We Just Stopped By to Encourage You

By Amelia Harper

Hi, I hope you don’t mind our stopping by. I just thought we could share a cup of coffee and chat. I have had a lot on my mind lately. How have things been going for you?

Did you ever have one of those days when you just wanted to chuck it all, throw the books out the window, and plant your kids out by the curb to hitch a ride on the next yellow school bus that passed? Okay, be honest now. I will let you in on a secret. I have been there. I know a lot of people have.

I know that discouragement can hit homeschooling parents just as it can people in every profession or calling. There are days when you doubt yourself, when you doubt your sanity, when you wonder how you ended up stuck in a messy house piled with laundry, dishes, textbooks, and four hundred children all shouting the words WHY, MOMMY, WHY?

Did I say that out loud?

You’ve probably been there. Or maybe you will be. Okay, I see that grin. You know what I am talking about.

Homeschooling is full of great blessings and triumphs. We have all seen the rosy pictures of the perfect homeschool families who build 10-foot scale rockets in the backyard in the morning, take a romantic nature stroll through the heather in the afternoon, and end the evening quoting Shakespeare. And somehow we thought it would be like that for us too.

Some days are almost like that. When our children are perched around our chair listening to us share our favorite story with them, we get that glow. When we see them get excited about a story they wrote, or a project they completed, or an idea they had, we are there to share the thrill with them.

But some days, we feel like a failure. Some days we feel like we don’t have enough answers, don’t have enough energy, don’t have enough patience. Some days we feel like we are not getting through, and that somebody else, anybody else, could do a better job than we are.

Maybe you have reached that point—the point where you are rethinking the whole homeschool decision. We wanted to come visit you for a while, not to berate or chastise you for those purely natural feelings. We just want to chat for a while, offer some advice and encouragement—maybe let you see things from a new perspective and give you hope for the future.

I have invited some friends along. You may recognize many of them from the homeschool community. We asked these wise and experienced individuals to sit down with you and share some thoughts and strategies that have helped them through the rough times. We hope that you will keep this article in a safe place, so that when you get discouraged in the future, you can open it up and let us visit with you again.

Because you are not alone.

A Word of Encouragement From Todd Wilson

For the last several years, I’ve conducted an informal poll asking homeschooling moms a single question: Do you feel as though you’re doing a good job homeschooling your children? Would you care to wager a guess as to what percentage of moms feel as though they are succeeding? Let me just tell you— 0%. So far, not a single homeschooling mom has told me that she thinks she’s doing a great job.

That blows me away, because the truth is you are doing a great job. You’re not perfect, and yes, you have shortcomings and failures . . . but overall, your children are better off for having YOU as their mom, not someone else.

I know you don’t believe me. No one ever does, but God knew your children needed you. They need your shortcomings as well as your strengths. Just think about it for a moment. God could have given your children any mom in the world, but He chose YOU. He looked into the future and thought (my words), “Boy, those kids are going to need ________ (fill in your name) as their mom.”

If you want to find someone smarter to teach your children, you can find them easily. They’re a dime a dozen. But if you want to find someone better, you can’t. You are the best.

Dad, can I talk with you for just a moment? Truth is, I’m not the one who can best encourage your wife. After all, she can only read this article so many times. The real job of encouragement falls squarely on your shoulders.

You need to be the one who reminds your wife of the truth, buys her the incredible book Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe (great author), and cheers her on when she’s feeling down . . . which, if she’s anything like my wife, is about every third day.

So Mom and Dad, take it from me, someone who is in the same boat as you . . . you’re doing just fine . . . so try to smile more.

Todd Wilson, author of Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe, Help! I’m Married to a Homeschooling Mom, and The Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons, is a dad, writer, conference speaker, and former pastor. Todd’s humor and gut-honest realness have made him a favorite speaker at homeschool conventions across the country and a guest on Focus on the Family® .

As founder of Familyman Ministries, his passion and mission are to remind dads and moms of what’s most important through The Familyman Weekly (a weekly e-mail sent to thousands of dads), seminars, and books that encourage parents. Todd and his wife Debbie homeschool their eight children in northern Indiana. You can visit Familyman Ministries at www.familymanweb.com.

A Word of Encouragement From Sally Clarkson

Since my husband, Clay, is out of town, I had my 13-year-old, Joy, sleep with me last night. What a treat to awaken to her snuggled under the comfy covers near me. We talked and giggled and shared dreams that we had.

Since I had awakened two hours earlier and had a wonderful quiet time all alone, I shared with her all that I had been thinking and verses that had ministered to my heart. She responded with her thoughts. We then read one more chapter of a biography on the life of Hudson Taylor that we had been reading together before we crawled out from the warmth of our piled covers.

In our candlelit living room, we shared a breakfast of toast and cheese eggs, with Mozart softly playing in the background. Prayer for each of our family members and conferences was the next order of the day. Even though it was still morning, my soul felt so satisfied.

