Why We Homeschool: Our Story and Top Seven Reasons

Tags

, , , ,

Since before they were born, my husband Nathaniel and I have purposed to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and to educate them at home by means of whole/living books, meaningful work and life experiences, and disciplined habits of wisdom and personal responsibility—for school and for life and ultimately for eternity.

It’s a lovely mission statement, but how did we come to it? And how do our ideals work themselves out in daily life and lessons? In this first post in a series on Why and How We Homeschool, I’ll explain a bit of our personal story and then list some of the most important factors that have both informed our decision on the front end and benefited our family all along the way.

Why We Homeschool

When Nathaniel and I met in college, I was already pretty interested in homeschooling and he was dead set on it. He was homeschooled by godly parents from birth all the way through high school. His parents passed on their biblical convictions, and Nathaniel experienced first hand the freedom and advantages afforded by home education. He valued what he was given so much that it was an important part of the equation when we decided to get married.

I was public schooled in Texas and had a good experience, including good friends, honors classes, and competitive athletics. While school provided many opportunities, I recognize that what allowed me to take advantage of those opportunities was my parents’ dedication to teach and train me outside of school hours–they made the difference in my case, not the system itself.

When I was in high school I attended a church where half of the youth group was homeschooled.  I appreciated how the homeschoolers I met were really down to earth and comfortable being themselves, and I admired how they could get their school work done in half the day and have time for family-life and even their own pursuits (like starting a business!)–all while I was sometimes at school for ten or more hours, plus homework. Homeschooling seemed so incredibly efficient! By the time I met Nathaniel at college I was pretty sold on homeschooling my own kids one day.

A lot of our approach and conviction has been informed by how Nathaniel’s parents sought to train and educate him and his siblings, but that’s also melded with my experience growing up and a lot of reading and thinking and discussion on education along the way. We both bring things to the table. 

Our approach to education is fairly different from the traditional school model, but it’s also fairly simple.  We, the parents, love to learn, and we love to live an enriched holistic life to the glory of God.  We wish to pass this love of life and learning on to our children.  Our educational approach has a heavy emphasis on Christian discipleship and on reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as engagement with the outdoors.  We minimize the use of textbooks, except where necessary to learn a specific discipline, and we lean heavily on literature.  We also have rich discussions as a family on all-the-subjects-in-the-world.

I mention this little preview on how we homeschool simply because having the freedom to do things in this way is in itself a reason for homeschooling. Stay tuned for when I go into greater detail on how we homeschool in future articles.

And now the WHY. Here are our top reasons for homeschooling:

  1. Of primary importance: We believe that we have a responsibility before God to raise our children in His ways (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Ephesians 6:1-4). We believe that we can best achieve this by being directly involved in their education, and we believe that our home has the potential to be the most natural and loving environment in which true learning can take place. Furthermore, we’re able to explore the interplay of our faith in Jesus with everything we study, rather than simply adding “Bible” on the side of academic studies as though it is separate from all other knowledge and experience.
  2. Homeschooling is efficient. I admired this as a teenager. Academic work for elementary students can be done by noon pretty easily. Older students can work more independently and complete their studies with time to spare for other pursuits if they are diligent. While homeschool studies might be punctuated by playing outside, moving the laundry, or making lunch, they don’t lose time to things like forming lines, pep rallies, bus rides, etc.
  3. Homeschooling allows life skills to be a natural part of the school day. As I noted in the point above, a homeschool day unavoidably involves life skills. Even if kids don’t do all the chores, they’re at least home to see them being done by someone in the family, so they’re aware of what it takes to run a household. And when Mom is Teacher on top of Home Manager, she tends to make sure the kids get in on the chores! There’s some consternation lately about kids being required to learn higher math in school but not being taught how to file their taxes, buy insurance, or balance a checkbook. Home is a natural environment for learning all of these things and more–not by replacing part of the math program, but by having your child sit down with you as you do them.
  4. Homeschooling allows primary relationships to stay primary. Parents and siblings and even grandparents can be more involved in the child’s life simply because they are not sequestered away into an age-segregated environment for eight hours a day. Assuming the child has a loving family environment, this extra family time is a huge boon to their security, mental and emotional health, and ability to form stable and positive relationships later in life. Of course, on the flip side, if the home environment is caustic, this would be a reason NOT to homeschool. God bless the teachers that comfort children who receive no real comfort at home.
  5. Homeschooling provides socialization beyond the child’s peer group. “The companion of fools will suffer harm.” Putting a bunch of kids together who are at relatively the same level of foolishness because of their age and inexperience tends to work against the goal of raising children to be wise. In contrast, by homeschooling, our kids are far less dependent upon their peers, and they have to learn to interact with their siblings, with their parents, with their neighbors, and with other families whose children range in age from babies to adults. While parents who send their kids to traditional schools may also seek out relationships for their kids beyond their peers, the proportion of time spent with a peer group verses time spent with a variety of ages is quite different. Homeschoolers may be less comfortable in the peer group, but they tend to be more comfortable interacting with individuals of all ages in broader society. This different direction in socialization can lessen the negative effects of peer pressure while also putting the child in touch with people and situations from which they can learn wisdom.
  6. Homeschooling gives us freedom to travel off season. This may not be a high point for everyone, but my husband sure likes adventures. We make our own schedule and take vacation time when my husband’s work schedule allows, or based on the best time of year. School can come along with us (usually in the form of audiobooks listened to on the road), the trip itself might be a broader part of their education (like supersized field trips), and/or we can leave it all behind to be picked back up when we get home (this works just fine, too).
  7. Homeschooling allows us to pass on a love for learning and love for GOOD books. We love good books and have read aloud to our kids since they were wee babes. Many parents do this, whatever their school decisions. But because we homeschool, and because we homeschool with a literary focus, our kids’ time isn’t taken up with reading textbooks about history or science or literature–they get direct access to great literary books (on all subjects) as part of school time–everyday. And they choose to read outside of school time, too. Reading is enjoyable for life, and it’s also a marker for “student success.” We emphasize the learning and enjoyment–the “success” is a nice byproduct.

In case you didn’t notice, our reasons for homeschooling aren’t really fear-motivated. We aren’t so much opting-out of public school. We’re opting-in to something we think is beautiful. Homeschooling isn’t just how we do school. It’s a lifestyle. Because education is way bigger than our modern concept of “school.”

That said, there are many things we’re happy to avoid (see this article on concerning trends in children’s literature, for one thing). But those things aren’t the focus. We’re not running from Bad Things so much as we’re running toward The Good. Because The Good is well worth it.

why we homeschool reasons for homeschooling

Homeschool families come at it from many different angles and experiences. How about you? Why do you choose to homeschool? Or why might you be considering it?

What You Need To Start Homeschooling in Arkansas 2020

Tags

, , , , ,

Getting started homeschooling in Arkansas is pretty easy. My family is about to start our seventh year officially homeschooling in the sate of Arkansas. Here are the Legal Requirements and some Considerations to get your started.

requirements start homeschooling arkansas 2020

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

How to Legally Homeschool in Arkansas

Arkansas law requires homeschoolers to fill out a Notice of Intent to Homeschool form. This form asks for basic information and requires you to sign a waiver stating that you take responsibility for the education of your child(ren). You don’t have to list your curriculum, hours, or days of instruction. It’s very simply and to the point. 

