Sunday, July 12, 2015

Homeschooling: Not My Gift?

I was chatting with Kristina, a bright, creative, and very capable young mother. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile so she was updating me on her family. Her oldest child, she told me, would be starting kindergarten at a wonderful Christian school this year. “I’m not going to homeschool,” she said hastily. “I mean - trying to keep up with all the little ones at once and teach too…that’s just not my gift.”

Are you like Kristina? Have you decided against homeschooling because you feel that you lack the skill and ability to do it? Is homeschooling outside your comfort zone? Does it seem difficult, frightening, or overwhelming? Does it just seem like it's not your gift?

These are understandable fears and feelings. However, they bear investigating. There are three problems with the “not my gift” perspective.

1. First, most parents are far more gifted than they think they are. If I were to list the “most likely to succeed” candidates for Homeschool Mom, Kristina would be near the top of the list. Kristina is very talented and has done a terrific job teaching her children life skills already. The notion that her ability suddenly stops when it comes to teaching her child his ABCs or the multiplication tables is simply untrue. Kristina should look back on what she has already done and pluck up confidence! I have often been pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually do things I thought I had no talent for if I had a little guidance and persevered. We can learn to do things that at the moment seem overwhelming.

2. Second, usually false assumptions are hiding behind the “not my gift” argument. Kristina set up an untrue either/or situation in her mind. EITHER she would homeschool and it would be impossible to help the eldest with school work because of the demands of the younger children, OR her eldest would go to an institutional school and everything would be easy. 

Scenario One is stressful and Scenario Two is a breeze. Is that really the case? Isn’t she reckoning without needing to help her eldest with homework, making sure that he is all packed each morning, trying to get him fed and dressed and out the door on time in between the others clamoring for attention, and so forth? And if we want to talk about stress, isn’t Kristina reckoning without school politics, demanding school schedules, her child being picked on or having his feelings hurt by other students, and teachers who don’t understand her child as well as she does? There are plenty of stressors in an institutional setting.

Yes, to Kristina’s point, doing school work with just one child while the other children want attention too might be challenging. But it’s certainly manageable. Millions—literally millions—of mothers all through history have made it work. 

Whether it is doing school with the eldest while the younger children nap, or having special “school time only” coloring books to keep the little ones busy, there are a variety of options to make it happen. But remember, if you send your child to a public or private school, you will still have to spend routine one-on-one time with them helping them with school assignments. Since it is going to happen regardless, wouldn’t you rather be the one in charge? Wouldn’t you rather be the one in choosing the curriculum, setting the schedule, and establishing the routine?

3. The third problem with the “not my gift” concept is that it is a faulty way to plan our lives because it places the emphasis on our talents, not our duties. When we approach a situation, we need to look honestly at what we are called to do, not what our “gifts” are. 

The fact is, a “gift” simply means something comes naturally to you. If you don’t have a “gift” for something, does that mean you don’t have to bother trying? Of course not. It simply means that you have to seek extra guidance, pray diligently, and keep persevering. 

What if it’s not our “gift” to keep our tempers? What if it’s not our “gift” to follow a budget? What if it’s not our “gift” to drive at a safe speed? What if it’s not our “gift” to forgive someone who hurts our feelings? Does that mean we can say, “Oh well, too bad, these aren’t my gifts”? Of course not. If they are a duty, we should say, “Since these are not my gifts, I need to work extra hard to get better at them.”

Let’s say that you think homeschooling isn’t your gift. Is that really the question you should be concerned about? No. Instead parents should explore what the Bible says about parental discipleship and decide which method of schooling allows them to best train their children in life and godliness. 

Institutional schooling can rarely compete with the benefits of one-on-one tutoring and the wholesome, Christ-centered learning environment of the home. Your personal giftedness is frankly irrelevant to the question. But the good news is that you can learn and you will learn! God is on your side and will not fail you! 

Remember, God never says that His power is made perfect in our giftedness. His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) You’re not going to do this alone. He is going to empower you every step of the way. 

Not your gift, eh? It doesn’t matter. You can do it anyway!

Written by Raquelle Sheen

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Light

It’s been a rough time for Christian conservatives lately. From the Supreme Court’s ruling on homosexual marriage to the shooting in Charleston to the banning in some places of the Confederate flag, conservative culture has been under attack. It can be a discouraging time for godly families.

What kind of world will your children grow up in? What can one family do to counteract the paganism and anti-Christianity that seems to be gaining ground all around us? It can feel like we are fighting a losing battle.

Lately, however, I have found good grounds for encouragement. The Lord has been showing me how we may be facing one of the best opportunities in generations to share the gospel in our nation. Here are some thoughts you may find uplifting.

We Are On the Winning Side
If you’ve read Revelation, you know how the story ends. God wins! Actually, if you read the whole Bible you realize that God is controlling and ordaining everything that happens and using it for our good and His glory. God controls history.

Time after time in history, ungodly people have tried to thwart God’s will. We see it from Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery out of jealousy, to King Nebuchadnezzer trying to stamp out all worship except that of himself. Time after time God not only turns the battle into a victory, He actually uses the activities of the pagans to bring even more glory to Himself. We need have no fear that God is overwhelmed or caught off guard by what is happening in our culture. He knew it and planned it before time began. His side will win, regardless of the way things look from our perspective.

It’s Been Worse Before
A quick look at history will reveal that, rough as these times are for Christians, there have been far rougher times for Christians in the past. And even now life is far worse for Christians in other nations. At first that may not seem encouraging until you realize that out of the darkness and paganism of past history, God has brought the light of His gospel to every corner of the globe.

For instance, out of the terrible persecution of the Reformers came the Protestant church, the Bible in the common people’s language, and missionaries who evangelized the world – including the American continent. God has used – and continues to use – hard times to refine His people and make them into a brighter light to the dark world.

God Asks for Faithfulness, Not Results
God doesn’t give us a “quota” of converts we must make. He doesn’t give us a list of laws we must pass or cultural standards we must implement. Instead, He tells us to be faithful to His Word. When we repent of our own sin and strive to be holy, there are natural cultural changes that occur in our lives. When we “preach the gospel” to others, “making disciples” of them, there are natural cultural changes that will occur in their lives too. The more we are faithful to apply the gospel truth to our lives and share it with others, the more the culture will change on its own into a godly society. It starts with one person at a time being faithful.

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Light
Have you ever lit a candle during the daytime? It can be difficult to even see the flame unless you’re close to it. But contrast that with lighting a candle in the night. You can surely see the light in that situation!

I’ve talked to many people who remember the “good old days” when everybody was nice and decent (supposedly). But that feel-good culture of the past evidently was only skin-deep as the children and grand-children of that generation went on to create an ever more rebellious society. I can’t help but wonder if the “candle” of past Christianity blended in too much with the “decent” culture of the times. “Cultural Christianity” sometimes makes it hard to witness to people who figure they are already decent enough to make it to heaven on their own, and perhaps it was no different in the “good old days.”

Today, there is less confusion on that score. It’s getting to be pretty clear who is a Christian and who isn’t, who lives by biblical cultural standards and who doesn’t. The “candle” of Christianity is shining ever brighter in the darkness of our current societal paganism. Someone who has wrecked their life with sin is far more ready to hear and accept the gospel than someone who has always lived a “decent” life and has it all together.

In closing, remember this famous passage from 2 Chronicles 7:14. Note that in order to heal a nation, God does not give us intricate formulas for elections or lists of laws to pass or quotas for church membership. Instead, He simply calls His people to be faithful in their own personal lives. God moves mightily in the prayers and obedience of Christians.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Written by Heather Sheen