My Last Day of School

May 7, 2016, was my last day of school. After 20 years of homeschooling four daughters, our youngest finished her last day of senior year. It hasn’t been easy, but it was the best educational choice for our family and I have absolutely no regrets. I have learned so many lessons.

What I consider a lack of provision is often God’s direction.
When I began this journey in 1996, I thought I was homeschooling the oldest for only one year until we could afford private school. During that Kindergarten year, I discovered that teaching my daughter to read was ten times easier than potty training! Her love for learning opened up new possibilities for her and she declared a love for the nation of China that remains to this day. Her younger sister listened to our studies and she began reading at the age of four, though she was not yet in Kindergarten. We still didn’t have the money for school so I continued schooling them at home. 

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean I should stop doing it.
Homeschooling was incredibly hard in the early years. I felt alone. I felt lonely. I felt exhausted. I had a lot of “yellow bus” days—“Yellow bus, please come get my children!” At night, I tried to devise some good excuse not to do school the next day, but my OCD side took over and school almost always won. During the day I yelled and threatened and pulled out the phone book to call any school I thought would take them! In my heart, I sensed that I was supposed to keep homeschooling, so I did. But I wasn’t too happy about it.

Commit to the present and wait for the future.
In those early years, I was so focused on the future options for my children’s education that I had missed the present opportunity before me. I didn’t realize that indecision and uncertainly were robbing me of mental and physical energy. After much prayer, I committed to homeschooling every day of the school year and to reevaluate our options at the end of the year.

Change in my school started with me. 
My short temper and yelling was not helpful to create a good atmosphere of learning. Often my kids responded in the same way I responded to them. God revealed to me that if I wanted them to talk respectfully to me that I needed to model it to them. Little by little, day by day, He grew my patience and grace—for myself and for my children. Gratefully, the younger ones don't remember the yelling years.

I don’t have to have all of the answers.
Although my husband was supportive, I really needed to process and brainstorm with a fellow homeschooler. In His graciousness, God sent me a dear friend and ally who was as “iron sharpens iron” in my life. We discussed curriculum options and learning styles, individual learning challenges and how to challenge our kids to greatness. For ten years, we had our own two-family co-op where we partnered together to cover topics both academic and extra-curricular. She inspired me and challenged me beyond my self-imposed limitations. I was a better teacher because of her friendship.

Don’t underestimate what my children can do. 
In the course of our homeschooling, one had significant learning challenges. After years of working with a speech therapist, then a reading specialist, then a vision therapist, and then a tutor, she was still struggling. During the summer after eighth grade, she discovered Ben Carson’s autobiography, Gifted Hands, and set a goal to attend nursing school at Johns Hopkins. We discussed what it would take and I told her that she would have to “up her game.” At the end of her first semester of freshman year, that student had all A’s in her average to advanced high school level courses. Later, she decided on a different school, but continued her focused attention. During her high school career, she earned a total of 29 college credits with nearly all A’s. She is amazing.

Comparison kills joy. 
No matter what we did in our homeschool, it always seemed like someone else was doing something better, more creative, more academic, more something. As I began to plan each spring, I would ask God what He wanted my kids to learn and I planned accordingly. But many times I doubted that our school was academic enough, fun enough, thorough enough, challenging enough, etc. Instead of trusting God, I second-guessed my decisions and found myself frustrated as I tried to achieve the perfect homeschool. Eventually, I realized that the perfect homeschool is as unique for each family as each of the uniquely created students who are being educated.  

And so this is the close of one chapter and the beginning of another. Homeschooling was not easy, but it has been worth every minute. I “sail into the uncertain future surrounded by the faithfulness of God.”

 

The Deadly Trap of Comparison

I have lived a life of comparison.  From a young age I measured myself by the others around me.  My older sister always had cooler clothes and pristine toys.  My younger sister was quieter and didn’t get in trouble for talking too much like I did.  In high school I compared myself to my friends:  Sheri got better grades, Heather was more beautiful and popular, Lori was more athletic, and Rhonda had a better singing voice, and nearly everyone else was taller than I was.  When I entered college as a music major, the culture of auditions and recitals only added fuel to the already burning fire of comparison.  After graduation, I married Harold and we started a family.  In my desperation to be the best wife and mom I could be, I compared my efforts to those of my friends.  And then came homeschooling!  No matter whom I compared myself to, I always came up lacking. God has certainly done a great work in my heart, but the recovering perfectionist in me still fights to stay out of the deadly trap of comparison.  I know that I’m a daughter of the Most High God and that He takes delight in me, but I sometimes I fall prey to the enemy’s scheme of using others around me as the standard to measure my life.  I don’t think I’m alone in that.  I’m taking a chance and being pretty transparent, but here is a recent entry from my journal about God’s perspective of comparison:

Comparing is a form of dishonor--one is the loser and the other is the winner.  People compare because they feel a sense of lack.  They make excuses or justifications why someone has more than they do.  They define themselves by comparing themselves with others.  When you compare yourself with others, you are saying only one is good or valuable and that everyone should fit in the mould.  That’s not my way.  Look at the world I created.  There is great diversity, even in one species.  Is a maple tree more important than a pecan tree?  Is a tree more important than a flower?  I have created them all for a special purpose.  I am a unique God and I have created unique creations for unique purposes.

My limited study of art has taught me that the more rare a work of art, the more valuable.  Leonardo DaVinci’s one-of-a-kind painting of the Mona Lisa is a thousand times more valuable than a mass-produced painting from Walmart.  I’m not an art historian, but I do know that one element of the Mona Lisa that gives it value is its unique perspective for the time it was created.  It was unlike any other.

You are a unique work of art, fashioned by the Creator of the universe.  There is no one quite like you.  No one brings Him pleasure the way you do.  There are things that God purposed for you and only you to accomplish.  If you ask, He will give you wisdom to be the best wife to your husband and the best mom for your children.  Don’t let the deadly trap of comparison hold you captive.  Follow the leading of your Savior and walk confidently with your head held high.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.  When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.  (2 Cor. 10:12)