Scared

  8. Love this post! My dd8 is struggling with an attitude of not wanting to do any work, and no consequences work, because she just doesn’t care. Well, taking away books might, but I just can’t do that! If she were back in public school it would only delay this attitude until homework time (Which we dealt with last year). I LOVE the Sally Clarkson quote! I’m going to hang it where I can see it.

  9. I need all the prayers, Jamie dear! And you know why. Thank you for your prayers for Baby Titus! We have been “non-schooling” for so long now — since the third trimester of pregnancy, and now this new challenge… I I feel like I’m not giving the kids the “best” education… The education they deserve. Thank you for this very timely and encouraging post! God bless always!

    • YES, Tina! I have been keeping an eye on your FB updates. I’m sure you know that those thoughts you’re having are lies, but sometimes it helps for someone else to point out our faulty thinking. Because isn’t the best education your kids can have right now is for them to see God move in the life of their baby brother? Isn’t it possible that “lesson” could have a life-altering impact that even the most amazing phonics lesson could never compare with?!

      Praying God’s blessings and healing over all of you, especially sweet Baby Titus. You are a wonderful mama!

  10. Oh Jamie,
    There is so much wisdom and grace in this post. Thank you so much. I needed to read it more than I knew.
    Shawna @ Not The Former Things’s latest post: Teaching My Dyslexic Child To Read: Hands-On Activities That Really Work!

    • I needed to write it more than I knew! It helps so much when God can use our pain and hard places, doesn’t it? I think of you often, Shawna, and all God has asked you to carry as you homeschool your boys. I pray that today His peace surrounds you in a tangible way, letting you know how deeply His smile is upon you and yours. xo

  11. This post made me tear up. It is beautiful and an answer to prayer. Without going into specifics on the internet, I would welcome all prayers.

  12. Marnita Sonnenberg says:

    Thks for this! Really needed that! Last week was a week where I felt discouraged but this helps. I need to think of the wall vs. the meadow! I think January is one of the hardest months to homeschool. The excitement and anticipation of Christmas is over, often the weather is blah or really cold and the same old subjects or work can be tedious by now. Thks for your writing.

  13. This post made me tear up. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I loved this…”I feast on truth instead of self-doubt” and your reminder that the truth always, always, is His grace. I love the image of offering my loaves and fishes, from Holly Pierlot. It seems I can never receive this reminder enough. Thank you and I’m praying God will bless you and your family as you climb today.

  14. Amanda Condon says:

    Today was another day of doubting my ability and discipline to homeschool my children. It seems we have more rough days than easy ones. Thanks for this post. God used it to breathe some more life into me today.

  15. My oldest has severe PTSD. Around the clock. I homeschool her and her VERY busy younger brother. I was diagnosed with several chronic illnesses last year alone. I was having a hard time being “that mom who can do it all”. Then, to top it off, my twin girls preschool/daycare had to make cutbacks for some reason and it was too expensive as well as too late to enroll them anywhere else. How was I going to make it to all my doctors appointments? How was I going to take my daughter to all HER appointments while homeschooling 4 children with no reliable babysitter? My husband is a contractor so he’s gone for very long hours and sometimes days at a time. I got very stressed out to say the least. I couldn’t even imagine how I was going to do all that. I had to make a lot of personal sacrifice. But I no longer see those things as sacrifices. Instead I view Thomas investments I made into my family and my children’s education. I started focusing on my strengths and finding resources that help make my life EASIER. Not more complicated. I found out I’m a chart person. That has helped. It’s just little things like that. Sometimes out of chaos, you learn things really quickly and then out of chaos you can find some kind of peace about enjoying where you’re at and facilitating a desire to have a teachable spirit. God can use anything or any situation to teach US things. Everyday I’m learning Koreans more that I AM ok. I’m doing it somehow. I’m managing. And I’m happy. My life is no less chaotic then it was a few years ago. But I’m wiser since then and I’ve weeded out a lot of things in my life that were making it difficult for me to enjoy my life. After getting rid of those things/relationships, I feel more free than I ever have. I no longer carry the burden of competing with the perfect women when there is no such thing. My kids like who I am. I’m thankful I don’t have to change for them. Rather, I choose to grow with them. .

  16. Ok there were a LOT of autocorrected words in my last comment. Sorry. 🙂

  17. Isis Kouba says:

    This is exactly what I needed. In the middle of moving town and selling a home a teen graduating and homeschooling 2 little ones iam pretty overwhelmed. Thank you!!!

  18. Thank you for this! I often find myself thinking that my life would be SO much easier if my kids were in school, so I wrote down what it would look like for them like you said you did. What a great thing to put things in perspective…one would be academically overwhelmed and the other would be a behavioral disaster!! I do often feel like I am not doing “enough” but whenever I read your posts I get a reprieve from that feeling. I am enough and my children are exactly where they need to be right now.

    Thank you
    Jenny Johnston’s latest post: THE STORY WITHOUT AN ENDING

    • Doesn’t making that list help a lot, Jenny? I know all about that not doing “enough” feeling. Sending a prayer your way that you’ll be able to see the truth of just how amazing you are for them.