You can fill out the Notice of Intent on paper and turn it in to your local school district’s office, or, more conveniently, you can fill the form out online and submit it electronically. Once your Notice of Intent has been reviewed, you’ll receive a notification by email and you can then save and print a copy of the state-approved form for your records. If you do opt to take it in to your local school district’s office, they’ll stamp the form, and you ought to ask for a photocopy so that you can keep it for your records.

When to Submit the Notice of Intent

If you know you will be homeschooling the next school year, you can submit the Notice of Intent for the coming school year between June 15 and August 15.

Here’s what the Arkansas Department of Education says about submitting the Notice of Intent after August 15: “NOI forms submitted after this date for a student currently enrolled in public school will be subject to a 14-calendar day waiting period before releasing the student to be home-schooled. The superintendent or local school district board has the authority to waive this waiting period upon request.

For more information on the Notice of Intent and to access a copy of the form online, go to this page on the Arkansas Department of Education’s webiste.

For more information on getting started homeschooling, including the Notice of Intent and guidance on high school requirements, I highly recommend you check out Education Alliance–they are a homeschooler’s best friend in the state of Arkansas!

That’s really it for the basic requirements! Fill out a form! Easy!

But there are a few more things that would be helpful to consider to make sure that the Notice of Intent is actually the right form for you:

Public School Online

If you are enrolled in Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA), or one of the other K-12 online public schools, you are NOT considered a homeschooler, and the state does not require you to fill out a Notice of Intent because you are technically still enrolled in public school.

UPDATED TO ADD: If you are leaving a local public school to enroll in a virtual K-12 program, you will have to submit an application to the virtual school and may also be required to give written notice to your child’s previous school. Check with your current school and the virtual school for requirements. 

If you wish to switch to homeschooling from online public school, you will need to submit a Notice of Intent.

Kindergarten Waiver

If your child is five years old on or before August 1, and you desire to keep them home for another year rather than send them to public school, you may fill out a Kindergarten Waiver rather than a Notice of Intent.

Our family did this with one of our children because his birthday fell at the end of the summer, and if we were to put him in school, we would have wanted him to start as an older child rather than as the youngest in his class. This can be a way to take a deep breath and try out homeschooling without pressure if you are still on the fence about what to do with your rising kindergartener.

Things that are NOT Required in Arkansas

Some states require homeschoolers to give quarterly reports, take standardized tests, keep track of the days and hours of instruction, or present a portfolio of their child’s work at the end of the year. Arkansas requires NONE of these things. And this makes homeschooling in Arkansas very easy from a legal standpoint.

However, many homeschool families find it helpful to review their own homeschools on a periodic basis in a way that suits their needs. They may elect to take standardized tests when appropriate and even administer them at home or with a local homeschool group. And many parents keep detailed or representative records of their children’s work and progress. The freedom afforded home educators in the state of Arkansas allows these practices to be tailored to the needs of the parent-teacher and their child.

Record Keeping

If you have concerns about what records to keep, know that unless you are building a child’s high school transcript, the most important thing to demonstrate with the work samples and records you keep is how the child is progressing. For a young child, this doesn’t need to include grades. Work samples from the beginning, middle, and end of the year in the most pertinent skill areas are a great way to show progress if you are ever called upon to do so. And it’s valuable for you and your child to see how far you’ve come!

Recommended Resources for Homeschooling in Arkansas

Education Alliance Not only will you find guidance for getting started, you’ll also find information on local co-ops and support groups, an opportunity to purchase Teacher and Student ID cards, a service for high school transcripts and diplomas, updates on state laws and how they impact homeschoolers, and more! If you have questions about sports or special needs or other specific considerations, Education Alliance can help get you the answers you need.

Home School Legal Defense Association This is another great and long-standing organization at the national level, offering support, educational resources, and legal representation if needed. They also have a charitable arm that seeks to help families through times of need by offering grants for homeschooling.

Also, never underestimate the power of having a library card!  🙂

 

Got more questions or concerns? Let me know in the comments! I wish you the best!

 

 

 

 

Homemaking in 2020: Sticking to Calling in a Year of Crisis

Tags

, , , , ,

“How’s 2020 been treating you?” It’s a fairly normal question in a normal year. But this year it gets thrown around accompanied by a sinking feeling or an incredulous laugh or the quoting of a meme or two.

Some of us have faced down the loss of a loved one. Some, the loss of a job. Some have found themselves with lots of free time on their hands. Some have found themselves with a call to long hours and high stakes. And some (especially those of us whose work is at home already) have found themselves worried about all these things while simultaneously experiencing “life as usual”—only a little too usual since outside-of-the-home, in-person social interaction has been sadly lacking.

As a homeschooling homemaker married to a man who works from home most days anyway, I have found myself in that “life as usual” category, wondering at times if it’s even right for me to go about my normal routine around here while there is so much wrong in the world out there.

There’s a kind of anxiety that comes from knowing about tragedy and feeling like you can do nothing about it.

So what’s a homemaker to do?

We may be tempted to think that our ordinary work at home matters less because there is so much apparent work to be done in the world beyond our door. But our role as a homemaker is no less important in times of crisis. In fact, unless we are obviously given a public-facing assignment, I contend that our work at home matters even more.

Just because the needs out there become more apparent doesn’t mean that the needs right here have gone away. We all feel the upheaval and uncertainty of our times. And while children may appear to be carefree most of the time, they feel it, too—especially as it effects their parents.

Before I spend too many words on the subject, take a look at this cover art for Blink, an album about motherhood by the Christian musician known as Plumb (Tiffany Arbuckle-Lee).

motherhood storm homemaking crisis 2020 blink plumb

I love the imagery and what it speaks about the role of mothers. Amid the storm, there’s a shelter, there’s light, there’s a smile, there’s wonder, and there’s both space and provision for beautiful things to grow.

Whatever age our children, or whether we have children at home at all, I think this image can be inspiring in our homemaking as well.

We do well to fight the darkness by turning on the light. Not by brooding. Not by worrying. Not by endlessly researching the latest hot-button issue on the internet.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to [her] life span?” our Lord asks. We might also ask if our worry adds to anyone else’s life either.

This isn’t to dismiss or ignore the real challenges facing our world today, nor is it a call to ignore the needs in our communities that we are capable of meeting, but it is to say there is an appropriate way to deal with all these things–and especially the ones that are beyond our reach.

“Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you.”

The home that our loved ones experience is made up of both our internal attitudes and our practical service. We would do well to look after both—and to see that they often rise and fall together.

Ladies, if we aren’t taking things before the Lord then we’re choosing to bear them ourselves, choosing to be weighed down with cares that He doesn’t intend for us to carry, cares that keep us from joyful service in our homes. And how will we teach children to cast their cares on Jesus if we don’t practice it ourselves? Will we even see that they have cares that need our guidance and prayers?

And this is where I admit that I know these things because I fall prey to them myself. Even personality types that are supposedly led on by facts and logic and reasoning rather than emotions can find themselves in the endless scroll, the incessant trying-to-fix-it—both of which amount to a worrisome attempt to control circumstances that are beyond our control while ignoring our God-given responsibilities and the people we’re most explicitly called to love.

So if we repent of our worry, if we leave it behind and resolve to trust the Lord, what then are the needs in our home?

And here’s where our attitudes and service really rise and fall together. When we’re worried about so many things, we can’t see what’s right in front of us. So the first step in moving forward is to begin to really see our homes and really see the people in them.

