I wrote this a few years ago as an email to a wonderful lady who is an amazing teacher to women, mother to her children and daughter of God. I was finally admitting that I just couldn’t impose the presented standards of child rearing on my family. Maybe impose is the wrong word. They were good biblical principles I felt like they were an imposition because I could never quite apply them. I’ve in fact stopped reading most christian parenting books, (I do still read adoptive parenting books). Not because they are not good and helpful, and hopefully not because I don’t think I can learn anything from them, but because my tendency is to rely on knowledge rather than God. I’m finding I need to take what I’ve already learned and lean daily on the strength of God.
I am very grateful for your service to the home school community. Your family is obviously very gifted and blessed and has been given much grace to live a life wholly devoted to the Lord. You are also very real and there is no pretension that I’ve seen in your life. The way you have raised your children to serve wholeheartedly is commendable. I’ve been challenged and freshly convicted by the parenting material you’ve shared in our ladies group. Also, though, at the stage of life I am in, recognize my temptation to condemnation in some of the material presented.
Since Monday I’ve been struggling mightily with a whole range of emotions from conviction to condemnation to self justification and everything in between, and struggling with whether the choices we’ve made and the things we’ve given into are of the “flesh”. Many times they have been, we are in general rather undisciplined, but there has also been much grace. My older children love God and nothing is greater to see than them walking in truth. God has been merciful to our family. But our weaknesses are also apparent in their lives.
I don’t want to condone some of the mistakes I’ve made, and things I’ve allowed into our family but I also don’t want to pretend they are not there or even pretend that they are all bad. There is a lot of gray are in the realm of technology and in the world at large. Truth is Facebook has been sometimes an obsession but sometimes a great means of grace in my life and the life of others. I know I have an audience that isn’t all Christian and what I post can bring light to a dying world. Sometimes however the time I spend on it and the time I allow my children to spend on various technologies has been unhelpful at least harmful at worst. What is a harmless pastime of video games can turn into sinful obsession and, what the article portrayed as terribly detrimental to our mental health is terrifying. I’m not saying that you don’t know this I’m just thinking through all this. In my thinking I came up with the following rather lengthy explanation of where I’m coming from and where some others in the group may also be able to relate too.
I’ve spent most of my Christian homeschooling career comparing our life style with what I perceived as the “ideal” Christian home school life style; father leading as head of the family, mother a creative and disciplined teacher. Father faithfully teaches the boys all the manly skills they would need as adults while also leading wonderful devotions during a family worship time, rich discussions round the dinner table spanning everything from God’s creation to local politics. Mother, of course, would be able to ignite the fire of curiosity that will lead to all sorts of wonderful studies with the end product of beautiful nature journals strewn with sketches of creation, while also teaching all the homemaking skills necessary for the girls to grow into godly young women who will raise the next generation of godly homeschooled children. In the evenings read a-louds would be a family affair; everyone in the house from the twenty-one year old to the seven year old would be there, all taking turns reading classic literature that leads to rich discussion about all manner of subjects. Oh and children who obey their parents and show self sacrificing love and service to one another. These things are all good things, unity and peace in the family, a life style of learning, serving and devotion to God that looks like this is something I’ve always desired for our family.
I am not now mocking this life style but I am trying to kill the covetousness for it, because we don’t have it. Our life will never look like that, and it never has. Oh there have been times when we’ve had glimpses of it, read a-louds have always been a favorite, but my husband was never very interested in what we were reading and as the kids got older they lost interest too. He hardly reads himself and as far as leading in the devotions, he would only take that on as a result of a nagging wife, and when he tried I would end up taking over the discussion because it’s my idea anyway and he wasn’t doing it “right”. (This is not a complaint of him but a confession of the self-righteousness I struggle with.) Dinner time lately has been monopolized by the little children, who have a lot to say and us (rather me) correcting table manners and trying to get a little help with clean-up. Self-sacrificing service isn’t ingrained yet.
Don’t get me wrong I love my husband, though struggle with his quiet ways. He is a wonderful provider and loves his family in a very gentle, forbearing way. He has a servant’s heart and is always willing to lend a hand when asked, but a strong leader he is not, nor is he a natural teacher, he’s a doer.
Our life style as Christian homeschoolers has always fallen on me, the un-disciplined, inconsistent, unaccountable mother. The one, who loves to research curriculum, has lofty ideas, makes ambitious schedules that get posted on the wall but never followed, and makes plans 5 years out that are never stuck too. Yes, this is the one who carries the burden of teaching, training and raising the whole child. I know following principles is better than laws and devotion to God is better than ideals (or idols as the case may be), but I still hope to find the balance of structure and devotion and consistency in both.
So we haven’t set the best example in training our children to love intellectual and creative pursuits over entertainment. It’s often been easier to let entertainment rule. Our children have at various times played too many video games, watched too much TV, and spent too much time on the internet with various ill effects. None of these things are inherently sinful in themselves, all things are allowed but not all helpful, and certainly the amount of time spent on any of these things is indicative of its harmfulness. But we can thank God for technology and all its wonderful benefits.
(funny, actually I see now I have very creative children, one a photographer, one quite dramatic(in a good way), one a musician and the last two musical and artistic as well. Their gifts have not been squelched by my faults. I hope that gives encouragement.)
I’ve struggled with debilitating guilt over a couple of children who didn’t read till they were 11 and have struggled academically. Is it because of my lack of consistency and allowing too much “screen time” or my lack of recognizing the symptoms and failing to get help for them? Either way I’ve often felt the failure.
I’ve been convicted, repented, received forgiveness, got up and tried again with a renewed conviction to rely on God more through prayer and rely less on my own plans only to struggle, again, with the various things in the previous paragraph and fall, once again, into condemnation and despair. Well not really despair; I’m not the despairing type.
So, with the youngest two, one of whom has very severe learning disabilities, I had to evaluate my weaknesses, and prayerfully came to the conclusion they would be best served in public school for a season, maybe even for the rest of their schooling. I used to balk at people who would take schooling decisions a year at a time, me thinking that homeschooling was a conviction you had to follow all the way through. But I’ve found that delegating the schooling of my children is not abdicating the responsibility of their education. God has given me incredible peace about this decision, but it hasn’t been easy because I sometimes fear what some in the home schooling community think of such a decision. (As of this writing I’ve brought my youngest home to homeschool this year)
In the end I know that God knows that I love my children desperately, though imperfectly, and He knows that I want the very best that He has to offer them. I also know that He has their good in mind and loves them more than I ever could and has placed them in this family for a reason. He IS sovereign over the affairs of men.
I am finally coming to the point where I can admire what others have achieved in their families and praise God for the example of these wonderful families, and I am also learning to be thankful for my own little, somewhat dysfunctional, family that doesn’t look like the ideal I have in mind but is achieving far more than I could ask or imagine because I do trust that God is working His will in us and through us.
So I will rejoice in our salvation and will continue to lean into Him who can do all things whether we achieve the goals we desire for our children or not His will, will be done.
What about you? Have you struggled with wanting the picture perfect homeschool or family? How has God comforted you?