Sometimes when people see how we are choosing to raise our children, we are questioned regarding whether this is the best use of our time. Some friends suggest that I need some ‘me time’, time to shop, or drink coffee with friends, to sleep or do ‘something fun’. Others with different concerns ask whether it is good for a Christian woman to spend so much time with her own family as it leaves little time for other forms of ministry. How can I give time to somebody who really needs to talk? Or devote time to study the Bible with a person who is asking the really important questions about life and death? Sometimes I am acutely aware when I go to toddler groups and other such activities that I don’t have as much time for chatting with the other parents, and spend the larger proportion of time with my boys. Is this really the best use of time? Would I not be better to have more help with the childcare to free me up for other, more important things?
On the subject of ‘me time’, I found this Blog posting helpful:
I have written about the use of time recently, as I reflected on how everything has a ‘time and a season’. But it is a very important topic which I imagine will come up time after time, in different forms, as the years pass. It is important for me to have my thoughts straight on this one! Of course there are days when I would love to be able to spontaneously meet a friend in a coffee shop. Or to feel able to have a deeper conversation rather than snatched fragments between running after children and answering their many questions! For others, it might be a different thing they yearn for. And yes, there are days when I question the value of what I am doing. Would I be better to do as many others do, and put the boys in nursery from an early age so that I can work more hours at my profession, and be a more ‘productive member of society’? Am I wasting my training and my own education? And is it really, truly better for the children to have so much parental involvement? Would they be better educated elsewhere? Would they be better entertained and more stimulated? (Are these necessarily things that I would want? Is there a risk of dependence on entertainment and stimulation?) Even missionaries I know will happily send their seven year olds to boarding school so they can continue ‘the work of the Lord’ unhindered. They assure me that their children thrive on the experience, and that because they are at a Christian school there are no issues of conflicting worldview. Should I do likewise?
The main question I want to consider today is this: Is it a wise use of a Christian’s time to home educate their children, or would it be better to have more time for their own ministry? (And I think it is important to comment, that my eldest child has just turned three - but the UK government is increasingly promoting nursery placements for up to 15 hours per week even at this age.)
A Christian has responsibility for their own family. The first letter of Timothy describes the exemplary Christian who is to be a leader in the church: ‘one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with full reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?) (I Timothy 3:5-6) You could ask whether that has anything to do with the amount of parental input, and whether a few hours a day in nursery or pre-school really goes against this principle. But observing my three year old and two year old, I see so many times where firm correction and discipline is necessary! Often the behaviours that lead up to something more dramatic (such as a tearful outburst or altercation) have begun with something much smaller. There are days when I have to supervise everything closely, repeatedly correcting, instructing, listening, praising and encouraging. I can find this a challenge with just two toddlers and a baby who I know well, and who I care about deeply. I cannot see how this level of discipline, love and encouragement can be provided by even the most capable and well meaning adults with responsibility for larger numbers of children. I sometimes shudder to imagine what they would get up to if given more 'freedom'! Later, Timothy writes again, ‘But if anybody does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ (1 Timothy 5:8). The context of this passage relates to financial provision, but the principle can surely be extrapolated; we must provide for the needs of our own family as a priority, and then consider those of others. Anecdotally, I have known young adults raised in Christian families (both as overseas missionary children and here in the UK) who have felt very hurt that their parents seem to have invested more in the local community than in their lives. I would never want my boys to feel that way.
A second point which I think is of great importance is to remember that our children are not a hindrance as we seek to serve God! And we must not make them feel that they are getting in the way, or are an inconvenience, but rather encourage them to join with us as we seek to serve God. Three of the four gospel writers record an incident where Jesus showed just how much he valued children, whereas His disciples thought of them as an inconvenience. From the gospel of Luke, ‘Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 18:15-16) Recently, I was responsible for arranging a barbecue for students, and yet I felt I wasn’t able to participate fully due to supervising my children. I must confess, I felt a little frustrated. But afterwards, several individuals commented to me how lovely it was to see a Christian family, and how they found the way we interacted with one another to be a good role model. There have been other occasions where single people have enjoyed spending an afternoon with us, even though it can be somewhat noisy, messy and chaotic. They value being part of a family, and this itself can open up conversations and important discussions. Again, much has been written about this, and I would like to recommend some of the works of Edith Schaeffer, particularly, ‘What is a Family?’ She writes beautifully of how God uses the whole family to bless, encourage and serve others.
I have not covered this topic comprehensively, and I am sure it will be a recurring theme! I wonder whether any other home educators have faced similar challenges, and would like to share their experiences and where they found encouragement?