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

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