That Proverbs 31 woman “looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

The answer is simple, even if not easy: What we really need is to pay attention and do what we know we ought to do with diligence.

There are a few practical ways this has worked itself out in our family. It’s still a battle to choose joy and to actively resist the temptation to despair, to refuse to bring anxiety about the world into our home environment rather than casting that anxiety on Jesus. But here’s where we have chosen to draw some lines and plant some seeds in our family.

Of course there are the usual chores: keeping the home running and clean, keeping a watch on the budget and food, keeping up with other home projects.

We’ve also committed to sticking to our schedule more than we have in the past. The routine is good for all of us.

We’ve kept up our family bible time. We all need God’s word, all the time.

We’ve focused on our garden. We’ve made space, planted things, and watched them grow. Vegetables, yes. But also flowers. Lots of flowers. Those proverbial roses don’t have to stay proverbial. It’s good to literally stop to smell them, too.

Making space for fun and creativity and good conversation.

Getting outside to enjoy God’s creation and take in visible, tangible signs of beauty and hope. Creation is full of parables.

I took a two-week break from social media to clear my head and my focus. I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I think my family did, too).

We’ve painted as a family. Gone on walks. Read aloud. Caught caterpillars and watched them turn to beautiful butterflies.

We’ve tried to make special days and holidays all-the-more special, not allowing quarantine to keep us from celebrating as a family, from marking times and seasons with thankfulness to God.

Not all of these things are always easy, but they have been good. And this isn’t some checklist or quarantine bucket list. It’s just an encouragement that the ordinary things you do for your home and with your people matter.

And they matter even more in times that are anything but ordinary.

homemaking 2020 crisis ordinary

Fight the good fight to do this work rather than neglect it. And most of all, seek the Lord and see your people. Ask God to help you look into the faces of your family members with love and joy and interest. And ask Him to give you wisdom to know what each one needs.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

When the darkness out there seems to close in all around us, when our hearts are troubled, when we’re cut off from regular fellowship, the tone we choose to set for our homes matters immensely.

I’ll sign off with a few words I shared in an email exchange with another mommy-friend:

Yes, the world is a pretty crazy place. … I’ve wanted to do more to help people during this time, but something to remember is that providing a fun, godly, and secure home for children is foundational to civilization. Your and my role in that cannot be overstated. Sometimes I feel like I’m not really doing anything if I’m not somehow being active or being heard ‘out there.’ But what I’m really called to is to be gladly at work and speaking truth and kindness right here. At home. Making a home. A haven in all the crazy. That is kingdom-building and soul-liberating work.

Soli Deo gloria.

Now to get to that pile of laundry…

April Foolishness ~ New Living Books Consortium Video Chat!

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

Join us as we indulge in a little foolishness!

living books april fools homeschool literature

What kind of foolishness do we find in living books? And what role does it play in our favorite stories? In this chat we take a tour of literary folly: starting with the childish charm of Frog and Toad; to the growth away from foolishness in coming-of-age novels like Anne and Little Britches (and the lack of such growth in Tom Sawyer); and finally to the full-grown foolishness that wields its destructive power in Austen and Shakespeare.

Growth from foolishness to maturity often comes by way of trial–in literature and in our own lives. As we consider the characters in the stories we read, we find insight and inspiration for navigating the crises we face with wisdom and courage.

When it comes to fleeing danger, where’s the line between wisdom and selfishness? In facing danger head-on, what’s the difference between courage and foolhardy recklessness? We hope you’ll join us and find encouragement–both for your family’s literary adventures and for the real challenges you face in these trying times.

For Easy Navigation: 

00:00 – 00:54    Introduction
00:54 – 03:48    Charming, Childish Foolishness
03:48 – 04:52    Foolishness Grows Up a Bit
04:52 – 14:53    Foolishness to Maturity in Coming-of-Age Novels
14:53 – 27:46    Manifestations of Folly in Austen and Shakespeare
27:46 – 37:20    Facing our Current Crisis with Wisdom and Courage
37:20 –  End     Wrap Up

Books Mentioned

The Bible, especially the book of Proverbs 🙂

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Little Britches by Ralph Moody (audiobook linked below)

Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Jane Austen:

Pride and Prejudice

Sense and Sensibility

Emma

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

King Lear by William Shakespeare

 

Check out our past episodes:
Chat #1  Introducing the Living Books Consortium
Chat #2  Living Books Meet Real Life–Letting the Magic Happen
Chat #3  Living Books in the Large Family–with Amy Roberts

 

On Being “At Home”

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Some days the house just gets to me. Too many unfinished projects, too much clutter, too much to clean.

Life gets to me. When will I ever find the time or the willpower to drop those 20 pounds and feel strong again?

The temptation to despair of life in this body, in this house, arises from thoughts like these. And that’s ok, right? Because I’m supposed to be looking forward to my eternal home. So this hum-glum existence until then is just par for the course. A right of passage, you might say.

Or is it?

After recently wrestling through such thoughts, I’ve come to see that in order to be actually looking forward to our eternal home, we need to learn to be grateful for the home we’re in now. Let me back up a couple weeks to explain…

learning to be at home warm content

I stand at the window on a crisp, February morning, staring out through two panes of glass into 30-degree weather.

And I am warm.

This is a good house.

It’s a timely reminder that halts the grumbly thoughts in my head, and I take a deep breath. The knots on my forehead begin to unravel.

As I consider the cold that I am not feeling, I begin to notice how my hands are resting firmly–one on the window sill and the other against the corner of the wall, framing the window. I take a moment to really feel that wall.

It’s sturdy. It’s withstood 70-mile-per-hour winds and little boys ramming into it.

This is a good house.

In the midst of the mess and hustle and bustle of a family that lives, learns, and works at home, and especially ten months into a “five-week” exterior remodeling project, it can be hard to enjoy just being at home.

It can be hard to see the beauty in the home that I’m making when unfinished projects crowd my view. But if I take a moment to sit and observe–not with a critical eye and a running to-do list but rather with eyes enlightened by grace–I begin to see not my work nor my lack of work but gifts of God.

I can wonder at how well we are provided for. Not only by my husband but by the mind-blowing development of things like running water, central heating, and washing machines. And the incredible blessing of dirty little hands, red cheeks and noses, and piles of clothes that signify the beautifully rambunctious lives that fill this place.

There’s another temporary house I’ve been given, and sometimes (many times?) I look at it with the same kind of scrutinizing fix-it-up mentality that I use to greet my dirty linoleum-tile kitchen floor.

My body isn’t as young or strong or capable as it once was. My knees give me trouble, and I’m currently four weeks into a bout with some combination of cold, allergies, bronchitis, and asthma. I’m well enough to function, but I’m not functioning well.

While there’s work to be done for my health and strength (and time required for recovery), I’m finding that there’s also a desperate need to learn to rest–not just physically, but to simply be in this body, just as I have to learn to be in my home, dilapidated as each may seem.

Whatever degradation may come, this body has run races and climbed mountains.

This body has carried, birthed, and nursed two sons–not without complications, but still, it has.

This body has given hugs and held hands.

And it still seems to get me from point A to point B pretty effectively.

It can still kneel prayer, sing in worship, and offer hands to serve.

It’s a good body.

It’s a good gift.

If we are to serve the Lord with gladness there is a real sense in which we need to learn to be at home in our houses and in our bodies. Not in some self-exalting or self-excusing way, but in a very real and contented and Christian way. We need to learn to be at home in our houses and bodies because they are the primary places and primary tools we have for worship and service. And they are gifts that the Lord not only gives but also fills.

