Asking For Help — and Knowing Whom to Ask

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In a month it will mark one year we’ve been in our cabin in the woods. This place we affectionately call Hickory Homestead most days — and some days call other, less affectionate things — is a job! We, right along with our boys, are learning things daily: cutting firewood, maintaining a chimney system, clipping chicken wings, planting a garden (and watching it die), and more. What type of tree is best for firewood? What will keep us warm this winter? How do we tell if our goat is pregnant, and what do we do if she is?

When it comes to life on the farm, I am not shy about asking for help. I ask my neighbors and friends, my dad and mom, even the local feed store employee. This is something we know nothing about, and the boys get to see that Mom and Dad don’t have it all together, almost daily, or at least weekly.

I ask for help when it comes to homesteading, so why don’t I know when to ask help for homeschooling? People ask me for help with homeschooling. This baffles me, because some days I stand in my kitchen and cry, and mentally calculate how far my son would be held back if he went into public school today. I just don’t ask for help.

This week I did.

Praying for Rescue

When attempting to educate our own kids, it’s important to remember Who gave us this ability and this job. God did. He entrusted some rough-and-tumble boys to me, who have different learning styles, attention spans, and needs. God didn’t only create them, but He created me, and He knew what He was doing when He did. He created me with abilities that far exceed my earthly expectations. The worldly view of family dynamics, gender roles, education, and more often cloud our view of God’s creation — us. God gave you and me everything we need to get this job done, and done RIGHT. He hopes we’ll lean on Him, and when we struggle He also puts people into our lives that we can lean on for help.

Go Ahead and Send that Desperate Text

My moment was the first Monday of the month. We were starting day three of the same sight words, because my seven-year-old just couldn’t get them, and I was ready to haul him to the local elementary school. Instead of taking strides backward with my family, and setting him back (not just physically and grade-wise, but also emotionally by putting him in a room full of five-year-olds), I desperately typed out a text to a friend and hit send before I could delete. I sent the text to a friend who had spent two good years listening to me lament and worry over teaching reading. It was a stressor for me.

We’ve talked about this many, many times. She remembered.

She immediately asked when we could talk, and we got together on the phone before the end of the day.

Talking to her didn’t fix my problems with my lack of routine, or my not-reading-seven-year-old. But, it did help me formulate a plan. It lifted some of the burden off my heart, and it allowed her experience to help me. I asked for help. That made the difference.

I met Desi (my friend) while my husband served as youth mentor to a church in Wyoming for almost two years. I can think of several people who were touched by our being there, but more than that, I met Desi while I was there. That short experience in Wyoming put me in touch with someone who could help me on one very bad day of homeschooling. God planned this for me.

Do you believe He plans things for you? When we don’t plan, He does.

My favorite prayer, which I believe the Holy Spirit gave me recently, is something like this:

“Don’t let me be selfish. I don’t know the plans you have for all the people and things involved in this issue. Your plans supersede my wants. Help my plans to become Yours. Help the outcome to be Yours.”

When I make homeschooling plans for my homesteading bunch of boys, I have to remember that the outcome belongs to Jesus. My plans are secondary to His outcome. Without tirelessly praying, studying His Word, and surrounding myself with like-minded mamas, I might lose sight of this fact.

Yes! You Can!

Pray

Musings of a Retired Homeschool Mom

Over the 25 years our family homeschooled, the main comments that I heard over and over were these:

      1. Is that legal?
      2. I could NEVER do that!
      3. What about socialization?

While the question of the legality of homeschooling seemed to be asked less and less over the years — until I eventually never heard it at all — I continue to hear numbers 2 and 3 to this day.

My response to “I could NEVER do that!” was usually just smiling, nodding my head and changing the subject as soon as possible. If I let the conversation go on long enough, it would almost always go in one of two different directions. One would end up with me getting the distinct feeling that they perceived that we were “too good” for the local public school system, and they were offended. The second scenario was they felt guilty for not doing what they knew might be best for their children, and would begin listing all of the excuses for not being able to homeschool.

