This song from the Wicked soundtrack really struck a chord with me (pun intended). Too many parents these days are content to help there children glide along the surface of life, never digging deep to experience the joys–and the pain–that life offers.
Dancing through life
skimming the surface
gliding where turf is smooth
life’s more painless
for the brainless
why think too hard?
when it’s so soothing
dancing through life
no need to tough it
when you can slough it off as i do
but knowing nothing matters
it’s just life
so keep dancing through…
dancing through life
swaying and sweeping
and always keeping cool
life is fraughtless
when you’re thoughtless
those who don’t try
never look foolish
dancing through life
mindless and careless
make sure your where less
trouble is rife
woes are fleeting
blows are glancing
when you’re dancing
I am concerned we are raising a generation who is unaccustomed to hardship and adversity. Cancelling honors awards, giving “participation trophies” and incessant access to social media contribute to a culture of shallow individuals with no real grasp of difficulty.
Unfortunately if you prevent hurt feelings then you also prevent the satisfaction of excellence. I think most of these decisions are made to make the adults feel better. Kids are more resilient than we would like to admit. So if we cut out all rewards of excellence why try? What child wants to get straight A’s, for example, only to have their honor roll removed, communicating to them that excellence is punished and mediocrity is desired? Catering to the dancing crowd will leave our country with a full dance card but no one to walk us home.
When will we decide that pain and hardship are actually tools that build godly character, and that we can embrace and celebrate failure. We can look to God’s word for countless examples of this lifestyle in action.
God, please help me to care more about my child’s character than their comfort. Help me to raise gardeners and not dancers. Help me to teach them to embrace hard times and all the good that can come of it.
We often hear about how homeschooling is best for the student. Home education is also great for the mother-teacher as well. Here are just a few of the ways:
time with your children
In my opinion this can’t be oversold. Time with your children should be something you desire to find more of. This seems to be the reason many parents choose not to homeschool–they will have to be with their children all day. I have never understood that sentiment. If that’s the only reason you don’t try homeschooling then let me encourage you to rethink this idea.
you are always learning
Home educating parents are always in school themselves. Learning and exploring alongside your children is one of the greatest homeschool joys, I believe. You don’t have to know it all right now. Taking time to learn together is a wonderful way to bond as a family.
Meeting and praying with other parent-educators forms a strong bond. Finding like-minded parents and children is an important factor in the success of home educating families. It is really difficult to “go it alone,” and with the internet it’s now easier than ever to connect and create life-long friends.
Home educating parents are constantly setting goals (and hopefully seeing them through). Looking back over a year, or a semester, is rewarding. You can see how far the homeschool students have come and where you need to go next. Accomplishments such as teaching a child to read are methodical milestones a parent can look back on with pride. This builds confidence that bleeds over into every area of life.
ensuring your desires for your children’s education are met
There is no competing worldview or opposing force vying for your child’s heart and mind. Also you are able to focus like a laser on what you think is important for them to learn. You can also be sure you deal with challenges and giftings as needed.
If you could write this list, what would you add?
…if only I may finish my course with joy…
Acts 20:24 AMP (emphasis mine)
This is part of my life scripture. It is one that is dear to me and only recently I have seen it anew. There are three things in this lovely passage that I want to emphasize.
I am to finish, whatever that means for me. For some home educators it’s graduation. For others it’s somewhere along the way. No one can tell you where that is but God. You just want to make sure you are on His schedule, His timing. God’s into completing things. He’s not one to leave unfinished projects and neither should we, especially in the home education realm.
I have a specific path. Part of it is a mother, part a wife, part a sister, a daughter, a friend. My course happens to include home education. It’s in my DNA. He hard wired me for this and equipped me for it. He knew my faults and trusted I could do this anyway. With His guidance and tender mercies I can, but not in my own strength.
And I have to stick to my course, not another’s. It’s so easy to compare, to feel inadequate and to judge. We must take care to keep to the path God has planned for us. Our goal is not to finish someone else’s course, but our own.
This is the hard part (at least for me). We may not finish our course at all, but if we do, it’s too often through gritted teeth with a bad attitude. His yoke is easy; His burden is light. It’s not enough to just get through it. Lots of people can do that. It’s the fruit of joy that sets us apart, making our lives tantalizing to those around us. Even in the rough spots on our course we have fixed our eyes on the prize. No, not graduation or smart children or even strong Christians. Our prize is that heavenly reward, that “well done, thou good and faithful servant.” It’s the fellowship with Him as we move from day to day that renews us and brings us the joy we need to keep going.