He’s not afraid of nor ashamed of broken vessels. In fact, He delights to redeem them.

My house, my body–these are places to be filled with the grace and love and Spirit of Christ. They are not forever, of course. They are a mere shadow of things to come. But as we embrace the “homes” that our Father has graciously given now and by faith see how He transforms and fills them, we are in a better position to truly appreciate and anticipate the Kingdom Home He is preparing for us–a new creation and a resurrected body that are both whole and wholly filled with His presence.

Too often we look with discontentment at our earthly state and say with a grumble, “Well, I’m glad I’ll get a new body and a new home someday.”

But the eyes of faith see the good in God’s gifts both now and in eternity–because the eyes of faith focus more on the goodness of God Himself than on the frailty of our here-and-now. We need not spurn His hand in this life in order to treasure it in the next.

May we have such eyes to see and receive God’s gracious provision–to be at home where He has us now, gladly doing His will until He calls us to that better Home in glory.

on being at home christian mom body image homemaking

Me, Myself, and Martha

I used to think I was more a Mary than a Martha.

About twelve years ago, sitting in a ladies bible study, I listened as the godly older women around the table sighed over how much they saw themselves in Martha. Martha, the one anxiously doing the serving and complaining rather than sitting expectantly at the feet of Jesus like her sister Mary (see Luke 10:38-42).

My newly-married-without-children self chimed in, “I think I’m more of a Mary, actually–I love sitting with the Word, listening to sermons…but sometimes maybe to a fault. I’m maybe a little bit lazy.”

I’m sure the older, wiser ladies at the table couldn’t help but chuckle or gasp inwardly at my inexperience. To their credit, they did a good job of smiling and nodding rather than lashing out, “Yes! You are lazy! Just wait until you have kids! You have no idea!” These were gracious women.

Mary Martha heart Jesus

Johannes Vermeer: Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, Public Domain

In recent years, I’ve come to see that my preference for quiet and contemplation is just that–a preference. A personality trait, if you will. It’s easy to imagine it’s a spiritual virtue in and of itself, but the Lord is calling my bluff. And I’m recognizing, along with those lovely ladies from twelve years ago, just how much I relate to dear Martha.

There’s a separation, a disconnect, between my still-and-quiet time and my active-doing time. I’ll read the bible in the morning in perfect peace and within five minutes of stepping into the kitchen, I’m barking grouchy reprimands, put off by the fact that my kids need to be reminded, once again, to wash their hands before setting the table. Can’t you help me out with the serving by doing the obvious?

Lord, can’t you tell my children to make my life easier?

Jesus speaks to me as He spoke to Martha, “Lauren, Lauren, you are worried and troubled by so many things.”

That’s not to say that my children were choosing “the better part” in that moment, but it is to say that I sure wasn’t.

I can put the stresses of our days out of mind for a little while when I have my coffee and a quiet room all to myself. But if I’m honest, that’s not a trusting, “Mary” heart. That’s just getting what I want: the pleasure of quiet, comfortable spirituality.

I think I have the “Mary thing” going, but really I’m a “Martha” who is only at peace or at rest when she’s getting the help she thinks she’s due and the quiet atmosphere she thinks is necessary for spiritual things to take place.

As Rachel Jankovic says in Loving the Little Years, life at home with kids is life in a rock tumbler–we’re always bumping up against each other. How we respond to all the bumps and bruises and duties of everyday life tells a lot more about our maturity and spirituality than some bible-and-mocha time does.

What happens to “Mary” when I do have to roll up my sleeves and feed the boys who are bouncing around my kitchen like pin balls? Where does she go when it’s time to wash the dishes? It’s as though she flies away, back to that quiet corner where I left my bible. “Mary” doesn’t seem to come with me when it’s time to get things done. It’s like I’m “Mary” for 30 minutes out of my day, and “Martha” for the rest. 

Martha Jesus Mary heart motherhood

My selfishness and desire for the ideal and comfortable spiritual experience, especially when I imagine that such an experience is somehow a “Mary thing”, actually leads to a lot of the resentment and laziness that underlies the worry, irritation, and grumblesome “service” of my not-so-quiet times.

Seeing myself as a spiritual “Mary”, I peer through dagger eyes of self-righteousness at any who would dare disturb my supposed inner peace. And even the daily work to which I’m called becomes an affront to my desire for “better” things.

When the pendulum swings and procrastination finally gives way to panic, “Martha” comes out in full force, barking commands and working feverishly–anxiously, resentfully–to catch up on the work that “Mary” let slide. Self-righteousness turns to self-loathing and guilt. The work to be done becomes oppressive, and so do I.

There is, of course, no “Mary” to be found in the whole scenario. The very thing that I imagined made me a “Mary” fuels the “Martha” reality of my waking hours.

Mary’s heart was capable of resting, of listening to Jesus, even in what was probably a crowded and busy environment, an environment that clearly caused anxiety for Martha.

Martha’s problem wasn’t in her serving but in her heart.

Same environment, two different responses.

One sat in tender dependence, focused on the Son of God who loved her; the other served with furrowed brow, focused on what she wanted but wasn’t getting.

One demonstrated a heart capable of resting whether seated or serving; the other couldn’t have rested at the moment even if she had suddenly decided to plop down next to her sister.

O that we would have our eyes so fixed on Jesus that our rest in Him would permeate not just our devotional time but also every act of service.

O Lord, you loved both Martha and Mary. Your rebuke was gentle and revealed the storm inside Martha. Thank You for revealing, at least a little more today, the storm inside of me. Forgive me for trying to control so much, for fidgeting and fighting through my days rather than sitting with You in them–and with the people You’ve given me. Please continue to expose and calm the storm in my heart. And teach me to rest in You and know Your love even in the midst of daily chores and service and failures and disappointments.

It’s a mercy of the Lord when we begin to see our hearts more clearly. It’s painful, to be sure, but it’s also an invitation to repent and reaffirm the gospel of grace. Jesus deals gently with us because He already paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. 

The ladies at my bible study twelve years ago knew this far better than I did at the time, and so they dealt with my naivete quite gently, too.

When the Lord exposes our self-deception and reveals our sin in places where we thought we were doing well, it’s an invitation to know not just the depth of our sin, but also, so much more, the depth of His love.

May we rest in grace. And from that place of rest, may our daily work be a labor in love–a kind of serving that sits at the feet of Jesus.

 

 

Books Read in 2018: Mother Culture Edition

Tags

, , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

Here it is! The long-awaited (Maybe? Humor me?) continuation of my micro book reviews for 2018! These are the books I read mostly for my own growth and enjoyment. You can find my 2018 Theology Reads here. Coming soon: 2018 Family Culture Reads. Photo contains some of both lists.

20190101_193336

Mother Culture 

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the first book I finished in 2018, and The Return of the King was the last, making for a nice set of Tolkien book-ends for the year. For some reason I could not read these books quickly. They were delightful but slow reads. I especially enjoyed the pictures of spiritual battle in these books, first with Theoden in The Two Towers, and then with Denethor in The Return of the King. Perhaps I’ll write about this in the future. 😉 I certainly intend to return to Middle Earth again soon—starting with The Hobbit this year with my kiddos!

30079458_442200119570564_4624932234439163904_n

This is a long quote, but Tolkien’s words from The Two Towers (about the voice of Saruman) are oh so insightful.

