Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mary James: Homeschooling Yes You Can

My two little boys have a new favorite TV show, "Bob, the Builder." It's a cute little show about Bob the Builder and all of his construction machines. The trucks and tractors and mixers are all animated and they work together as a team. The theme song has them all singing, "Can we fix it? YES, we can!" "Can we build it? YES, we can!" Working with new home schoolers, sometimes I feel like that kind of a cheerleader... "Can we homeschool? YES, you can!" I try to give information and encouragement to show that they can be successful homeschoolers. Sometimes my own struggles make me feel like something of a hypocrite.

Two years ago, I had a very bad year. In July when my morning sickness was at its peak, I found out we would have to move. The month of August was spent trying to find a place and secure financing. In September we moved our enormous household. In October my mother-in-law underwent quadruple bypass surgery. In November my brother underwent emergency colon surgery. In December our only vehicle was totaled. In February our sweet little David was born, and, of course, we all know how school goes with a new baby in the house! While most families were finishing up the school year, we were covering lessons about Christmas! We had to schedule school through the summer with a short break before starting again in September. My house? After seven months it still looked like we had just moved in. I felt like all I ever did was yell at my kids and take my husband for granted. For every good day, I had five bad days. For every day we accomplished school, we seemed to miss three! I would take one step forward and three steps back. And so in the end, I crumbled before God and wept and wept and said, "God... I am a miserable failure. Everything in my world is a mess. I can not do this!!" And do you know what God answered? He said, "That is what I was waiting to hear..." His answer to me involved three passages of scripture that I would like to share with you.

All three passages were written by Paul. The first passage has been dear to me for a long time. My Bible calls it "The Strife of the Two Natures" but I call it the 3:00 a.m. passage because it sounds like the kind of struggle you have with yourself at 3 o'clock in the morning when you can't sleep and you are trying to figure out the mysteries of existence. It is found in Romans 7, verses 15 through 25. I'm not going to quote that entire passage, I'm just going to give you the gist of it. Paul says, "the things that I don't want to do, those are the things that I do and the things that I do want to do, I do not..." Doesn't that sound just like our homeschooling struggle? I don't want to fuss at my kids or neglect my lesson plans or fall behind but that's where I find myself over and over. I want to be patient and loving and encouraging and find the methods that work for my child, but I just can't seem to accomplish that. Paul was talking about our human nature struggling against our desire to please God, but I see such a clear correlation to my desire to be a good homeschooler.

The next passage gives me an answer to this "Strife of the Two Natures." In fact, I think this is one of the most important passages in the Bible. Not because it is so revolutionary, but because it is so simple and basic. And, of course, that is why we always forget its great truth and wisdom! When I reach the point of complete breakdown and I throw myself before God and say, "God, I can not do this," God says the same thing to me that He said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 — "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." In this passage, Paul is talking about a thorn in his flesh, and there are days when my homeschooling lifestyle feels like a thorn in my flesh! But listen to the reason for the thorn... in verse 7 Paul says, "Lest I should be exalted above measure..." So in verses 9-10, Paul goes on to say, "...My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.... Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong." When I admit that I can't do it, it is at that moment that God can begin to work. "When I am weak, then am I strong."

{mospagebreak}Are you struggling? Do you feel like nothing is going the way it should? You can not find a math program that works and your children are fighting with each other and your husband is depressed because he never has clean socks? You are all caught up in what you are able to do and you are realizing that you are not able to do it all. "Can you do it? NO YOU CAN'T"... at least not without help. Here is your help... my third passage of scripture, Philippians 4:6-13... "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

In May, 2001 (my Very Bad Year), my family went to the Capitol for the homeschool rally. The weather wasn't terrible, but it was pretty warm and the day turned in to a long one when we stopped on the way home for groceries and fast food. By the time we got home, I had prepared myself for a miserable evening — I knew everyone was hot and tired and I expected them to be fighting and whining and generally making me wish I could find a band of traveling gypsies to sell them to... But a very funny thing happened... we put the groceries away and ate our fried chicken without too much fuss. About half an hour later I found myself in the living room feeding the baby, while the rest of my family participated in one activity or another. Laura, the 9-year-old was helping Nathan, the 2-year-old with a puzzle while Lee, the 4-year-old, quietly worked another puzzle. Rachel, who was 5, was sitting in her daddy's lap while he read her a story. My 7-year-old, Sarah, was sitting next to me on the couch reading a story to herself. My 15-year-old was a few feet away, working on a Lego project in his room. It was such a peaceful scene! I relished it, breathed it in, drank of it.... I took a mental picture of it and posted it on the bulletin board of my mind as a constant reminder that God IS good.

Philippians 4:6 says, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." When I went on my knees before God, He heard my request. I told Him that I could not go on and He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee"... And when I sat in my living room that night, He pointed out to me the beauty that is my family and He said, "think on these things..." and He filled me with the peace that passeth all understanding. Yes, my house is still a mess and continues to make me feel like the worst housekeeper who ever lived. Yes, at the end of the week I still see lessons that weren't completed and projects that weren't finished — or even started! Yes, my kids still fight with each other. Will I ever learn "in whatever state I am, in this to be content"? I do not know. I know I will continue to have problems. I wish I could tell you that the homeschooling lifestyle is perfect — your children will be obedient and your husband will take over all the housework or get an enormous raise and hire a maid for you. But the truth is, you will still have problems — you will face illness, financial problems, emotional problems, marital problems. Remember the thorn in Paul's side? I believe there are two reasons we, as homeschooling mothers, face these struggles. First, you have made your family a priority. You have gone against society and decided you want something better. And for that the enemy will come against you. I can not tell you how many families I know who faced huge problems just days after making the decision to homeschool. But there is another reason for the thorns — the reason Paul mentioned... If I am weak, then His strength is made perfect...... If I can do it all on my own, then it's just about me being a terrific homeschooler. How many of us stay humbled before God when things are going great? These struggles serve to keep us where we belong — on our knees before God. So that "in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" we will let our requests be made known unto God. In everything... in curriculum choices, in dealing with resistance, in running our homes. If it were easy, would you turn it over to God? But it is not easy, in fact, at times it can be downright staggering. Now, I truly do not believe that homeschooling is for everyone or for every season. But I beg you... if you ever think about giving up — and you probably will — don't do it because of what you are not able to do. Listen to Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me."

I hope you will remember my words if you face a year like I had. Some of you will face trials much greater than those I've mentioned here. Some of you will be crippled by less than what I've experienced. All of you will hear the enemy say to you at least once, "Why are you doing this?" He might point around your house and say, "You can't even get the basket of socks sorted - what makes you think you've got it together enough to teach your children?" When that happens, remember these three things.... God's grace is sufficient unto you... His strength is made perfect in your weakness... and you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Continue to be obedient and let God take care of the rest.

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