There truly can be joy in the journey. We can be content in the now and see God working all through our busy days. We can finish our course with joy, which is all I aim to do.
What is your life scripture?
Before the internet craze of blogging we wrote our thoughts down in something called a journal. Or a diary maybe. But it was for your eyes only, no worries of nasty comments from people you’ve never met–or kudos either. There is a comfort in putting pen to paper, capturing thoughts in space and time with the confinement of the written word is challenging and exhilarating.
This article (and my other passion) got me thinking about what I do here online. While it’s good and helpful and sometimes I dare say necessary, it is something my family, even though they participate by default, know very little of this part of my life. I don’t sit and read them my posts or share articles from other moms that bless me. They don’t know most of what I share here, not because I have a secret but I suppose it just never seemed necessary–at least not at this time.
But what about later, when they are older, when they have children of their own and are filled with questions, or when they are searching for more homeschool memories, the little memories that are crowded out by more urgent matters. I could just point them to this URL and let them search, like any stranger could, probing for information and answers. I don’t want a cold computer screen sharing my thoughts on this season of life with them. I think I can do better than that.
I have decided to keep a written record of the posts I feel are the most poignant to my family. I want a sort of scrapbook, more of a commonplace book about our homeschool years, filled with blog posts, pictures and all the other memories that make everyday life interesting. It will be in my own handwriting (ugh) and filled with my thoughts and dreams and hopes and yes, even fears, with those who mean the most to me.
This is a gift, something I can leave as a legacy, my blog posts and more, written by my own hand. Who doesn’t love finding treasures like that up in Gramma’s attic? We all love poring over old letters and pictures. Who wouldn’t love to hear great gramma’s thoughts on a particular time of life? Family is a big deal and I don’t want to deprive mine of the part of my life I share with all of you.
Commonplace books on our family. Now there’s a treasure worth leaving future generations.
I’m convinced of it. The over-achievers are distracted with perfection and, well, over achieving. Their parents make sure they always get a trophy and always get an A and that they always feel good.
The slackers aren’t a threat because they are mostly lazy–mentally, if not physically. Their parents might not make them do chores if they don’t feel like it. They may just lack ambition and their parents don’t require more. But they are not doing much. And they aren’t going to do much. At least not unless their feelings say so.
It’s the average kids who are gonna get ‘er done. They’re the ones with a healthy self-image and a solid work ethic. Their parents aren’t so concerned with their kids’ feelings. They’re more concerned with their character–which they know is lacking at times. These kids know they aren’t always the best but they’re okay with that. The average kids know their limitations. They know they have to work hard to do things because not everything comes easily to them. But they appreciate the reward of hard work and know that if they try they can probably do it. And if they work really hard maybe they can do it really well.
There are average kids in the news every day, doing little works with love. Helping a neighbor. Writing a pen pal. Maybe even winning an award. But they are still just going to scouts, practicing their music, playing outside, doing their chores. They may not excel at much of anything but they are really good at being average, being themselves.
They know mistakes are for learning, not covering up or running from. Failure can be an excellent teacher and they learn well. Their parents probably didn’t spend a lot of time telling them how they are the most special kid ever and how they are practically perfect in every way. But their parents didn’t insult them or require nothing of them either. Their parents are probably telling them that sometimes life is messy, but they’re good kids and that if they work hard they will have a good life. So they do, and they do. And I pray that more average kids get the idea that average isn’t so average anymore. And that they will band together and take over the world–in an average way.
They know that average is a really good place to be.
Excellence is not a light switch. It’s not something that you wake up one day and you suddenly are, like a birthday. It’s more like getting grey hair; it happens one strand at a time.
The process of excellence is important. Like a baby chick must struggle to shed its shell, the struggle to learn is necessary and rewarding.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:3, 4
The trying of our faith increases patience. This increased patience (fruit of the spirit) brings increased perfection, or wholeness. It is a glorious chain reaction that we would never wish to short circuit in our children. He has struggles for them in their learning, in their reasoning, in their finding their way in their own faith. If they never get the chance to reason from Scripture for themselves they will never get to the wholeness, to the security of their own faith in Christ.
And this is true excellence. Ownership of your own faith, not your parents’ faith. Internal government, governing self with Christ’s superintendence and the Holy Spirit’s faithful guidance. The ability to give an reason for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15).
My goal is to this: to give my children every opportunity to struggle, not to be a stumbling block but a coach that pushes you farther than you thought you could go. I love that scene in “Facing the Giants” when the Coach Taylor shows Brock that he had more in him that he thought possible, driving him to crawl the entire length of the field with another player on his back. Once Brock got a vision, once he saw what was possible, he was like a new player and he influenced all the other players.
