This interview is part of a series called “Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Michelle, a homeschooling mom and Tapestry user who lives in South Africa!
Michelle, how long have you lived in South Africa?
We’ve been here almost eighteen years. My husband is a pastor and involved in training other pastors and missionaries as well. When my husband left for university, his father decided he didn’t want to follow the American dream and wanted to use his gifts for the Gospel. So he moved the family to Kenya and my husband spent his summers there. He gained a vision from that and when he graduated from seminary he (and I) went to teach other pastors in South Africa. Now he primarily pastors a church and also trains others on the side. All five of our children have been born here, including a child whom we adopted. When I was in college I was studying Christian education, hoping either to homeschool my own children on the mission field or to educate other children.
What made Tapestry stand out?
I had been trying to put together my own stuff for a long time, and then another missionary friend shared her TOG file with me. At first I almost felt sick because it seemed so overwhelming, but then I saw that actually it had put together for me EVERYTHING that I needed in an integrated way that would shape their thinking and equip them for life. The only thing that made me nervous at that point was that my mentors with similar educational philosophies in America hadn’t told me about it yet. So I wrote to them and they said, “Oh, we started doing that a year ago and forgot to tell you!” I forgave them for that, but they had to take me book shopping as an apology when I got back to the states.
Speaking of that, what do you do for books?
We are almost the only American family in our group. Sometimes somebody coming to visit can put some in a suitcase, or sometimes we do orders, but then the postal service goes on strike… so it’s a huge commitment for these ladies to do it. But there’s just nothing else like it in the world and also Tapestry has granted us many scholarships. One of our ladies was just in tears when she received her scholarship.
How big is your co-op?
For many years it was a small group… just a few families. When my oldest son got to be old enough that I really wanted to have discussion peers for him, we began to hope that the group could expand. We prayed for five families and the Lord gave us five families. The next year we prayed for ten families and the Lord gave us eleven families. Now we have eighteen families.
What things did you like about Tapestry that made it a good fit for your co-op?
It’s because all our students are able to do the same topics in the same weeks across all their different ages and learning levels. We just had one family join our group that was using another program with their children who have some special needs. Their children are way below grade level. But Tapestry is so flexible that they were able to just slot in with our Upper Grammar children without feeling in any way inferior, and we can tailor the learning levels for the learning level and ability of each child.
How do you address the challenge of including African history in a US-based curriculum?
When moms ask me why they should do a curriculum that involves so much US history, I explain that we are studying the superpowers that have shaped the world, and so just as we study ancient Egypt or Greece or Rome or Persia, so also we study modern superpowers like America. As they see how these different empires or nations function and influence the rest of the world, they will be better able to consider how these superpowers affect their own country. We also do take time in the weeks that cover Africa to do more with Africa. We had one of the grandfathers come in during the week when we were studying the Anglo-Boer war and had him show us his artifacts from that. We also replaced an entire American history unit with African history.
Is homeschooling growing in South Africa?
Yes, it’s definitely on the rise. For many years we only had a couple of families in our co-op. Now, homeschooling is getting bigger. If you use the government system where you don’t have to pay fees, there will be at least 50 students in a class with very few resources. Otherwise you have to send them to a private school with very high fees. So, people are looking for a middle option and looking abroad quite widely. Some do online options, some do other things, etc.
How do you make homeschooling work with such a big co-op, especially when you mentioned that you sometimes need to drop everything and help friends out in the bush?
Well, my older three children are independent. My youngest three, including the one who is still learning to read, take up more of my time of course.
I think Tapestry actually saves me a lot of time, because I know that so much will be covered on co-op day. For instance, we decided to do a D writing class as well, so it’s pretty much 6-9th in that class and it was hard for me to find the time to do writing assignments with my students, but because I teach that class I put a lot of effort into it. However, other teachers cover other subjects, so I don’t have to do nearly as much of that. On Thursdays I know that great parent-teachers who are gifted will do hands-on activities and maps and lap books and so on.
Has there been anything fun or weird or interesting that comes up in studying Tapestry as South Africans that wouldn’t necessarily come up in America?
Well, at dinner a little while ago with our co-op friends who are from Zambia and the Congo, we were discussing American politics and they were asking what we thought. Socialism came up as a topic and they were asking us “What is that?” Most of the liberation movements in South Africa were led by socialists, so they think socialism is good… and so do the people here of European descent who also have a more socialist background with free health care, etc. So then one of my older sons jumped in and began to explain all about Socialism and Stalin and Mao and helping African adults to understand the dangers of the socialistic worldview. At the end of that evening, my friend said, “We are homeschooling our children because we want them to have this; we want them to understand culture and vote well, etc. But how are we going to reach the rest of the children in this country so that they understand and so that they can vote well? That really challenged me to think beyond my own small family and group, so actually of late I have begun to think about trying to start a good Christian school for our area.