Occasionally, as a homeschool support group leader, I would counsel and advise mothers who were contemplating homeschooling, or who were struggling with trying to make it work for their family. My response to them was always, “If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will empower you to accomplish it.” So, how did I know that God called us to homeschool? I’m not really sure, but I’ve never once doubted that it was what God called us to do, although I more than once doubted my own abilities, and came up short at times.

Looking back at the times I felt most overwhelmed with homeschooling, it always seemed that during those times I had too many other things going on. Maybe it was too many responsibilities at church, trying to earn extra money with a work-at-home job or part-time job, taking care of extended family’s needs (elderly parents, an alcoholic brother, etc.) There were several times over the years that I had to step back, pause for a moment, start eliminating the unnecessary things in my life, and spend more time praying for strength and wisdom.

One thing that helped me a lot when my children were all at home is that I taught them from a very young age to be helpers around the house. The housework load was divided among all of us instead of all on my shoulders.

Another thing that can be overwhelming is to be trying to homeschool using curriculum or a method that doesn’t fit your family’s style or needs. Perhaps you are trying to be too structured and need to relax a bit, or maybe you are too relaxed and need a little more structure to function well. I know when I first began homeschooling, it took me two or three years to really find a homeschooling style and materials that felt comfortable and worked well for us.

And, last but not least, pray, pray, pray and depend on God for strength and guidance. Those first couple of years I did a lot of crying and praying at night before I went to bed. I sometimes wondered if I really could do this; and, without Him I couldn’t have. When the going gets tough, and you just don’t think you can continue on in your homeschooling journey, remember that with God’s help, “Yes, you can!”

Next time I’ll muse a little about number 3… The “S” Word.

Momma Cat

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We had a couple of stray female cats that showed up last fall, and one ended up pregnant. This cat really liked being outside and wandering around. When she had her babies (seven of them!), she quit going outside and stayed in a box with them. She hardly left the room she was in. She took good care of her babies, giving them baths, feeding them, and making sure they were safe.

While we could take lessons about God from this, I was impressed how like this we should be as mothers. She was willing to give up her freedom and rights to take care of her babies. We need to be willing to change our ways or plans and what we do to fit the needs of our children. Too often, we get tired of changing diapers, picking up toys, washing dishes and clothes, but these only last a little while. Our first work is to raise our children; everything else should come after that.

My favorite quote on motherhood from Ellen White, from Ministry of Healing, in the chapter on “The Mother,” pgs. 377 and 378, says, “There is a God above, and the light and glory from His throne rests upon the faithful mother as she tries to educate her children to resist the influence of evil. No other work can equal hers in importance. She has not, like the artist, to paint a form of beauty upon canvas, nor, like the sculptor, to chisel it from marble. She has not, like the author, to embody a noble thought in words of power, nor like the musician, to express a beautiful sentiment in melody. It is hers, with the help of God, to develop in a human soul the likeness of the divine.”  (My emphasis)

Homeschool Fruit

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When I was thinking about a blog theme for this year, my mind kept coming back to the word “fruit.” Fruit. Maybe because I was eating cherries at the time? The flathead cherries out here in Montana are delicious, and I’m a huge fan. We (and I use that word loosely) can demolish two pounds a week — more if I let my husband and child have any. Anyway, back to homeschool fruit. I’m really thinking more of results and byproducts.

What are the fruits of homeschooling? What are our expectations? What do we hope to pass on to our kids? What are the actual outcomes? What does the fruit of your homeschooling labor look like on a daily basis? What are the character byproducts of the educational lifestyle which you have chosen? All those things feel like “fruit” to me.

We can run into problems if all our fruit expectations revolve around what grade level our child reads at, how good her handwriting is, whether he can recall his times tables, etc. It’s not that those things have no importance, but there are other desirables, spiritual- and family- and character-based expectations, that are more significant. As the new school year begins, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that we picked this method of education for some…well…delicious reasons.

