Monday, May 16, 2016

Is Home Schooling For You?

 
 
 
 
We’re almost to the finish line for this school year. We finish up the end of next week. It’s a great feeling to know that we have made it through another school year, that the kids have grown academically, spiritually, and personally. It’s been a good year. Tough, but very good.
When we first started home schooling our kids, nearly 26 years ago, I felt completely inadequate, and I floundered….a lot.  I had bad days and good days, and days when I felt like the most incapable mom on the planet.  I put them in school. I pulled them out of school. I put them in, pulled them out, and then somebody asked me why I home schooled in the first place.  Good question! I initially started home schooling because I wanted to be with my children. I wanted to be the one to raise them, to really know them, to have fun learning with them, and to be able to instill our beliefs in them without the confusion of the voices of other adults, other agendas, and their own peer groups interfering.  My two oldest girls ultimately graduated from the public school system, and I have sincerely regretted the decision to put them in the system. The outcome wasn’t the best and I felt I lost a lot of time, opportunity for relationship growth, and childhood years with my kids. When the next five kids started school, my husband and I chose to home school out of a deep conviction in our hearts that was birthed out of that negative outcome from the public school system, lots of prayer, scripture study, looking long term to their futures, and seeking wise counsel.
 
In Psalm 96:7-10 it says
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
    and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
    and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
    and they have not known my ways.”
The longer I follow the Shepherd, the more aware I become of His voice in my life and the more I am able to discern when He is leading and guiding, and challenging me to grow.
Seeking out my husband’s thoughts, and asking Him to help make the right decision, biblically is also helpful. It is important to be united us as a couple. My husband has a great perspective with his ability to pull out facts from situations that I struggle to see clearly through my emotions. He is also able to be objective. He sees things from a different angle than I do, so  I really appreciate his insight as we prayerfully and carefully make decisions together, based on God’s Word. When we are grappling with something important, studying together is key and this is why I asked my husband to help me conduct a specific study through the scriptures on the subject of raising and training children. I needed his leadership and perspective. We both wanted to know what God has to say on the subject, and I wanted to be united with my husband in this very important decision. We studied the scriptures together, and it blew us away when we discovered just how much God does have to say about educating our children.
Luke 6:40 says “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”   Who is teaching our kids?  Because according to this passage they will become like those who teach them.  If they spend seven hours in public school, learning the ways of their teachers, and peers, and just a few hours in the evenings and on the weekends at home, that adds up to a huge influence by the school system, and peers on our kids. What does that look like long term? Are we ready to relinquish our authority to people we really don’t even know and who may have a very different world view and agenda than us?  Are we willing to let them go into the system for the majority of their childhoods? What does God think?
Deuteronomy 11:18-20 says “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
Basically this passage says we are supposed to be teaching our kids about Him continually…..while we do life with them. The question we asked ourselves was how can we teach them to our children while we are doing life, if we aren’t doing life with them for more than a few hours a day?  If they are in the public school system, there's a good chance they will be absorbing a different world view, and teaching that clashes with our beliefs. We realized that if we really wanted to disciple our kids scripturally, it meant that one of us needed to be with them the majority of the time.  And that “one of us” translated to me, as their mother.  I grappled with feelings of inadequacy, but as I turned my doubts over to God, He reminded me that His grace is sufficient for me. We have now been home schooling consistently without putting our kids in the system since our third born daughter arrived and we made the conscience decision to home school all of our kids.  They are now 17, 16, 14, 11, and 9. Each year looks a little different, but God has been faithful to provide all of our needs along the way, and to give clear direction when it’s time for changes.

As I mentioned, each year looks a little different from the previous year. This year has been the first year we have placed our kids in a school setting outside of the home. With three high school kids, there are some things I can’t teach them, but again, God has provided perfectly. All of our kids are enrolled in a Christian school that is the perfect blend of home school and school outside the home. They meet twice a week for classes in high school, where they are in a classroom setting, and given home work for the parents to oversee. The elementary kids meet once a week.  I work at the school, and this enables me to know all of the teachers, help out in classes sometimes, and I have the privilege of knowing their peers. Parents are welcome and wanted at the school, and we can sit in on classes anytime.

