A Homeschooling Dialogue

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I recently came across a discussion on Facebook regarding homeschooling.  I thought that I would copy some of my thoughts on this subject.

Let me first try to make myself clear.  I respect homeschooling and homeschoolers.  I understand the reasoning behind why most homeschool.

I also understand why people choose to not homeschool and respect them as well.  Of course, we all might have our private opinions on these matters, but I want to make it clear from the onset that I am not trying to promote one form of schooling above another.  I am not trying to criticize or condemn anyone. 

I just want to share a few thoughts in regards to homeschooling because I believe there just might be a woman out there who is struggling with unnecessary guilt and stress over this issue.

The Facebook discussion was talking about the merits or detriments to the concept of “un-schooling” within homeschooling.  Some parents are very favorable to this method and prefer it above all other means of education.  Others vary from cautious to critical in regards to it.

Let me first say that I was homeschooled and grew up with a lot of homeschoolers.  I also homeschooled my two oldest for two years and my youngest this year.  Though I don’t profess to be an academic genius, and there is always more for me to learn, I am fairly confident that I received a good foundation that has not prevented me or “held me back” in any way.

Let me copy some of my responses to the issue of the un-schooling method of homeschooling.  I believe I can then clarify the point of this blog:

The quote from a friend on Facebook that initiated the conversation:

“Short rant: Have you ever noticed that those who advocate ‘un-schooling’ have an education? So why do they think that not educating their children is a good thing? I’m sorry, I thought that education was to be valued!”

The following quotes are my responses to this discussion:

“If  ‘un-schooling’ means taking your kids for nature hikes and then looking up the plants you find in a book or on the internet, then I am for it. If it means you take things that are not from books, but then learn more about those things from books, then I am for it. Otherwise, I think home-schoolers need to be careful. I was home-schooled all of my life and knew tons of home-schoolers. What I have known and seen is too many home-schoolers who can’t spell, form correct grammatical sentences, or hold their own in a formal academic setting. The result is you have young men who are intimidated by more formal education so they stick to “blue-collar” jobs, which is okay if that is what God has called you to do but not okay if that is a decision based on the fact you can’t survive or thrive in a formal academic environment. What I see is home-schoolers who excuse a ‘poverty’ mindset as ‘learning to be content,’ their families always struggle financially and academically, and the cycle continues. Our goal isn’t to pursue wealth, but it is to be effective and excellent — in all areas of life.

“If our husbands and sons can get good-paying jobs, support their families comfortably, and have more resources to then share with others, praise the Lord!  This is a good thing!  Daniel, Moses, and Joseph were highly skilled and educated young people whom God was able to use greatly. Paul was as well. God can use anyone, but it does take certain skills for certain callings. We don’t want to limit our kids because we have accepted a sub-standard of education, priorities, standards, and goals for our family.  It’s too easy to “spiritualize” our own excuses or weaknesses. There is nothing praise-worthy about mediocrity in any area of life — including education.”

The conversation continued…

Our children need to learn discipline and structure, or they will have difficulty adjusting to college life or a job. If, as homeschoolers, we never keep to a schedule or actually have our children sit down and learn to concentrate in front of a table or desk, how are they going to be able to build the life skills of discipline, self-control, and organization in their own lives?  There is a balance to all of this, but some formal training is very important for learning this. My husband has a job that requires him to sit at a computer, concentrate, focus, and be extremely organized and productive with his time. He can’t just be casual and informal in his work. He’d lose his license. He can’t lack self- control and need to constantly get up and walk around every so often. He has to focus, calculate, create, organize, coordinate, etc… I am thankful for the education that he received that makes it possible for me to be a stay-at-home to five kids and to pay our bills. I want my boys to have the same opportunities in life for their families and to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.”

My last response:

Homeschooling is a valuable and high calling, but it is a high calling. It’s a huge responsibility and just as important as any other area of our parenting. I have many homeschooling friends, was homeschooled myself, and I have homeschooled. I am proud of my homeschooling. What I am trying to do is to caution. As homeschoolers, there is not as much accountability, and this can be dangerous. I am not calling for perfection. I am calling for giving our children a decent education and opportunities to serve God.  Too much is excused as something good when it is not.  That is where the danger lies.  It is not fair to ourselves, to our calling from God, to our children to neglect so great an area as their education. Homeschooling can achieve both, but it needs to be viewed as such. We need to respect the importance of our children’s education and of our calling to homeschool, if that is how God has led our families.”

