by Jessica Frierson, October 2022

As October rolls around and the temperatures drop, the world outside my windows has become much more colorful. It’s my favorite time of year. Not only is the weather perfect (in my opinion anyway) and the fall foliage so beautiful, but I am always reminded of an important concept as I watch the trees prepare to drop their multi-colored leaves. There is a time to let go. 

All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried.” — Donald Miller

We tend to hold onto things that should be let go. One of the saddest TV programs I have seen is the reality program, Hoarders. This show features individuals who face crises “ranging from jail time to financial ruin and loss of property” due to their unwillingness or inability to let things go. Experts work with them to solve their hoarding addiction “in the hope of reclaiming balance in their lives,” according to the show’s website.

Our homes may not be so full of accumulated boxes, papers, and to-go containers that the production crew of Hoarders is headed our way; maybe because the things that we hoard overcrowd our thoughts, our hearts, and our motivations, where they are not as visible as the items that fill the corners of our homes. Fear, doubts, unmet expectations, unresolved conflicts, anger, bitterness, guilt, jealousy, grief, hatred: these are the things that clutter the corners of our minds. They cripple us to the point that we face crises of our own if we are not willing to let them go. 

We can lock ourselves in the prisons of past mistakes while holding the key in our hand that would set us free. Being unwilling to release others when they have wronged us is another way we imprison ourselves.  Past regrets do not serve well as a ballast until we learn to unload them. The accumulation of out-of-season trappings will soon lead to a life that has lost balance. A healthy practice is to periodically take stock of any “if onlys” and “I wishes” that are hiding out in the back of our thoughts and ask God to help us let go of them, even if He has to pry them out of our tight-knuckled fingers to do it.

My son is in the Civil Air Patrol. Before heading out on a search-and-rescue mission, they are given a packing list. It is crucial that each team member brings everything on the list – and nothing else besides what is on the list. Adding additional items will make their 24-hour packs too heavy, weakening the ability to carry out the mission. How often do we undermine ourselves by carrying extra baggage that we should have released long ago? These things become burdens that weigh us down and hinder our success. 

The same principle applies to our homeschools. Sometimes the curriculum we loved for a season does not fit another. The co-op or support group that was such an encouragement and enrichment last year may not be the right place for us this year. We may have planned a graduation ceremony for our upcoming graduate in keeping with what their siblings had, only to find out that they dread being the center of attention. 

The wise king Solomon understood the value of seasons in our lives, writing in the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes:

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to build up,
A time to break down,
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away

As our children move through the stages of toddlerhood, elementary school, middle school, and high school, the change in seasons of education can vary as greatly as the winter snow varies from the summer drought. As they move through these seasons, we must be ready to move with them, laying down the accouterments of the past to enter the new one unhindered.

When the winds of change blow, remember… sometimes what appears dead is simply preparing
for a new season.” — Jane Lee Logan

Grasping onto those things that belong to another season will keep us from enjoying the fullness of where we are. We may have ideas of what we wanted our children to do or what we thought parenthood would be. Our lives may have gone in a different direction than what we had once thought they would. We have the choice of clinging to the loss of what once was or moving into the freshness of a new season. A fixation on the glory of bygone days will cause us to miss the beauty presently around us.

“Even as the leaves are falling, the buds of next year’s crop are already in place, waiting to erupt again in spring . . . It’s just getting on with it quietly.”
Katherine May

One of our daughters recently received an unexpected and life-altering medical diagnosis. Even as the doctor spoke the words, I knew there were expectations in her life that would now need to be let go. Knowing that her Creator loves her even more than I ever can, I trust that God was opening a different door for her to walk through by allowing the condition the doctor was describing to us. Our faith teaches us that what we may see as the death of something is, in fact, the passage to growth and abundant living. In John 12:24-25, Jesus sets the stage for demonstrating this principle in His own life: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

“Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day.”  ― Shira Tamir

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves on a narrow ledge with the only path forward one that requires us to let go of the relative security of the wall behind us. We must step out in faith and grasp God’s hand as He leads us on a path so shrouded in uncertainty that we cannot see the way before us. That path may be the one that leads us to homeschooling in the first place, or it may be one that calls us to continue on it even when the path becomes steep and rocky.  

A successful journey on that path requires that we let go of the things that will hinder us from thriving. Releasing them empowers us to engage fully in the vibrancy of life around us. Our clouded vision clears as we focus only on what is relevant: the path before us. Precious memories of yesteryear sweeten the experience and energize us for the race yet to come but only if relegated to their proper place. Hopes and dreams for the future draw us onward, but again, they must be held in check. The contrast between just passing by this season as you wait for the next and being fully immersed in the season of life where we are presently is the difference between looking at these photographs of beautiful leaves and taking a hike along a mountain trail with the flutter of falling leaves gently nudging your shoulders and the cool autumn breeze whispering in your ear. I don’t know about you, but I want the full experience, whatever challenges and heartaches it may bring. So, like those trees dropping their summer wardrobes, I am learning to let go.

Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE blog.

Top photo credit: Sandra Cloer. Other photos: Jessica Frierson