Monday, September 22, 2014

the journey

This fall begins our 11th year as a homeschooling family.  It has been quite a journey.  One with more ups and downs than I care to remember.
Actually, I’m not sure exactly how to count the years we have spent homeschooling since Ronnie and I made the decision before our children were even born.  My desire has always been to foster an atmosphere of learning ~ though I’m not sure I’ve accomplished that goal, at least not in the way I envisioned it in the days when my children were still toddling around the house with sippy cups.  I had dreamy visions of kids happily bounding out of bed each morning, eager to see what the day would hold.  We might spend the day tramping in the woods or writing compositions or reading the classics.  In my dream world, my children would all absolutely adore school and I would never, ever have to coax them to do their work.

I’m sure that it is unnecessary to say that reality is just a wee bit different absolutely nothing like those early visions.  My children have a love/hate relationship with sleep … they hate it when I am trying to get them to go to sleep and they love it when I am trying to wake them up.  The only time they voluntarily “bound out of bed” … um, actually I don’t think that has ever happened.  Mornings are not our favorite time of day. None of my kids are child prodigies-they won’t be graduating from high school at 13 headed for some Ivy League school. 

Just for the record, I am okay with that.

Somewhere along the way, over the last decade of our journey, I traded those idealized dreams for the reality of life.  Our days may not look like what I thought they would, and we may not have covered as much material as the world says we should have, but God’s hand has been in our journey.   Each of my children is smart in their own way.  They are gifted, maybe not by the world’s standards, but thankfully, it is God’s standards that matter. Their giftedness comes from Him and He doesn’t make mistakes.

There have been many difficult days on this journey.  Some of the troubles we have brought on ourselves, some are things that we simply couldn’t avoid.  But there have also been many wonderful days.  There have been days full of bickering and days full of snuggling.  There have been days when we struggled through the work and days when learning seemed effortless and fun.  Most days are a mixed bag of good and bad, easy and hard. There have been days when my only desire was to throw in the towel and just give up. Fortunately, on those days, my sweet husband reminds me that we didn't choose this path randomly.

God called us to it and confirmed it even before Ronnie and I were married.  

Each day that rolls presents an opportunity to choose joy.  I have become keenly aware, over the course of several years, that my children’s ability to navigate the day ~good or bad~ is directly connected to how I choose to navigate the day. Ouch.  I have no desire to admit how many days I have sabotaged with my own bad attitude. But, I am learning and they are learning and together we are making strides to change our attitudes.

I don’t claim to have gained much wisdom, but there are two things I would tell anyone new to the homeschooling journey.  Things I wish I had understood better when I first started out on this journey.

First and foremost, bathe your journey in prayer.  When the day starts to fall apart, don’t fall apart with it ~ stop immediately and pray.  And when you do fall apart (because we all do) don’t waste time beating yourself up about it. It won’t help.  I have begun to be honest with my kids … I tell them that I know I have messed up and ask them to forgive me.  And then we pray together and try again.  In the end, it is my prayer that my children will remember that we all make mistakes and we all need to seek forgiveness.

The second thing I know for certain is that we shouldn’t try to go this journey alone.  Ronnie and I have been blessed with a great biological family and a wonderful church family; both have been supportive of our journey, even when they don't fully understand what we are doing.  I am extremely thankful not to have faced opposition from either of these groups.  But, God has blessed us with another group of people to help us along the way and I am so thankful.

Our first year homeschooling, Ronnie and I went to a homeschool materials display at a nearby hotel.  While there, we ran into a friend of his from college.  He introduced me and during the course of the conversation, this old friend invited me to visit a meeting of her homeschool support group.  I had no idea what to expect and I didn't really know anyone there, but I went and have never regretted it.  Before I even knew that I needed a group, God met my need.  Just when I would begin thinking that I was the only one experiencing some particular problem, I would go to some event and in just chatting with other moms I would realize that I was not alone.  Later, our family would join with several others to form a new homeschool group and this group has become even more like family to me.  Some of the moms have been schooling their children much longer than I have, while others are just starting out; but we all have something to offer each other: community and shared experiences.  It is an excellent picture of the Titus 2 lifestyle ~ though often the wisdom flows both ways, not just from older to younger.  I have learned much from listening to others on this journey, no matter their age.

I firmly believe that God designed us for community.  Just like a Christian cannot thrive without a church family, I believe that homeschoolers need community, as well.  I realize that not every homeschooling family would agree that they need a support group, but I know that I most likely wouldn't have survived this journey alone and I am so thankful to God for having provided for me before I even knew what I needed.

I really didn't intend to write this particular post.  I actually began with the idea of sharing how one of the ladies in our group helped me to see some things I was missing as I begin a new phase of homeschooling with two teenagers - including our first high-school student.  But, now that this little history of our journey is written, I think I am glad.  Maybe one day it will help my children see the journey a little clearer.  

And, maybe it will help me to remember to be ever-thankful for the great blessings God has poured into my life through this journey of educating my children and finding out that I am learning at least as much as they are ... probably more.

1 comment:

Rie said...

What a beautiful post. I'm so glad you wrote it. I'm not sure if you noticed but I've been "off" my game these last few days. I used to do all the fun things and now we never do. The stress of what others expect is looming large and I'm no fun anymore. It's also been sixteen years and I'm slightly tired, also. So I needed every word of this post. Thanks and love you.