“If a mom simply can’t homeschool her kids decently and manage all of her other priorities/responsibilities, the question is, ‘Why is she doing it?  Is the calling for her and from God?’ If she homeschools out of a sense of guilt and obligation or even legalism, it is wrong. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.  Homeschooling isn’t required by God to be godly, to raise godly children, or to achieve some level of superior-spirituality. It is a calling, by God, for individual families. We, as women, have to be honest as to what we can and can’t handle and for what God has individually called and created us.”

“So, if God is calling or has called you to homeschool, then do it and do it with reverence and honor for your calling, your God, and your children”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days or even a day when you decide you have to take a day off. It doesn’t mean you won’t want to quit at times. What it does mean is that when the going gets tough, you’ll know to persevere because the calling came from God and not some misguided sense of guilt or legalistic hyper-spiritual view. You will persevere because you will know that because God called you, He will enable you to do this.

“Any other efforts to homeschool will ultimately either fail or not succeed because they are attempted in our own personal strength rather than from the Lord’s calling and thus His gifting and grace. Believe me, I know what it means to attempt something under guilt and then to fall flat on my face from coming to the end of my own strength (which happens quickly).”

“Bless, you homeschoolers, you have entered a high calling. Treasure it!”

The main point I want to discuss in this blog is the factor of guilt.  I believe that there are women, like myself, who grew up surrounded by homeschoolers and with a strong emphasis placed upon homeschooling ones children.  In the community in which I was raised, to not homeschool was paramount to sinIt was taught that homeschooling is the ONLY right way to educate ones children.  With such a strong emphasis placed on homeschooling, there was a lot of pressure to homeschool because “it is the only spiritual thing to do,” and the result was a lot of guilt, fear, and condemnation if you didn’t follow this teaching.  It has taken me years to understand that homeschooling is not spoken of anywhere clearly in Scripture, it is not a formula for producing godly children, and it is not God’s calling for everyone.

I completely understand the reasoning behind why people homeschool — well most reasons.  I also completely respect them.  My desire is in no way to discourage those who have been called to homeschool from doing so.  It takes special character traits and grace from God to homeschool, and you, who are homeschooling, deserve recognition and praise for your efforts and accomplishments!

For those of you who are homeschooling more from a sense of obligation, guilt, fear, pride, or “super-spirituality”, I want to encourage you to examine and to be honest with your feelings and motivations.  If homeschooling has become a means of failure for you as a mom, for your family’s well-being and functionality, and is not accomplishing what it should, perhaps you need to take some time alone to read your Bible, to spend much time in prayer, and to examine your heart before the Lord.  Be honest with yourself and with God.

To not homeschool does not make you weak, a mediocre Christian, a failure as a wife and mom.  Nor does it mean you have “let down” your family.

To not homeschool does not mean your children will all become rebellious and worldly. 

Moms, the questions to be asked are, “What is God calling you and your husband to do for your family?  What is the best educational method for your family?  What method best fits how God has created and gifted you?”

Moms, here’s another big one: If God has not called you to homeschool, it does not mean that you are less gifted or weaker than your fellow Christians who do homeschool.  It does not mean that your life is necessarily easier, nor does it make you selfish.

In fact, to do anything, even something good like homeschooling, out of the wrong motivation is actually selfish (the reasoning is self-centered). It may actually become a means that will destroy or cause much detriment to your family.

It also takes strength of character to admit that you were not created to do a specific thing that perhaps everyone else in your circle of friends is doing.

If God has called you though to homeschool, then you have embarked upon a very high calling.  You will need much humility to walk in God’s grace.  You will need much strength from the Lord to persevere.  The rewards may not even be for others to see; you may not have children who are godly in following the Lord or even children who succeed academically.  What you will have though is the peace of knowing that you were obedient to the Lord and did what you were supposed to do.

You see, dear women, it’s not about a certain method that determines the fruits of our labors or peace within our hearts.  It’s about following our God who loves us unconditionally and who made us with the unique abilities that we each possess.

The measure of our spirituality is not in what we do necessarily nor how we appear.  It is in how much we have learned to abide in God.  “Spirituality” comes from Him.  As we learn to abide in Him, we become “plugged” into the true Source of “spirituality”/godliness, and His fruit will become evident in our lives.

How I Went From Seeing Red To Seeing Blue-Green

 

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(FreeImages.com/HavardKristoffersen)

That was my day today!  I “saw” a lot of “red” today. Oh, not the pretty kind, like in flowers, fruit, or something cheerful.  No, it was the kind of day where my blood pressure must have been like lava.

