by, becca innocenti
(Shared with homeschooling mothers at the CHEC Mother’s Tea this evening. Enjoy!)
A while ago I received an e-mail requesting me to consider sharing some encouraging words with other homeschooling mothers at a tea to be held in the spring. I waited a bit before sending a reply as I was in need of encouragement myself at the time. I sat and pondered over the last couple of decades and the exhaustion I was feeling in that moment and remembered that teachers usually learn even more than their students, so those who encourage others must necessarily be encouraged themselves in the process. “Yes, I will share encouragement with others,” was my reply, followed by, “How long shall I encourage them?” I was secretly thinking, “The longer I talk, the better we’ll all feel.”
Next came the process of sitting down and thinking, not of myself, but of the other moms who need encouragement. I’d been running into many moms for the past couple of years who were barely keeping the homeschooling dream alive. Others were too afraid to begin, or were under other stress that made the whole process seem daunting to say the least. Some of you in this room may even count yourselves among the discouraged. The words I have to share tonight are for you. Those of you who are flying high right now need to tuck them into your pocket for the journey.
So, let’s identify who I’m addressing first. It’s been said that “Home is where the heart is.” It doesn’t have to be large. It doesn’t have to be made of brick. It can be a camper, tent, vehicle, parents’/friend’s house, an apartment, or a room at the Y. You may be a city mouse, or like me, a country mouse. Doesn’t matter. You live somewhere, so raise your hands and praise God He’s providing you with a place to live!
Now for the tricky part. If you have children between the ages of birth and 100, or plan to have children at some point down the road, raise your hand.
Just so you know, I’m one of those people who think that homeschooling begins at birth, so because you have homes and children, or the dream of them, I’m declaring the room to be filled with homeschool moms!
Now, how many of you could use at least a sentence worth of encouragement?
The hands have it! So, here we go…
While I was still hemming and hawing over whether, or not to say, “yes” to encouraging you…because I’m selfish like that…I had a really rough day that included a drive alone, which is rare. I kept going over and over in my mind about the fact that it was odd that a homeschool mom in need of encouragement would be asked to encourage other homeschool moms. What’s up with that?!? What would I say? I didn’t even feel like doing it anymore because, in that moment, it didn’t look right to me, meaning I was having one of those “What was I thinking?,” days.
The American Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The office of the scholar is to cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances. He plies the slow, unhonored, and unpaid task of observation…He is the world’s eye.” I just needed some way of identifying the facts instead of freaking out over the appearances.
You know how “God listens” and puts just the right song on the radio at just the right moment? Well, Danny Gokey sang the next song and told me to “Tell [My] Heart to Beat Again.” He got me to thinking….”How do I usually find a way to come out of this kind of mood?” Then, I realized I hadn’t been spending enough time writing in, or reading past scribblings in my Commonplace Book which sits by my Bible.
For those of you who don’t know what a Commonplace Book is, it’s basically a place to capture Bible verses, quotes, answered prayers, or notes on that 999th gift. You ought to start one if you haven’t because it can become your second source of encouragement after God’s Word when you’re not yourself for whatever reason. I have a physical Commonplace Book and an online sort of adaptation where I stash away little phrases, even notes from inspirational podcasts, workshops, or webinars that will jog my memory and help me hop up and dust off my knees after some prayer time.
I’ve gone through the encouragement I’ve saved over the years to share the bits and pieces offered by others that really stand out and remind me why I’m doing this homeschool thing, the thing God has called me to do. I hope you are blessed by the words.
First, for those of you who have had a rough first year transitioning from a school setting, or a year with trying to figure out how to understand a learning label, or medical diagnosis and for those who are dealing with pain, grief, or fear.
These words are for you.
Like you’ve never been before
The life you knew
In a thousand pieces on the floor
And words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never gonna get back
To the you that used to be”
Corie Ten Boom confides that “It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability that counts.” And, “In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.”
Bill St. Cyr of the Ambleside School in Fredricksburg shares that “Joy functions in the midst of struggles.”
And, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said,
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
Look at those shattered pieces on the floor and recognize that they are the materials God has provided to create beauty. Contemplate the image of a cathedral. Cathedral building is a very lengthy process and I’m quite certain it goes through some seriously ugly stages before visitors have to catch their breath at the sight of all its glory.
Cry out to God as the Psalmist says, “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.” He will hear you, just call on Him. He won’t leave you, nor forsake you. He’s got this!
Just a side note: Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote a dear book called Le Petit Prince (or, The Little Prince). The story is powerful. If you haven’t read it, you must! And, read it to your children. It will be a way to
“Tell your heart to beat again.”
Next up, moms who are just now considering homeschooling, or just about to start. Eek! Aren’t you nervous? What will the neighbors think? Even the relatives? Do you need to report anything to the state? What about curriculum? What about testing? Oh, forget testing. What about SOCIALIZATION? Again, for those who are dealing with pain, grief, or fear in this area, these words are for you.
Just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now
Love’s healing hands [will pull] you through
So get back up, take step one
Leave the darkness, feel the sun
Cause your story’s far from over
And your journey’s just begun.”
