About Me

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 (using font only to enable access in settings with poor internet)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Where does your hope lie?

'Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ' 1 Peter 1:13

I feel uncertain about our future plans. But: 'I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope'. Jeremiah 29:11

At times I feel overwhelmed when I look at the workload of the next few months, and feel anxious that I do not have 'what it takes' to get things done well. 'Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans' Proverbs 16:3. 'Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep' Psalm 127:1-2

These past few weeks have been busy, returning from overseas and then doing erratic night shifts. I feel tired and weary indeed! 'Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint'. Isaiah 40:30-31

I have felt sad as I have remembered this time six years ago, when our daughter was dying in a South African hospital. At times I feel very alone in this grief, separated by space and time from those who knew and understood. But one day, 'God Himself will be with [us] and be [our] God, And God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away'. Revelation 21:3-4

Sometimes I feel burdened by things I cannot really explain to others. With a young family and a busy job, sometimes there just doesn't seem to be time to talk things over with friends, to explain how things really are, to build the depth of friendship I once knew. But Jesus calls me: 'Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light'. Matthew 11:28-30

I can feel sad that I am not close to some in my family who do not share our faith and our hope, and who do not understand the reasons for the choices we make in life (particularly those that relate to our children). 'But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother'. Proverbs 18:24

'All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work' 2 Timothy 3:16

Whatever circumstances or emotions you face tonight, the Bible has something of great relevance to say to you. Pray that God will show you His word of truth, and that He will remind you of the solid hope we have in Him. I pray that as this Sabbath comes to a close that you are refreshed and encouraged for the week ahead, whatever it may bring.

Monday, 12 May 2014

A balanced life: Reflection and correction

If I can draw a diagram of something, I find I understand it better. And so, yesterday when I was considering 'life-work balance' and the various wheel of life diagrams that exist, I was uncomfortable that something was really not right. In general, I think I have a very good life:work balance, and I have been invited to talk on the topic several times recently. Yet, when I filled in one of those wheels, it looked very skewed.

The reason for this error came to me clearly overnight, and I felt it important to correct this. You see, I had categorised 'children - including their education' separately to 'friendships', 'leisure time' etc. Yet what do I do when I am spending time with my children (including their education)? Quite often we are enjoying what could be considered by many as leisure - walking, dancing, singing, playing, baking, cooking, playing music, reading books, painting, going to the library or the museum, going on a day trip.... In fact, a large proportion of time is spent doing these things! And who do we do these with? Often with friends - last week we had a wonderful afternoon in a nearby park, and later this week we are going to an RSPB nature reserve with some of the same people.

The fact I made this error when considering my life (even though I was aware that something was wrong, I did not recognise it immediately) shows just how entrenched we can become in a selfish worldview. I have quite a few friends that I have grown distant from in recent years, and this makes me sad. There are many reasons for this - life events on both sides, but a big difference can be that many of my friends see children as people who need to be 'entertained' during the time that they are not at school (with television, snacks and treats, other indulgences - OK, maybe a little harsh, but a generalisation). During term time, they are very much dictated to by school hours, school runs, after school activities etc (not necessarily bad things, but they cause our lives to take a different shape) and during school holidays they seem so overwhelmed at the need to entertain their children that it is not possible to meet up. Instead, I develop friendships with people who see my children as people, who seek to get to know them as individuals, and who are happy to join in alongside the activities we are doing. And of course, I am meeting other home educating parents, and with the common bond of our children and much of our ideology, friendships blossom. But I can find myself neglecting what I have, the wonderful friendships I currently have, because I don't feel that I am spending enough time with the friends I would like to be with. I wonder if anybody else feels that jumble?

Similarly, leisure time. I am quite a reflective person, and would enjoy more reading, writing, listening to music, sewing and craft activities. Many of these things are not on my radar in this current season of life, since my life-work balance means that often evenings are spent on academic work. But there are many many things I never did before. I never spent so much time out of doors. I had lived in my city for 15 years and never visited any of the art galleries or museums. I had rarely been to the coast. I had not been to National Trust properties or castles since I was a young child. So here I am bemoaning my lack of 'free time' or 'leisure time' when in fact I have it in greater abundance than I have ever known.