  19. Thank you, Jamie, your posts are so encouraging.
    I have three boys at home and a daughter in school. I’m struggling to implement some afternoon quiet time, which I really need as an introvert and hyper-sensitive mum! One of my boys is really extrovert and rarely wants to spend time alone…thankfully he has his younger brother to play with…but also managing a 2 year old (if I let him nap, he is awake all evening!). I’m always inspired by your posts on having quiet time if you need it and I love the day-in-life series, but am finding it really hard to implement it. Thanks for offering to pray!
    Bless you and your amazing family xx

    • Blessings to you and yours, Rachel! It can be hard to set up the habit of that afternoon quiet time, but once it’s in place it really does help. Praying that you’ll find a way to get the quiet you need.

  20. Amy Morehead says:

    Oh thank you so much for sharing this ! I love to read your blog posts. You are so real .God bless you ! I am struggling with losing our twin babies due to a miscarriage right before Christmas and just trying to keep my mind on track to homeschool our 2 sons daily. They are 9 and 15. Thank you again so much for sharing your heart. I prayed for you 🙂 Blessings ~ amy

  21. I desperately needed to read this today, thank you so much! I’d love a prayer, too. My oldest (6-year-old boy) got his tonsils out in early January, and then as soon as he was recovered my daughter and I got the flu. Then, he also got the flu last week. With all the disruption our homeschooling routine has gone out the window, and I’m really struggling to get us back on track. My son has also been very apathetic toward doing any formal work, and all my fears about the adequacy of my teaching and whether I’m giving my children what they need have returned with a vengeance! I’m in desperate need of grace but it’s hard sometimes for me to let go and to trust that my Creator’s arms are always there waiting for me! Thank you again.

  22. YES!!! Absolutely, completely beautiful! I have in mind a blog post coming up that goes something like, “Doing all you can means that some days you don’t get it all done.” You said exactly that, but in a gracious tone. I’m so glad you didn’t use bullet points! 😉
    Purva Brown’s latest post: The Real Reason School Teachers Don’t Like Homeschoolers (and Why You Shouldn’t Care)

  23. I’ve never read such an encouraging homeschooling blog post EVER. Thank you so much for putting into words something I’ve longed to hear, and my insecurities are, thankfully, going to have a hard time getting around. Thank you.

  24. In tears. Thank you, Jamie. I do struggle with chronic health issues, and I have an intense one year old…many days lately I’ve wondered if I can really handle homeschooling my elementary kids, especially in the TJed way, it’s wonderful but seems extra time consuming! We are also in a very small apartment with family at the moment…it’s definitely imperfection, but I’m so inspired that God has called me to be faithful, not perfect! Praying blessings over you tonight.

    • Thank you for those prayers, Mary! I’ll take them and send some back your way, too. I can remember thinking the same thing about whether I could really homeschool when my kiddos were small, but I knew God was calling. Though it has not been easy, it has been RIGHT (for us). And He has been faithful! I know He’ll do so for you, too.

      And TJEd should really, in many ways, be much less time-consuming for you–particularly if your kids are younger. Have you read my post on Core Phase: and also this one from

      May God’s blessings be on you and yours, Mary.

  25. Thank you so much for this post! Much needed encouragement after a rough day with my 4 kids, and feeling way too inadequate for the task. But God gives encouragement just when we need it and I’m thankful! Could really use prayers for perseverance in mothering and homeschooling, my relationship with God and my health issues. ♡

  26. Loved those quotes, thank you.
    Jenny’s latest post: Weakness Isn’t So Bad

  27. Oh, this post is exactly what I needed right now! I feel like I need to go back and take notes while reading it again- and I may do that! There is so much good stuff in there I can’t even begin to comment on just one part. Thank you for sharing your heart and this message of grace.
    sarah’s latest post: How a timer helps simplify my day

  28. Thank you so much for sharing this, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I pray everyday to get the strength I need, but thanks to your article, I just need to use what I have been given already. Thank you very much!

  29. I was only able to skim this! And it is confirmation of what God has been speaking over my heart. I am horribly inadequate to school my children in this season. God continues to ask me to keep going, do what I can and leave the rest to Him. It’s His purpose and He will not fail. He can cover my failures and shortcomings!

  30. Thank you for this post! I especially loved the last quote by Holly Pierlot, it was just what I needed to hear. This week we tried to get back into a normal routine after moving into a new home and we did ok, but I still get so frustrated with how little “school” we do! After chores are finally done around 9 am (our day starts with morning devotional at 6, so it’s a long hard drive getting to the end of chores), we get at most one hour on the couch reading out loud whatever the 7 year old wants to learn about before the 2 year old takes the books away and demands attention. Then the kids are hungry again and as soon as snack is made I have to start lunch (hubby comes home for lunch, so it has to be a real meal). After lunch we clean up, then maybe we’ll read more or play with tangrams, but maybe there’s laundry (our washer is broken so I wash by hand) or I’m too tired to think about anything else educational and pick up my own studies. Four o clock is time to start cooking dinner, then there’s dinner and clean up, closing the day with evening read aloud. That just doesn’t seem like enough for 7, 5, and 2 year olds, but I know it’s all I can do right now! I pray that I will know what needs to be done and how in the world to do it.

    I didn’t set out to write my own Day-in-the-life but I here it is, and so different from the other day-in-the-life posts. I love seeing what others are doing, but thank you for reminding me that my best is different from someone else’s best. Thank you for always making this blog reassuring instead of pressuring.

  31. I know this post was from 2 years ago, but it touched me deeply today. Thanks for the reminder that our best looks different depending on the day and the season. I am in a season of needing to rest more to help heal my body, and it constantly feels like I’m not accomplishing enough. I needed the reminder that it IS enough for today. Thank you!

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