Here are some fruits experienced via homeschooling. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it mixes the results of scientific studies with the opinions of homeschoolers to provide an encouraging reminder for the journey.

  • The homeschooling family is free to incorporate the love of God into all parts of their day.
  • One-on-one tutoring is the single most effective method of teaching.
  • You can create strong bonds with your kids.
  • Parents control education.
  • Lots of time can be spent outside.
  • Homeschooled children tend to be confident and comfortable with themselves.
  • It encourages independent thinking because there is no “group” to follow.
  • Schedules are flexible.
  • Homeschooling strengthens the family — and thus society.
  • It avoids one-size-fits-all education.
  • Parental influence is primary.
  • Vacation whenever you want!
  • You can be there with your kids much more during times of crisis.
  • More time spent with your kids allows you to easily witness and assist their character growth.
  • Social skills can be taught gently for the more shy child.
  • There is every type of curriculum (or no curriculum) imaginable available.
  • You can accommodate any special needs of your child, and often without a label.
  • Plenty of time is available for life skills.
  • No busywork!
  • Parents’ moral and religious beliefs can been passed on to children.
  • Homeschooling allows for greater community and civic involvement.
  • Children work for knowledge rather than grades.
  • It’s less expensive than private school, and often less than public school activity fees.
  • There is greater opportunity to be well rested.
  • It takes away the stress involved in scheduling around institutions.
  • Peer pressure is greatly reduced.
  • Learning is part of the day’s flow, not separated into a block of time.
  • It provides less exposure to teasing and bullying.
  • Kids have more opportunity to think outside the box, encouraging greater creativity.

That’s a lot of fruit! God provides, and the homeschooling family is free to enjoy the sweetness. Store it in your mind, too, so you can pull out that fruit as a reminder on the days ahead when you will want to tear out your hair.

A couple months ago I read about someone who listed three things they are grateful for every day. If you do this daily for 20 days, your brain actually grows in its ability to experience gratitude. That’s pretty amazing. My son and I are going to take on that challenge this homeschooling year, writing our own lists and then sharing with each other, and I think we’ll be sure to include one thing particularly about homeschooling fruit that we are grateful for at least once a week. It seems like a great — dare I say tasty — way to start the year.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

Pray Now!

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Have you ever been with a friend, in person or over the phone, and they said, “please pray for me”? I have…and on many occasions. As they come to mind again, I do pray, but how much better would it have been if I had prayed for them right then and there?

That is what I’ve learned from a dear friend name Darlene. I used to belong to a particular homeschool co-op near our town and there were many families in attendance. Somehow Darlene and I hit it off. When we would see each passing in the hallways and time permitted, we would strike up a conversation, which always inevitably would call for one or both of us to say, “please pray for me,” or “please keep that in prayer.” And with that, I would file that prayer request in my mind, and then when I was in my quiet time, I would go through my prayer request mind’s file catalog and try to recall exactly what and who it was I was suppose to pray for. However, there have been times when the mentioned prayer need got lost somewhere between the request and me finally getting around to it. That’s where the problem comes in. If I had just prayed for this dear one right then, I could have “reiterated” the prayer request later when it came to mind, instead of trying to conjure it up, especially if I had not written it down.

Darlene ALWAYS made it a point to pray for me whereever we were. It didn’t matter the location, noise level, or traffic jam in the hallway. I remember being self-conscious about others peering in on us in the middle of the aisle at times, but I guess Darlene figured that this was a Christian environment, so people should be used to seeing prayer happening often and without apology. And, that’s exactly how it was. Whenever the need arose, Darlene made it her business to offer up a request to God right then, right there…no delay.

I can do nothing but appreciate Darlene’s sweet audacity. It was as though there was no one present but her and me. She was on a mission to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” Hebrews 4:16. Nothing and no one mattered but the task at hand — petitioning our kind, gracious Heavenly Father who is ever present to hear our cries.

I cannot honestly say that I am as amazing and prompt as Darlene is in halting in the moment and sending up a prayer into the Heavens, no matter the place or hour, but I am getting better at holy boldness.