Suddenly another voice spoke, low and melodious, its very sound an enchantment. Those who listened unwarily to that voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them. Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves. When others spoke they seemed harsh and uncouth by contrast; and if they gainsaid the voice, anger was kindled in the hearts of those under the spell. For some the spell lasted only while the voices spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do who see through a juggler’s trick while others gape at it. For many the sound of the voice alone was enough to hold them enthralled; but for those whom it conquered the spell endured when they were far away, and ever they heard that soft voice whispering and urging them. But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.

True Grit by Charles Portis  I’ve continued reading and listening along with the Close Reads Podcast when I am able. I couldn’t resist picking up this book when I found out it takes place in Arkansas and Oklahoma—pretty much in my backyard. That geographical connection really had to be there to convince me to touch a western. But my first taste of the genre has been a good one! Portis takes on the voice of a fifty-something old-maid banker telling the story of how she hunted down her father’s killer at the tender (or should I say stubborn?) age of fourteen. Mattie Ross takes herself quite seriously, and Portis makes great use of this (and her matter-of-fact delivery) to imbue a rather intense story line with a lot of dry humor (my favorite kind).

I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I made a point of walking down Mattie’s journey a bit myself, from Dardanelle, Arkansas to Ft. Smith, and yes, even to McAlister, Oklahoma and the Winding Stair Mountains of eastern Oklahoma (where my family did a backpacking trip last year as I was reading this book!).

It was a way to immerse myself in the scenery of the story (and critique the movie depictions of these places, cough, cough). Not to mention it was a fantastic opportunity to learn my local geography—something I hadn’t, as a native Texan, really taken a lot of interest in before (aside from finding hiking trails). Arkansas is a pretty great place to get to know. Local literature is a great way to learn local geography!

The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse  This was another Close Reads suggestion. It seems I’ve gravitated to the comedy offerings in 2018. British humor places high on my list next to dry humor.

Bertrand “Bertie” Wooster is a young aristocrat who regularly lands himself in a pickle of some sort. In this story, he manages to accidentally lift a precious cow creamer, causing enormous amounts of trouble for himself and for his friends. His faithful butler, Jeeves, must come to the rescue again and again with sage tactics and straight-man comic relief.

Taking in the story through Bertie’s eyes, the descriptions of other characters come to us as unfiltered critiques, much like Emperor Kuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove. Bertie’s delivery is a bit more blatantly humorous than that of Mattie Ross in True Grit, but they both employ a voice and attitude (and lack of self-awareness) that make for a lot of good laughs!

Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear by William Shakespeare In 2018 the folks at Close Reads launched another podcast called The Play’s the Thing, exclusively covering the entirety of Shakespeare’s plays, one after another. I have to admit that while I thoroughly enjoyed both of these plays, I’m finding that it’s difficult to remember them in detail a year later. Much Ado is a comedy, and King Lear is a tragedy. They are both worth your time. I think the best thing I came away with after reading them one right after the other is that even though they are different genres, Shakespeare manages to weave a bit of humor into even the darkest tragedy, and likewise a bit of tragedy into his comedy. Both plays also wrestle with several of the same motifs: prideful assumptions, character assassination, willful deception, and the nature of true love.

We (my husband and I) had a trial of Amazon Prime and watched the Amazon Original film adaptation of King Lear. It was a very interesting presentation of Shakespearean English in modern attire and setting. I thought it hinted at the timelessness of human nature. Anachronistic, to be sure, but I enjoyed it.

Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke  I think every Christian who uses the internet ought to read this book. Reinke covers all kinds of angles of our modern “connected” lives: FOMO (fear of missing out), social media, true social connection, the need to read and think deeply, purity, and Christian maturity and community, to name a few.  Reinke calls for godly wisdom and careful consideration—not just for how we engage in our digital culture, but if and why–neither taking an “anti” stance nor a heedless dive in to all things digital with a rally cry of “good motives”. I think it’s about time for me to revisit this one. Check out this list of quotes from the book over at The Gospel Coalition. 

The Life-Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson  I picked up this book in an effort to give more attention to the seasons and building traditions in our home. I have long appreciated Sally Clarkson’s books and articles on motherhood. She is probably my near opposite in terms of personality, and while I’m totally fine with doing things in a way that suits my personality, I have found Sally’s relational and inspirational tone to be quite an example and challenge to my often-direct and efficient approach to family life. This book has two sections: one that explores the concept of home and another that serves as a month-by-month guide to implementing traditions that build up faith and family throughout the year. As such, you can read the book straight through or pick a month to get ideas for the upcoming season or holidays. We don’t copy and paste from this book, but I have enjoyed the ideas and inspiration. Highly recommend.

The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance by Heidi St. John  I think I found this book for about a quarter at a thrift store. At first I was going to pass it up, thinking, “We’re good.” But then I hesitated. Maybe my husband would appreciate me reading a book like this. So I picked it up. I’m glad I did. It was a good read for 25 cents. There’s a lot of biblical wisdom and consideration—especially when it comes to the unique distractions inherent to the homeschool life.

One of the key images used in the book, however, is “that girl”—as in, the girl your husband married. There’s a bit of an encouragement to be “that girl,” to be the more adventurous, smitten “you” that you were when you were first married. When discussing this concept with my husband, he flat out rejected it. “I don’t need you to be ‘that girl’. I’m not ‘that boy’. We’ve both grown and changed and it’s good. Be adventurous and fun, sure, but don’t feel like you need to go back to something in the past.” This is one of the reasons I like having him around. 😊  Do I recommend this book? No, not necessarily. If you need ideas to build up the romance in your marriage, this might be helpful. If you’re in a pretty good place with your man, there may be other books that would challenge you to go deeper.

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis  My grandfather died in May of 2018 at the age of 95. I sought out Lewis’s reflections at my local library as I processed the loss. Perhaps the greatest value in reading this book was as a model for writing out my own “grief observed” in my journal. Lewis’s experience in losing his wife is very different than mine in losing my grandfather. But there were, for either situation, still some of the same questions that plague and truths that comfort. It was a good read.

Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias (an autobiography)  As the subtitle suggests, this is one of those memoirs that seeks to show God’s hand at work all along way, but there is nothing trite about Ravi’s life nor his storytelling. My husband and I listened to this book on audio on several road trips in 2018. Ravi chronicles with thoughtful storytelling his long and full life—a life rich with personal highs and lows, with clashes of cultures and worldviews—and with the Lord in constant pursuit. I appreciated learning a bit of Indian history amidst the riveting drama of hard circumstances, strained relationships, internal battles, and tough questions. I imagine this would be a good read for any believer, but it is especially meaningful if you have been blessed by Ravi’s intelligent and warm apologetics ministry. I hope to revisit this book again in the future.

Top Pick

So what’s my top pick from this list? Well, I loved so many of these books, but I’d have to say that True Grit captured my imagination and worked its way into my schedule more than any other in 2018. Geographically immersing myself in the story was an adventure all its own—both enhancing my experience of the story and my experience of the world around me. Your mileage may vary. 😉


Want more book reviews? Please consider subscribing. And check out these posts from past years:
2018 Theology Reads
2017
2016
2015-2016
2014-2015

Ideals and the Daily Grind

Tags

, , , , , ,

Lately I’ve wrestled with my assumptions about how homeschooling ought to be experienced–both by me and my children. There’s this tension between the “freedom” that we have as homeschoolers along with the “delight” that we want to nurture … and the painfully hard job of holding the line while a child has to do the work of growing into maturity. You can’t do it for them. You can’t soften the blow. You can’t lift the weight.

homeschool hard weight growth work

Well, you can try. But might not be good for them. Despite not measuring up to the Instagram ideal, the daily grind–with all of its bumps, boredom, and blunders–is good for kids.

