By Deborah Wuehler, Senior Editor
There we were in the middle of the large home improvement store, my feet aching and my somewhat patient children getting more than somewhat hungry. This had been more time-consuming than I thought it would be.
We were going from aisle to aisle as my husband was asking me more questions for which I didn’t know the answers. “What color would you like for the cabinets?” or “What about this whole piece for the tub instead of porcelain?” I even had a few questions myself, for example: “Are we doing improvements on all these rooms at the same time?” As my husband answered in the affirmative, I realized that this was the first trip of who knows how many. Plus, family history dictated that our projects would take ten times longer than most folks take simply because our life as a family of ten is extra busy. I saw an inkling of how much time would really be involved, and I began to see how much more this project would disrupt our regular lives. But for the joy set before me (ridding our house of rusted sinks and dirty carpet), I would be hard pressed to be thankful for the disruption, not to mention the many trips with aching feet.
Home improvements can create a more beautiful home, but in the process what is broken needs to be repaired and what is standing in the way of progress needs to be torn down. What is unnecessary needs to be removed and what is dirty needs to be cleaned. Research needs to be done and money needs to be spent. Although it takes a lot of time and energy, the end result is worth the investment.
Now let’s look at three areas of home improvement: the improvement of our physical homes, our homeschools, and our spiritual homes. There is much correlation between the three and often plenty of improvements are needed!
Before running full steam ahead on any ideas or plans, we must really seek the Lord. I have read that home improvement projects can be very stressful for families and marriages. So, as we go, we must continue to pray for God’s guidance, wisdom, and provision.
Our homeschools also need to be handled with prayer. Prayer for God’s vision and His priorities for each child are important. If we have prayed that God’s purposes would be fulfilled in each day of our homeschool, it is a freeing place to be when that interruption comes, for we know that the interruption has been divinely appointed. Praying over and for our children helps us see them as God sees them, and we can gain new insight into God’s design.
Just like our homes and our homeschools, we need to focus prayerfully on our personal relationship with the Lord. Where do I need to change? Where do I need to invest my time? What needs to be replaced or torn down in my life? How can I build up my own home? All the answers come by prayer and seeking God’s wisdom. I was telling one of my children today that God desires a two-way relationship. This one-way business of praying only at meals and Bible studies has got to go. We converse with the ones we love all day. We need to purpose that God will be on that list too; we are to give Him the same attention and time we give others, if not more. This is where change begins and where abundant life is cultivated.
Make Your Plans
We really need a vision of what the end result will look like. Piecing things together without long-term vision equals chaos, or at the very least, we can end up with something that is useless or unsightly. Asking good questions such as “How much space do we have to work with?” and “How long will this product last?” and “How functional is the new design?” helps us assess our plans so that the space can be used in the very best way. Asking others what they have done helps tremendously in the decision-making process!
Just as our home projects have to be planned, so must our homeschool projects. Careful planning of the school year helps ward off doubts. Instead of feeling like we are just flying by the seat of our pants, we have an idea of what we want to accomplish. A simple list of curriculum choices and subjects covered for each grade level can be very helpful. Having an overall plan for each year and a vision toward the finish line can be very helpful indeed. Not only do we know where we are headed, but we also know how to get there. And again, asking others what they have done helps tremendously in the decision-making process!
Even as we plan our projects and select our curricula, we must plan to acknowledge God. Even as we plan, we must trust the Lord to direct our steps. In all our ways, He promises that if we acknowledge Him, He will direct our paths. In all that we do, in all that we say, in all that we plan, He must be recognized and given His rightful place.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)
“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Do Your Research
Good end results require a lot of research up front and throughout the entire process. You must determine what you want to do and how to do it, what you want to buy and how much it costs. If your roof starts to leak and you tear it off without a plan to replace it, you may be stuck in the rain.
Our homeschools need research too, don’t they? We need to know what it is we want to accomplish and how and what it will cost. Homeschooling without doing a little research first may end up falling short of the results we had hoped to achieve. Selecting curricula for a new year or new subjects also requires a bit of research and a lot of prayer. You not only will be looking at the choices of material, but you will be looking at how your child learns and how you teach as well. How will this all fit together? Will your child be able to handle this independently, or will it be a “high maintenance” endeavor? Will your student retain information better with an auditory program or a hands-on program? What about cost?
Here comes my favorite part—our spiritual lives. What is it exactly that we are here for? I believe we are here to glorify God in every aspect of our lives. What does that look like and how do we do it? Our research manual, of course, is the Bible. To know the answers to these questions and to know Him, we must read it. There is no way around it. If we are not “researching” God’s Word for how to live, then we are not going to end up living the way He desires. Our goals for glorifying Him will not be met. And the cost? I’ve done a little research here and have found the cost to be all that you have. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) Another translation of this verse reads, “. . . Though it costs all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 3:13–17 says: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Obviously it is wisdom and understanding that we are to be spending our time and resources getting, and they are so important that we are to go after them though it cost all that we have.
