My One Word for 2018

School Rethought- Why We Continue to Homeschool Our Children

A few weeks ago, I started reading the book “Rethinking School” by Susan Wise Bauer. Around the same time, I was meeting new friends, parents of children who attend a local Christian school. In that time, there were plenty of opportunities to share why my husband and I made the decision to bring our children home and establish “Daye Academy” and “Legacy High”. Since I am revisiting all of these ideas and reasons for homeschooling, I thought that I would write a post about our decision to homeschool and why we are continuing to make this decision.

One of the statements I hear often when I tell others that I homeschool my four children is “Oh, I could never do that!” I understand this sentiment. I used to think it myself. My oldest is strong-willed and my attempts to teach her anything when she was preschool aged were met with fights and frustration on both sides (I might be a little strong-willed too!). As my husband and I prayed about education options for her, the only real option for us at the time was public school. Besides struggles with a teacher in 2nd grade (she had 2 to 3 hours of homework every night!!) and personality conflicts with a teacher in 4th grade, her elementary years were pretty great. She developed a deep love for reading and writing and she generally enjoyed her time at school. We sent the boys to public school as well, because it had been a good fit for their older sister, so we prayed that it would be the same for them. Each year, we prayed and sought God’s leading in their education and each year we felt that they should be in the schools they were in.

When my oldest started middle school, she found a group of friends that she loved and with whom she connected. But as time went on, I began to see some difficulties arising. I could tell that she was trying to fit in with the other kids and this wasn’t always a good thing. Over the course of two years, my concerns grew. She had conflicts that were completely contradictory to her behavior elsewhere and when she started coming home every day in tears, we knew something needed to change. Her stress levels had reached an all time high and our family felt the strain of it. She would leave for school before her brothers woke up. The boys would get off the bus around 4 PM and then it was a scramble to get homework done AND make dinner AND deal with grumpy children. During the school week, we felt like we were on a treadmill, racing from one thing to the next, but not really getting anywhere.

When we discovered that an authority figure in our daughter’s life had labelled her a “mean girl”, we knew that something needed to change. We were not okay with this label, but as we met with our daughter’s teachers, we heard the opposite- her teachers spoke of her in glowing terms and even told us that if all of their students were like our daughter, they would have the best classes. They talked about her compassion and her thoughtfulness, her kindness and her generosity.  Honestly, both opinions did not sit well with us. We didn’t want our daughter to drown under a weight of condemnation (she’s a sinner, but oh, she is saved by grace!!) OR to drown under the expectation of perfection (she may be a great kid, but please don’t miss that she’s a KID). And she was drowning!

My husband and I were both praying during this time and God was leading both of us separately to the decision we would ultimately make together. Interestingly, it was not our daughter’s struggles that pushed us to make the decision to homeschool; it was our fifth grade son. Our son has always been a sensitive and compassionate soul. He cares deeply for his friends and one night while I was kissing him goodnight, he asked, “Mom, why is life worth living?” I knew where the question was coming from. He had several friends who were struggling with some deep issues, yet his question broke my heart. He was too young to be asking that kind of question.

When I shared the conversation with my husband, his immediate response was, “I think we need to consider homeschooling.” I nodded in agreement, because I knew in my spirit that this was the direction God had been gently nudging us towards.

As I read Bauer’s book, I find myself nodding frequently in agreement. It is not a book about homeschooling kids (although she did write that one too!). Rather it is a book that encourages parents to step outside of the k-12 mindset and consider different possibilities. I love this, because the more time we spend homeschooling our kids, the more convinced I am that there is not a one-size-fits-all way to educate our children, yet educational systems keep trying to fit them all into the same mold.

I have no doubt that the majority of parents want the best education possible for their children. I don’t know any parents that want their kids to fail, yet there often seems to be an unwillingness to explore different possibilities. I am so grateful God rocked the boat of our lives and didn’t allow us to be comfortable where we were. A year and a half into homeschooling and our kids are thriving. They are able to pursue their unique interests, because there is time for it. If we have a particularly busy season, we can postpone a test and take it at a time when our kids are ready. If they grasp a concept easily, they don’t have to wait to move on to the next. Likewise, if they don’t understand something, we have the opportunity to take the time they need or figure out the best way to learn it.

I don’t believe that homeschooling is the best way for everyone to educate their children. I still believe wholeheartedly that parents need to be seeking God’s will for their families and then they need to be willing to follow where He leads. I believe God’s timing is always perfect and I am so grateful for the way He continues to lead our family, but many of the parents I speak with have had the opposite leading in their lives; they started homeschooling and now are sending their kids to private or public schools.

