Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ~Philippians 2:1-4
A strange shift has been going on for quite some time in Christian culture, a shift that seems to be moving towards acceptance of the logic of the world. It has become acceptable and even applauded when we treat others poorly if we don’t agree with them. I think that the pandemic and the gaping political chasm has only magnified a problem that was already there.
We are a people who like to be right and we don’t like it when others don’t agree with us. And so we justify our poor treatment of others by saying that it’s our integrity that keeps us from being kind. We lived in peace and unity until we discovered that the person sitting at the other end of the pew actually has a different political opinion than ours. We “write off” people who don’t agree with us. We demean those who have different perspectives. We condemn and berate and slander with ease.
How did this happen?
I think it started when we started thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. We became proud of our ability to discern the state of someone’s heart. We gained followers when we were bold. Others looked up to us when we were able to speak with the tongues of men and of angels.
We forgot to love.
Oh, Christian friends! We’re missing it. When we argue with others in the same way the world argues, we’re missing it. When we put some down, even with the right desire to build others up, we’re missing it. When we sit in the seats of the scoffer, we’re missing it.
This doesn’t mean that there is never a place for challenging others or for disagreements. But how we do it and when we do it speaks volumes. If we do it without love, we become a resounding gong and a clanging cymbal.
Could you imagine what would happen if everyone would value others as better than themselves? We would no longer need to fight against injustices, because there wouldn’t be any. We wouldn’t have racial, political or socioeconomic divides. We wouldn’t have mass shootings. We wouldn’t have sibling rivalry or bullying. We would no longer judge others based on assumptions or hearsay, but only on truth and in grace.
If you claim to be a Christ-follower, than it starts with you. And it starts with me.
Value others above yourself.
There is a decade between my oldest and my youngest, my girls whose birthdays are ten years and a week apart. Their due dates were a day apart, so it has felt like I have been given a do over, another baby girl born in the springtime. The mistakes I made with my oldest are not the mistakes I make with my youngest. But I make plenty of different mistakes, a reminder that parenting is a challenge no matter how many times you get to start with a blank canvas!
We have moved into the stage of parenting where we don’t have to find babysitters. But we’re also in the season where we are so tired by the time evening rolls around that we don’t really want to go anywhere. It’s strange how that happens! So unfair.
I found it to be easier to share parenting challenges when my kids were little. Toddler tantrums seemed solvable while teenage angst leaves me feeling helpless. Discipline changes as they grow up and with kids at different stages of adolescence, I find that I have a tendency to coast for awhile and then I am smacked with the reality that I still have a little one and she still needs a bedtime and baths and discipline. This might sound astonishing to those of you who only have littles, but when most of your crew is self-sufficient, it’s easy to slip into thinking they all are.
One of my kids felt like a failure recently and as I comforted and snuggled my sweet child, I was reminded that we keep inching closer to that time when they won’t need me in the same way. My oldest is getting ready to forge her own path in life. I suggested that we would probably video chat every day when she’s at college, mostly as a joke, but her incredulity surprised me. She will be leaving and it won’t be the same. Part of me is excited for all that the future holds. Another part wonders how I will adjust to not being the #1 person my kids go to for solace and advice.
Homeschooling has been a wonderful choice for our family. We get to share their best moments and I love this. But we also get their worst and sometimes it’s just plain exhausting. I don’t ever feel like I have a day off. It’s not that I don’t have time to myself- my husband is wonderful and encourages me to pursue the things in my life that bring joy. But I’m still always thinking about meals and laundry and assignments and relationship issues. This past year was especially hard as I felt like I was trying to deal with my own anxiety and loss while simultaneously seeking to be a rock for my husband and family.
Sometimes I am embarrassed by how weak I am, by how often my kids see my worst moments. But then I remember that it’s no mistake that God gave me the children he did along with all of the challenges we have faced. I am amazed that despite my failings, my kids keep growing in maturity, in kindness and in wisdom. It’s remarkable really.
There’s a line in the song “All I have is Christ” that says, “The strength to follow your commands could never come from me.” It makes me teary when we sing it, because I feel the veracity of this statement so deeply. My prayer is that as my kids have a front row seat to all of my failings, they will see that any strength or wisdom in me is from Christ. And I pray that as they see me depend on Christ, they will have the security of knowing that they can depend on him too.
Parenting is challenging and the older they get, the less free I feel about sharing the challenges. Because it’s their story to share, not mine. But parents of older ones? I get it. You’re not alone. As I told my one who thought they were a failure- it’s not the failures that determine our character. It’s whether or not we keep trying.
Let’s continue to meet the challenges of parenting with resilience and perseverance. God is faithful to use even our weakest moments for our good and his glory!
When we made the decision to start homeschooling our kids five years ago, the first thing friends encouraged us to figure out was what our homeschooling style would be. We learned about Classical education, Charlotte Mason, Unit Studies, Curriculum based, Unschooling, Online, Eclectic, and Montessori styles to name a few. It was a bit overwhelming. I was drawn to an aspect of each one of these.
But one of the most helpful pieces of advice that I received was to understand that there would be gaps in our kids’ education. We couldn’t possibly teach them the breadth and width of all knowledge. There is too much information out there and as it is constantly changing, we needed to let go of the expectation that we could teach them all the things.