I want my kids to push and struggle and fight with all their might. I want them to give their all and lay exhausted in the end zone, amazed at what their God was able to do through them.
What sweet satisfaction, this excellence.
In American society today there seems to be an allergy to excellence, at least to the Christian idea of excellence. On the one hand you have children afraid to look “smart” in front of their peers. and on the other we have the Martha Stewarts working hard to convince us that perfection is possible. Kids are texting and losing what little grammar skills they may have once possessed while they try hard to be “gangsta.” The excellent is, for the most part, not valued or praised or even seen as something to strive toward.
What is the Christian idea of excellence? I submit that it is not simply getting good grades. It is your internal character and not your “book smarts” that make a person excellent. For example, Daniel in the Bible was described as having an excellent spirit in Daniel 6:3. This fueled hatred among the leaders of the land and that’s how he ended up in the lion’s den. He was not excellent because he was the smartest. He was excellent because of his character.
Christians should set the standard in education. American Christians are blessed beyond measure. We enjoy liberty in every area. Nothing has been held back from us. We have to most to be thankful for—and the most responsibility. We should always strive to work toward excellence. God’s idea of excellence. As we become more and more excellent on the inside, our outward fruit will be excellent as well. We will work harder, be more diligent and make more of an effort to be a good example to others, in word and in deed (Col. 3:17).
The point is not knowledge but wisdom and fear of the Lord. As a Christian my goal is not simply to fill my children with facts until they are ready to pop. They must be able to correctly apply knowledge in real life.
My next post will finish up by discussing the process of excellence and applying scripture to our educational goals.
Chicks like me love buying new shoes. They are cute and perfect with that certain outfit. The only problem is breaking them in. I don’t care how much I pay for shoes, the cuter they are the more they must be “broken in” to be anything less than a torture tactic.
Funny how homeschooling can be like that. You have a new method you are trying out and it is just uncomfortable, bunching and squeezing and generally uncomfortable-making. This isn’t so bad, if you stick with it through the breaking in time.
Constantly changing plans and methods can be a lot like new shoes. Always trying some new thing new gets old. Nothing is comfy, familiar, certain. You are always chafing from the rub. You stumble because you aren’t used to them. They are a generic size so they don’t fit well.
If you never push past the breaking in you never get to the comfy stage, where your shoes have formed to the shape of your foot. They move from once-in-while-shoes to your “go to” shoes. They may not be the prettiest in your closet but they are your favorite because they feel so good. It’s like cosy sunshine for your feet.
This time of year it is tempting to make big changes, try new things. But the cost can be high to chuck your methods and always start something new. New is often not better, especially when kids are involved. They rely on the comfort of routine.
Homeschool shoes are not really made for outer beauty, but for use—to carry the Gospel, to help a friend in need, to lead the way for others. Vanity is a poor reason for choosing a shoe. We all have shoes in our closet that we just had to have but they were not meant for the “real world.” Either we wear them and smile through the pain or we never wear them. Either way they were a bad investment.
I encourage you to think twice about tossing out that pair of comfy shoes. I bet they have a lot of life left in them. Maybe they just need new soles or a little patch. Maybe a good shine is all they need to breathe new life into them. God has the perfect pair just for you. They will help you (and your children) run the race and finish with joy.
Notebooks are not a new idea. Many of the founding fathers kept notebooks of their lessons and discoveries. What is so special about notebooks, as opposed to, say, workbooks? I say a lot.
Production. A notebook is not simply a container of a child’s work. It is a tool for learning and self-government. It requires the child to be a producer of education and not a consumer of information. The child is an active part of the learning process.
Developing character. Notebooks are also a tool for character development and an excellent education. These traits include stewardship, diligence, patience, perseverance, faithfulness and satisfaction.
Self-education. The child must learn how to learn, and a notebook will do that. These notebooks are filled with their own thoughts and reasoning. I encourage my children to take ownership of their ideas. When they are comforatable with that concept it will be easy for them to take on more of their own education
Scholarship. The child must write and produce their own work, as opposed to consuming a workbook. They are required to write down their own thoughts and ideas and to do it well. Neatness counts! Standards are a good thing. Children like to know what is expected of them, and notebook standards give them a goal and parameters, which also foster scholarship.