This is an important reminder not to categorise ourselves too much! I am a member of quite a few Facebook home education groups, and people often seek to define themselves in terms of a method or an ideology. Others define themselves in other ways. But the fact is, you and your family are unique, and each week, even each day, brings unique opportunities and blessings. Embrace these! Look at all you have! Don't lament because you cannot be everywhere, doing everything at once. Rather focus on what can be done today, do not worry about tomorrow and in all things give thanks.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Priorities and Affirming our Children

Recently we led a seminar on career choices at a Christian conference for young professionals, and one key them that emerged was that of life-work balance. People want to glorify God through their work, and to serve Him with their heart, soul, mind and strength. But at the same time, there is an awareness that career aspirations can easily become idolatrous; it is a fine line to walk in certain professions, but there may come a time when something which is good and commendable is keeping you from the best thing of all, which is serving God wholeheartedly. But how does one know what God is calling them to do? Is guidance an easy thing to discern? How do we choose godly priorities? Do other priorities (family life, Christian service etc) not also run the risk of becoming idols? And thinking about it all, it becomes so clear that we need to pray, as did the Psalmist, ‘Search me O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ Psalm 139:23-24

There are some secular tools which can be helpful in considering priorities, and one which is frequently used is a ‘wheel of life’. But it was interesting when I did this exercise for myself, because I considered some of the main areas: Personal relationship with God, Christian activities, Work, Marriage, Children (including their education), Friendships, Extended Family and Leisure Time. My diagram looked very unbalanced (the final three scored very low), and actually made me question. But the main question I asked myself was what our priorities ought to be as Christian families? There seems to be a presumption, even amongst Christian circles, that leisure time spent with friends is a right rather than a privilege and a blessing. How many young mothers hear people telling them to take some ‘me time’? How many couples talk about putting off having children for a few years, so they ‘can enjoy some nice holidays together’? How many people live for the weekends? How many people see their regular hobbies as essential, rather than a bonus? I do not wish to sound puritanical, but I do think as Christians we need to prayerfully consider how we best use our time. And whilst it can be a helpful starting point, I think Christians must beware of secular resources which feed the myth that we need so much personal and leisure time. Instead, a more healthy diagram would be one which has God at the centre of all. I also came across this very helpful blog with a diagram showing how all previous areas become squeezed when we have children, but that none of these should be lost, and we should attempt to maintain balance for overall spiritual health within the home.

I liked this final one so much, that I continued to read the blog, and found an excellent series entitled: ’29 ways to affirm your children’. Now, along a similar line to my sceptism about priorities detailed in the preceding paragraph, I tend to run a mile from things that talk about ‘affirmation’ – the word brings to mind mantras of ‘you are a good person’ (no you aren’t, you are a sinner in need of salvation!), ‘you have strength within you’ (no you don’t, God’s power is  made perfect in weakness) etc… Anyway, I was glad that I did not get put off by the title. Let me encourage you to read the series! In summary, the 29 points were:

1)      Create a positive, loving and secure environment in your home
2)      Be sensitive to your child’s thoughts and feelings
3)      Give your children choices
4)      Give everyone an opportunity to speak
5)      Nip the self-criticism
6)      Minimise sibling rivalry
7)      Discover the gift in your child
8)      Develop your child’s gift
9)      Teach your child to compensate
10)   Help your child to compete
11)   Develop self-confidence
12)   Discipline in an emotionally healthy manner
13)   Teach self-control
14)   Encourage positive character qualities
15)   Teach your children to work
16)   Teach your children to complete their chores
17)   Make sure they keep up with their schoolwork
18)   Teach your children to communicate with adults
19)   Encourage friendships of high character
20)   Follow a family schedule that reduces fatigue and time pressure
21)   A healthy amount of sleep
22)   A healthy diet
23)   Keep your promises
24)   Laugh with your children
25)   The importance of physical touch
26)   Reward effort, not results
27)   Teach your children to serve others
28)   Celebrate life
29)   Develop a healthy pride in being part of something bigger than themselves.