This realization was freeing for me and it solidified my deepest held belief about education. I needed to teach my kids how to learn for themselves and help them to discover that learning is a life long endeavor, one in which they can find great delight. Yes, I needed to teach them a wide range of subjects, but more importantly, I needed to instill in them a desire to pursue knowledge and education for themselves.
In our first year of homeschooling, I discovered that I am an eclectic homeschool teacher, meaning that I like taking aspects of all different styles and combining them to form a cohesive whole. But we learned a lot in that first year about how things that were exciting for me as the teacher did not necessarily work for my four unique learners. They enjoyed family activities to a point, but it became obvious pretty quickly that they needed their peers to spur them on. We knew that we would need to join together with other homeschool families.
Friends in our church were involved in a Classical Cooperative and as I was drawn to many aspects of classical education, we began to explore the possibility of joining the co-op. I was cautious, because I loved the flexibility of developing our own schedule and choosing the curriculums that were appealing to me and to my kids. I didn’t want to have our lives dictated by someone else’s schedule again. (This was one of the main reasons why we decided to homeschool in the first place. I didn’t want to take a step backwards!)
We dipped our toes in the waters of co-op that first year. It helped that the co-op had moved locations and was now meeting in our church building. The kids took a few classes and I worked with the pre-school. Since the co-op only meets one day a week and then students complete assignments throughout the rest of the week, it was a smooth transition for us. The kids were getting the class structure they needed and the friendships they craved. The sciences, my least favorite subject, were taken off of my plate and my kids were being instructed by parents who were far more equipped to teach them. I was still able to have the creative flexibility I needed and I was able to link arms with other like minded homeschooling parents.
Over time, I began to see the benefits of a classical education. I watched my kids come alive as they studied logic or learned a concept in history and then read about it in one of their “Great Books”, their literature classes which have consistently been their favorite classes in the four years that we have been a part of co-op. My youngest will memorize the names of the planets in her Rote Memory class and then my third born will help her to imagine the rings around planets, the moons, the asteroid belt and the vastness of space as he studies astronomy. My teenagers have an educational foundation that is solid. They are able to clearly identify what they believe and why they believe it, but they are simultaneously being challenged to be respectful and humble.
I love sitting back and watching all of this unfold. I can now say that I love classical education and the way it has affected my children’s growth and knowledge. But there is an aspect of unschooling that also creeps into our homeschooling and I believe it always will. Unschooling is an informal model of education that allows the student to choose the primary focus of learning based on activities of interest. To many, this sounds frivolous and unwise. How can a child know what they want to learn? And aren’t parents abdicating their role of authority by allowing this?
I understand these questions and I don’t think that a completely unschooled model of education will ultimately benefit a student (they need structure, they need to learn things they don’t want to learn, they need to submit to authority), BUT if our goal as educators is to create life-long learners, we need to give students an opportunity to explore their own interests. And I would submit that we shouldn’t just give them opportunities, we should unabashedly encourage their intellectual and creative pursuits!
We have structures and schedules in place, but we also allow time to explore interests. If it’s a beautiful day, we take the time to explore new places. When there isn’t a global pandemic, we seek out hands on learning environments. We pursue singing and songwriting, drone photography and adventure biking, middle of the day SpaceX launches and computer languages, drawing and reading in trees.
To give you an idea of what this looks like- yesterday in history, we learned about the Pharos lighthouse, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. And then we went on Google Earth to look at modern day Alexandria, Egypt. We have a history curriculum that I am working through with my youngest two (ages 12 and 7), so we have a structure in place. But unschooling creeps in, because they are free to learn in the way that excites and inspires them. The 12 year old builds with KEVA blocks while I share information. The 7 year old draws pictures. They will also take age appropriate notes in their notebooks.
This is how we homeschool and I love it! There is no “one size fits all” way of doing homeschooling, but when you find the way that works well for your family, it is an amazing adventure.
Rain is necessary for Spring to truly arrive in all of its finery. Its colorful array. Its cloak of green. Its sunshiny beauty.
But rain is dreary and it keeps us from doing the things we want to do. Ride bikes. Draw with chalk. Climb trees. Go on hikes.
How do we learn to be content in all situations?
It’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. We love it when the sun is shining, when all is right in the world. But we need the rain. We actually need the difficulty to remind us to appreciate the good things of life. Because guess what happens when the sun is always shining? We will find a reason to complain.
We are a constantly dissatisfied people. Ask any parent!
My youngest still needs to learn to ride her bike, so it is on her agenda for today. When it was raining this morning, I found myself a bit disappointed even though I love the rain and knew that it was in the forecast. Then I read in Joel 2 this morning and the words were a reminder to simply be grateful!
Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before. (verses 23,24, NIV)
Because he is faithful.
What a beautiful reminder for my heart today! What if this was always my first thought?
Slept through the night. Because he is faithful.
Had food to eat for breakfast. Because he is faithful.
Received hugs from my family. Because he is faithful.
Even though it’s raining. He is faithful.
Even though my kids argue. He is faithful.
Even when I am ignored. He is faithful.
Even when I feel like a failure. He is faithful.
He sends the rain because he is faithful. There is hope in knowing that winter WILL end. Every year. Spring WILL come. Every year. Because he is faithful.
So be glad and rejoice when the spring rains come. Because he is faithful!