Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Long Way Home

As many of you know I struggled my way through most of last year and into the summer as I decided what to do about school for my kids. I was beyond burned out after ten years as a homeschool mom and wanted/felt I needed to spend more time on writing and speaking. I reasoned that if my kids were in school I would only have more time to give to serving God through ministry. I thought that, by freeing myself up from homeschooling I would be ready and able to take on more writing and speaking. And besides, my kids would be in a good school, so what was there to worry about? And so I prayed like crazy that they would get into the charter school near our home. And they did. Case closed... or was it?

So I sent them off. It was great! I was free! I had time to spare! And this feeling lasted a good while. And then, inexplicably in the late fall, I started missing them. At first I chalked it up to "transition." But as the year has gone on, I am finding that the feelings are not going away. I miss them. As much as I wanted them gone this time last year, I want them home now.

Crazy, I know.

Make up your mind, I know.

"Waffle" should be your middle name, I know.

Don't I know my own heart? Aren't I equipped to make adult decisions for my children without constantly rethinking everything?

Apparently not.

None of these feelings gelled with the whole "devote more time to writing and speaking" idea. I had freed myself up to do more, and yet more did not happen. Actually, a strange thing occurred. Less happened. Last spring I was convinced that I needed to take things off my plate because of all that was happening. I signed with an agent who assured me he could get my writing launched. I made a new cd that looked and sounded better to send out to people who were interested in me coming to speak. I really thought that I was poised to see big changes. I couldn't have anything weighing me down. Not only that, but I had had enough flabbergasted people ask me how I do it that I started doubting how I did it. And so, I did what I thought was smart. I freed myself up, I made myself ready to embrace all that was surely going to come my way.

My kids started school. I sat at home, rubbing my hands together in anticipation of all that was getting ready to happen. And then, nothing happened. Nothing at all. Not one thing. Getting the picture? No bookings-- not even any inquiries for speaking. My agent called and said that he was mystified by the response to my proposal. He had felt certain that I would have multiple offers roll in right away. But nothing. Nada.

And so, I had a conversation with God. I told Him that I had really thought I was doing the right thing. I was serving Him by writing and speaking. I was freeing myself up to be more available to Him. My heart had been in the right place, so why was He not opening the doors I had felt certain He would open? And I told Him that if I had gone the wrong way... if He really wanted me to surrender this ministry thing and just homeschool the kids, I would do it willingly. Because what I want most is to please Him. To honor Him with my choices. To never go my own way and to always trust Him. No book contract or speaking engagement was worth doing without His blessing on it.

And in the silence after I told Him all that, I heard this verse. My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in your weakness. He proceeded to show me how my striving and working was all in my own strength. My putting the kids in school so I could be free to write more and speak more was all about my ideas and my agenda. It had very little to do with His plans for us: to do what He had called me to-- to balance writing and speaking with homeschooling. Yeah, that thing that totally didn't make sense and everyone kept asking me how I did. Yeah, that. That life of the past. That daily incremental, do-the-next-thing walk He had called me to. That was where it was at. He was perfecting me through my weaknesses, showing Himself strong. He was making it happen. It just wasn't always clear back then how it would happen. But when it did supernaturally come together, I always knew it was Him, not me. Oh no, not me by the longest shot. But this life, this new tapping-my-toe-waiting-for-the-opportunities-to-begin life was all about me. Me with a cleared schedule. Me calling the shots. Me in control. Exactly where I like to be. And exactly where God simply can't do what He wants through me.

And so, last Friday I took my five year old out of school. He had a teacher who was not bringing out a love of learning for him. Instead he was begging not to go, falling apart when he got home, and I was getting notes home about how he was "disorganized and irresponsible." I am not kidding. He's five, people!

Please understand, I am not bashing this teacher. She is doing the best she can. At the beginning of the year, she told us (the parents) that she is under a tremendous amount of pressure to take this group of kindergartners who are at a variety of levels and get them to a certain place by year end. A place, I will tell you, I don't think any kindergartner should be required to be. A place I especially don't think little boys should be required to be. And yet, the state says so, and if the teachers don't produce, then their jobs are on the line. So, I know what she must feel. But I don't have to like it or go along with it. Not when homeschooling is still an option for our family.

What this time in school has taught me is that the grass is not greener on the school side of the fence. This morning as I rose at 6:30 to prepare a dessert project my son had to have at school this morning, all I could think of is, I never had to do this kind of stuff when they were homeschooling!

My son in just a few days' time has gone from sullen and angry and weepy to the happy, sunny little boy we used to enjoy. I am so glad to have him back! As for the rest of the children, I do want to teach them to finish what they start. And so I plan to keep them in school-- and decide what to do for next year. This school is a good school. But it is still a state-supported, government-run school. In the end, I have too much homeschooler in me to embrace some of their ideas. And it is as simple as that. In the end I am discovering what I guess I knew all along. That in my chest beats the heart of a homeschooler.

I have some kids who are doing well at school-- and some that desperately want to come home. I, on the other hand, struggle with having an "all or nothing" nothing mentality. Either we are a homeschool family or we are not. God is teaching me that that may not necessarily be what He has in mind. He is an individual Heavenly Father, and I am learning to be an individual mom with Him as my role model. I am thankful He did not create us as "one size fits all" humans. And I am learning that with my children one size definitely does not fit all-- much as I try to squeeze them into my ideals and my agendas. It never works.