Sometimes God asks us to do things we feel completely incapable of, but He never asks too much of us. Recently God has asked me to stretch my teaching skills and take them to a new level. Over the past eight months, He has challenged me to grow and stretch in ways that are uncomfortable, and a little scary. I admit I have fought Him on this.  By nature, I prefer to follow or be part of a group. Leading is not something I am comfortable with, but then home schooling wasn’t either. I still struggle to trust and obey. He gave me a vision for a teen choir through the Christian school my kids are involved in.  I felt Him developing a passion for it in my heart, and I didn’t feel adequate, or qualified, but He reminded me that He will equip those that He calls, and He also reminded me of the time in Exodus 4 when he called Moses to speak to Pharaoh.  Moses argued with God, saying: “Oh my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past, since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue. Then the Lord said to Moses “who made man’s mouth? Who makes him deaf, or mute, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak. But he said “oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.” 
That really struck me because in my heart I had planned to ask someone else whom I believed was better equipped to take the vision God gave me, and run with it. I have had years of vocal experience and training, have taught voice, and I have directed a children’s choir in the past, but this choir would be a much greater challenge with the task of teaching kids harmony, and with more difficult music to tackle. How could I lead a choir like this without the ability to play an instrument and with a limited ability to read music? I felt inadequate. It seemed to me that someone who has been formally trained as a musician would do a much better job. God reminded me that He called me to the task, and that this was His vision that he placed in my heart, and that in II Corinthians 12:9 it says “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I asked a friend if she would help out with piano accompaniment, and teaching some of the musicianship, filled out the application to teach an enrichment class, and submitted it. Soon after that, choir practices began. Often we will know it is God who has called us to do something when we experience difficulties, and obstacles in the process of obeying Him, just as Moses did when he went to Pharaoh. He wasn’t well received. He faced opposition. There have been some difficult personal attacks over the past several months since we started the choir, just as there have been attacks and challenges with home schooling.  At the same time, He has brought confirmation through the encouragement from a couple of people who are trained musicians. He has used them to motivate me, support me, teach me, and challenge me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and the kids in the choir have endeared themselves to my heart. I can’t wait to get to practice every week. He did this for me when I committed to obey Him in home schooling my kids, as well. He helped me overcome the obstacles and opposition. The choir kids are blossoming and opening up not only musically, but on a spiritual level as well, and beautiful friendships have been formed. Some of mothers of those kids have come forward to help, and they have the talents needed, to fulfill the areas I lack in. They have become very dear friends as we have worked together and faced the challenges as a team.  I would have missed out on those blessings, if I had not listened to the Shepherd’s voice, and allowed Him to use me in this capacity. He has provided what I’ve needed in order to walk in obedience to Him and He used those challenges/obstacles to grow me in ways that I would have never dreamed. He has reminded me that if He gives us talents, we aren’t supposed to bury them, or use the excuse of inadequacy to get out of doing what He has called us to do, or hand off the job to someone we think is better equipped. This is what we do as parents when we hand the job over to the public school system because we think the teachers are better equipped.  Are they really?  If God calls you to home school, He will equip you, and He will give you the grace, courage, and resources needed to do the job. It's much easier to home school today than it was when I started.  There are plenty of resources available, and the home schooling community is much larger.  I just want to encourage you, that if God is speaking to you on this subject, that you can trust Him to equip you fully for the task.

Some of the blessings we are reaping from our decision to home school are amazing. The relationships we enjoy with our kids are unique, deep, and precious. They seek us out for counsel, rather than their peers. They trust us because they know we have a vested interest in each of them. They have chosen to own their own education and work hard at it, even with some learning challenges in the mix. We have experienced years of learning together, and although there have been struggles, and tears, we have also enjoyed many cozy moments, reading together by the fire, hiking, exploring, researching, traveling, singing, cooking, baking, shopping, and doing life together because we had time. I had time to teach them how to budget, clean properly, bake, cook, do yard work, and life skills because we were together in a relaxed environment, and we had time.
Keith and Kristen Getty wrote a song called “Good Shepherd of My Soul.”  The words are powerful and the tune is beautiful. All of the words speak volumes, but I want to share the first couple of verses.
“Good Shepherd of my soul, come dwell within me. Take all I am and mold your likeness in me.  Before the cross of Christ, This is my sacrifice:  A life laid down and ready to follow. The first few words of the second verse….ring in my mind and penetrate my heart when I struggle to follow.  They say: The troubled find their peace in true surrender. The prisoners their release from chains of anger. In springs of living grace, I find a resting place, to rise refreshed, determined to follow.”
You can listen to the rest of this beautiful hymn below.
 
 
Just a final thought.  Each year we pray for clear direction for the following year.  Switching things up, and trying something new can be very refreshing and keep you from burning out, but the main thought I want to impress on you, is to apply Proverbs 3:5-7 which says
 
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.


2 comments :

  1. This is a very good post! My faith in homeschool was rattled when things feel apart with our oldest and we put her in the private Christian school. That turned out to be the best thing we could have done for her. Yet I really struggled for awhile because I thought homeschool was THE ANSWER. Finally I accepted that it may be for my boys, but was not God's plan for my oldest.

    I agree this is something we need to revisit every year and pray and see what is God's will for our children each year. His will may not be our will. But His is right and good.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lisa,

      Yes....I think some kids even do well in public school, but then their parents are there pretty much every single day and they know all of the teachers and their kids' friends. I couldn't split myself five ways for that, and then the fights....the constant battles with curriculum, and other issues is exhausting for them. Each family is different and each child is unique. I never dreamed we would put our kids in a private school, but it's been an excellent fit for them. I don't have to plan out their lessons, or teach the lessons, I just have to help them with their assignments, and for the younger boys it means I help them a LOT, and I often attend their home room class (history, English, writing, reading, art), so I know exactly what is expected of them. I don't have to attend their math and science classes, as they are pretty self explanatory at their ages.So it's still home schooling, but with a load of organization and teaching removed from my shoulders. We all love it! I'm glad the decision to put your oldest in school is working well for her. She seems really happy there! I think being in tune with God and going to Him for guidance, knowing His Word, and trusting Him to give clear direction, is key and gives peace in those decisions. :)

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