We’re beginning to wrestle with these things now that our oldest is ten and carrying more responsibilities. And it’s hard. It’s really hard. Not because he’s rebellious or anything. Just because it means he has to grow up a bit, this child who’s still bummed that he aged-out of child care at our homeschool support meetings two years ago. He’d rather be in there with the 7-and-under crowd just like he’d rather continue doing all of his math and language lessons with me.

But he has to grow up.

And I have to let him.

school boy homeschool hard growth grind

I think of all the ways I could have prepared us better for this transition to greater responsibility and greater independence. There’s much room for improvement and repentance, and I just get to mourn the gap because my baby, my youngest, just turned eight–it’s not like I have kindergartners that I can “do better” with.

But then my husband tells me that I’ve done great. That this transition is hard. Period. (He would know. He was homeschooled.) You could have done some things better, but here we are–and he’s going to get stronger from this trial precisely because it’s hard, precisely because it’ll teach him to pray–as long as we hold the line.

My husband is right, of course. For all the failings, we’ve done well. And are doing well. I don’t measure up to my ideals and neither do my children. No surprise there, really, if I’m honest with myself.

This reminds me of that ideal that is not idealistic. That we’re raising children to become adults. Adults who have to work hard. Adults that will make mistakes and have to correct them–whether in math or driving or work or relationships.

Turns out in bringing up my boys I’m being brought up, too. The higher ideal–for all of us–is growth in maturity, ultimately in Christ.

Praise God I haven’t gotten it all right! I’d be an arrogant sourpuss if He’d allowed me to get it all right! No. There is no perfect ideal in parenting or education. The only Perfect Ideal is Jesus Christ Himself. So the best we can do is look to Christ and hold on. Hold the line of faith as we hold the practical standards for our kids, standing firm as they learn to stand firm themselves, dependent more and more upon the Lord–and less and less upon us.

This. Is. Good.

Hard but good.

True growth, and thus the ability to experience greater “freedom” and “delight,” comes when we submit to the work set before us, choosing to bear up under the weight God has assigned rather than to shirk it or complain. Our children grow the same way we do–if we let them.

 

How about you? What hurdles or struggles are you and your children facing this year? Can you recognize the “hard but good” in it? How has it forced you to rely more upon the Lord? I’d love to hear from you.

Living Books in the Large Family: A Chat with Amy Roberts

Tags

, , , , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

It’s time for another Living Books Consortium video, this time with special guest Amy Roberts! Tabitha and I have had the pleasure of knowing Amy in real life in addition to gleaning tips and inspiration from her blog RaisingArrows.net over the years. We were thrilled to have her join us and to get to catch up a bit.  🙂  We hope you’ll join us for a few laughs and be blessed to hear from Amy about how she has incorporated living books into her family’s homeschool from the beginning, seeking to encourage a love of reading and learning in her kids at every age and stage.

Enjoy!

For easy navigating: 

00:00 – 02:53  Intro and Inspiration
02:53 – 04:24  Curriculum and Living Books
04:24 – 12:02  Wide Range of Ages and Fitting in Read Aloud Time
12:02 – 13:44  What the Big Kids have Taken with Them
13:44 – 19:30  Tips for Enticing Young Readers and Keeping Voracious Readers in Books
19:30 – 31:55  Potpourri: Hard Books for…Babies?!? Science, History, Messes, and Gaps
31:52 –  End   Where to Find Amy Online

Be sure to check out Amy’s latest post on How to Choose Read-Alouds.

Books Mentioned: 

Wind in the Willows

Watership Down

Paradise Lost

Basic Economics

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Curriculum Mentioned: 

Tapestry of Grace

Peaceful PressThe Precious People and The Peaceful Preschool

Mystery of History

Story of the World

Ambleside Online

Apologia Science

Godly Homeschool Planning

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. 

It’s planning season for many homeschool moms, myself included. While there are a lot of wonderful practical posts and resources out there to help with dreaming and scheming for the coming school year (and a couple excellent resources I’ll recommend at the end of this article), it’s easy to get focused on the logistical side of things and forget that even the most perfect planning system can fall short if it’s not humbly oriented toward the Lord.

Godly planning, of course, requires more than considering our children and taking stock of our resources. It requires considering our Creator and taking stock of our hearts.

That’s the essence of godliness–being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. 

But how do we do that? How are we to be godly as we plan for the future?

Let’s dive in by first looking a little more closely at our definitions and purpose. Why before How (I promise the How is coming!).

Why: Two Kinds of Righteousness

It’s important to remember the difference between godliness and righteousness and how these terms apply to our planning process. Godliness is a life-altering devotion to God. Consider these words from Christian author Jerry Bridges: 

For the godly person, God is the center and focal point of his or her life. Every circumstance and every activity of life, whether in the temporal or spiritual realms, is viewed through the lens of this God-centeredness. …Everything we do is to be done to the glory of God. That is the mark of a godly person.

Righteousness means justice, or more simply doing what is right. It’s a good, noble, and necessary goal. But there also exists this thing called selfrighteousness, which ought to soberly remind us that the motivation for our right actions, or our right plans, makes a big difference. Godliness ought to be the source of that motivation. 

When we Christian homeschool moms make plans for school, we’re often aiming for righteousness. Often motivated by convictions about what is right–both before the Lord and for our families. This is good.

But if we pursue that righteousness as an end in itself, we can easily begin to operate solely in the practical outworking of our convictions, forgetting why we came to them in the first place. We risk swapping God-centeredness for work-centeredness, which can easily become a kind of self-centeredness.

My children. My plans. My time. My results. My reputation. My … glory.

It was supposed to be about God’s reputation. His glory. But righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.

Let’s say that again: Righteousness without godliness becomes self-righteousness.

Planning without God-centeredness becomes self-centeredness. If we’ve gone down that path we know we need to repent, turn around, turn to God.

Jerry Bridges continues:

…Such a God-centeredness can be developed only in the context of an ever-growing intimate relationship with God. No one can genuinely desire to please God or glorify Him apart from such a relationship.

The first “step,” if you will, in godly planning is being in right relationship to God and growing in God-centeredness. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you know the gospel or “good news” of what Jesus has done to save you from sin is what puts you in right relationship with God. Keep coming back to that. Rest in that. Rest in grace. If you’re not really sure what all of that is about, please check out this simple and straightforward presentation here.

To sum up our WHY, we must be oriented toward God in our planning if we are to truly honor Him. The best-laid plans can either be tools for God’s glory or temptation toward our own. Keeping our hearts in check is essential to maintaining the good intentions of our convictions.

plans godliness home education

How: Looking Up and Following Through

At the risk of creating yet another checklist, here are five “steps” from my own reading and study to encourage you in godly planning–whether you’re just scratching down the first details or are about to tie it up with a pretty bow (or custom cover).

When Planning, Look Up:

ONE: Trust God’s goodness.

