On the first day of school last year, I gave each one of my children a ziploc bag with playdough inside. At first, they were not sure what to think. The playdough was colorless and unimpressive, but I encouraged them to start squeezing the dough while it was still in the bag. As they did this, they began to grow in excitement. They quickly discovered the secret ingredient in each lump of dough. Hidden in the middle was food coloring and as they squeezed their playdough, the color spread revealing vibrant colors, all different, all beautiful.
I thought this would be a fun activity for the kids. I didn’t expect that their playdough would be a much loved aspect of their homeschool days! Throughout the year, we used their playdough to enhance different lessons, but they would also just play with it when I was reading to them.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8
In scripture, the Lord is compared to a potter, humanity to clay. God shapes and fashions each one of us for a unique purpose. But somewhere along the way, we have to be willing to submit to the sculptor in our lives. Many of us choose not to trust God’s work in our lives and we stay colorless and shapeless, not carrying out the purpose for which we were intended. But when we trust ourselves to the Living God who created us with intention, we begin to see His purpose for us as He lovingly bends and pushes and stretches and pulls us into the person best suited to carry out His purposes.
This bending, stretching, pushing and pulling is painful at times. It is not an easy thing to place our lives into the hands of a potter. We won’t always see the purpose in the difficulties we face, but trusting God’s plan means that we continue to submit to His authority in our lives, knowing that He is a good Father.
If my kids had never squeezed their playdough, they would not have discovered the color inside. If we are unwilling to submit to the Sculptor, we will never discover the blessings He has prepared for us.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:10
Submit is my “one word” for the year. It has not been easy to pray that I would submit, because releasing my perceived control is painful. But oh, it is also GOOD! I am beginning to see glimpses of the color inside, the purpose God has for me. Without a willingness to be pliable in His hands, I am not sure I would see this. Instead, I would be seeking glory for myself, not God’s glory. And so, I will choose to submit to my Sculptor!
The other night, our family watched “The Princess Bride” movie for the umpteenth time, but this time our four year old daughter was seeing it for the first time or at least the first time that she truly understood what was happening. *Spoiler*… As Buttercup pushed the man in black over the cliff, my eyes were drawn to my daughter instead of the screen. Ainsley watched with rapt attention and when she heard the words, “As you wish!”, her eyes lit up.
“Is it Wesley?”, she breathed, incredulous.
It was a beautiful moment, one that made me wish I could go back and experience the wonder of that discovery for the first time.
This summer, I picked up a book that I loved reading the first time around, but it had lost its luster and allure for me. I already knew the ending and somehow this brought disappointment rather than a desire to read the book again.
Have you ever felt this way? Like you wish you could go back and experience a beautiful moment or watch a movie or read a book again but with the same wonder you had the first time you experienced it?
A few weeks ago, I took my younger two to the beach while my older two were at a pool party. It was one of those perfect evenings when the weather is just right, the kids are perfectly happy and all is right in the world. I watched as my boy found a log drifting in the water and climbed onto it. He laughed and laughed as he was bounced around by the waves and then of course, he had to share it with his sister.
Their wonder and awe of a moment so simplistic was breath taking to me.
One of my favorite lines from “The Princess Bride” is “Get used to disappointment”. I often say this to my kids when one of us is upset and we all laugh because it lightens the mood. The truth is life IS full of disappointment. We don’t get to experience the first moments again. But what if instead of allowing ourselves to be disappointed in those moments, we were deliberate about finding the awe and wonder in each new moment, perhaps by seeing it through the eyes of a child. Or by looking for the blessings each moment holds instead of pining for the good ol’ days.
While driving around recently, we heard the song “Dear Younger Me” by Mercy Me and my oldest son shared a beautiful thought. He was sure that there were things that I would want to tell my younger self (and this is certainly true!), but that having kids was like being given the opportunity to share the things I wish I’d known, this time with my little ones.
I could be disappointed with the fact that I have regrets OR I could be deliberate in teaching my kids the lessons I wish I had learned decades ago.
