I am often challenged by how we choose to speak about things, and the effects that can have on both ourselves and others. It sounds like a cliche, but choosing to have a 'gratitude attitude' can really make a difference to your outlook on life, your relationship with God, your Christian service and your Christian witness to those around you. Similarly, it is really important to consider how we speak about challenges, trials, frustrations and perhaps more than anything else, how we speak about our children.
I have not blogged as much as I would like recently. This evening, I simply want to reflect and give thanks for encouragements in our lives, with particular reference to our lifestyle as homeschoolers.
1) I am well! After several years of daily vomiting, I had surgery which fixed the problem and feel strong again. There can be a temptation to feel frustrated and bitter about the fact it took so long to get it sorted out (I knew from the start what the problem was and what was needed). But that leaves out the fact that God is sovereign and His timing is perfect. He uses trials and challenges to build our faith. ' These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.' 1 Peter 1:7 It is easy to be impatient and think we know better than God - 'I'd be so much more useful if I were fully well' etc. God gave me the strength I needed every day during the illness. Not often much more than that, but sufficient. As the Apostle Paul is famous for saying, 'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.' 2 Cor 12:9
2) We are planning another 'field trip' to a different country in sub-Saharan Africa. Our lifestyle involves quite a lot of moving around. Both parents work part time, so one of us is always home for the children, and so when there is a need to move somewhere for work, we embrace it as an opportunity. The boys are getting excited about seeing the source of the Nile, the tombs of the kings, experiencing the warm African rain, visiting the market places and sleeping in a new place (whether that be in a bed, on the floor, all sharing a bed - we don't yet know!) I am always amazed at how much they absorb through these experiences, and it is my prayer that we guide them in their understanding of new situations. More than anything, I pray that they see God at work through it all. There are some steps of faith - many details are unclear even though we leave in just two weeks. It is a short-term trip which may open up future opportunities. We are trying to teach the boys to live by faith. I love the global perspective that this gives them - they know of other people across the world who seek to bring the good news of Jesus to those who have never heard of Him. They know quite a lot about countries and customs, such as different styles of clothing (such as the way women must be more modest in some countries) or food (they loved eating from the communal pot in West Africa!). I am aware that 'third culture kids' can experience some challenges later on, through never having felt 'grounded' in one particular place or society. We pray that we are able to provide the stability of our family home, and to keep open clear communication with the boys should challenges arise in the future.
3) Along similar lines to this global perspective, they are loving their stories of 'Ten Boys who Changed the World' etc from Lightkeepers. I'd recommend these biographies. There are 5 books in each set - boys who made history, who used their talents, who didn't give in, who changed the world.... They are short, and focus a lot on the life of the person as a child and as they became a Christian, with the amazing things they did for God only at the end. There are they structured questions to consider and pray about. My boys want to grow up to do great things for God, and find these books inspiring. I'm also quite astonished at how much reformation history they are imbibing through these snapshots - it encompasses what Charlotte Mason taught about 'living books' and how children learn when they can visualise, identify with and relate to a situation.
4) Our local group of Christian home-educators has brought much encouragement, through both the online discussions (Facebook) and meeting face to face. We're able to share ideas and resources, but also just to meet with other like-minded families and that brings encouragement. I think one of the biggest challenges homeschoolers meet is isolation. That you can't comment on being tired, or busy, or frustrated without some kindly (or not so kindly) person suggesting that all would be well should you simply 'put them in school like everybody else'. Let me encourage you if you are feeling isolated - search for other home schooling families in your neighbourhood. You only need one or two like-minded individuals to make a real difference.
5) Generally just enjoying the pace of things at the moment. The older boys are learning to read and write gradually, without all that much specific effort or structure. The eldest was inspired that Adoniram Judson learnt to read from the Bible at age 4 and has resolved to do likewise! The youngest is picking things up every day, and for me it is generally more fulfilling than a year ago, because we are starting to see some of the fruit of what we are doing. Yes, there are new challenges, but in the face of these it is important to look back and give thanks for the victories, for the accomplishments, for those issues which are no longer issues, for the maturing of a character, for the conquering (or at least, focussed battling against) a bad habit or temptation.
6) My church family bring me encouragement. I've reflected quite a lot in the past about family-orientated worship such as that exemplified by Voddie Baugham and others. I don't know if we really have found this in the UK. But I've still been encouraged. The boys sit reasonably through the service and listen, and ask appropriate questions when they get home. They love to sing. One day, early on, a man turned to me at the end of the service. I thought he was going to tell me off for the boys making a bit of noise, but instead said to me, 'Isn't it wonderful to hear childrens' voices in the house of the Lord'. What a lovely attitude. The boys seem more settled than they have done before, and the parents are gradually getting more involved. God has guided us, and we are thankful.
These are simply a few of the many encouragements and blessings God has given us at this time in our lives. We are thankful that we can home educate, that we can see beyond the four walls of an educational establishment or the limitations of a particular curriculum or method. We do not know what the future will hold, for either the parents or the children in our family. But we do know that God is good, and promises to guide us. It remains an exciting adventure to live by faith, to trust God's leading on a daily basis in the smaller aspects of life (and education) and also in the bigger decisions (such as what continent to live on).
I pray that you know encouragement this week.
- 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.