Home grown and organic, another bushelful

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Over and over, as I would seek the Lord in prayer regarding our home schooling, this is the verse that would come to mind.  It made no (read: Z.E.R.O.) sense to me.  What did their spiritual training have to do with how I was to be “doing” home school?  I was SO frustrated. 

When I was young, my mother who LOVED Cottonwood trees.  She loved that they sounded like rain falling, when the breeze blew.  One day, while we were out for a walk at a friend’s house, she saw a sapling sitting there in the middle of no where.  Mom and her friend dug the little critter up and brought it home to reside in our back yard.

Now, my father worked for IBM at the time when computers were the size of football fields, required key punch cards and horrendously long hours in order to tame them.   He was rarely home, so Mom tried to plant it herself.  My grandfather took one look at it and laughed.  You see, this poor little tree had been out in the middle of a cow pasture and the wind had blown it into an odd angle as it grew.  Rather than staking it (which she likely should have) Mom let it grow as it was.  And grow it did.  The last time I was at that house – some 15 yrs ago, it was HUGE and it was still CROOKED!

Every time I heard that verse in my prayer closet, I thought of Mom’s funny little tree in the back yard.   What could my children’s education and Mom’s pathetic Cottonwood have in common?  After many months of crying out and begging the Lord for direction, He spoke.  He began to teach me of my children.  He gave me eyes to see and ears to hear who they were.  The children would do something and He would say, “Did you see that?”  Day in and day out, for over a year, I was in the classroom of my children.  I had quite the education to glean.  I was to train them up – to home school them – according to the bent that He had placed there, but first I had to learn to see it.

Gracious as He is, Father let me leave that season and try to put our homeschool together based on what I had learned.  I did okay for a while. Then, as I continued to try and create the perfect schooling,  I began to squeeze the life out of it. (AGAIN)  The more programs I sought to implement, the more stressed I became, the more rigid I became and the more I forgot all that I had learned in the classroom of my children.

Enter stage left, from the wings….a pregnancy at 43.  I, with all seriousness, was CERTAIN that I was in the beginning stages of menopause.  I didn’t know too many people who had gotten pregnant at 43 and besides, we had given away everything.  🙄   Certain that if the Lord was blessing us with a new baby at this stage in our life, they would just fit right into whatever we, as a family, were already doing.  Surely they would be our most content and easily molded baby yet.  And those are the EXACT words that I would use to describe Squish, content and easily molded….until of course she was born, then they became antithetical to her character.

At first, in spite of her colicky, grumpy self, we managed to hold it all together, for a while….then began the slow decline into chaos.  I remember one night, just sitting in the living room, looking at what should have been a really good school day……SHOULD have been.  We all got up on time.  We had Bible reading at breakfast, the baby took a morning nap, everyone had clean underwear on, we got our school work done, we didn’t have a single time during the day when someone was stranded on the toilet screaming for another roll, no fights, dinner was ready within a 1/2 hr of the time it should have been – and it wasn’t burned – it was just a really good day.  So, what happened?  I had screamed, I had yelled, I had pushed and pulled my family throughout the entire day.  I was exhausted, the kids were thrilled to go to bed and get away from me and there I sat, holding a grumpy baby, granted, I DID have clean undies on, but still it was not a pretty sight.

That’s when I realized that in order for me to keep my children’s hearts and to keep their eyes focused on the Lord, our homeschooling had to be organic.  It needed to be a natural part of our day.  Our discussions of books needed to flow out of relationship and not a Q & A designed by a textbook designer.  Our science experiments needed to flow out of worship and delight of the Creation and the Creator.  Our life needed to be our classroom and not our school books.

Now, this sounds like “unschooling” to many people – and it isn’t really….but it really isn’t like anything else that I can put a name to, either. It’s just Clark school.  You see, it’s part Charlotte Mason, because we enjoy reading together.  It’s part unschooling, because there are times I release the kids to go study something that they simply can’t wait to study.  It’s part discipleship studies because we read things together and discuss them.  It’s personal, because no longer are we all doing the same thing, each child has time during their day to work on skills/learning that is geared toward their gifts, toward their goals, toward their God given destiny. It’s self directed, because there are times in our day where they have given assignments and we expect them to complete their own work, employing their own self discipline and time management skills. But most of all it’s organic. AND, it’s easy for me to employ.  (YES!!)

It’s real, it’s natural and it’s not about a program.  It’s focused on who God has created my kiddos to be.  It’s about preparing them to take dominion over whatever part of Creation that Father has planned for them.  It’s about me, remaining pliant and attentive to Father.  It’s about God, glorifying Himself in our midst.