I choose to live deliberately. I choose to live looking for wonder instead of always longing for things to be different.
I choose to live with arms wide open.
Disappointed or Deliberate?
I promised my husband when we started our homeschooling adventure last year that I would not turn into a homeschooling blogger. He knows how much time I devote to writing and wisely knew that if I blogged about our journey, I would not be able to transition well to being our kids’ teacher.
I am grateful for his wisdom in this. Our first year of homeschooling has ended, yet I am still finding that I haven’t completely adjusted to this new routine that our family has embraced. But this I know for sure- it has been the best decision our family could have made. Since our first year of homeschooling is now over, it seems an appropriate time to share why it has worked for our family and why we plan to continue with homeschooling as long as the Lord leads us to do so. Here are our top ten reasons why we love homeschooling…
1. Sharing nearly every meal together as a family. When our oldest started middle school, the start of school was nearly an hour before her brothers. This meant that she would be on the bus before her brothers even got up for school. Mornings became a hectic time of trying to get everyone out the door, fully dressed, lunches in hand and ready for the day. More often than not, this resulted in frazzled and frustrated parents before our day had really started. We were all running in different directions and it left us exhausted.
Homeschooling gave us the opportunity to start our day in a better way for us. We established a routine from the very beginning and discovered that we all loved it. Monday through Thursday we enjoyed breakfast together at 7:30. After breakfast, we would read scripture as a family (we are using a 2 year reading plan that will probably take us more like 3 years!). We discovered that this time was the perfect time to discuss current events from a biblical perspective and hearing their pastor Daddy discuss theology with his kids has been a blessing for all of us. As the year progressed, we added a singing time at the end of our devotions. Then Daddy would head to the office. Fridays became our sleep in/pajama day. We would still do school work, but it was on a more relaxed schedule.
Since the very beginning of his ministry (nearly 20 years ago!), Dave has been able to come home for lunch when he doesn’t have lunch meetings. Since they started school, our kids have not been able to benefit from this time, so we discovered that a midday meal with our whole family has been amazing. We usually watch a show together as a family- “Little House on the Prairie”, a documentary series on space and “The Great British Baking Show” have been some of our favorites. It amazes me how our family has bonded over different shows and we all love the camaraderie and closeness that has developed as a result.
Evenings have a tendency to be tricky, but homeschooling has given us a flexibility that we never had before. We are able to adjust dinner time and still be able to enjoy meals together. The stress around dinner time has diminished this past year and I am incredibly grateful for this!
2. Meaningful schoolwork. Dave and I did a ton of research and listened to many friends who are further along in the homeschooling journey as we planned our homeschooling year. As a result, we loved the curriculum that we chose for our kids. Along the way, we discovered that if we needed to take more time in any one subject we could, but if our kids easily grasped a concept, we could move on. Our 2nd grader whipped through his math curriculum which meant that we were able to spend more time than we had originally intended on writing and science. Our oldest took longer to work through her subjects, yet still had time to work on writing a novel as well as study French. And our 6th grader was able to do some computer animation and he was inspired to make some pretty amazing cardboard creations. They didn’t love every single subject they studied, however, they were all able to do something they loved every single day and we found that this inspired them to get the not so enjoyable stuff done, so that they could pursue passions.
3. No homework!! One could argue that it is all homework, but the ability to do the necessary work during the school day meant that when school was finished for the day, so were they! My kids would tell you that this is one of the things they love the most about homeschooling. What they don’t realize is that this de-emphasis on homework has actually resulted in more work being accomplished in after hours. When they attended school, they would often come home grumpy or tired. Trying to get them to do homework was excruciating and we frequently missed work because they were so tired. Homeschooling allows for breaks and free time and what we have discovered is that they want to read at night time, they want to help make dinner or they want to work on projects. It is a fantastic side effect that we did not expect!