Psalm 32:8-9 remind us,
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.”
I’ve been quite mulish from time to time. Ish being the smaller part of that word. Don’t be stubborn, just listen to God, He will lead you.
I love what David Jeremiah has to say about God’s leading.
“If you know God loves you, don’t question the direction he takes you.”
But, I do have a word of caution from Thomas Merton, who said,
“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form of violence, perhaps the most common form of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.”
When you’re first starting out, or even over the long haul, there are times when you think doubling up, or adding more extra curricular activities will look better on that transcript, or portfolio. I’ve been there. That’s usually where I burn out and wonder why on earth I’m homeschooling. The self-inflicted scheduling demands become taxing for my mind, body, and emotions making my spirit feel weak. So, keep it simple, Sweeties. “All things are possible with God.” But, that doesn’t mean all things are profitable.
One of my favorite homeschool speakers is Andrew Pudewa. He frequently points out, “You can’t get something out of a child’s brain that isn’t in there to begin with.”
Keep that in mind when planning, or even asking others for suggestions. It takes some children more time than others to make the tracks in their brains that will allow them to demonstrate that it’s actually in there. Don’t rush, don’t push, don’t fret. Don’t over cram your family’s days with no room for down time and play. Otherwise, nothing will stick in the overwhelm.
A man named Arnold H. Glasgow said, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
This whole planning process and homeschooling process and life process, God’s got this! Take time to read Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn, by Karen Andreola for a picture of a nice learning pace to keep and, “Tell your heart to beat again.”
And, finally we come to the moms who have been traveling this road for quite a while. You may even be graduating your youngest soon. I know you’re tired. I know you’re concerned about the future. I know things will never be the same. I know the pain, grief, and fear that may be creeping into your thoughts. So, these words are for you.
“Let every heartbreak
And every scar
Be a picture that reminds you
Who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
In this moment heaven’s working
Everything for your good.”
Veteran Moms, we’re not finished yet. Many of us have probably been waiting for the day when we could get back into a certain size, when we’d be able to have time to knit, or read in peace. We’ve wondered if we’ll ever get to take a trip with our husband, just the two of us. Our children aren’t finished yet. We wonder if we’ve done enough. Will our children be able to do well in college? How will they earn a living if they choose a different path? Will they be good husbands and wives? What about their parenting skills? What’s to become of them? And, more closer to our hearts is the question, what will we do without them?
The most important thing God tells us to remember when we have thoughts like this is found in Philippians 1:6. “For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” He began good work in us and in our children. He will perfect it. It’s not all up to us. It never has been. It’s time to see that for the truth it is and share it with others. You know, that whole older women should teach younger women to love their husbands and children. It’s our turn!
C.S. Lewis said, “A glimpse is not a vision. But to a man on a mountain road by night, a glimpse of the next
three feet of road may matter more than a vision of the horizon.”
We’ve been down this road. We can offer a GPS like voice to those coming down the road behind us. We can share these glimpses with our children and with other homeschooling mothers.
Charlotte Mason is often quoted as saying, “Children are born persons.” Moms were born persons, too. We’ve learned how to learn. We’ve encouraged our children to be lifelong learners. Let’s not forget that we will continue to learn with God’s leading. It’s not over. He continues to have plans for us. A fun adventure like Parnassus on Wheels may be a “next sort of thing.”
We’ve most likely heard plenty of negatives over the years about home education not being “good enough.” The “Theys” may have even hinted at the mistaken notion that our children would be left weak compared to their institutionally educated peers.” To those naysayers, let’s agree with G.K. Chesterton when he said, “To be in the weakest camp is to be in the strongest school.”
I Corinthians 1:27 makes it clear, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.”
Homeschooling may look ridiculous from the outside, but those of us who’ve been there, done that can attest to the fact that we’re all stronger for having gone through this adventure. Why is that? Because we’ve had to “trust in the LORD with all our hearts and”, we realized that we could not “lean on our own understanding.” We’ve acknowledged Him and He continues to make the path straight. It’s certainly a different season in our lives and John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” That’s meant to be funny. But, Moms, learn it forward.
Liz Cottrill of the Living Books Library warns homeschooling moms that, “Things are worse dreaded than lived through.” We know that to be true. It’s time we shared this truth with those moms with worried and discouraged faces. Share Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
This verse was a likely encouragement to Joan of Arc, who is noted for saying, “I am not afraid…I was born to do this.”
Jesus beckons, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
We sing a line of a song in our Sunday School that offers very simple encouragement. “Do not fear, only believe.” Yes, it’s from God’s Word, Mark Chapter 5, Verse 36. Yes, this time will look different. No, we don’t necessarily know what’s next, but God does. This short verse is a way to remind ourselves and others that He’s got this. It’s a way to
“Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breath it in
Let the shadows fall away
Step into the light of grace
Yesterday’s a closing door
You don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
And tell your heart to beat again.”
I leave you with a verse that I chose as a sort of mission statement back when we first started homeschooling.
Be encouraged and be blessed.
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copyright 2017 Rebecca Innocenti