Though it costs us time away from regular schoolwork, housework, or yard work, we must pay the cost. Though it costs extra strength to get up early to read the instruction manual of our lives, we must realize the worth and the end result that will ensue in our hearts and the hearts of our children. What end result are we looking for? If we don’t study our Bible for all its worth with our children, what will the end result be? Within the pages of this incredible book, the Bible, we find everything we need for life and Godliness; but it will cost everything we have. Is it worth the cost?
From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “How poor, contemptible, and wretched are those, who, with all their wealth and power, die without getting understanding, without Christ, without hope, and without God!”
From the Geneva Study Bible: “. . . We must first begin with God’s word, if we will that other things prosper with us, contrary to the judgment of the world, which make it their last study, or else care not for it at all.”
Get Rid of the Old
One of our projects started out as a small project. The fish tank in the big boy’s room had overflowed, and we’d had to cut out a chunk of carpet. The concrete floor underneath wasn’t very appealing, and neither was the semi-carpeted room. It was time for a little home improvement.
After everything was removed from the room and put in the hallway (or gotten rid of), it proved to be an opportune time to paint, and a nice shade of green paint was applied to the walls. The next step was to rip out the old carpet and lay in wood flooring. To lay in the wood flooring we had to tear out and replace the baseboards. Of course, since we were fixing up the room, we saw the need to put in some new blinds. The boys didn’t just get a new room; they also had great learning experiences that they can use for the rest of their lives: research, trial and error, hard work, accomplishment, and time well spent learning life skills with their dad.
It takes time and work to rip out the old. Sometimes a few tears may be shed as you get rid of familiar things; memories may be tied up in those dirty walls and stained carpet. You must come to a place where you are ready and willing to make the necessary changes. You must be willing to get rid of the old in order to make room for the new.
Sometimes our homeschools need improvements. Not only do we need to get rid of what doesn’t work, but we also must be willing to start new plans or try new curricula. We may shed a few tears before we come to the place where we are ready to make the change—to give up the old and sail into new territory.
What about our spiritual lives? Our hearts may need some renovation as we rip out the roots that have grown there over time. Maybe a root of bitterness has sprung up toward those who are less than supportive of your family or your ideals. Perhaps there is anger that always pours forth over the smallest issue or the smallest children. It needs to go. We need to replace what tears down with what builds up. What is it that’s tearing your family down? It needs to be gotten rid of—torn out—demolished, so that the new life of Christ can flow through you to your family. A wise woman tears down what is hindering the flow of God’s abundant life as she builds up the new home in Christ. The foolish tear their homes down by their own bitterness and their own foolish belief that their way is the only right way. The end result of that kind of thinking is death.
“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” (Proverbs 14:1)
“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
Choose the New
This sounds like the fun part, but in reality, it takes a lot of aching feet and aching backs and heavy decision-making. It takes a great deal of effort to wisely choose, pay for, and install what is new.
For those who are just starting to homeschool, it may seem like a daunting task, because it requires a lot of effort to establish new routines, new ways of learning, and new teaching methods. That is why it is important to keep in mind why we are homeschooling and hold tight and remain obedient to those God-given mandates. And for those who have homeschooled for a while, it can seem overwhelming every time we begin something new or even begin a new school year. But if we have prayed about our choices and our plans, then what is new will produce good results as we continue to make the effort. Obedience to God’s ways always produces rewards (some which we may not see right away).
Tearing down the old can be difficult, but we have seen that the end result is beautiful if, and only if, we put on the new. In the home of our heart, we can make the effort to tear down the old (bitterness, anger, rebellious spirit, harshness and frustration, envy, selfish ambition), but if we don’t put on the new, we are bound to stay ugly. What is it that we are to put on? Our research manual says it so well:
“Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24)
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:12)
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” (Colossians 3:8–10)
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (Colossians 3:12–14)
Home Improvement Takes Time
Week after week went by while every little snippet of time was used to finally get the bedroom project completed. All of the displaced cupboards and shelving units finally left the hallway and made it back into the room. It takes time . . . longer than you think and often more than you planned. But it is so nice to go into that room and admire the cleanliness and beauty for as long as it lasts.
Our homeschools could also use a good dose of perseverance. Patience is key in teaching our children, but perseverance through the rough spots, the sick days, the mental blocks, and the interruptions is also a must. We want our children to learn to persevere through what seems difficult, so we must set the example and not give up.
Just as our home projects and our homeschools require patience and perseverance, so do the very fibers of our hearts. If our hearts are not stable with a “never give up” attitude, then everything else may be unstable as well.
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience” (2 Peter 1:5–6)
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” (1 Timothy 6:11–12)
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (James 1:2)
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
The End Result
All the research, time, cost, and effort will be well rewarded in a home that functions well and is a pleasant place to raise a family.
The end result of our homeschooling efforts should be well-rounded young adults, but most importantly, we should be training Godly children who know their purpose of glorifying God in all their future endeavors. They should keep Christ as their first love before any other good works. Then, our homeschooling will have been victorious.
At the close of our lives here on earth, we should be able to see the fruit of our labor as we have persevered to the end, and these earthly homes will take on the heavenly in their final home improvement.
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–2)
Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, editor of the Schoolhouse Support E-Newsletter, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate!
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.
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