I have learned to love celebrating moments of my life with my precious children. I know that it is not the religious philosophy I stuff into their heads or the academic books I choose that will shape a great mind, full soul, and engaged heart. But it is the life, love, beauty, and words of Christ throughout my day that will shape them into healthy adults. It is sharing from the wealth of my own heart, which I have taken care to diligently fill every day. Reading from great books, taking care to commemorate birthdays and holidays, praising children for jobs well done, Sunday afternoon teas over great discussions, serving alongside each other in ministry, doing chores together, conquering math one day at a time—the very life of Christ, day in, day out, focused on their hearts and validating each unique personality, depending on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word—that has built the foundations of love for God and His kingdom in our home and in our children’s lives.

Sally has been involved in the homeschooling movement for twenty-five years and has homeschooled her four children from the beginning. She and her husband Clay started Whole Heart Ministries (www.wholeheart.org) fifteen years ago to train and instruct and encourage parents in raising up a Godly generation in their home. Sally writes articles of encouragement to mothers on her blog (itakejoy.com) and lives in Monument, Colorado.

A Word of Encouragement From Ruth Beechick

Sometimes discouragement and frustration arise from the academic part of homeschooling life. Parents buy into the idea that their curriculum and its schedule really tells what their children should do. That is, someone sometime somewhere laid out the mental life for a child who lives in your home—tells him what to learn, in what order, how fast to move through the pre-ordained lessons, and on and on . . . Parents who believe that become slaves to the curriculum and try to enslave their children also.

If all this does not roll along smoothly, for whatever reason, discouragement sets in. One quick fix is to take a recess from the slavery for as long as a week or more. If you live in a city or its suburbs, try to get to a farm or ranch or a wilderness. Tell the child the reason for the recess and that when you come back you will decide together on changes in the schooling process. Then don’t pursue that topic through the week.

Instead, get the child in touch with animals if you can. There may be a ranch near you that offers the “therapy” of befriending horses, caring for them, and riding them. A petting zoo will help; longer friendship helps more. One young teenager who lost his father let a new little kitten climb on his schoolwork and up his sleeve. The kitten helped more than a psychiatrist could have.

If you can’t do a full week recess, do whatever parts you can. Then work with the child on schooling changes. A full, rosy answer may not come immediately, but you can start down a new path. On some item you can say, “Okay, let’s try that for a month and see how it goes.” And get back to the animals every once in a while.

Dr. Ruth Beechick, former teacher and professor, believes that homeschooling is the greatest education movement today. She has written many books and curriculum materials during her long career in education. A recent book is A Biblical Home Education, which gives many how-to’s and guidance for teaching all subjects.

A Word of Encouragement From Karen “Spunky” Braun

The alarm clock buzzed at its usual time and I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and twisted open the blinds. A swarm of gray clouds met my sleepy eyes. “The perfect color to match my mood the last few days,” I mused. I couldn’t pinpoint a reason for my dreariness, but I felt it nonetheless. Reaching for my Bible, I flipped the pages to find the chapter from Proverbs for the corresponding day on the calendar. “Great,” I groaned. “The perpetually perfect Proverbs 31 wife is now going to lecture me about all the things I’m not doing and at the same time miraculously change my gray mood into a perky purple.”

The words of King Lemuel . . . . An excellent wife, who can find?

For her worth is far above jewels. . . .

She rises also while it is still night . . .

Still half asleep, my eyes skimmed across the words, which were not penetrating my brain or my heart.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,

And she smiles at the future.

She opens her mouth in wisdom . . . .

I suddenly felt very awake. I went back and reread the words again: “She smiles at the future.”

Smile. Such an easy gesture and yet I often find myself forgetting to do it, especially lately.

I laid my Bible aside and looked toward the mirror. I didn’t feel like smiling, but I forced one to slowly emerge. Feeling strangely detached from my own reflection, I started to chuckle, but the silly grin remained until a knock at my bedroom door broke the silence and my smile.

“Mom, are you awake?”

“Yes, Honey. I’m awake. I’ll be out after I get dressed.”

Moving toward the closet, I caught the woman in the mirror once again and lectured her briefly, saying, “She smiles at the future.” I continued walking. As the chorus of children grew louder, I quickly grabbed my usual black sweater. “No, not today,” I decided as I repositioned it on the hanger. Instead, I reached for a rarely worn purple blouse.

Smiling at the future and clothed in purple, I was finally ready to open the door and take on the day—confident God had my future securely in HIS hand. “Wow,” I thought. “Maybe I will become that Proverbs 31 woman after all.”

Karen Braun is engaged in the full-time art of managing her home and homeschooling the Braun children. She is known in the homeschooling community as “Spunky” from her popular blog, SpunkyHomeschool (www.spunkyhomeschool.blogspot.com). Karen has been a guest speaker on behalf of homeschooling issues on local and national radio programs, spoken at local and regional homeschool support groups, and defended Christian family values on a Detroit television news program. She served as the original blogging editor for HomeschoolBlogger.com and The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, where she is still a contributing writer. Karen holds a B.S. in computer science from the University of Michigan.