Reasoning. It requires thinking, and sometimes a lot of it, to produce and to learn. I know my kids sometimes act like their brain froze up when they are required to use their “reasoning muscles.” But I also have noticed that my 4th grader has come a long way and doesn’t shut down like she used to. She wrestles hard sometimes to reason out an answer. That is encouraging and wouldn’t happen if I were not using a notebook.
Reference. Hopefully your notebook will be filled with things, especially as they get into the upper grades, that will help them in other subjects and other areas of interest. I know one young lady who came home for a break from college and went to find her French notebook. She said it was to help her in her college class because some of the material was already there, giving her an edge. Another young lady I know has made notebooking such a lifestyle that even though she is out of high school she still makes notebooks for her interests. When she went on a missions trip she created a notebook her whole team could use as a reference, with maps, history and more on the country they were visiting.
Mastery. We are not slaves to the notebook, but masters. It is our tool to use as best fits us. It will help strengthen our weaknesses and highlight our strengths. And also a notebook helps us to master a particular subject.
Individuality. Of course notebooks are an expression of our unique thoughts and are our own intellectual property. My children love to peruse their notebooks from time to time and appreciate all the hard work they have done. They enjoy reflecting on projects and lessons they enjoyed, and also to remind me of things they weren’t crazy about. Some families keep electronic notebooks, some keep more like a scrapbook. There are lots of ways to express your individuality and education. Notebooks don’t simply have to be filled with written papers. You can include CD’s of audio, DVD’s of movies you make, printouts, foldouts and pockets, photos, art of all kinds, the list is really endless. Celebrate your family’e education, don’t just endure it.
I think of the home education process as a tapestry. It’s a beautiful work that will stand the test of time (hopefully) and bless all who look at it. But it’s not easy. It takes time, dedication and resolve. But thankfully we are not in the process alone. The tapestry wasn’t our idea in the first place. (Deut. 6:7, Col. 1:16)
It is unique to your family. No one else’s home education will look just like yours. And the pattern can’t be copied exactly. If you are trying to copy another family’s pattern, you may be frustrated because it isn’t working out right. You must get your pattern from the Master Pattern Maker, Jesus. (Titus 2:14)
How many times have you changed something about the way you are educating your children? I hope it’s often. I don’t mean your philosophy or even the content, but just the delivery or the materials. I hope you are always evaluating what is working, what needs improvement, what’s coming next in the weave. Checking the color, the pattern, again just to make sure, adjusting as you need to. And making sure we are adding enough of the right things: scripture, reasoning, fruit of the Spirit, compassion and the like. These are what keep the stitches from pulling out. Reasoning from the Word of God anchors all of the stitches. Your children own their own faith, being rooted and grounded in love. (Eph. 3:17)
From the back, where you are working on the daily process, it may look like a mess. It’s not always pretty. There are knots and extra string and things that don’t look like they belong there (at least that’s my experience!). I encourage you from time to time–move around and look at the front of it. Enjoy the beauty and wonder in the whole picture, the design the Pattern Maker is creating. Marvel in the intricate details and how it is all coming together. Look with new eyes and see how far you’ve come. Then get back to work! (Eccl. 3:11)
I also hope you are not afraid to change things up, to do things differently. Each of your children are completely different and have unique learning styles, interests and strengths. Each time you weave the next child into your tapestry you will make some adjustment. And each time you do, the pattern becomes more detailed and lovely because we all add something to the tapestry that would be missing otherwise. (Ps. 139:14)
Don’t be discouraged if one of your children has a math weakness or ADD or another sort of challenge. Look at it as adding to the tapestry, teaching you about yourself, your child and God. The challenges will not ruin your masterpiece. On the contrary, it will make it better, even spectacular–something it never could have been without the rich experiences challenges provide. (Rom. 8:28)
Now from time to time you may see that you’ve made a mistake. Maybe you thought you knew what was next in the pattern or just thought you would do your own thing and it isn’t working out at all. You will have to remove some stitches. Or rework an entire section. Take heart. The Master is patient and has everything under control. Allow Him to guide the stitching and things will be back on track in short order. And He will take the section you thought was ruined and add it to the design, making it even more lovely than it would have been without it. (Jer. 29:11)
Enjoy your tapestry. Enjoy the way it is all working together. Enjoy the process. Don’t wish anything away because before you know it, the process will be over and your masterpiece will be complete. I don’t want a single stitch to be missing in my work. I want to complete it with joy and rejoice in what the Master has done. My tapestry will stand as a testament for the ages, telling all who look on it of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us on this journey. (Acts 20:24) (2 Th. 2:15-17)
(c) 2006 Anna-Marie Hawthorne all rights reserved