The day started with some disappointment — nothing unusual in the life of a mom.  A good friend had invited us to join her son and her for a birthday celebration.  It would have been fun, but instead I spent my morning cleaning up stomach contents from a sick son.  Not pretty at all.

The Mommy mode went into full gear, and soon the sick one was ensconced in a comfy chair with all possible means of comfort given.  The laundry was churning in the wash machine.  The kitchen was clean again.  Business phone calls were made — everything from prescriptions, to getting a broken window pane fixed (previous one), to VBS invitations, to summer party planning.

The day felt productive and was going fairly smoothly.  Then, chaos erupted…

Seriously, sometimes I wonder what God was thinking (not in a disrespectful sense) when he gave me three very active boys and a fourth one on the way.  I grew up with three sisters and one very mild brother. I was the type of girl who liked reading books, drawing, playing with dolls, and pretty things.  I would play explorer at times, but I was a quiet girl.  I definitely had very little experience with busy, active boys.

Here I am now…  today…

My boys got into an argument.  One boy locked the other brothers outside.  One brother decided to take the handle to a paint roller (long kind for ceilings) from the garage and bang on the glass window of the door.  As glass from the broken window pane splintered on the floor, I saw red.  There was no blood.  I was simply furious! 

How many times have we talked to the boys again and again about consequences, controlling anger, responsibility, respecting property, and had to enact negative consequences for unwise decisions?  When would they get it?!! 

My son quickly sobered when he realized what he had done and how upset mommy was.  The rest of the evening, he was given lots of chores to do and knew not to complain or make a peep.

Too bad, the boys’ bank accounts aren’t big enough to pay for all of the stuff they break.  My husband and I decided that we would come up with an extensive list of jobs that would eventually total the amount he owes us for the glass pane.  Unfortunately, it’s not the same to us, but for him, it just might teach him something positive.

I saw even more red when I discovered that same son had also stolen chocolate candy bars from my room.

Before too many conclusions are drawn, let me assure you that we do try to address all negative behavior and enact consequences.  This kind of negative behavior is not tolerated.  The problem is changing the heart. 

It’s so easy to focus on outward behavior modification rather than the inner person.  It’s the goal of my husband and I to do both, particularly focusing on the latter.

I know we aren’t perfect parents, and there is always something more to learn.  But, I don’t know a single perfect parent and one who doesn’t have something to learn, including psychologists

Our children really aren’t “cookie cutters” who come with a complete list of personal instructions.  Each child is unique.  Each parent is unique. This means, as a parent, I must get to know the heart of my child and learn it so that I can apply the truths and principles that will successfully lead him/her to acknowledge and examine the state of his/her own heart.

So, how did my day go from “seeing red” to seeing “blue-green”? 

Blue and green are the colors of calm, peace, serenity.  They are considered soothing colors.  In fact, they are my favorite colors — perhaps because I need lots of calm in my life.  🙂

One thing I am learning is when I am upset, maybe I should say “really upset,” it’s best to not open my mouth.  So, I ignored a couple of phone calls, resisted getting on Facebook, and kept trying to remember to pray about the whole situation.

Thankfully, God was merciful and helped me to take some deep breaths and to calm down, after awhile.

By the end of the day, I was able to get all four kids ready for bed, dishes cleaned, laundry folded and put away, and then began the process of tucking the kids into their beds.  That’s when the real heart work began to occur and when I really began to see “blue-green.”

I came to the son who was the main character of these events (besides myself), and he said, “Mommy, I just can’t get it right and be good.”  Seeing his pain, I immediately felt the last remnants of my anger melt away and gently said the following,

“It is good to feel sad over sin.  The question is, ‘Now what are you going to do with that sadness and shame?’  Are you going to use that as a motivation to change your behavior and want to do better?  Or, are you going to say, ‘Well, I am bad so I might as well just be bad.’  The first choice will allow you to seek God’s help and have His forgiveness. The second choice would be believing a lie…  Have you talked with God about this, asking Him to forgive you and to help you to do better?”

My son then replied that he hadn’t.  I asked him then if he would like to pray.  He promptly began a simple prayer that went from discouragement to a very heart-felt prayer of repentance and desire for help.  As he finished, I quoted I John 1:9 to him, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

My son went to bed with a feeling of peace and the satisfaction of knowing he had been forgiven. I went to bed very thankful that God is working in my children’s lives, even when I don’t see it at the moment. I also was humbled to see how God is working in my own life. 

I too needed to learn to stay calm, even when circumstances are extremely frustrating.  The experience was a reminder to me again that “heart work” is really “God-work.” I am not in control of it, merely a vessel that God enjoys using for my own benefit.

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