A Word of Encouragement From Jane Claire Lambert

When we become worn out and exhausted, especially in our homeschooling, it might be because we’ve been operating at a non-sustainable pace. And if we are worn out, our kids probably are too.

We need to pace ourselves. Do we ever stop to think that the Lord meant what He said when He assured us there is a time for everything? Do we really stop to consult Him about our often over-packed schedules?

We hurry and push and cram-—forgetting all about the “gentle rhythms” of life. We end up giving our children a wee sip of educational water through a fire hose, seldom considering how we enjoy learning information and skills ourselves, and often forgetful of God’s wisdom.

How can we tell if we are on the road to burnout?

One red flag is when there is an absence of pleasant, good-humored laughter during our homeschooling day. I’m not talking about silliness here, but rather the contagious joy that we ought to be experiencing.

Also, we know we’re moving toward burnout whenever we find ourselves rarely speaking words of encouragement to our children. Healthy schooling imitates the strains of the old song: “Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word.”

Then, too, so much of the effectiveness of home teaching is destroyed by various fears, such as the fear that the neighbors or the public schools are ahead of us. We need to learn to teach by faith and not allow ourselves to be driven by fear so that our children will finish their educational race with not only a fine education, but also with kind and loving characters.

Last, we should never make decisions or judgments or take actions such as changing curriculum or setting corrective measures when we are so discouraged. Instead, we need to make a note of the things we are worried about. Then we can take however long is necessary to find wisdom and vanquish fear. We can wait, pray, and make necessary changes or corrections at the right time, with peaceful smiles on our faces.

By being committed to following this principle, we will find ourselves walking in faith instead of responding from fear or depression or discouragement. We will find ourselves making kinder, more rational adjustments, and we will find that we are looking back on our homeschooling journey with fewer regrets and with far greater joy.

Jane Claire Lambert and her husband, Steve, operate Five in a Row and are busy speaking at homeschool conferences and creating new products in the Five in a Row tradition. Visit their websites at www.fiveinarow.com and www.fiardigital.com for more information, including details about their new four-part nature series, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Nature Study Adventures.

A Word of Encouragement From Zan Tyler

In the dimly lit Italian restaurant, Loreen Ittermann (missionary and Ph.D. in education) took my hands, looked into my soul, and said: “Zan, quit worrying. God will take care of all this. Homeschooling is bigger than you.” When my husband and I began homeschooling in 1984, I was threatened with jail by the South Carolina State Superintendent of Education. For eight years we worked as a family to see good homeschooling legislation passed in South Carolina. It was grueling. It was during this time period that Loreen was encouraging me to remember that God was the One who led us to homeschool, and He would open doors and provide our every need.

Home education is easier now from a legal perspective. The swelling body of research confirms that it works extremely well. But that doesn’t mean that the homeschooling itself is any easier. The truth is that homeschooling is hard work which demands every ounce of stamina and perseverance you have—and then some.

I know what it is to be so bone tired and discouraged that you can’t contemplate homeschooling one more day, let alone several more years. I know many of you feel that way today. If I could, I would do what Loreen did for me that day—take your hands, look you in the eyes, and remind you that God is in the midst of your homeschooling. He calls us to tend His lambs today, just as He exhorted Peter in John 21:15–17. He will take care of you and your children, open doors that seem to be slammed shut, and provide for you and them in miraculous ways.

Homeschooling is a powerful way to raise your children to love and serve Christ. It is an excellent way to train them academically. Homeschooling reinvigorates the family in an era that is trying desperately to sabotage and redefine family life. Hang in there. The benefits for you, your children, and our society both now and throughout eternity are more than worth the effort!

Zan Tyler is a speaker and acquisitions editor for Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc.™ (www.apologia.com). She is the author of 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential and a popular online columnist. Zan and Joe homeschooled their children through high school, for a total of twenty-one years. Zan founded the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools in 1990, serving as president for ten years.

To a Homeschool Mom

By Amelia Harper

He gave this gift with gentle hands,

A treasure rich and rare;

But sand and rock and rugged stone

Obscured the gem so fair.

“I give this gift to you,” He said,

“To polish and to prime;

The future lies within your hands,

So make use of the time.”

Some others placed their precious gifts

Within another’s care,

Because they knew the craft took time—

And time they could not spare.

But you were not content to trust

This task to other hands.

You sought to teach yourself the craft

That such a task demands.

For, you said, “No other hand

Can craft this gem so fair;

My loving eyes can better see

The treasure hidden there.”

So carefully you chipped away

Till brilliance sprang from stone

You shaped each facet, smoothed each face

Until the task was done.

Some days you feared that you would fail;

Some days, you saw success.

But still you labored on with love

And gentle tenderness.

Soon the gem He gave to you,

Reflected Light sublime;

And then you knew no other task

Was better worth your time.

Amelia Harper is the author of Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum for secondary-level students, and is owner of HomeScholar Books. She has homeschooled her five children for twenty years and is a homeschool conference speaker. She is also a pastor’s wife and an award-winning freelance journalist. www.homescholarbooks.com

Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.

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