Gotta be February!

My inbox has several (s.e.v.e.r.a.l.) notes from Sistahs in the Lord that are struggling with homeschooling.  They are trying to discern if that hand that appeared and wrote on their dining room wall, “Thou shalt homeschool thy children” might have been an accident or somebody’s idea of a joke or even a misdirected delivery, something intended for someone else.  Perhaps there’s another Smith family in another Bugscuffle that that message was intended for, right?

I understand. It was in February that I answered the phone (caller i.d. wasn’t available then) with, “I don’t know who you are, I don’t think I care, just come take these kids to the library for a few hours for me, would you?”  Thankfully it was Jeff.  He said, “Uh, I was calling to see what you thought about me working some over time tonight, but I think I have a really good idea of what you’d think of it.  Oh, and uh, please don’t answer the phone again until I get home, okay?”

It was also February that Jeff walked in the door, I hit his arm, handed him the teething, crying, miserable baby and the toddler covered in honey (don’t ask), the electric shut off notice, the reading curriculum for the wide eyed child sitting at the dining room table and said, “Tag you’re it!”  and ran from the house.  When I returned 45 minutes later, Jeff’s first words were, “I thought you might like to order in pizza tonight.”  We  shouldn’t have spent the money on it, but it was like nirvana to this wearied Mom.

Let’s face it, February is rough going.  It’s not quite warm enough to be spring, (although that’s not quite accurate around here right now, since today’s high is 65!) and if it is warm, it’s muddy.  The sun still doesn’t come up early enough to make it seem like you’re not getting up at the crack of dawn.  All the good routines you had going before the holidays probably fell into some measure of disrepair through the holidays.  (Or you did too much during the holidays and it took all of January for you to recover.)  The children that you were certain were angelic last fall are looking a lot more like fiends than friends.  But don’t despair, there is hope, there is what we call life giving homeschooling, to be had!

In her book, “Feminine Appeal” Carolyn Mahaney quotes Stephen and Janice Bly talking about motherhood: “No job on earth takes more physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual strength than being a good wife and mother. If a woman is looking for the easy life she might try teaching tennis, cutting diamonds or joining a roller derby team.  There is nothing easy about good mothering.  It can be back breaking, heart wrenching and anxiety producing.  And that’s just the morning.”   🙂  That quote makes me grin.  It reminds me how hard this job that we’re called to – this task of mothering is.  And when you add homeschooling in there, you might as well include stock trading in this recent market in that list of other jobs!  (Or maybe being a logger…a blind logger.)   😉  So, be encouraged ~ what you’re doing is HARD work!

So, how do you handle February and come through it intact – both you, your children and your homeschool?

I want to share a few truths that I’ve collected along the way that have made our homeschooling SO much easier.  I’ve stopped beating myself up, I’ve stopped yelling at my children about their school work (yep, even if they don’t do it), I’ve started following Biblical principles for getting it done and you know what?  I don’t dread February anymore!

Now, before I share this with you, please don’t assume I’m being arrogant in saying any of this, if you knew how many hours of tears, prayers and temper tantrums (mine, not the kids) were invested in this, you’d actually think, “She’s only confessing to this much wisdom?  Wow….I’d be humiliated to admit that I don’t know more than that.”  😀

First principle for life giving homeschooling – know what is most important to you and keep it in its proper place of “first.”  We used to say “Making sure our kids know Jesus is the most important part of our homeschooling.”  However, despite our words, my attitude stunk, I yelled at the children in impatience and Jeff would come in, in an attempt to keep me a cordial spouse and play the heavy hand with them for not doing whatever it was that I was fussing about.  Finally, the Lord hit me in the head that I couldn’t be introducing my children to Him if I was acting so UNLIKE Him.  (dope slap)

So, spend some time with yourself  (when is the last time you’ve done that?) 🙂 and your spouse and determine what your REAL homeschooling goals are.  Don’t be ashamed of them, but don’t deny them either.  If your goal is “So he can get a good paying job and support his father and I in great affluence for the remainder of our earthly lives.”  Then SAY it!  If your goal is, “So he can make it through school without being shot.”  Then say it.  Just get down to the real nitty gritty with yourself to know what you really, truly, are-willing-to-sacrifice-all-to-obtain want your homeschool to accomplish. Then write it down.

Next write down what you believe the Lord’s call upon your child’s life is.  Do your goals and God’s mesh?  If not, what can you do to make them come together as a cohesive whole?

Second principle of live giving homeschooling – look at the things that you’re doing and say, “Will doing this get us closer to our goal/s?”  So, let’s take the first example – let’s say you want your child to make megabucks and take care of you in a way you’re unaccustomed to being cared for.  Then find out what jobs make the most money and be training your child to be ready to move in that direction.  If your highest goal is to keep your child safe….well, then you may want to consider having them participate in a self defense course as the center of their education.