Each of these areas is discussed in a balanced, Biblical way. I was refreshed that the importance of hard work, discipline, sensible choice of friends, good communication with others including adults (!) and serving others are all considered as means to ‘affirm’ our children. It leads back to some of the most fundamental questions regarding what our aims as parentsare in the first place. If ‘affirming’ means to us giving in to every whim of the child, allowing them to make foolish choices and sheltering them from the realities of life and responsibility, then we are not lovingly preparing them for life in the real world.

I was encouraged as I read through the list, that as a home schooling family we already have prioritised many of these areas. I pray that we can continue to make wise choices, and that as we walk through life together with our children that they see our joy as we seek to put God first. I pray that they see relationships and service as essential ways to serve God in this world which has so much need. And I pray that we can continue to take opportunity to minister as a family. May you be encouraged in these areas too.

Monday, 5 May 2014

10 Encouragements

When I have had less time to blog, I find it helpful to simply stop and think of all the recent things I am thankful for. I believe we often have a choice about how we think about situations, and as Christians home educating, I think there is always much to be thankful for, even during the tiring days.

1) Flexibility in our work, enabling us both to continue in jobs we love whilst having one parent home at all times (the spin off lately has been that we have both been working unusual shift patterns including nights and shifts ending in the small hours of the morning, so we have not actually seen much of one another). But the boys get a different set of adventures and routines during these periods, and this brings different educational opportunities.

2) A wonderful afternoon in the park with some other local home educating families. I think we had five adults and thirteen young children. It was exhausting, but amazing to see their boundless energy and the number of different adventures that can be had in a simple local park. This makes me reflect on how little time most children these days have to simply roam free, to explore, to learn about nature, to get grubby hands and grazed knees, to wear out their shoes and trousers....It was great to see their freedom.

3) Our online community - we have a local Facebook page of Christian Home Educators, and this can be a great supplement to meeting face to face. Often when we physically meet up, we are so involved with the children and the current activities that we cannot discuss, for example, what handwriting or maths resources we prefer. But we can continue those discussions online, sharing links, resources, wisdom etc.

4) Health and strength. Last time I did this chaotic working pattern I was still unwell with vomiting, and it made it much more difficult. Although the work was intense and challenging, I felt well and that was something to be very thankful for.

5) Being able to attend church as a family before heading to bed. Hearing my sons sing about how God is 'indescribable' at the very tops of their voices, and feeling thankful that they love to sing to God.

6) Reading Christian biographies to my children and hearing them ask increasingly relevant and important questions. My prayers are that I can answer these succinctly and wisely in an age appropriate manner, and that the boys are able to understand these truths and incorporate them into their developing worldview

7) Springtime. Ducklings and baby coots. Blossom and flowers. Fresh air. Sunshine (although not yet warm!). Freedom to run. Longer light evenings (that too has a flipside as the boys are struggling to sleep when it is 'still light').

8) Museums, libraries, art galleries - the vast resources that are free and easily accessible living in a moderately sized UK city. Sometimes these things can be taken for granted, but our recent time in Africa reminded us that we should make the most of them whilst we are in places where they exist.

9) A colleague at work having spotted my boys and husband on the bus remarking to me that 'they must be home educated, because no other four year olds are so well behaved and have such a good vocabulary'. I don't know that they are always impeccably behaved, but I also am aware that as parents we tend to see the negatives rather than celebrate the achievements. I was also encouraged that home education was considered a perfectly normal, and indeed a positive choice.

10) That God gives us sufficient strength for every day, and even when weary there is much to be thankful for.

I hope you can also reflect on encouragements, and that you rest well tonight.