There are some days when I wonder how I am going to get through homeschooling my children. Titus and Tiana woke up with a bad cough (a cough that has lingered for several days). Titus threw up phlegm. My two older boys rolled out of bed in slow motion and walked about in slow motion.
I was waiting for them to finish their breakfast so we could get the day started, but they were all lingering around in their pajamas. I knew I would have to play the role of motivating mom. Honestly, I don’t like having to do this. It’s tiring.
I love it when they wake up, perky and alive, excited to learn. Well, the reality is, homeschooling goes through its ups and downs. Children get sick, moms get sick (and pregnant!), attitudes get in the way, spiritual issues have to be dealt with, and the kids need constant training, instruction, and discipline. In fact, homeschooling often feels like it is a character education not just for my kids, but for me. The obstacles and hurdles make me dig down deep and remember that I’m doing this in faith, not always knowing what’s going to happen next but confident that my equipper and sustainer is the Lord.
Endurance does bear fruit, and I hope in the fruit of all this labor – the days when the eyes of my children twinkle because they have overcome a task they thought they couldn’t do, when they progress through their material like bullet trains, when they make new discoveries and bubble over with creative inspiration, when they have insights about their relationship with God, or when they tell me, “I really like being with you, mom. Thanks for teaching me.” These moments do come and when they do, I’m re-charged and ready to go again.
I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that homeschooling is my cross to bear in this season of my life. It’s not the load that I mind so much as the self-denial it requires. Jesus says, “Pick up your cross daily, deny yourself and follow me.” It takes a whole lot of self-denial to homeschool. I have to deny the temptation to control my kids or to compare them with one another and with others. I have to deny my pride and tendency to take credit for their successes. I have to deny the doubts that plague me when I feel like, “Oh gosh, are they learning anything?” I have to deny my own comfort and liberties when I would rather do something else besides sit through a morning of teaching my children. I have to deny opportunities to serve myself and pursue my wants because homeschooling is the all-consuming lifestage that I am in, and I really don’t have time to do much else. I have to deny my own laziness when I want to lie down in bed and sleep because this pregnancy is tiring me out!
Just recently, I was having a conversation with playgroup moms about homeschooling. At one point, we were all talking about the difficulties we have to deal with. They said something like, “You are blessed because your children are smart. It’s easy to teach them.” This comment hit me on two levels — carnal and spiritual. Let me talk about the carnal first. I was a little bit hurt. It’s the same way I feel when people think my pregnancy is “easy” because I am not puking all the time. Sure, Joy is pregnant, but it’s nothing for her. It’s her fifth child. No biggie, she’s been there and done that before. She just pops them out. Well, I may not puke and my kids may not appear to be “struggling” learners, but homeschooling in our house is not always a postcard.
Good gracious! My kids have days when they act plain dumb. I mean, just this morning, Titus looked at the word “PET” and couldn’t read it. Really?! After finishing the entire Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten level so that he was proficiently reading four to five letter words and a bunch of sight words, and then he looks at me and says, “I don’t know that word?!” Was this a cruel joke? Did his cough give him a foggy brain? Did too much of the IPad over the weekend slow down his capacity to think?
My response was, “Okay, hon, we won’t homeschool today. You are not well and you should rest. But this also means that you won’t do Reading Eggs on the computer either. Your brain needs to take a break.” (Reading Eggs is a great phonics program which he was only entitled to access after he learned to read.) I meant well but he busted out into tears and then vomited out his phlegm because he kept crying. Lovely morning, eh? (You can refer to paragraph 1 about the vomit). I explained to him afterwards that I really wanted him to take it easy and get well. He was fine and spent some time playing with insect stickers instead.
Let me go on…Friday morning, Edan said, “I don’t want to do any work today.”
“Oh really? And what would you like to do?” I wanted to explore this.
Very calmly I replied, “Okay, you can do nothing. That’s fine with me. But this means you will stay home and do nothing while your brothers and sister go to playgroup and you will also do nothing when they watch a movie with their cousins tonight and have lots of fun. You can sit here and do nothing.”
“I will do my work,” was his quick conclusion. And he did. Whew.
So, just to be clear, my kids are very normal.
On a spiritual level, the comment my playgroup friends made about my kids being EASY to teach humbled me. After all, Who am I? Who am I to have the circumstances that I do, the resources available to me, the husband, and the children that bring me so much joy? Yes, I think my kids are special, not because they are genetically superior but because they are God’s gifts to me. I don’t deserve them or any of his blessings. It is grace. God’s grace. If anyone should look upon my children and affirm their abilities or talents, the credit does not go to me, Edric, our kids, or even to homeschooling. Everything is by God’s grace alone.
The homeschooling experience doesn’t always come in a pretty package. Open this and your parenting will be successful! Open this and you will have brilliant children! If anyone feeds you advertisement like that about homeschooling, turn around and run away! It’s not true. Days like this are a very healthy reminder that homeschooling is an invitation to experience God’s grace more than it is an antidote to family and children issues.
The longer I homeschool, the more cognisant I am that it is not a cure-all solution. When it is esteemed as such, well that’s what you call idolatry. Much of the worrying and fretting, the panicking and impatience enters into my homeschooling when I want to manage all the outcomes and dictate the pace of my children’s learning or their maturity. On some days, God allows this to happen, but most of the time he shows me that I control nothing but my own responses and reactions to what he is doing in my life and the lives of my kids. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals, prepare lessons, or have a schedule for my kids. I believe in doing my part. But the results are always a testament, not to my ability to teach or train my children or the magic of the homeschooling experience, but to the grace of God.
Grace comes with contentment — contentment in my weaknesses. It was wonderfully coincidental that the first lesson the boys and I had together this morning was on the character of CONTENTMENT. I’m using a book by Ruth Younts called, Get Wisdom. She defines contentment as being satisfied because God is working everything together for my good and for his glory. The verse she gave as a reference was Philippians 4:11, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
This is exactly what I needed to deal with this morning’s slow start and my grumpy, sickly, not-all-there children. Contentment is accepting my children’s progress, the challenges, their not-so-shining moments, the waiting and hoping in the meantime, their uniqueness and limitations (as well as my own), and being able to truthfully say, “Lord, I thank you for causing all things to work together for the good of my children and myself that you might get the glory.” Only then comes the beautiful satisfaction in his grace. Only then does it look EASY.
Amazingly, we finished homeschooling by 11:30 am today with my children smiling at the end. How that happened is a wonder. But like I said, that’s grace!