4. Exciting opportunities. One of my biggest fears in homeschooling my kids was that they would miss out on opportunities. There were times throughout the year when I struggled with this, but as I look back on the year, I can say with certainty that every concern and every fear, God replaced with great joy and opportunity for my kids. We discovered that we had time to go to places that we had always wanted to visit, but never had time for. We found that we have some amazingly talented friends who are willing to invest in our children and teach them in areas where we are not equipped. Every hole that needed to be filled was filled abundantly. Ethan wasn’t able to participate in band, but his sax teacher is amazing and we have a group of musicians that are planning to start a band that he will be able to join. Lindsay stopped playing the cello which was disappointing for us until her first voice recital where we had the opportunity to see her shine. Gibson was able to help his Daddy build a small deck that we use to go from the garage to the backyard and this confirmed for him that he loves building things. These opportunities and many others make all of the things they are missing out on pale in comparison.
5. Flexibility in our Schedule. My mom had some serious health issues this year. Since she lives in Kansas, it has never been easy for us to go and see her. But we were able to do just that and take a spur of the moment trip to help my mom transition to a nursing home. It was hard, but so good and I will treasure those memories always!
When we had snow days that closed everything down, we were able to do school so that we could take time on a beautiful snow day to play in the snow. We were able to go to playgrounds and take school pictures on beautiful days, go to museums when they weren’t busy and read books outside. This flexibility was magical!
6. Reading aloud. I have always loved reading books to my kids, but getting to include this as part of our school day was amazing. I read all the time and I love the adventures that I go on in books. But reading aloud to my kids means that we get to go on adventures together. We went on adventures with the Penderwicks, learned about the feudal system as we read “Crispin”, enjoyed learning the story of Gilgamesh and begged for one more chapter in the Wingfeather Saga. We read through Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to end the year and we started writing our favorite quotes in a notebook. Now when we say, “You are dull, (insert name)”, we know that this is not an insult, but a private joke that we share.
Lindsay started the book love when she insisted on sleeping with books at the age of 3 and now all of my children love reading. But being able to share the adventures together has changed our conversations and we love it.
7. Learning alongside my kids. I’m one of those people who could easily be a student for life. I enjoy learning new things and unexpectedly I enjoy teaching my kids! Our history curriculum is a four year cycle that builds on itself. This past year, we learned about ancient history and I loved it. Possibly more than my kids.
The boys came up with a mnemonic to memorize the planets. Minnesota Vikings Entertain Many Juveniles Standing Up Nicely. We learned about black holes and supernovas, gaseous and terrestrial planets, the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt. I’m sure I learned all of these things at some point, but there is a difference between having to learn something and wanting to learn it. I’ve learned that if I want my kids to remember something, it’s my job to make it memorable. Channeling my creativity into lesson plans has not been stifling, but instead exhilarating.
8. The right kind of socialization. The conversation happened a few months into our homeschooling adventure. We were all at the post office in the middle of the day and the older gentleman in front of us asked if schools were closed for the day. My son politely said, “No, we’re homeschooled” to which the man replied, “How are you going to be socialized?!!”
I’ve found that this is one of the biggest criticisms of homeschooling, but as most homeschool families will argue, when you get to choose the environments that your children spend the majority of their time they have a greater opportunity to be influenced for good. I have found this to be undeniably true for my kids. Last school year, our older two had both expressed attitudes and opinions that were concerning to us. As I shared one of the comments made by our child, my husband said that he felt like we needed to consider homeschooling.
The result has been a 180 for both of our oldest kids. Their attitudes have improved dramatically. While they are still learning to navigate friendships, we have watched them grow in kindness, humility, compassion and maturity. They both serve in different capacities that they didn’t have time for when they were in public school. We are not the only ones who see their growth and this is an encouragement to us on this journey.
