Sunday, July 18, 2010

Always Homeschooling

One thing I love about homeschooling is that we always seem to be in a perpetual state of learning. Even when we don’t think we’re learning and we don’t care to learn, we learn.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband found some eggs hidden in the soil of the garden our church has planted for the community we live in. He brought them home to hatch. Of course, I was sure that they were snake eggs and didn’t want anything to do with them. He placed them in a fish bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, poked a few holes for air, and then just watched them. Nothing happened. Until last night, that is. Suddenly, we discovered little skinks hatching out of them. They were so cute!

This came on the coattails of the fish tank full of tadpoles my husband collected from our pond…

Today, my daughter and I were releasing the little skinks at the edge of the woods by our house when she sat back on the ground onto a yellow jacket!!! We thought she had sat on a pinecone at first. Within minutes she was having an allergic reaction and it scared us to death. Her eyes swelled and she broke out in hives, etc. A few Benadryl did the trick, though. She’s sore and drowzy, but okay.

Tonight while my husband was working in our garden, he found a shrew. Of course, he captured it! He brought it in and my son began playing with it. Until it nipped at him. No blood drawn, so that’s good. We put the little booger in an old hamster cage and fed it some earth worms. It was really cute. When my daughter got in, my son proceeded to show it to her. What an exciting event…until it escaped through the bars of the cage. Praise the Lord we were able to get the cage outside and release the little guy before he turned his teeth on my son again. Imagine if we had gotten up in the morning to find the cage empty!!!!

So, I guess we can just say this is a day in the life of a homeschooler, huh? Even when your kids are 14, 17, and 43, I guess they never stop liking little creatures and exploring the great outdoors…yellow jacket stings and all.

Recycled Mom

Have you ever felt that if one more thing went wrong in your life, you would jump off the planet? Have you ever thought God must have a candid camera and all the saints are having a blast watching you go through your daily life? I know that God does not sit up there waiting to strike us down for every act of disobedience, but He does have a bizarre way of luring us back into His arms.

On a cool September evening in 1999, the phone rang as I sat visiting with my father. The shaky voice of my husband on the other end of the line revealed to me that our lives were about to change. The company he worked for had unexpectedly closed its doors. He was now unemployed. Since we are a one-income family, and we homeschool, the thought of having no income was unsettling. However, the lack of income proved to be the least of our worries. The following Sunday morning our pastor collected a spontaneous love offering that met our financial needs for the next three months. I thought that things would be okay.

The long winter we faced with its short days and seemingly endless nights was a nightmare. As the children and I continued school as usual, my husband spent three miserable months looking for a job, followed by months of agony in a job not suited to him. He suffered a great deal emotionally from the job loss. Although I am by nature quite strong, the extensive months of being a fortress for everyone had become too much. The once pleasurable tasks of being a wife and mother were now tedious. More mentally exhausted than a soldier at the end of a long war (please don’t take offense to this scenario if you have a loved one involved in the war currently), I found my reserve of strength gone. I no longer wanted to be a caregiver.

Spring arrived and I struggled to get through our days of school and rejoiced when our summer break finally came. I resisted even talking about beginning our new school year. I took a break from anything that involved instructing my children. My heart and soul went on vacation. My calling in life had become a prison sentence.

As the hot days of summer languidly passed, a great chasm grew between my children and me. They needed their friends more than they needed me. Their hearts had found a replacement for me. I was blind to the reasons why this was happening. I struggled because I truly felt called to have my children at home, yet that was no longer my desire. Why was I considering a nine-month boarding school with a three-month summer camp? Why could I not face another day at home with my children?

Caring friends often asked me, “What does his job loss and struggle to find another career have to do with you not wanting to be a mother?” I felt angry because no one understood me and because my husband still struggled with what had happened to him. I needed him to be my supporter. It was easy to take my anger out on the kids. Initiating the simplest act of love became suffocating.

What made my dilemma even harder was the lack of support from others. I could not blame anyone. This was my calling. No one can understand a calling unless it is his or her own. I found no comfort from those with whom I spoke. In fact, I sensed that some had even been waiting for this day to come. I felt torn because my desires were to give up and take what I thought would be the easy road. I do not mean to say that having a full-time job and placing children in school is easy, nor do I mean to imply that it is a sin. What I am saying is that if God calls you to do a task, it is a sin if you fail to do it. My struggle was between my will and God’s.

Although I was weary, the only thing I knew to do was to set my start date for school, and trust the Lord to give me back the joy I had lost. Before that could happen, though, I had to ask forgiveness for closing myself off from everyone and for feeling like a martyr. I had to stop expecting anything from anyone and start relying on God totally for my strength.

Our first day of school that fall was awkward. Being back in the classroom, I tried to do more than just go through the motions of teaching. Amazingly, by the third day I felt like I was wearing my favorite pair of sweats. God gently pulled me back into doing what He wants me to do. He used His rod to discipline me. My misery had been part of my punishment.

