Family vacation this week~ oh, what blessed joy!
There have been hours of sitting and soaking in the sunshine and sand, playing in the waves with the children, the gift of an empty schedule, and the quietness of soul to read and pray and write. It’s truly more than this mama could ask for!
This morning, I was reflecting back to when I first began my homeschool journey, and remembering with a grateful heart, the lessons learned thus far from the many trials and triumphs that are not unfamiliar to what so many of you have experienced, or are currently experiencing!
By the time our second was born, I knew I was ready to say goodbye to my classroom teaching days to be home with my children. What a relief it was to finally be close to my babies each day! By the time my oldest was four, my husband and I had talked with and gotten to know enough real-life homeschooling families to be open to the idea ourselves. The reasons were many and seemed to continue to add up. After a time of prayer and waiting came the perfect peace of God…and the assurance and confidence to know, to trust, and to obey.
From that point, my enthusiasm grew month by month. It was a matter of waiting until my oldest was finally Kindergarten age so I could “officially” get started! Oh, how eager I was to begin school that first year with her. I had so many expectations, so many hopes and ambitions! By that time, I was so certain homeschooling would be a perfect fit for our family, I couldn’t wait to begin. I was also certain I wanted to Classically educate my children (by this time, our 3rd had come along). So we began in May, a few days after my daughter turned five. Why wait until fall when we cold get a “head start” in spring? I would have her reading by Christmas, no problem.
Looking back now, I see now how many of my ideals were unrealistic.
I remember using baby gates to keep my 1 and 3 year old boys out of our dining room so that I could have a quiet place to work with my daughter each day. Naturally, they revolted, and were soon hanging over the gates, crying and wanting more than ever before to be by my side now that I had forbidden them.
I can remember shedding a few of my own tears in those early weeks when I was just starting out. Nothing was going quite as planned! The quiet classroom-time I imagined, where calm, patient mother and wide-eyed, eager-to-learn daughter could sit together peacefully for a morning of lessons was so far from the reality of life at that time, it is almost comical to look back upon. And though I was still determined and enthusiastic, I felt I was scrambling from the get-go to find solid footing.
How exactly was I going to work with my daughter for an hour or two each day when I had a needy baby and toddler who wouldn’t leave us alone for even a moment? School-time was a hectic whirlwind most days. It seemed as soon as we’d begin, one or both of the little boys would need something. I would have to get up a dozen or so times during “school” to change diapers, get them snacks, or set them up to play. Each of their activities seemed only to last 5 or 10 minutes, and served primarily to add to the mounting wreck that was our house.
I was exhausted those early weeks and months, and was struggling to try to meet my own rigorous demands and high expectations. Classical education meant literature-rich, yet when was I to read aloud? Why was it taking so long for my daughter to learn to read?! After all, I was using the best curriculum I could find.
All the while, the little boys disrupted and worked against us. Some days, I was so frustrated with their “bad” behavior, I would find myself taking it out on my daughter–how can you not know that math fact yet!? Think harder! I’d bark, as tears filled her eyes.
I knew if I just pushed through, we’d find a way. Surely we’d find solid footing eventually…or would we?
Around that time, I was re-reading The Pilgrim’s Progress and found myself relating to a particular scene more than ever before. I came to the familiar passage where Christian finds himself stuck in the sough of despond (or the swamp of despair).
Wherefore CHRISTIAN was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavoured to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest from his own house, and next to the wicket gate: which he did, but could not get out, because of the burden that was upon his back. But I beheld, in my dream, that a man came to him whose name was HELP, and asked him what he did there?
“Sir,” said CHRISTIAN, “I was bidden to go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come; and as I was going thither, I fell in here.”
“But why did you not look for the steps?”
“Fear followed me so hard, that I fled the next way and fell in.”
Then said he, “Give me thy hand.” So he gave him his hand, and he drew him out; and set him upon some ground, and bade him go on his way.
“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”
Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, “Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the city of Destruction to yonder gate, is it that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security?” And he said unto me, “This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run; and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond. For still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arises in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: and this is the reason of the badness of this ground. It is not the pleasure of the King that this place should remain so bad;
…True, there are, by the direction of the lawgiver, certain good and substantial steps placed evenly through the very midst of this slough; but at such times as this place does spew out its filth, as it doth against change of weather, these steps are hardly seen; or, if they be, men, through the dizziness of their heads, step beside, and then they are bemired to purpose, notwithstanding the steps be there; but the ground is good when they have once got in at the gate”.
“Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.”
Isaiah 35:3, 4
How I wept as I read it.
Here I’d been floundering through the muck, trying to force MY own way…The way I was sure was the right way. Like Pilgrim, I trudged forward, sure of self, lacking in prayer and trust in the Lord who had started me on this path. All the while I was becoming increasingly burdened by my own doubts, fears and failures.
How needy we are of His daily grace and guidance, dear friends!
The steps are there, but how often we miss them when our eyes are not continually fixed upon Him. When we plow forward in our own strength rather than awaiting His leading, despair can surround us quickly. It was as if I chose over and over to refuse His outstretched helping hand because it meant I would have to lift my own and surrender my will.
We’ve been going through a series at church for the past few weeks on the names of God.
Some are so magnificent and powerful–Jehovah Tsebaoth–the LORD God of Hosts (He who commands armies), Jehovah Bore–Creator God who brings forth the starry host, one by one, and calls them each by name, El Shaddai–Almighty God…
Each name reveals another facet of our Eternal God, and truly, presents a picture so vast and omnipotent, it is beyond our comprehension.
Yet so often, as I’ve walked along this road of parenting and homeschooling, there is another name that I have cried out for and clung to. Here in the muck and mire of daily life as mother and teacher that I have come to know my Lord most intimately as Elohim Ozer Li –God, my HELPER.
How often my Helper has reached down and pulled me from my own messes–more times than I can count.
How faithfully He saves! How tenderly He helps! How lovingly He places us back on a sure path, and in our weakness, endows us with wisdom and strength and what is often most miraculous to me, He fills us again and again with joy and gladness!
What about you, sweet mama? Are you feeling stuck in the muck? Burdened by the cares of life? Feeling like a failure? What is it you lack? The Lord our Helper longs to fill you with every good thing~you need only to ask.
As you begin this new school year, side by side with your children, I pray that you and your children would come to know our Lord more intimately. May you cling to Him more fiercely, day by day, and be filled to overflowing with all the goodness He loves to pour out upon His own. Cry out to Him by name, and ask for that which He promises to give.
“How great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness!”