Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homeschool Mom or Life in the Trenches

I was recently asked to tell my story of how I became a homeschool mom to a group of women at our church. My first reaction was, "No problem!" but the more I think, pray, ponder, the more difficult it becomes. You see, prior to homeschooling, I held some pretty strong opinions about the venture and really, none of them were positive. At best, they were neutral or ambivalent. NEVER did I think I would be where I am right now.

Because of my pride and ignorance, God had to do some radical things in my life to change my thinking of what was most important. I needed to be forced to re-evaluate my life goals and where I was going.

I have always been headstrong, hard-working (employed since age 12), and very self-reliant. I didn't listen to wisdom, nor did I seek it. I did what I wanted, when I wanted. Luckily, I married and amazingly loving and patient man, probably too much so, that followed me down a lot of paths. I was always the visionary, he was the detail man. The first several years of our marriage, I knew nothing about Godly submission to either God or my husband. I treated God the same way I treated Michael. I lead, you clean up the mess. Fortunately, I can be taught. I learned through hardships that are another testimony, that I need to abide in HIM, all the time. Not just when trouble comes. I became intentional about my relationship with the Lord. I began reading my Bible regularly and praying. Through those times, I began to see how far off from what God had planned for me I was. I started doing a Bible study on Proverbs 31 and I was VERY convicted. At first I was angry, but I slowly began to see that this was about trust and obedience.

I felt foolish doing things to bless my husband and joked about it. "I ironed your shirts, Honey. With starch!" It was good for a few laughs, but really, me being the wife and mom, rather than career woman, blessed my family. I could see it.

Shortly after this began, tragedies began occurring that turned my life upside down. In June of 2001, our oldest daughter had to return to foster care due to extensive problems she had that were more than we could help her with. In September 2001, 9/11 happened. If the two things had happened separately, I think I could have coped, but I felt like I could trust no one, and evil was everywhere. I only trusted myself. In the fall of 2002, I got forced out of a job that I loved. I started a new one in Red Wing that terrified me. In the winter of 2002, we bought my grandma's farm and planned to sell our house and build a new one. We found out our house was unsellable due to zoning. We had two properties and could do nothing with either one. I found out I was pregnant, of course.

I was planning to start Grad school for advanced practice nursing.

That spring, my dad died unexpectedly. It was horrible. I was so broken and helpless.

In August of that same year, Michael's dad died also unexpectedly.

We were building a house and had no idea what we were doing.

That year was surreal. I felt like I was just being swept along, or carried. It was so sad, yet God was so near to me. I really became so close to Him and my faith grew so much. I understood what it meant that He will not forsake us or leave us. I began to seek Him for wisdom. I began to search the Word. I realized how important family was and how short life is. I looked at my growing family and didn't want to miss opportunities. I began to see my career as so inferior to what I had at home. I began thanking God for my family.

Still, I never thought about homeschooling!

That Christmas John was born. Another testimony of how good God is.

The spring of 2004 we moved into our new home.

Matthew and Hannah had been going to our local Lutheran school, but because one was going all day and the other was half days every other day, some days I was driving back and forth into town three times a day with a little baby. That winter of 2004, was very cold and I remember getting weary of bundling up that little baby over and over. We had been through so much and I was very worn out.

Our plan was to put the kids in public school after Christmas...but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn't do it. I just thought it would be unkind to switch schools midyear, so I began thinking about just homeschooling to finish out the year and start public school in the fall. Looking back, this is the only way God could have gotten me to homeschool. My own convenience!

Matthew was in second grade and Hannah was in preschool. I had no idea what I was doing and I was filled with pride. My focus was completely on academics and I am embarrassed at what I put my kids through those first few months. It really was still all about me and their brilliant minds would make me look like such a super mom! Ha!!

I was completely unprepared for what God had in store for us. The first thing I noticed was the condition of my own heart. I was tested and shown to have a heart filled with pride, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, selfishness, you name the bad fruit, it was there I am sure. The funny thing is, I really thought I was SOOO GOOD!! I saw that I had been an excellent Pharisee and that I was raising my kids to be just like me. I needed to repent. There were times those first years that I would have to lock myself in my bathroom for time out to pray. Never in my life was I so dependent on the Lord than when I started homeschooling! He was my source, He was my wisdom, He alone could change what was in my heart. Things would come up, and I had to repent, ask for forgiveness from God and my family.

In my kids, I saw things relating to character that we needed to work on. I thought I was such an amazing parent, but began to see there was a lot of responsibility that I had not take seriously and that I had to answer to God one day for how these kids were raised. I could no longer blame teachers or schools, I had to look no further than myself. Ouch.

At the end of the first school year, we looked back. The kids loved it. I reflected on what those first 5 months at home did for our family. Matthew and Hannah became friends. They played together, talked to eachother. They became nurturing to their baby brother. Matthew gained respect for me, instead of just being angry with me. I remembered that feeling of falling in love with my babies, memorizing them, and getting to know them. I saw how we ended up homeschooling as a gift from God. I felt that I had taken my children back and was able to fall in love with them all over again.

I can say that it has been a great reward to teach each of them to read. To discover them writing their first words. Understanding those early math concepts. However, I had no idea how much more rewarding it would be to disciple them. To get an opportuntity to live Dueteronomy 6:6-7 which says,

These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."

was an amazing privelege. Especially today.

I thought homeschooling was about taking over the academics and raising little brainiacs who wear weird clothes and don't quite fit in. Kids who know where every country is, its capital, language and chief export.

I now see it as a tremendous opportuntity God has given us to raise a generation who will be faithful to Him. To raise a generation who will not compromise the Word of God. To raise a generation who are unafraid of man, but seek the Lord for His will in their lives. Do I think that homeschooling is a guarantee. No! It is, however, a great advantage. I spent much of my own life worrying about what others think of me, rather than what God thinks of me. I find that my kids really don't seem to care what others think. What a gift of freedom that alone is!! I wonder why we want to be normal anyway, look around! Obviously normal isn't working!! Maybe it's time we tried weird!

The fruit over the past 7 years of homeschooling is far more than I ever imagined. God took my very small, weak steps of obedience to do amazing things in and through our family. Four of our five children have comitted their lives to Jesus. My husband also accepted Christ after 15 yrs of marriage. We experienced a true revival in our home at that time. The Holy Spirit was moving so quickly in our home, I was exhausted. I remember thanking God for all the miraculous things he was doing, especially in our marriage, but I really needed one quiet day to do my laundry. Which He generously gave, before moving in power again. I was reunited with my lifelong friend and cousin, Penny after really no contact for about 20 yrs. We were uprooted and transplanted in this church...I could go on.

Homeschooling I can see was just one part of what God had planned for our family. It became a training ground for His purpose. I can tell you that apart from Him, I could not do it all. But His words are true. He is not a man that He should lie. He is faithful and if He is asking you do do something, no matter what it is, His grace truly is is sufficient and His strength really is made perfect in our weakness.

Thank you, Lord!!