Throughout the school year, I so often fail to take my burdens to the Lord. I ask advice from everyone I know and try to solve problems on my own. When nothing works, I then turn to God. He says He will make our burdens light, so why do we insist on carrying them ourselves? I see now that if I take everything to the Lord daily, He will give me the strength I need to face whatever He sends my way.

In a sense, I had become a Jonah. I ran from what I knew God wanted me to do, only to return to it in the end. In my rebellion, I stopped teaching my children, and failed to be the kind of mother, wife, friend and Christian sister that I should be. I became a sponge only wanting to receive comfort instead of giving comfort to others.

The next spring, I found myself going through many of the same emotions as in the previous year. At the time, we attended a church where there were no other homeschoolers. We also had spent a winter full of sickness and isolation. Loneliness had gotten the best of me and a longing for normalcy was knocking at my heart’s door. Once again, I considered letting that be the last year I homeschooled. I looked into working for local Christian schools so that my children could attend at no charge.

Once again, I placed my burden in the hands of the Lord. I prayed that if He wanted me to continue on this path, that He would give me the desire to persevere. It seemed like no time at all had passed before I was searching through catalogs for innovative ways to teach my children, buying used curriculum off the Internet, and consulting friends about their techniques. I received much encouragement and advice that truly touched my heart. Unless the Lord creates a new path for our family, I will be teaching my children until they graduate.

Through all of this, God was a gentle shepherd to me. He took His staff and led me along the pathway He wanted me to follow. My trials and my discovery of the blessings of obedience to the Lord were painful, yet necessary journeys.

Originally appeared in Homeschooling Today”s Homeschooling Helper in January 2007.

Homeschooling for a Lifetime

So, I still don’t know how twelve years goes by so fast. It seems like yesterday that I ordered my first box of A Beka books and Saxon Math. We were so excited to be teaching our daughter first grade and our son four year Pre-K. Everyone wanted to know how long we were going to do this thing called homeschooling. You know, we’re strange for doing such a thing, right? I mean, really, aren’t we taking our kids’ lives in our own hands? Quite the contrary. We were taking our kids’ lives out of the government’s hands and placing them into God’s hands.
After the first year, things got tougher. Teaching the curriculum wasn’t so bad, but dealing with attitudes and selfishness and budding personalities challenged me as a teacher. I was quite unprepared for having the kids home all day and having to play teacher. That’s the free spirit in me. I’d rather sit around and read or write or talk or watch movies than have to work. So, I have tried very hard throughout the last twelve years to make work as fun as it can be. Life is too short to be a stiff neck.
Of course, as we got into high school in our teaching phase, I realized that many things needed to be stepped up a bit. I have often felt inadequate and like I was leaving something out where it came to the kids and their education. But I’ve had many homeschooling mentors along the way encourage me to continue to teach and guide the kids to follow their hearts while chasing after God’s dream for their lives.
The reasons I began homeschooling seem to have faded as time has gone on, replaced with newer, more urgent reasons. At first, I wanted to protect my children from the influence of the world. Later, I wanted to make sure they received an education worthy of having. Now, that the first leg of my journey is complete and I am finished teaching my daughter her high school work, I see that there is so much more to teach this budding young woman to prepare her for the future God has in store for her. I see that my role in her life as homeschool teacher of math and english and science and history may be finished, but a teacher I will remain for as long as I live and as long as she is willing to listen. With only a few years left to homeschool my son, I see that there is so much more to teach; so much more to learn. And I fear that it cannot be done in three years. Even after he has walked down the aisle of homeschool graduation, real or hypothetical, he will still need to be guided by his dad and by me.
Even when we’re faced with an empty nest, I seriously doubt that it will remain unvisited by our two. For you see, investing twelve years of your life in a child’s education and maturation, spending every day together, yields rewards that will be seen and heard and felt for many generations to come. Every time I start to think that my kids may have missed out on something like the prom, or being socialized, or being in AP classes, or being class President, I am reminded by a non-homeschooling friend that my kids are pretty great, by nothing more than a casual compliment of how special they are. So, while my kids may have missed out on some of the above, they have been spared from repeated broken hearts, the need to fight for the attentions of the opposite sex, compromised values, bodies soiled by drugs and alcohol, and so much more.
Homeschooling becomes about more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. It becomes about life skills, matters of the heart, discernment, teaching kids to be leaders for the Lord regardless of the rewards or penalties, and so much more. I see that while we do have to get them prepared for the “real world” or working and surviving, etc., our main goal should be preparing them for their life’s call. Although knowing how to solve a trigonometry problem by using the law of cosines is important in trig class, it probably won’t be used much later in life by the average person. Knowing how to diagram sentences will help us all to be better communicators, but if we’re not communicating the message of Christ to the lost and to our wayward friends, then it doesn’t matter how well our words are spoken.
It hasn’t always been easy, but looking back, I can see that it was totally worth it.