It’s difficult to align your priorities with someone you don’t trust. Now, we probably don’t wake up and say, “God isn’t good, I’m not going to trust Him today.” But we may find ourselves forgetting God is good, which can land us in one of two ditches along the path of godly planning: self-sufficient overconfidence and anxious worry. The remedy for each is to remember God’s goodness is still there and look up

The weight of our responsibility as moms and educators can overwhelm us. Real challenges may weigh on us. We think we’ve got to shoulder it ourselves, and we don’t feel up to the task. Enter anxious worry.

The lure of shiny curriculum can distract us with exaggerated promises. The act of making plans can make us feel like we’re in control. Like we have some power over the future. Like we have this thing whipped before we start. Enter self-sufficient overconfidence. 

We can even find ourselves hopping from one ditch to the other in the midst of the same planning season. Anxiously despairing of our situation turns to confident expectation that these new plans or new curricula will solve all of our problems. When things don’t go according to plan, we jump ditches again.

Without a good and sovereign God in view, we tend to celebrate our sense of control or else mourn the lack of the same. Looking to ourselves, we’re unstable, swinging from one ditch to the other at the whim of our circumstances or emotions as they waver from day to day or season to season.

But keeping the faith by remembering the goodness of God will steady us for the long haul.

The book of James has a surprising amount of continuity when it comes to the goodness of God. Look at this line up from chapter one:

We are to “count it all joy” when we face trials. They test our faith, but they’re also for our growth and endurance. This is the good that God intends in the trials He allows.

We are to ask for wisdom in faith that God “gives to all generously and without reproach.” God is a generous giver. He isn’t stingy with what He knows we need. He’s good.

There is a crown of life for those who persevere under trial–God has promised reward to those who love Him. He’s good.

We’re to recognize that temptation springs from within us–not from God. He doesn’t tempt anyone. In fact, every good thing given comes from Him. He’s good.

The anger of mom doesn’t achieve the righteousness of God–His ways are better. He’s good.

Behind James’ every call to repent and endure is a deep confidence in the goodness of God. Let’s make our plans with that same confidence, climbing out of the pitfalls of overconfidence and anxious worry to stand on solid ground. 

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
    He gently leads those that have young. [1]

Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. [2]

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord. [3]

When we see that God is good, we’ll want to seek His wisdom and aim for His glory

TWO: Seek God’s wisdom

Many homeschool parents recognize that education ought to be more than filling our kids’ minds with information. We want them to know how to properly sift through and apply information, whether in an academic setting or real life. What we really want for our kids is wisdom. And we’re bold enough to think that we can give it to them. But this is a tall order. Anyone who’s been at this parenting gig for a little while knows that children push the limits of what we thought we knew.

If we desire to raise silly kids into wise adults, we need to model the wisdom we wish to pass on. We need the wisdom of God.

If we are to wade through the sea of educational advice and resources available to us today and choose what fits our family and convictions without being “driven and tossed by every wave,” we must practice discernment. We need the wisdom of God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so we ought to start there. In simple terms, the fear of the Lord is being mindful of God as He is in all His attributes and responding to Him with appropriate fear, awe, wonder, and respect.

The practical fallout of such a disposition toward God is to recognize that this wise, good, and powerful God has ordered the cosmos such that there are consequences for our actions. Orderliness and cause-and-effect relationships are woven into the fabric of the universe. There is purpose, there is reason, there is beauty, and there is Truth by which we ought to live our lives. Failing to live in accord with this Truth brings on the one hand hard knocks in this life and on the other judgment in the life to come.

Remembering that godliness is being God-centered in our thoughts and deeds, it’s clear that the fear of the Lord, and the wisdom derived from it, is an indispensable part of a godly life. 

But we’ve got to bring this lofty pursuit of wisdom down to desk-level, don’t we? How does this touch my planning pages and curriculum guides?

Wisdom involves putting things in their proper place, in their proper order–differentiating between the things that are truly important and those that are enticing red herrings.

God has revealed to us in His word what is right and good in His eyes. What does He have to say about children? About discipleship? About marriage and family life? If you’re a wife and mother, there’s pretty clear instruction to consider your husband, your children, and your home in this process.

It’s easy to think that our children and our selves are the only people involved in this education thing. But be careful not to cut your husband out of it. Biblically, he’s accountable for the training of his children. Make room for him, see what he thinks–you may find a great source of wisdom (or at least a sounding board) and freedom from all the voices on the internet that make you feel like you aren’t keeping up.

The scriptures don’t spell out a particular method of education, nor do they prescribe any kind of schedule. But they do give us principles, goals, and boundaries upon and within which we can order our homeschools in freedom. We don’t have to all choose the same method or materials, but we do need to make sure that the ones we choose (and how we plan to use them) are informed and perhaps even transformed by scripture.

To circle back around to James, if we need wisdom, we’ve got to ask. God is good. He will give it as we trust and seek Him for it.

THREE: Aim for God’s glory.

Trusting God’s goodness is good. Seeking His wisdom is, well, wise. But even in these we may think the purpose of God’s goodness and wisdom is all for us–to make us feel better and to smooth out our lives. It certainly can do those things, but the trajectory isn’t inward on self. Rather, the goodness of God and the wisdom we employ ought to show that He is good and wise and glorious. Aiming for our own comfort and saintliness as an end in itself means we’re exchanging the glory of God for our own. 

Likewise, in our planning and in our homeschools, we do well to recognize that we’re not raising children to be trophies of our success but arrows for the kingdom of God.

We know we want to be that city on a hill, the light of the world. And sometimes we make plans that are so idealistic it’s as though we think that the way to glorify God is to have perfect Ivy League children, a spotlessly clean house, and gourmet meals on the table each night. Wouldn’t that be shiny?

But when we come down from our ivory tower with our plans, we find that we can never reach that goal. The kids … aren’t perfect. Who knew? The house … is just mostly maintained. The meals … well, somehow we eat each day.

Maybe the purpose of God is not to get glory from self-satisfied creatures. Maybe what really glorifies God is not a family that looks like it has everything put together, but a family that gives thanks and praise to God as they seek to honor Him in all the ups and downs of ordinary life.

Maybe we need to adjust our aim.

As we realistically work out the details of our year, our months, our days, seeking to choose books and activities that honor God and fit our family, we’d do well to build on our trust in God’s goodness with thanks and praise, glorifying God with heart and voice.

Thank you, Father, for the people you’ve put in my charge. Thank you for the home you’ve given us. Thank you for the opportunity I have to be intimately involved in the growth and learning of my children. Thank you for the abundant resources I have at my disposal. Thank you for your Word and Spirit to guide me.

You are a Good Father, a wise Creator. You’ve made me and those around me in your image and for your praise. You’ve infused the world with order and beauty for us to enjoy and explore and discover. You are good and do good. You establish justice and You are the definition of love and righteousness. You supply our needs and give grace unmeasured. You are bigger than I can imagine, and yet you care for little ol’ me. You have given your Son for my salvation. You are good and gracious and kind. 

A godly heart recognizes God is worthy of thanks and praise in the midst of a serious planning session. But it also carries those things forward. Here’s where our WHY rolls up its sleeves and meets the mess of life. Godliness greatly effects not just HOW we make our plans, but also HOW we hold and execute them.

Plans in Place, Mind Your Follow Through:

FOUR: Hold those plans loosely and humbly.

“If the Lord wills we will live and also do this or that.” James reminds his readers in chapter four that our confidence doesn’t need to be in what we think we can make happen in the future. Our confidence ought to be rooted in … wait for it … the goodness and sovereignty of God.