So, that is where I have been this week. (All over the place, as usual...) Adapting to the new pace of having a kindergartner in my midst. Adjusting my rather relaxed life to including a regimen of some sort of academics for him each day. I am enjoying it, though. And what's more, he is enjoying it. We took the long way home this year. But we still got here. And that is what matters.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a post condemning those of you who choose other methods of education... It is merely me reflecting something I feel in my heart. I am not one of those people who thinks that everyone should homeschool. I just know that, for us, homeschooling has been a family-defining endeavor. Though no one has commented about feeling condemned by my comments about government schools yet, I did want to head it off at the pass!
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that. It's REALLY what I needed to hear. As a homeschool mom (only for 4 years now) of 5 kids.I constantly go back and forth. My heart is for homeschool, but I get so overwhelmed by the other stuff....ministry, alone time, cleaning the house, etc, that sometimes I think homeschool is to blame for me being so tired and grumpy. I think "if only I wasn't homeschooling, I'd have more time for this and that." I have really been praying about putting the kids in school, just for a breather. But, I know my heart would feel the same yours is feeling and I know I would want them home where they belong. "His Grace is sufficent", "I can do ALL things through Him who gives me stregth." I know when I get my priorities right, He will shine through and I will have all the time I need to do what is needed. Its me doing things in my own strength that gets me overwhelmed! Thanks for challenging me and helping me to see some of my own heart through yours!
Blessings on you as you take each day one at a time doing whats right for each memeber of your family!

monique said...

It is really what I needed to hear also! I always think I could be doing this or that if I didn't have the children here all day. Or maybe I'd be more patient and loving if they weren't here all day. You're right. We are so very lucky to be able to have them at home. Thank you. Thank you!

Rona said...

Having been where you are, I get it. Its not easy either way.

Billie said...

wow! thank you so much for sharing. I do not homeschool, but I have deemed myself as the biggest homeschooling advocate that will probably never end up homeschooling. I've really, really gotten confused over this whole subject. I think because in my large group of christian friends no one homeschools or even considers homeschooling...thus I feel sometimes off my rocker.

I only have 1 in school. He is in kindergarten. I went into this experience negative however it has been fine. He did not come home possessed on the 1st day of school as I had thought.;) However, I feel I have a hard time teaching him the things I think is important to learn when he is gone for 8 hours a day...and I feel there is so little time in the evenings.

I realized that I should be doing my own blog post instead of commenting and rambling on and on...I always do that when I leave messages on answering machines too.

So to conclude (if that's possible) I am excited to see the decisions you make for you kids. I too am an all or nothing I feel like I either homeschool forever or not at all. See, there I go again.

OK...God bless.

Cindy said...

I think I told you one time when you asked about our transition that we'd been living in the honeymoon stage with our public school experience. Today I cried with my daughter as she told me how lonely she is; how she wishes she had a friend. Today was our first hard day. I know that we would have hard days homeschooling again, too, but today, for a few minutes, I wanted to bundle her up and bring her home.

I pray God gives you peace and clarity. I know this has been a tough season for you. I can't wait to hear more about His hand guiding you! Have a great week, friend.

LAUREN at Faith Fuel- said...

Thank you for honestly sharing. You didn't have to. And it's always a gift to those of us who read your blog and have other "issues" or maybe similar challenges we must address.

Kristen Sanders said...

Thank you so much for relating this. I am homeschooling my 4 year old, and it has been a difficult choice. He wants to socialize so much, but I know God is calling us to teach him at home. It is good to hear you tell the story of reality. I was homeschooled, and do not regret a minute of it. It is hard to make the choices for your kids, though.
May God continue to order your life and give you a measure of peace running over!

Anonymous said...

Marybeth, I just want you to know YOU have BLESSED ME Greatly just hearing you speak at the NCHE Conference. I hope to hear you again this year. I am also glad to hear you have brought your little boy back home.

God Bless You


Anonymous said...

When I was homeschooling six kiddos thrugh highschool, homeschooling was never the only thing I did and I never allowed the homeschooling to take over my life....I also milked 100 cows every day, gardened, read, whatever...I realized my ministry WAS my kids...also, as the kids got older, THEY were responsible to be on target and take ownership of their education, I was there to coach and guide and encourage. As a result, four went to college and received a degree or are in the process of getting their degree, one is finishing up highschool work, and one is in a management position. I would have preferred to send them all to highschool, but my husband digressed, and I did the best I could and didn't worry about doing it perfectly. And it all has turned out all right...and now, if I want, I am more free to pursue my interests, but I'm going to be a grandma soon, so I don't know!!! God will show me the the way, my kiddos have said they plan to homeschool too!

Anonymous said...

It is great that your doing what you feel is best for you and your family. I must say however, time is short no one knows the future-Yours or your children. If your children want to come home in the middle of the year and you can homeschool Why not? Refering to your quote "I have some kids who are doing well at school and some that desperately want to come home

Teaching your children to finish a project is grand, but teaching a child that they have no choice in a issue in which they "deperately want to come home" may be another issue to consider. The quality of each life and each day is a precious gift. I hope you do not take offense- as I know homeschooling can be and is a rewarding challenging and difficult experience-in which each family knows their own family's situation the best.

Chris Hogan said...

Thanks for sharing your heart Marybeth. I needed to hear what you wrote as confirmation and encouragement.