Homeschooling and Thriving
This past weekend, a dear friend of mine showed me a bracelet that has her “one word” for the year on it. It was lovely. But it reminded me that I had completely forgotten my one word for the year. Me. The one who had inspired her to choose a word for the year in the first place.
Wake up call.
Five years ago when I first began choosing one word as a theme of sorts for my year, my word was intentional. I no longer wanted life to happen to me. I wanted to be deliberate about the decisions I made and the goals that I set. It was a pivotal year in many ways.
How could I have forgotten my word?!
It took me a few moments, but I finally remembered. My word for 2016 is “thrive”. Of course, I forgot. Because my life has been one of surviving rather than thriving these past 6 months. It has been a busy time, but more than that, it has been a time of heartbreak in my personal life. But as I take the time to reflect on this heartbreak, I see God’s hand clearly at work.
He is using this heartbreak to remind me of my desperate need for Him. More than ever, I see how sinful I am (my pride, my selfishness, my stubbornness, my bad attitude) and I am unwilling to stay there. My heart cries out for God to do the work in me that only He can do.
So do I regret the hardship? No. Would I have wished for it? Of course not, but sometimes it is only through suffering that we are able to persevere and mature and become more like Christ.
Had it not been for this difficult chapter, I’m not sure I would have been willing to allow God to write this next one. He has given us the title for the chapter. It is called “Homeschooling”. I’m not sure what exactly will be written on these blank pages or what this will look like for our family, but knowing that the author and perfecter of my faith is clearly writing this story, I find myself at a place of peace and full confidence in Him.
What do homeschooling and thriving have to do with each other?
This past year has been a rough school year. The kids were involved in different activities that resulted in staggered school starting times. My husband and I were exhausted before our days even started! In addition to that, it became evident that one of my daughter’s activities was not a safe place for her. The result was that in order for her to be involved, I had to be there as well. This was a huge time commitment for our family as we juggled all of the responsibilities in our lives. We were all stressed, emotional wrecks during this time.
We made it through, but we were carrying extra baggage as a result of this experience. There was no resolution, only a change in our own hearts and a shift in our thinking.
The truth is that I expected my daughter’s middle school years to be similar to mine. I expected her to find a core group of friends who would be loyal to one another, share experiences, grow together and walk through the tough tween years together. It didn’t happen. And yet, God’s goodness has been on display even in this. In the loss of some friendships this year, she has gained a stronger core of friends who are willing to love her for who she is, not for who they want her to be. For this, I am beyond grateful.
Another frustration this year has been the lack of clear communication between the schools and our family. This is partially due to our family being pulled in too many different directions, but there is also a breakdown in the school system. Grades are recorded on a parent portal. Sometimes. But you never know if the grades can be trusted. This resulted in several arguments with my daughter that could have been avoided.
There was also a huge discrepancy between the opinions that people had of my daughter. From one, I heard that my daughter was a mean kid and that she had no desire to change. From her teachers, I heard the exact opposite. I was told that she was kind and helpful and they wished that every kid in their class was just like her. To be honest, I do not agree with either of these assessments. She is NOT perfect (who is?!!), but she is seeking to allow Christ to change her. On the other hand, I don’t want teachers wishing that everyone was like my kid. I want my kids to be in environments where EVERY child is celebrated for who they are and encouraged to grow and to learn and to be who they were made to be. This discrepancy opened my eyes to the realization that no one knows my kids better than my husband and I know them. Of course I knew this, but I think I was a bit naive in believing that adults in general will look for a child’s potential and nurture it, not make judgments on where they are now and treat them accordingly.
All of these factors brought us to the night when one of my children asked me “why is life worth living?”. I shared this with my husband and his response was “I think we need to consider homeschooling.” My immediate response of “Yes!” surprised me, but upon reflection, I believe that God had been preparing my heart for months to be able to answer in this way.
This is where the thriving part comes in! When my oldest entered kindergarten, I did not feel equipped to teach her. We butted heads over everything and as my husband and I prayed, we knew she needed to have different authorities in her life. Each year, this decision to send our kids to school was confirmed. But now? Now we are ready for this and actually excited. I no longer doubt my ability to teach my kids, because I fully understand that in my inadequacies, Christ truly is sufficient. If he asks me to do something, he will also equip me to do it.
The friendships my kids have made along the way? We will continue to encourage those relationships. They will change and there is sadness in this, but we also understand that we cannot make decisions about our children’s future based on one aspect of their schooling.
The frustration with the communication with the school? This will be eliminated. Now I will KNOW if my kids aren’t completing their work in a satisfactory manner. And we will get to celebrate when they exceed expectations.
Our family motto a couple of years ago was “Celebrate more, Compare less”. This continues to be a freeing concept in our family, but I have found that the school setting is in direct opposition to this. While I have sought to teach my children to celebrate others and not compare themselves with peers, they are given a different message. There is a pressure to put others down in order to feel good about yourself. My kids have been treated poorly and they have put others down and it is icky. The only ones I want them to compete with are themselves. My daughter was invited to her school’s award ceremony this year. Last year, she was not. She had built this ceremony up in her head, considering it to be a huge honor. And then the night came and she didn’t want to go. Her siblings were going to a friend’s home and she wanted to stay with her friends. But we went. And she learned a valuable lesson. She doesn’t need outside validation to determine her worth as a person. The piece of paper was meaningless. And she had to sit through a long ceremony and miss out on fun with friends. Meanwhile, her friends who have been so good and generous to her this year were excluded from the ceremony. She realized that the criteria for awarding students is flawed.
My son on the other hand had a “Moving Up” Ceremony and he received awards based on facts. He scored well on different tests and was awarded for them. The difference between these two ceremonies was striking. We will always celebrate our kid’s achievements, but we never, ever want their success to diminish the success of others. Every single kid in the world is gifted in some way and they all need to be celebrated when they live out this gifting in a way that brings glory to their Creator. I want my kids to fully understand and embrace this! There will be no tolerance of superior attitudes in the way we treat others. Celebrate more, compare less will continue to be one of our family’s key “rules”.
Having different adults share their opinions on how they perceive my daughter has reminded me of how important it is to teach my kids to listen to the right voices in their lives. Do the people who are making the judgment genuinely care about them? Are they seeking the best for my children or do they have an ulterior motive in sharing their opinion? We all have a tendency to listen to the loudest voices in our lives, but we need to learn that not everyone gets to have an opinion about us. If they aren’t willing to “walk a mile in our shoes” or if they don’t take the time to truly know our hearts, they do not then get the right to determine who they think we are.
I am returning wholeheartedly to my desire to thrive this year. And I’m doing it by following God’s leading to homeschool my kids.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].
Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
~Hebrews 12:1-3, Amplified Bible