Because of this, because my eyes are off the “agenda,” the goals are different.  No longer am I screaming and demanding that the kids do x# of pages of math in a day.  Yes, they have math – but now the issue is, “Do you understand it?” and not “Did you get that page done?” It’s not about conquering math. It’s about learning more of God, through their math.  For the first time, TRULY, our books are our tools.  They are servants to me, not I to them.  My perfectionism has been…okay, full disclosure is BEING destroyed in this arena, because it has so much less to do with MY control.

Please don’t misunderstand, there are still days that I look back to “Egypt” and I see regulated lesson plans and structure to the nth degree (not that we have no structure or not that we don’t have lesson plans)  and my legalistic heart longs for that.  Furthermore, I do not presume that what we’re doing would fit another family.  No other family has the components that mine does.  (Most other families have some semblance of normalcy to them)

As for me and my house, this is how we will serve the Lord!  I pray that Father would allow you to find the perfect plan for your household, as well.  And as He does, I pray that He will give you the courage to leave Egypt and walk in the way that He has for you.  There is SUCH fruit there – so much joy and delight in being together, rather than doing school together.  (If that makes any sense.)

(Sorry this ended up so long…again.  No doubt it will happen another time, as well.)  🙂

11 Responses to “Home grown and organic, another bushelful”
  1. Violet says:

    In looking back over our homeschooling years (from 1987 to 2005) I see the one who received the greatest education was the so-called teacher! God saw exactly what I needed to learn and so gave me four of the most diverse children you could imagine. One (our first-born) was a visual learner like his mom, and so I thought this homeschooling business was a snap.

    Then came our “enter stage left” child with colic, allergies, and temper. She was almost totally an auditory learner. Those were the days before all the information was out on such things, and I was sure that this child had a short circuit in her brain somewhere. I mean, at 4 yo she still couldn’t tell her colors apart – you can’t hear them, ya’ know? But she begged me to have piano lessons. Finally at five we got her into a Suzuki teacher and she took off. It took her two years of blood, sweat, and many tears to learn to read. We finally ended up singing multiplication tables, English grammar, whatever.

    Then we adopted a 9 yo from China who had had no schooling and didn’t know a word of English. She turned out to be a kinesthetic learner. We also adopted a 3 yo from Hong Kong who learns in any mode!

    I gave up long ago on following any specific plan and learned to customize for each child. We spent many hours reading and discussing things together as well as each doing the basics first and then pretty much following their interests after.

    The most important thing I have learned through this process, is that it is not my responsibility to turn out academically superior proteges to stun the world with their accomplishments, but rather to encourage them to learn that “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding” Prov. 4:7. I somehow think this verse applies to me even more than to my children!

  2. javadawn says:

    Violet, it’s funny you should mention that….the verse that I have been meditating on this week in regards to this particular post is: Proverbs 24:3 & 4
    3By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; 4by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

    It seems to me that the Lord was showing me that this was the process He has taken me through – from a place of wisdom – fear of Him to a place of understanding – understanding His place in our school and understanding my children, as well….finally ending up with precious and pleasant riches – both the fruit of relationship with my chillens, but also in the mere fact that the Lord’s presence in our home is precious and pleasant riches!!!

    Isn’t it amazing that the Lord would lead us to find words of life in His Scripture?!!

  3. Margie says:

    Dawn, you have no idea how much the Lord used your experience to smack me upside the head and get my attention on this one! After reading your post last night I went directly to prayer and awoke early to pray again.

    You (and God) have opened my eyes to the tyrant I have become. I yell, I push, it is all about my schedule, my plan, etc. I need not go on, you know where I am because you have been there.

    The Lord has also shown me that I am seeking the easy way. I search for the “perfect” program, curriculm, workbook or whatever to make our homeschool “perfect.” I want a quick fix. I even want the quick answer to prayer to make me the perfect mom/teacher/wife! But God is saying there is no magic pill only hard work, diligence, and commitment to do the right thing. Dare I say, He has told me that I am LAZY!

    When we were making our move to “Sin City” and I was reluctantly dragging my feet the Lord gave me this verse: Habakkuk 1:5 “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” I am hearing from God this morning that I need to ponder that verse and look to be utterly amazed by God in our home school.

  4. Cheryl says:

    Oh, Dawn…I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that you need to “keep my children’s hearts and to keep their eyes focused on the Lord.” Isn’t that what parenting (and homeschooling) is all about when it’s all said and done?!
    Thanks for the reminder. It is oh-so-easy to make that determination…and then get sidetracked, and lured back into the schedule/program/curriculum part of school. I need the reminder to emphasize the “home” and not the “school” part of homeschooling.

  5. Melanie says:



    dare I assign myself time to ponder this?? [it all sounds like work!]

    the end of “Christmas vacation” was spent hashing out books/plans for next year… so while I still have ??? I thought I was ready to place orders and write plans (in pencil, of course)

    Did I say out loud the other day that I want to delight in my family’s delight??