What I do think is crucial to a good education is a willingness to question how it’s always been done. As Susan Wise Bauer states at the beginning of “Rethinking School”,

Realize that the way we do school is entirely unnatural. And when your child struggles, think about how to flex the system, before you start trying to adjust the child. (pg. 4)

And this…

The system, even when excellent teachers are laboring within it, defies adaptation. (pg. 10)

 

I am so grateful that we were forced to rethink school. The benefits to our kids are beyond what I ever imagined. When something doesn’t work, we are able to adapt and we are not confined to fitting our “round” kids into a “square” hole.

Have you ever had to rethink school? Are you rethinking it now? What answers did you find or what questions do you have?

 

Why Gun Control and Mental Illness are Not The Main Issues

It happened while my youngest daughter was in surgery. Another school shooting. As a result, I couldn’t cry and mourn the loss of 17 lives until today. I needed to stay strong for my baby girl.

But I was able to bring her home from the hospital. I was able to laugh at her sweet and funny comments, to squeeze her, to have bedtime prayers. The privilege of this is not lost on me.

And so today, I mourn. The increase in school shootings just this year cannot be ignored. Our country is facing an internal terrorism that keeps growing. But it strikes me as odd that we are surprised by this. When will we wake up to the fact that something needs to change?

I usually don’t add my voice to the cacophony of voices that arise after a tragedy. But my focus this year is on being a light in dark places and being willing to shine the light of Christ when difficulties arise. And so, I am compelled to say something.

The issue of violence against another human being is as old as time. The story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4 shows the result of pride and jealousy in the heart of one brother and how that resulted in the murder of the other.

While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. ~Genesis 4:8

Just the verse before, the Lord had warned Cain that if he did not do what was right then sin was crouching at his door. If Cain did not rule over that sin, it would get the best of him. We know that it got the best of him, since he killed Abel because he was angry that his brother was rewarded and he wasn’t.

Tale as old as time.

The true issue behind school shootings starts in the heart of humanity. We all have sin crouching at our door, but our society glorifies sin instead of seeing it for the ugly thing that it is. We like to believe that everyone is basically good, until a tragedy occurs and we are confronted with the results of sin growing and ruling over a young kid, allowing him to commit murder of innocent lives. Since we are unable to admit that we are all desperate sinners in need of saving grace, we have to come up with excuses for why this tragedy happened. We blame gun control laws. We examine the shooters mental instability. We blame the authorities for not catching the signs. We blame the teachers, the parents, the school, social media, whoever and whatever we can to make sense of something that cannot be made sense of.

What it boils down to is this. We need Jesus. We are sinners who but for the grace of God will be ruled by our sin and do horrible things.

The message we keep feeding kids is that they are enough, they should do what makes them happy, that they should have it their way, and they should fight for their rights. Diet Coke’s newest advertisement, “Because I can” falls flat in light of a school shooting when the shooter could legitimately use that phrase to defend his rampage.

Do you see the insidious nature of sin? We are raising entitled kids who believe they can have it all and do whatever they want and then we are shocked when a tragedy like this occurs.

When I was in 6th grade, my class sang the song, “The Greatest Love of All” as part of an assembly. I remember my parents struggling with allowing me to perform with my class because they did not believe this song was proclaiming truth. In the end, they let me sing with my class, but they sat me down and we had a long conversation about how loving ourselves will never be enough. The message they shared was from Jeremiah 17:9…

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

Learning to love ourselves and trust our own instincts can be a dangerous thing, because we don’t always want the right things. In fact, without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are incapable of any good. We might be kind to others because we believe that is the right thing to do, but what happens when someone isn’t kind to us? If we genuinely examine our hearts, we will see selfishness and pride crouching at our door.

If this message isn’t settling right with you, it’s because we have a warped view of ourselves. We believe that if we admit we aren’t enough, then everything will crumble. We desperately need to believe we are good enough because if we’re not, what are we? What do we have? But the grace and the freedom, the hope and the joy that is found in admitting that we cannot save ourselves, that we are sinners in need of a Savior is the best news! We don’t have to rule over our sin in our own strength. We can instead accept that in our inadequacies, Christ is sufficient. He paid the price for our sins, so that we could have his strength at work in us ruling over our sin and allowing us to love others in the way He intended.

If you’ve made it this far, it’s probably because you agree with me that Jesus is the only answer for the horrors and the tragedies of life. But I want to be clear that I do believe that we need to take a much harder look at gun control laws. Should a semi-automatic gun be sold to anyone just because they can pass a background check? WHY are guns being sold anyway? What are the penalties for adults who own the guns that are used in school shootings? How can a young adult whose brain isn’t fully formed be able to purchase a gun without checking school and mental health records? These questions need to be answered.