There are too many things that we, in our incredible desire to do what is best for our children and offer them the greatest amount of success possible, are doing that have nothing to do with the goals that we have for our children or that the Lord has for our children.  I am not going to enter into a discussion about whether or not you need to abide by state laws.  That is between you and the Lord. That is not a decision that anyone can make for you, since you will have to be the one who stands by your decision.  BUT, I am asking you to look at some of the optional things you’re doing to assess whether or not they line up with your true goals.

Please remember that public schools teach to “the test.”  We can do the same thing, we just need to decide if we have the same test that we desire our children to complete as the school system does.  If it is the same test, then I would strongly encourage you to find the curriculum that is most like your local school and follow it!

My third principle of life giving homeschooling – take a look at the things that you have on your list and ask yourself which of any of those things can be adjusted to become “organic” in nature.   One of the definitions of organic is, “developing in a manner analogous to the natural growth and evolution characteristic of living organisms; arising as a natural outgrowth.”  THAT is what Deuteronomy 6 demonstrates so clearly for us.  Teaching our children about the Most High God, within the context of natural daily living.  That is the Hebrew way of education.  Focusing on the Lord and who He is.  The entire purpose of the Hebrew education was to better worship God.  Too often we have sacrificed that true form of education for one that allows us to worship knowledge, rather than the One who has all knowledge and allows us to worship Him because of it.

I will warn you that this may require you to change your definition of education.  It may no longer be sitting at the table completing a page in a math workbook, but perhaps it will be working with Dad to build a boot rack…or learning how to babysit…or learning how to cook…or (according to a local high school in our area) learning how to make a bed!  Let the Holy Spirit lead you in this.  The biggest thing to remember, that Matthew 11:30 applies here.

(Side note – just this week, the Lord taught me anew of the importance of telling our children of His amazing goodness and character – “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  What a piercing reminder to have the Word of God ready in my mouth to share with my kiddos!)

Fourth principle of life giving homeschooling – recognize that the Word of God says that there are seasons.  In all things there are seasons.  This may be the season that your children are pouring time into their studies, just learning TONS!  This may be the season that your children are learning better how to serve a loved one who is sick or dying.  This may be the season where they need to learn patience as you care for a new baby.  No matter what season you’re in – you’re in A season.  Discern which season it is and make certain that you’re acting accordingly.  (We have done this enough that we literally plan our school year around seasons.  And we call them “Planting”, “Cultivating”, “Harvesting”, “Resting and Planning.”)  Each season has a precious and powerful focus to it.  Let it flow more naturally in your home and I suspect you will find schooling becomes easier for you, as well.

Fifth principle of life giving homeschooling – remember that the thing that Jesus told Martha was most important was time with Him AND that Mary had chosen most wisely.  I’m not advocating doing nothing but spending all day with the Lord – UNLESS that is the season you’re in.  If it is, acknowledge it, stop fighting it and revel in that extra time with Him.  He knows we’re clay vessels, which is why He gave us life in seasons in the first place.  If you have a season of planting coming, you need to have the plan on what and how to plant, as well as the strength to prepare the soil and do the actual planting.  Enjoy whatever season you’re in!

The first place I’d encourage you to stop and check yourself – Are you spending time DAILY in the Word?  If not, for your own sake, DO IT!  Second place to assess yourself – Are you REGULARLY getting a Sabbath?

For VERY few of us does Sabbath include getting the whole crew off to church in the morning dressed in clean clothes, with hairs in place and wearing matching shoes, making dinner for three other families and cleaning it all up.  THAT is hard work.  There is little rest to be found in that for most of us.  If you are one of the “most”, talk to your husband and see if there isn’t a way to make some changes in your lives to allow for Sabbath on Saturday, perhaps.  We take our Sabbath from Friday night into Saturday night.  It took some time to mentally deal with losing that work day, but now that we’ve done it, we LOVE IT!!!!!  I get good rest each week and somehow the work gets done the rest of the week, too.  God honors His laws.  AND if you end Sabbath at dinnertime, like we do, you can still have everyone getting ready for Sunday morning on Saturday night.

Final principle of life giving homeschooling – take all these things before the Lord.  Plan for a day of prayer, that you might hear from Him.  Enter the day with the expectation that you will hear from Him.  His Word gives us every reason to expect that He desires to speak to His children – and you’re one of them, so go with expectation.

(Note the word “plan” – prepare ahead of time to have an easy meal, make certain that you have “entertainment” for the children, that your husband knows you’re taking the day so he won’t pass out if he walks in the door and you’re still in your jammies…that kind of thing.  Plan for it just like you would if you and your hubby were getting some time away to look with love into one another’s eyes and talk.  Yes, that likely means having something chocolate!)  😉

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