    2006 was overwhelming for me. So I hashed w/friends and DH and “think” I can keep academics manageable — I WILL survive teaching phonics to two DC! 🙂 (even if it kills me — no, no just kidding)
    BUT the rest of our life: youth group activities, bread-baking businessES, 4 dc w/piano (to soon be 5) and 2 w/violin/viola…… LIfe in general (church is 20+ min away and lots of family only 5 min away == both keep us busy!)

    okay, sorry to turn this into a laundry list — BUT I could flounder here for hours!

    better go give a sp test….


  6. Motherhen says:

    Oh my…tears came to my eyes as I read your post…I could have written your very words: cranky baby, slave to books and schedules, yelling, screaming, slamming!…I have become a tyrant…gulp…not what I want to hear when I finally meet my Saviour face to face. And it is certainly not what I want my children to recall of me when they are adults. I have some work to do…the wearing-out-my-knees type of work…and a great deal of humble forgiveness to ask of my children. I thank our Lord for using you to open my eyes to what I’ve become…I’ll be praying for you and thanking my God for you daily!

  7. Mrs. Nehemiah says:

    Thankfully Father led me to a site early in my homeschooling called homeschooloasis. the Idea proposed there really took hold of me. that Idea is called “Spirit-led homeschooling” and is nearly Identical to what you’ve described.
    I’ve been making up my curriculum according to each child’s bent for almost 6 years now. but last year I was led to a math curriculum and actual pre-made, follow the plan, workbook based math curriculum. I *know* that this math is what Father wants our family doing. but it has had the effect of turning my eye’s back to egypt and thinking about other “boxed curricula” that would make my life easier (to show to those who don’t approve of homeschooling)YEECH! (wow, I try to deny that UGLY motivation, but it’s there)
    You see, we school in “seasons” and this is the season of Math, Art, and Science for us, so we have less-to-none of what we did last “season” which was Literature, Heavy Bible study (didn’t drop bible just lightened it) Character study, books books books all day long (and we loved it)
    and it “feels” less like “school” and it “looks” less like “school” (it’s harder to justify to critics)
    so it’s hard to hang on to the ephemeral knowledge that Father says this is what they need right now.
    Mrs N
    (hanging on to the ephemeral)

  8. javadawn says:

    Oh dear ladies, I want SO badly to respond right now, but here’s the deal – this BOOGER is cutting 6!!! teeth. She’s cutting all 4 molars and 2 eye teeth as well. She just went to bed. I’m going to follow. I figure I’m going to need to squeeze every possible moment of sleep out tonight. 🙂

    I’ll be back in the morning to respond. I hope you don’t feel the least bit forgotten, for that simply isn’t the case!! ((h))

  9. javadawn says:

    Margie, Hey, honey, we all know the Lord will use whatever mouthpiece is handy – donkey sometimes, me others. 🙂 I’m so glad that Father is speaking to you through this.

    (Ok, baby needs – will try again)

  10. chellebell says:

    Dawn-It was so nice visiting you here. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family as you honor Him in your endeavors!

  11. javadawn says:

    Let’s try this again….

    Chellebell, it’s been lovely having you visit. I hope you come again. We’d love to know you more. (I’m eager to hop in for a blog visit soon…you too Motherhen!) Thank you for the blessings, I pray the Lord would do the same for your family, as well.

    Cheryl, I think part of what makes this so hard is the number of people who are “watching” us – whether they really are or we just feel like they are. It makes it easy for us to lose sight of the goal and kind of slide into “doing it to look good” mode. Hmmm, as I read that, I think perhaps I ought to leave the WE out of this and say *I*. 🙄

    Mel, my dear, you do whatever Father leads you to do and nothing else! If He says stop and ponder, you stop and ponder – if He doesn’t, it doesn’t apply to you….yet. 😉 😀 (Couldn’t resist – wouldn’t tease anyone…ok, wouldn’t tease JUST anyone that way.)

    Motherhen, my dear, please know I will be praying that you are able to get that alone time with Father and just soak in Him presence and hear His heart for your family/homeschool. I pray that He will fill you with Scripture to minister to your soul and offer direction! Bless you, dear one, bless you!

    Mrs N, I LOVE Barb’s stuff, but I still kept forgetting and sliding into legalism and bondage over and over again. My problem was my lack of right goal. My original goal was to raise my kids to be productive in the world. My changing my goal, my methodologies changed, as well. It’s been SO freeing!

    Father has been laying living by seasons on my heart for some time. This itty, bitty little box is not for all that – you guys will pass out, if you come back to read and find THAT, but we too school by seasons….the rhythm of Creation. It affects our schedule, our content and our time choices. (If that makes any sense at all.) 🙄

    Did I do it?!!! Did I really get to answer everyone’s comments, without a teething Booger baby needing me?!!! WEEEEE HAAAAA! 😆

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