“God is good” and “God is in control” can almost seem cliche in modern meme-saturated church culture. But that’s only the case if we don’t stop long enough to actually consider these truths. If we’re not meditating on the goodness, wisdom, and glory of God, knowing that His plans trump all and that His plans are, indeed, better than our own, we will struggle miserably when things don’t go our way.

We’ll likely struggle anyway, to be honest, but we can only struggle well if we have a godly perspective.

When it comes to the plans in our hands, we need to do more than look at what’s slated on the calendar. We need to number our days “…so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Our plans may be ideal, even godly, but our expectations must also be in line with reality.

James calls our over-confident planning “arrogance” and insists “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Those words might not make us feel good. But we have a choice. We can either take such conviction as a downer and ignore it, continuing to allow the clouds of emotion and pride to obstruct our view, or we can take it as the wind that blows them away so that we can see clearly.

If we see God ruling for our good and His glory, we can more easily clear the air, relax our fists, and halt our grasping for control. Once we take a deep breath and accept reality, we begin to actually rejoice that God is in control and we’re not. A truth that didn’t feel good at first can become one of our greatest comforts.

Remembering we are faulty and finite puts us in a position to move forward with humility and good humor

Imagine your life is a folk dance. The fiddle begins to sing. And you begin dragging your loved ones across the floor, steamrolling them if they get in the way of your carefully choreographed moves, and grumbling when one trips or steps on your toes. This is a likely enough outcome if you imagine yourself as the caller. As though they’re all supposed to keep in step with you.

But God’s the Caller and you’re just another one of the dancers. A dancer who steps out of line sometimes. A dancer who has little feet following behind her own.

You know a lot more of the moves than your kids. You’ve practiced them longer. You’ve even made plans to optimize the effectiveness and enjoyment of the dance. But when the Caller changes the pace, you’ve got to follow. Insisting on your own way will only make a scene and get someone hurt.

Imagine the same scene with a humble heart:

When a little one gets their right and left foot mixed up, you remember what it’s like to miss a step and help them set it straight–but you do it with a laugh and a nudge to get back up, listen for the Caller, and enjoy the dance.

The freedom to enjoy the dance, to adapt to each change in the music, comes when we hold our plans loosely and humbly–because we trust in God’s goodness and know that He’s in control.

FIVE: Execute those plans with kindness and gentleness, by God’s grace.

Holding our plans loosely doesn’t mean we never look at them or try to make them work, and it sure doesn’t mean it’s cool to be lazy or haphazard. Putting our plans into action requires intention and consistency. But as we march forward, plans in hand, we seek to implement them in line with the fruit of the Spirit and in light of the fact that our priorities as homeschool moms are ultimately relational and not mechanical in nature.

When I think of not just the planning but the managing of our days, one of my favorite places to find inspiration is that often-resented Proverbs 31 woman:

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

Here’s a strong woman who wears a smile, pays attention, and gets things done. But  those two lines in the middle point to something more. Her joyful hustle and bustle to the tune of productivity isn’t off in some corner where she can enjoy the solace of personal achievement free from smudgy fingers and untimely interruptions. Nope. There are other people in her household, and her words to them are marked by wisdom and kindness

Ooph. Does that knock the wind out of you, too?

Our buddy James echoes this Proverbial link between wisdom and kindness–and he introduces it with a surprising warning: “Let not many of you become teachers…”

Woah, wait. Too late. We’re teachers.

Ah, but that means we ought to pay even closer attention to what he has to say:

With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

…Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

Show? Deeds? …Gentleness? Where’s the dispensing of wisdom with many words and lectures? James doesn’t seem to mention that. It would seem true wisdom is clothed in our friend from the last section: humility.

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Tall. Order. Sounds an awful lot like the fruit of the Spirit, doesn’t it?

Is our teaching characterized by kindness? Do we pause our reactions and consider how to answer with the gentleness of wisdom, according to the need of the moment, to give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29)?

Does our kind intention toward our children permeate not just our lesson plans but also everyday ordinary moments?

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. If we’re at home with our families most of the time, it’s pretty obvious who those “others” are. Maybe that’s why Titus two urges older women first of all to encourage the younger women “to love their husbands, to love their children.”

We ought to plan to love our own but still love them even when those well-meant plans are foiled. 

I don’t know about you, but I need some help in this department.

This is why we sought God’s wisdom to begin with, and why we won’t be done with that practice anytime soon.

To act on our plans in keeping with the rule of love, we need the fruit of the Spirit. We need kindness. We need the gentleness of wisdom. And for it all we need the grace of God.

If that doesn’t motivate your prayer life I don’t know what will.

Apply: Condense, Remember, and Be Ready to Troubleshoot

Let’s condense the big ideas we’ve covered so that we can remember them in real-life situations. We said at the outset that godliness means being mindful of God and aligning our hearts and lives to Him, for His glory. In keeping with that, I’ve outlined five steps or concepts:

Trust God’s Goodness
Seek God’s Wisdom
Aim for God’s Glory
Hold Plans Loosely and Humbly
Execute Plans with Kindness and Gentleness, by the Grace of God

The first three big ideas involve “looking up”—-there’s our being mindful of God. And the last two apply to our “follow through”—-aligning our hearts and lives.

As a memory aid or perhaps a motto: We can be mindful of God in our planning by trusting God’s goodness, seeking God’s wisdom, and aiming for God’s glory. An easy way to keep these in order is to recognize that they (intentionally) correspond to a very familiar and very relevant passage (Prov. 3:5-6):

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

To remember the specific outworking of the last two steps, imagine you have all your plans on a clipboard (or a smartphone or tablet if you’re techie like that).
What are you doing with them? You’re holding them.
What are you doing when you take a step forward and give marching orders to your minions? You’re executing them (the plans, not the minions, mind you).
If you can visualize holding the clipboard and marching forward with it, all you need to do is ask how?
How do we hold our plans? Loosely and humbly.
How do we execute those plans? With kindness, gentleness, and grace.

And so we have another motto: We can align our hearts and lives for God’s glory as we hold our plans loosely and humbly and execute them with kindness and gentleness, by His grace.

That may seem repetitive, but it’s how I’ve been able to use these ideas to keep my heart in check (or reel it back in) this planning season. I hope it’ll help you, too.

Mamas, we can make the loveliest plans, but when lessons don’t come easily, chaos ensues, or the February blues strike, those plans aren’t what will make us godly. Our focus and response to those things will be the determining factor.

Watch over your heart with all diligence as you plan, and watch over it with all diligence as you move forward (Prov. 4:23). So that whether your plans roll out smoothly or blow up in your face, you maintain the disposition of a sinner saved by grace, of a daughter looking expectantly and dependently to her Heavenly Father, giving thanks and praise to Him.

I’m praying toward that end. May He give us grace to do it.

Recommended Resources

If this article has resonated with you and you’d like to dig deeper into how heart attitudes intersect with everyday life as a homeschool mom, I highly recommend The Art of Homeschooling e-course (accessible through Simply Convivial Membership).

If you’re still chomping at the bit for very practical help with school planning, check out Plan Your Year–I’ve used this process for several years now. Plan Your Year provides a step-by-step guide so that you can take these godly-big-picture why’s and how’s and translate them into the particular-day-to-day why’s and how’s of your unique family situation.

This article was inspired by my study of the book of James and by reading Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. I heartily recommend both books. 😉

See more articles on this topic:
The Love Chapter for Homeschool Mamas
Wisdom in the Book of James