I have read many opinions of people who believe the family of offenders need to be held responsible and I agree with this- to a certain degree. The problem is that usually by the time a person gets to the point of murder, the parents have not had any control for some time. In the case of the recent Florida shooting, it sounds like the authorities were aware of issues with the offender as multiple issues had arisen in the previous decade. It sounds like the adoptive mom tried to help her son over and over and over again. Which brings us to a different issue. Parents of struggling kids generally feel helpless. Many have tried to help their kids in whatever way they can. But if a teenage boy who is stronger than his mother decides not to take his medicine that will keep him stable, what can a mom do? Rather than labeling children and writing them off when they become too difficult, we need to have a shift in our society. We need to stop fighting against kids who exhibit irrational behaviors and start fighting for them. We need to provide support to parents who feel completely incapable of helping their children and we need to pour love on kids especially when we don’t understand their behavior.

I know these are not simple questions and there is no easy answer. But I do know with absolute certainty that if we keep putting bandaids on this gushing wound, there will never be any resolution to this issue. We will continue to see these tragedies occur and we will continue to mourn the loss of life.

We need Jesus.

 

My One Word for 2018

Picking “one word” to focus on for the year has been meaningful for me for several years now. Interestingly enough, I find that the words often choose me rather than me choosing them. This is definitely true for my word for 2018.

I began 2017 with the knowledge that I might struggle quite a bit. It’s one of the reasons that I chose to focus on the word “submit”, because I knew that there were some personal challenges that I would need to continue to deal with in my life. Choosing to homeschool our kids was the best decision we could have made, but I was not prepared to lose friendships as a result of that decision, nor was I prepared for the opinions that would be shared also as a result of that decision. It was brutal for me at times, but choosing to submit meant that I needed to let go of my own desire for reconciliation and peace and understanding and instead trust God’s timing and His work and His plan. This was not easy and it’s still not easy, but the process has taught me that I must be more concerned with His will than my own.

Last Fall, I joined a Bible study on 1 John and as we studied John’s words, I was struck by his teaching on “light”, particularly this verse:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ~1 John 1:7 ESV

Back in April I had written a series of posts on “Shadow Walking“~ the idea that we should walk so closely to Jesus that we are in his shadow. I loved writing that series, but as I read this verse in 1 John, I started meditating on a different kind of walking- walking in the light.

Walking in the light exposes any darkness that might be in our hearts. It reveals the sin that can so easily entangle. It shows the ugliness inside of us. As I walked through this past year and the difficulties that came my way, I was overwhelmed at times with the sin I saw in my own heart, the anger that spewed out on loved ones, the pride, the selfishness and the laziness that seemed ever present. But I also discovered something else. When I was willing to allow the light to expose these issues, I discovered forgiveness and joy in abundance. I also discovered the veracity of this verse, the beauty of fellowship with others who were also unabashedly seeking to walk in the light.

There is a beauty to be found when we are willing to step out of the dark places and allow Christ’s light to shine on us. Oh, it is painful, so very painful, but it is eventually freeing, because there is no longer any need to hide. We can freely talk about our struggles, because the grace we experience is truly greater than our sin.

As I prayed about my one word for 2018, it jumped out at me; once again the word choosing me instead of me choosing it. LIGHT.

I look forward to what God has to teach me this year as I focus on “light”. We are barely into the new year and there have already been moments where God has confirmed this word in my heart, so I am looking forward to all that he has to teach me.

“Lord, let your light, light of your face, shine on us!”

As we prepared a centerpiece for our New Year’s Eve celebrations, we used twinkle light strands in mason jars and I cut out the numbers for 2018. As I looked at the picture later, I realized that I had inadvertently created an image for my one word for 2018. So I will be using that this year as well as the hashtag “dayelight” on my posts and pictures. It’s not because I want to draw attention to me. Rather it is a desire to point others to the TRUE light, Jesus Christ.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16 ESV

Submit~ My One Word for 2017

Choosing a one word theme for the year, a word to focus on and learn from is not unique to me. Thousands of people have been choosing one word for years now and it is a compelling way to live, a response to New Years resolutions that never seem to stick.

Personally, I have been picking one word to focus on for several years. The impact of choosing one word has been significant in my life. “Intentional”, “deliberate”, and “brave” were fun words to focus on. “Dignity” was not. When “submit” began to surface as a focus for this past year, I was resistant at first. Submit is not a fun word. I’m not sure anyone wants to willingly submit. We like to be in control and we like to know that we’re right. We like to do what we want, when we want, how we want. Or at least I do!

But God had been gently prying my fingers off of my need to control for years and I was even beginning to see the incredible blessing found in living a life of submission. And so, I decided to embrace my one word for 2017 and explore what “submit” would mean in my life.