Is there anything you’d like to ask as a prayer request?
I’d like to ask for prayers that families in South Africa can keep homeschooling their children. So far it is still legal, but the government is not supportive and we don’t know how long this privilege will last. Also, we ask for prayer to persevere as the moms face some things that I think moms in America may soon be facing. One wife has a husband who has been out of work for a year because he won’t pay bribes. Another husband is in similar trouble because he wouldn’t tell a lie. People are having to stand firm for their principles, with real financial costs, and they need prayer. Finally, I’d ask that we be able to find a way to bless more families in this country with Christian education, because right now there is a very small minority who can. When I was doing a women’s conference recently in an African township, I don’t think any of those women were able to stay home with their children. They all had to work, because our liberal constitution makes it easier for women to get work than for men to get work, and so they wind up bearing the burden of being breadwinners.
Many of us are just on the cusp of starting a new school year; others of us are already several weeks in. In another month, most of us will have settled into a daily rhythm of life, and the newness of starting school will fade. As the dust settles, we can lose motivation to do the small tasks of keeping house and teaching lessons. Or, maybe in the bustle of starting school, things piled up around you in your home and you dread tackling the mess that is staring you in the face. If any of these challenges apply to you, keep reading!
You have probably learned by now that it’s easier to do the things we don’t particularly care about—left to ourselves—if there is a motive that springs from something that we do care about? For instance, I might not vacuum my floors for a couple of weeks because I can live with the dust bunnies and, besides, I have other priorities for my time. But, if my kids call to say, “Hey—last minute request: can we come for the weekend tonight with the grandkids?” you can bet that I’ll be vacuuming those floors by mid-afternoon, no matter what other plans I might have awoken with for that day’s activities. Why? Because suddenly what’s most important to me is that I love my children and grandchildren by giving them a clean and orderly environment when they come to visit. This sudden desire on my part to vacuum this afternoon is an example of the concept of the Greater Yes.
The same idea has been expressed in other ways. We can think, “Do I got to, or do I get to give my children nutritious meals today?” Framing it that way seems to give importance to the daily chores of cooking (or cleaning) tasks. In my example, “Have I got to clean for my visiting family, whom I love, or do I get to (because I’m so blessed that they actually want to come and see me!)?
Another way to come at this is to observe that most of us do what we want to do most of the time. The reason that obedience to God’s Word and ways is commanded is because, as sinners, we often do not want to do His holy will. However, for Christians, obedience is also a “get to”—a Greater Yes. One way that you can take your spiritual temperature is to go about your day and notice how many times you do things for His sake: either to obey Him, or to glorify Him in the eyes of others, or just to serve Him in secret as His hands and feet in the world. When you do things for the Lord but unto others, you are in a real way doing what you want to do. You’re walking in good works prepared for you from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:10)—and you’re doing that because you want to. Why do you want to? Because the saving power of God has put a new nature in you, one that delights to do His will (Jeremiah 32:39-41) on an increasingly frequent basis (Proverbs 4:18). And the converse is true: resisting the grace of God and seeking our own pleasure above serving others for His sake should alert us to the need to renew our spiritual lives—and soon (Romans 2:4-5)!
I recently had this brought home to me in my capacity as a farmer. You see, at Storybook Farm, we have this large shed. It is OLD. One side is half falling over–there are cables that stretch from side to side to keep it from bowing. My daughter Christy aptly named it “The Greater Eyesore” and has plead with us for almost three years to tear it down. (It’s the *greater* eyesore because it has a smaller twin shed across the driveway, as you see in the pictures.) This shed is 1800 square feet: 82 feet long and 20 feet deep.
No one had used The Greater Eyesore–except wild animals, birds, and insects–for over 30 years when we bought the farm. It had a lot of random stuff: seriously old hay, butternuts, a brand new electric dryer, and ancient freezer, sheet metal, old wood, rusted and useless farm tools, spiders, bird nests, wasp nests, etc. You get the picture. The Lesser Eyesore was similar, but it had lots and lots of old lumber, some of it quite useable.
The Greater Eyesore used to be a chicken coop, so there are four holes in the ceiling where they used to have wood stoves to keep the place warm in winters. There are holes in the roof in those spots now; the stoves are long gone. There are rows of windows and doors down both sides; none have screens or window panes left. It used to be electrified; no longer. It used to be plumbed, but that’s disconnected. We cleaned out some of the junk when we arrived… that which could be salvaged (like the dryer) we sold or gave away, and that which could go to a dump we put in a corner. We didn’t have a truck, you see, and being new in a rural county, we didn’t even know where the dump was!
