These past few weeks have had several encouraging and several challenging moments. I am sure that most of you who read this blog could say something similar!
1) Encouragement Number 1: The recent start-up of a Christian Home Education group in our area. There has actually been a group, or perhaps two distinct groups, of Christian homeschoolers around for some time. However, one group focusses on a very specific curriculum, and the other group has 'grown up' quite a bit to the extent that they have less time and flexibility for meeting as a group. However, over the past year or so, there have been several families similar to our own - with a few young children aged four and under who are discovering the whole area of home education. We wished to start a group with the primary aim of encouraging one another, perhaps along the theme of Hebrews 10, 'Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds...'. We all can feel isolated in our families, and at times also isolated in our churches as people seem unwilling to consider that what we are doing is a valid alternative to 'mainstream'
2) Encouragement Number 2: An evening spent with two friends who are part of this group, with the ability to spend longer talking about what we are doing, and having a focussed time of prayer together. 'Where two or three are gathered' then Christ truly is in our midst. One of the challenges we share is the lack of uninterrupted adult conversation; whilst we would not change our choices for a moment, it is good once in a while, to be able to talk for longer when the children are asleep!
3) Hearing my boys describing things in detail - we've been inspired by some of Charlotte Mason's methods which require careful attention and close observation followed by what she termed a 'narration' of what has been heard or observed. This goes a little against much of today's culture which is expected to be immediate, rapidly changing, flashy and 'entertaining'. I more frequently observe children becoming overstimulated with colours, noise, multiple books and toys and somehow not benefitting from any of the intended gains (dare I draw an association between this type of thing and rising rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and similar?). What is recommended by Charlotte Mason is quite the opposite, really teaching children to slow down, to focus, to discover the minute details of the incredible world that surrounds us, and to come to a fuller understanding of their place in the world which has been incredibly created. It is not a technique which comes easily, especially to my middle son (now aged three and a quarter). But with time, there are sometimes quite astonishing evidences of his attention and concentration.
4) The solemn questions of my oldest son (aged three and three quarters). 'Mummy, why did Jesus shed His blood?'. 'Why was the Samaritan woman drawing water from the well at noon? You should go to the well in the morning or evening so that the sun doesn't burn you....' etc. OK, then he will ask a completely random question such as, 'Is trifle good for your bones?'
5) Being able to consider short-term moves as a family (such as our recent one to west Africa, one in the next month or so to the next city, and one next year to east Africa) because we are reasonbly self-sufficient as a family, and have a schedule for the boys which embraces whatever surrounds us rather than being dependent on specific external activities or people.
6) Simply a continued joy at being able to embrace all these small steps, to see the changes which occur week by week, sometimes even daily. Being grateful that God has provided me with a husband who shares these views entirely, and who is completley consistent in his parenting, who leads our family well. Most days, I feel confident to face whatever challenges may arise.
But sometimes, there are still challenges. They seem to reduce in size having spent a little time reflecting on the encouragements, but so that you can share some of our walk, I'll make some notes here too.
1) Unsupportive family. I don't think anybody in our family really gets what we are doing, and I am sure they all have unspoken concerns. The Christians tend to worry most about old chestnuts like 'socialisation', but it is the non-Christians who frustrate me most. It is a clash of worldviews - the one which I was brought up to hold (you must blend in as much as possible, you must avoid any conflict, you must never express an opinion, you must be as 'good as you can be' but not stand out in any way, the ultimate aim would be to live in comfort and peace. Default parenting might be a good description of what they practice) and the one which has been shaped by my faith in Christ. I hate it when the two collide, because whilst I know the truth (and the truth has set me free!), there are still rumbling unsettled undercurrents which bother me after spending time with certain people.
2) Fatigue and illness in all of us. It is not easy to get much rest, and not easy to get to appointments when you have several young children in tow. Sometimes I can find it difficult to ask for help, as I feel the attitude of, 'If you would just put them in preschool like everybody else, then you wouldn't have this problem'. OK, that is not exactly spoken, but there are hints of it. Also, simply through moving around quite a bit as a family, and having friends who are also quite mobile, there just aren't that many people around we can lean on. This is something which does bring many great encouragements, and we have recently been blessed to see how we can serve God together as a family; however, there can be associated challenges.
It's funny how the same challenges go round and round - and that is one way in which writing this blog helps me, as I see that they only last a short time. It is good to remember what our highest aim for our children is. Have you encountered any encouragements or challenges lately?
- I am a Christian mother of five, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John 10:10) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. Previously writing at www.homeeducationnovice.blogspot.com, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. This blog seeks to share our adventure.