When Back-to-School Isn’t Picture Perfect

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What do you remember most about the back-to-school season of your youth? The smell of freshly sharpened pencils, perfectly tipped crayons and a clean backpack? Picking out a cooler lunchbox? Laying out your first day’s wardrobe, complete with scuff-free school shoes & coordinating hair accessories? Making plans to sit next to your best friend before someone else does?

I’ll tell you what I don’t remember: My mom snapping a photo of me on my first day of school every year and sharing it with everyone she knows.


Don’t get me wrong — I would have loved to have those memories captured in print to show my daughters now. I am sentimental that way. I love photography, enjoy scrapbooking (though now it’s mostly digital) and today, I’m the proud, snap-happy mama at all of our important occasions. And I have happily joined the masses of Instagram savvy mamas capturing (and hash-tagging) our back-to-school milestones so that Internet friends can “like” them as much as I do.

Thanks to the convenience of smart phone cameras and social media, the fresh-faced first day of school photo has quickly become a treasured back-to-school tradition, and it’s growing in ceremony each year. No need to wait for the bland, awkward and often cheesy school “portrait” that commemorates your child’s step up the school grade ladder to distribute to a few lucky family members. Now we have beautifully designed Pinterest printables, crafty chalkboard props, and Instagram filters to create classy, artistic snapshots that can be instantly shared with everyone simultaneously.

Here’s my not-so-Pinterest-pretty example:


But what if your back-to-school experience isn’t looking picture perfect? What if you’re confused by your new curriculum, overwhelmed with a schedule that’s bursting at the seams, or struggling with a special needs student? As lovely as those first day of school photos might be, what are the chances that there’s an exhausted, unshowered, over-caffeinated mama behind that camera?

This year, that’s me. I broke my left foot on July 31st falling down a standard flight of stairs in my house. Thankfully I’m in a removable boot (and hard shoe) that makes showering easier, but nothing is easy about six weeks of hopping on crutches in a two-story house with three daughters homeschooling and a husband that travels often for work. Rather than spend the rest of August enjoying outdoor adventures and the last days of summer by the pool, we are back to school a few weeks earlier than planned. And we aren’t even using the tidy, reorganized school area I wrote about a couple of weeks ago — although I’m so glad we finished that project before all of this!

For now, a lot of our teaching time is taking place in my bedroom upstairs. The girls are working with me one on one in the mornings, often in our PJs, and taking their independent assignments to the desks in their rooms or downstairs in the dining room, if extra supplies and space are necessary. We’re holding off on our group lessons with Trail Guide to Learning for now, and I’m grateful for the lull in homeschool group activities, which won’t start back up until mid-September, to minimize driving around.


At the same time, I’m reminded how close my Heavenly Father is walking with me during this bumpy detour through His gracious daily gifts. Whether it’s the timely visit of my in-laws to take the girls on some of those outdoor adventures while my husband traveled, or a gift bag of get-well treats and fresh book to read delivered by a caring sister in Christ, or a daughter who cheerfully brings me breakfast and coffee in bed, or a love note left for me to find in a writing journal, these gifts remind me to forget about the imperfect details and see the beauty in His big picture.

 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
— Ecclesiastes 3:11


“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” — Romans 8:28

Yes, day to day is still a challenge. But we’re making the best of it — even fulfilling a few of my summer wishes despite my limited mobility. We might not be on schedule with some of the curriculum I chose, but we are fulfilling our homeschool mission — which is bigger than to-do lists on a lesson plan. And I’m looking for those precious gifts, because I know God has a purpose, even in the pain, and that He’s working behind the scenes in our lives to paint His masterpiece, no matter what it looks like on the outside.

That’s the perfect picture I look forward to seeing in our eternal home someday.


Are you struggling with an imperfect back-to-school start in your homeschool? Where do you find support when you are in the midst of homeschooling challenges? What can you share about how God is working behind the scenes in your journey right now? We’d love to agree in prayer with you!

Join us at iHomeschool Network’s Not Back-to-School Blog Hop, where this week is student photo week! See what others are sharing and share your own back-to-school student photos too.



4 thoughts on “When Back-to-School Isn’t Picture Perfect

  1. I am doing fine now, but 10 years ago I had a neurological condition that put me in pain most of the time and even more so every time I walked. I had to teach from by bed as well. Perhaps not picture perfect, but we got through it and we are now on the other side. Beautifully written post.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story Phyllis! I’m glad to hear you’re doing well now and that you & your family made it through that challenging time. Praise the Lord! 🙂

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