Life Lessons From a Kids’ Meal Bag

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I was sitting around this weekend, wracking my brain about what to share with you today. I was supposed to be publishing the Homeschool Showcase, but due to low entries, I postponed it (more news on that coming soon) and no wonderfully enlightening and inspiring replacement ideas were coming to me.

Then, this faint memory from our early days of homeschooling came to my mind. It’s really just a little story and I don’t remember all the details very well, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. That probably means that somebody needs to hear it today.

Some things I learned from a coversation over a kids' meal bag

This had to have happened within our first two or three years of homeschooling because it was before Josh and Megan started music class. It was back when a handful of friends and I were meeting for Bible study once a week. The kids and I had stopped at Chick-Fil-A on the way home from Bible study. Yeah, I know that part is hard to believe.

So, there we were at Chick-Fil-A. We had a couple of kids’ meal bags on the table and I was doing some of the activities on the bag with the kids or asking them questions about it or something. I can’t remember if the kids had wandered off of to play or if they were still sitting there with me when another mom nearby – a new homeschool mom, as it turned out – said to me something to the effect of, “You’re so much better than me. I just threw the bag away and let my kids go play.”

I can’t even remember what I replied. I do know that I gave the mom my email address and she soon became part of our homeschool group. Her son wound up taking music class with Josh and she is still successfully homeschooling her amazing kids who run their own business raising chickens and selling the eggs.

It was a simple interaction, but I think there are some important lessons to take away from it.

First, homeschool moms, don’t compare yourself to the homeschool moms around you. For one thing, maybe God hasn’t called your family to the same thing He’s called another mom’s. Your family, your children, and the way they’re educated are going to look different. Trust Him. We’re not all cookie cutter images of each other.

Not only that, but there is a distinct possibility that you’re not seeing the whole picture. That day at Chick-Fil-A? Maybe I was feeling guilty because I’d spent too much time talking at Bible study and my kids hadn’t gotten much school done. Maybe one of my kids asked me to do the activities with them or help them read the bag. I honestly don’t remember.

What I do know, regardless of how poor my memory is, is that me doing the kids’ meal bag activities with my kids and this other mom tossing her bag in the trash did not – and does not – equate to I’m an amazing homeschool mom and she’s a lousy one.

Second, don’t turn everything into school. Maybe my kids didn’t want to read the kids’ meal bag or play the games on it. Maybe they wanted me to throw it away and let them eat their lunch so they could go play. Maybe, if we were playing the comparison game, the other mom was the better homeschool mom because she was just enjoying lunch out with her kids without turning it into a teachable moment.

It’s hard to resist those teachable moment urges and giving into them isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s good to remember that we’re Mom first, teacher second.

Finally, veteran homeschooling moms, let the new homeschooling moms know they’re doing okay. I probably wasn’t too many years ahead of this mom – her oldest and my middle are the same age – but I wasn’t a complete newbie either. Maybe I said something encouraging – I don’t remember – but if I didn’t, I should have.

When someone says something to the effect of, “You’re so much better than me because…” that translates to, “I am feeling painfully inadequate right now.Encourage them.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:13.

And, lest you think I’m asking you to gloss everything over – because sometimes when we’re feeling inadequate, it’s because there is an area of struggle looming in front of us – sometimes encouragement is listening and offering words of wisdom or suggestions of curriculum or resources that have helped a struggling learner.

Sometimes it’s inviting a mom to a support group meeting. Sometimes it’s as simple as paying a mom a sincere compliment that she really needs to hear because kids tend to be nearly grown before they realize that moms really appreciate having their efforts noticed from time to time. Those day in the trenches can be hard.

Sometimes, it means stepping out of your comfort zone and asking her if you can pray with her.

So, homeschool moms (and dads), let’s quit comparing and start encouraging. And, let’s let our kids enjoy their lunches. And, you know, Eat More Chickin drink more sweet tea. (Us, not them. They’ll be running laps around the dining room table if you let them have all that sugar.)

Can you remember a time when another mom encouraged you in a really meaningful way?


Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. When I first started homeschooling I felt very overwhelmed and wondered if I was going to ruin my kids. The responsibility to educate my own children seemed so very heavy. I was listening to several other women discussing curriculums, methods and learning styles and I did not know enough at the time to be able to follow the conversation. My fear and discouragement must have shown on my face and one of the ladies pulled me aside and said that I would learn all this in time but the most important thing I should do is just read to my children every single day and not stop even when they get big enough to read on their own. She didn’t even remember telling me that the next time I saw her (over a year later) and said that she needed to follow her own advise!! She thanked me for encouraging her because she was feeling really down that week. Sometimes those words of encouragement come full circle.

  2. Hi Kris, I’ve been following you through RSS for a while now, and I just had to comment on this post. First, it’s awesome. I’ll just put that out there. Second, I’m glad you told this story today, and here’s why… This morning I was talking to my oldest two kids about how we need to encourage each other to be patient. I tried very hard to find the verse in Hebrews about encouragement, but short of reading the whole book right there I knew I wasn’t going to find it. So tonight, I’m reading through my RSS and I read your post, with THE verse I was looking for! Isn’t God good? Now I can share it with my kids tomorrow. And, you do have some very good points in this post. Comparison is a dangerous thing, and we home schooling families need to stick together and spur one another on in our good work of motherhood and teaching.

  3. Loved, loved, loved the post! On a site I don’t normally visit, but was getting some information from, I was excited to find several homeschooling women that had experienced difficulties with educating their 2e kids and were offering support and advice to each other. It was wonderful and several contacted me specifically to offer some helpful suggestions for difficulties my daughter is having with math. The tone was so supportive and encouraging and they didn’t care if you homeschooled (although they all did) or how you homeschooled (methods were across the board), all they cared about was that you were a parent that needed support. It was a very warm, welcoming place to be.

    However, on that same site was an area for high achieving students. I decided to check out some posts there, too, because they had some interesting information I had been seeking. The tone was quite different, and in fact, very, very, very nasty. One poor woman had just decided to start homeschooling and had decided to use K-12 because she really didn’t know where else to turn. She was asking for some advice for her high IQ student. She was crucified and then a huge argument ensued among the other mothers over whether a parent using even “boxed” curriculum should be allowed to consider her kids “homeschoolers”, much less a k12 like program. The argument then expanded to if they should be allowed in co-ops or if parents who send their kids to summer camps sponsored by the public school should be allowed in co-ops, etc., etc. getting more and more exclusive.

    When I tried to gently show support for those they were trashing and to suggest that each parent has to follow their own path, they turned on me, as well. The tone was so toxic I unsubscribed. It made me feel nauseous and so sad for the women who were arguing back and forth with each other and being so nasty. I said several prayers for them and their families and for the poor parents out there that might stumble on that site seeking info.

    Your message, Kris, is so desperately needed, not just for homeschoolers, but for all parents. Sometimes each one of us may forget how much a kind word can mean, and how destructive a negative one can be. Thank you.

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