It hasn’t been easy. I have had to accept the loss of friendships that were important to me, the possibility of never seeing my Mama again, financial stress due to a major renovation project, feeling like a single mom as my husband needed every spare moment to finish the basement project, enduring technical difficulty upon technical difficulty over and over and over again. But with each hurdle, with each challenge, the Lord was lovingly whispering in my ear, “Submit, Becky. Let go. Trust me. My plan is perfect and my love for you is sure.”

We began homeschooling our four kids in the Fall of 2016. In some ways, I tricked myself into homeschooling, believing that it wouldn’t change my life all that much. I wanted to trust God with His plans for my life, but I wasn’t sure I wanted all of those plans to change! The truth is that homeschooling did change my life drastically, but by choosing to trust God, He also did the hard work of changing me. Choosing “submit” as my one word was a response to the change He was working in me.

Was I willing to accept the change in my schedule? Was I okay with letting go of coffee dates with friends? Would I be willing to embrace the focus of teaching my kids and letting go of my desire to write? 

As I answered yes to all of these questions, God in His goodness graciously blessed me immeasurably beyond what I could have imagined. The blessing of having my kids at home, of eating every meal together, of knowing what they were learning and being able to direct their interests, of building memories and relationships, of seeing intentional friendships that built my kids up rather than tearing them down and watching the stress and anxiety that my kids had experienced dissipate was worth EVERY sacrifice I was being asked to make. My time was not as flexible, yet having my kids home revealed a blessing I hadn’t expected- having my oldest home meant that I could go grocery shopping during nap time or if a friend wanted to meet for coffee in the afternoon, I could do that without a preschooler in tow. As I submitted my time to the Lord, I discovered that I had more time. Interesting, right? But this is God’s economy.

When I first started blogging nearly seven years ago, I wrote a blog post at least three times a week. Writing was an integral part of my life and the relationships that I have made through blogging are very dear to me. This has been the hardest area of my life that I have had to submit to my Father’s hands. I went from writing about twenty blog posts a month to an average of two posts a month. I miss writing, but the decrease in posts meant that I was able to focus on finishing the book God had laid on my heart to write. My submission in this area has resulted in accomplishing a goal that was important to me. And so, it has become clear to me that a willingness to submit equals an opportunity for unexpected blessing. Not always in the way we expect and not usually in our timing, but submission opens our eyes to what God is doing, taking our focus from our plans and our way of seeing things. When we begin to see what God’s plan is, we realize that it is way better than our plans could ever be.

When I consider all of the technical issues I have had to deal with this year, it is almost comical. Unable to use my laptop for a week, because Sadie chewed through the cord in her puppy days and it finally stopped working. The remote control for our car no longer working, so the convenience of being able to open the doors by remote is no longer a possibility. Losing power for three days. My Kindle on the fritz. But by far the biggest difficulty has been the SIM card on my phone failing at the worst times and not being able to communicate until it was replaced. This has happened eight times over the course of five months, but we have been unable to replace the phone due to the aforementioned financial strain.

I have been unable to use my phone at the worst possible moments. Like my phone failing during a dear friend’s labor and delivery (I missed 42 texts!). Or when the kids and I were on a road trip. Or the weekend before Ainsley’s ultrasound and doctor’s appointment, so that I was unable to talk to my Mom. While all of this has been difficult for me, the focus on submission has reminded me that God is control and I can trust Him. Even when I am unable to communicate in the way I would like, He is good. When I am reminded to submit, I gain a perspective that allows me to be calm and content through situations that would have previously caused internal strife and external emotional outbursts.

But even with all of these lessons learned, I am still a work in progress. I still have to fight against selfishness and frustration and anger. I’m not always as gracious as I desire to be. I think that’s the point of choosing “one word”. It helps us to see areas in which God wants to refine us and then invites Him to do the work that only he can do.

The verse that God has impressed on my heart this year is from James 4:7- “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The verse that precedes this one talks about how God gives more grace to the humble. And there it is. When we submit, when we are willing to be humble instead of clinging to our pride, we receive grace. Submit = Blessing.

As I look forward to 2018, a new word is settling on my heart, but I believe I will save that for another blog post. If you are interested in hearing a great podcast about how others choose their one word, listen to this episode from Chatologie hosted by Angie Elkins. Her co-host for this episode, Stacey Thacker, has been a dear friend and mentor of mine for several years now. I had the joy of spending a couple of days with her and my boss at the MOB Society and also dear friend, Brooke McGlothlin, back in October of this year. These women love Jesus with all of their hearts and continue to be an amazing encouragement to me in my own pursuit of Christ. Stacey’s one word for 2018, “steadfast”, is taken from my life verse- 1 Corinthians 15:58. If you listen to the episode, you’ll see why I love her!

Did you pick one word for 2017? How has God used it in your life? How are you preparing your heart for 2018? Have you picked a new word for next year?

I would love to hear your answers! May 2018 be filled with joy and growth for each one of us!