9. Knowing what my kids are learning. If I was ranking these reasons for why we love homeschooling, this would be pretty close to the top. Teaching my kids has been an amazing experience. I find myself asking them questions like, “have you learned about the different types of clouds?” or they will tell me, “we already learned this in 1st grade” and I realize that I have missed so much about what they have learned. But now I know. So when we drive to the other side of town for the oldest’s play practice and see a gorgeous moon, we can talk about our solar system and the difference between an asterism and a constellation.
When Gibson was learning fractions in math, we made pizza for lunch so that we could see a concrete example of fractions. When we studied the Apostle’s creed and Nicene creed in history, I assigned the writing of a creed to Lindsay and Ethan for writing AND history. When we celebrated our dog Sadie’s first birthday, we drew poodles in art class.
I can quiz my kids on what they have learned throughout the day and their Daddy gets to hear about it too. Where I felt disconnected from their schooling in the past, I now have an intimate knowledge of what they are learning and what we might need to emphasize more. I love this and fortunately, my kids do too!
10. We have grown closer as a family and we have plenty of opportunity to deal with challenges. It has been a sweet thing to see how our family has grown closer through our shared adventures, the memories we are making and the projects we tackle together. But spending as much time as we do together has brought its own challenges. Certain siblings struggle with each other and we have all had the opportunity to see each other at our worst. While some might see this as a negative, I have realized that it is a positive, because we also get to see each other at our best and we have learned how to apologize well, how to seek forgiveness and how to work through our frustrations. We have to love each other, even when we are annoyed. We don’t get to be passive aggressive, because we see each other all the time and we don’t have time for that! This has been a great benefit to us. I pray that my kids will be adults who love each other well because they have had to work through difficulties and because the memories they have made will have created unbreakable bonds.
After our first year of homeschooling, I can say with conviction that homeschooling was the right choice for our family. I can also say with conviction that the right choice for each family is to seek and follow God’s leading and this will not look the same for every family. But when we follow His leading, He will also equip and enable us beyond what we could have imagined.
“The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you”. ~author unknown
Do you homeschool? If so, what is your favorite part?
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:2-5
We have been studying ancient history this year in our homeschool using a curriculum called “Biblioplan“. In the section on Ancient Greece, we learned a fascinating fact about the Greek infantry. Here is an excerpt from the companion guide.
Hoplites were the heavily armed infantry citizen-soldiers of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were trained to fight in lines standing shoulder to shoulder in what was called a “hoplite phalanx”. Each man was protected by the shield of the man standing next to him. When the phalanx marched forward as a unit, enemy spears and arrows could not penetrate the shields. The phalanx was only effective if the entire unit moved together in step. If even one hoplite broke formation, the whole line could fall apart.
As I pondered this war strategy, I was struck by how similar this is to the body of Christ. We are meant to link arms with one another, to move forward together against the attack of the enemy. What a beautiful picture it is to consider a group of believers holding their shields in front one another, supporting, protecting, loving each other.
All too often, followers of Christ break formation. We consider that perhaps we will be stronger on our own. It will be less painful if we set our own course. Walking together is too vulnerable- it opens us up to hurts and pain, leaving wounds that threaten to destroy us.
But all too soon, we discover the heartbreak of not walking with other believers. Our shields of faith become flimsy and we begin to question everything that we believe in. We fall down and there is no one there to catch us. We grow tired and lack purpose and it is easier to just give up.
It says in 1 Peter 5:8 that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” When we go it alone, we are easy targets. The Ancient Greeks understood this. There is strength in numbers.
In order to be effective as a body of believers, we need to have humility that allows us to consider others as better than ourselves. We need to look to the interests of others and seek to support and love one another, understanding the beauty of God’s purpose in this type of relationship. When we are genuinely looking to the interests of others, linking arms, holding our shields in front of our neighbor, we will find that others will link arms with us and their shields will firmly protect us.
The opposite is true. When we are only concerned for ourselves and our own protection and security (pride!), we will find that we are weak and inadequate against the attacks of the enemy.
As hard and as painful as it can be at times, I want to be united with other believers. I want to link arms and hold my shield securely in front of my neighbor. It’s always better when we’re together!