For going on three years, we’ve used The Greater Eyesore as a storage spot for all the stuff we didn’t want right at the moment in our not-so-big house. So, our boxes and extra “stuff” has been disintegrating slowly in this shed, some of it under tarps and some just in the “open.” My husband and I have been saying to each other since last summer: “When it rains, instead of doing outside chores, we’ll sort the junk in the shed.” Well, at first it just so happened that there was a six-week drought so we worked on the riding ring each evening, and then in the fall life was busy, and who wants to go into a stinky old shed to sort stuff anyways? First it was too hot and then it was too cold. We never did; and every time we finished some other farm or household project, we jumbled more stuff into the poor old Eyesore.
But, last week we finally assembled enough bits and pieces of our lives that we had a truck (and a horse trailer) and loaded both up with junk from the sheds (including about six old mattresses and box springs that were full of fleas) and Scott took them to the dump (which, it turns out, is in Petersburg, if you want to know)! While we were in The Greater Eyesore looking for stuff to dump (and trying to discern what to save–which was getting increasingly difficult) I got a glint in my eye: I decided that there was a future for that shed! It would make a swell barn for my horses this winter! You see, our current, small barn’s shelter for cold wasn’t much good for our one horse last year, and since we now have two horses, it’s that much less good. I’ve been concerned as I’ve looked ahead I wanted a place that I could put my horses in stalls when the weather is really nasty.
So, this past week, I wrote up a floor plan for the new BARN (no longer the Eyesore) after measuring all the internal structures, doors, and windows, etc. I figured out where we would put: the hay, the fencing wire, the tractor, the tractor implements (like its plow attachment), the generator, the lumber, the family storage stuff (in sorted tubs, thank you), and the animal stalls (7 stalls–totally exciting to me!). Scott and I agreed that this was the next project we would tackle.
Right on cue: Saturday, it rained all day off and on. We spent the whole day in there. We built shelves in the family storage section out of old doors and scrap lumber. He mostly built while I mostly sorted. I had clear tubs of old and new, clean ones from WalMart, and I went to town. THEN, I went and got our labeller machine and started using it as well. SATISFYING. I figure another week of evenings and we’ll have it about licked. After waiting and being so intimidated for so long, it feels like a miracle.
Now, note: for two years, I had other things to do than attack this mess. But, after I saw that this could be a wholly sufficient barn for my beloved horses for the winter—and not only for them but for other animals (goats and ponies) that we hope to get next spring—I became filled with passion for the project. To me now, cleaning and organizing that HUGE mess of a shed is a pure delight. I run to the task! In fact, I’m in serious danger of neglecting other priorities for this one project. Go figure! What changed? I harnessed my Greater Yes (the desire for an animal barn) to the task I had been putting off for years (cleaning and organizing the shed) and found great reserves of untapped energy!
Of course, this wasn’t the first time in my life that Scott and I have observed this dynamic on ourselves or in our kids. But, as I was talking with my husband about what to write for a blog post this week, he pointed out this recent, rather dramatic shift in my attitude and advised me to apply it to homeschooling as a source of encouragement to my readers.
It wasn’t hard to do! So many times in my homeschooling journey there were those ignored corners of my life that amounted to “got to’s” and that I had no motivation to tackle for days or weeks on end. In those seasons, I steadfastly ignored them for as long as I possibly could. There were the uncorrected lessons, the unfiled papers, the closets that were crammed and jammed with jumbled stuff, the never-ending laundry piles waiting (and waiting) to be folded, the same hum-drum meals served over and over without a spark of creativity applied… You know how it goes. We all have these kinds of corners of our lives.
Here’s the thing: ignoring those corners gives the Devil room to guilt us. And, because of how women are wired, to feel justly accused in one area can tempt us to feel like overall failures. And that can lead to temptations to just throw in the towel and quit. No matter how successful we are in many areas of home tending and mothering and teaching, where we do walk in loving obedience to Christ and put first things first in our homeschooling, those ignored corners remain as tokens of our weakness, our neglect of duty, and our stubborn independence. The Accuser of the Brethren (Rev. 12:10) knows how to capitalize on that guilt and torment us.
Here’s the advice I want to offer: look around at your life this week for some niggling area (or huge challenge) that needs your attention, but for which you have no motivation in your heart. Start with prayer: ask God to help you find fresh reasons for tackling this area. Then, seek to harness your Greater Yes and use its power to address just one area of your life this week as an experiment.
Though you might have a mess the size that I did in mind, I’d counsel you at first to make the exchange small enough to be realistic. For instance, let’s say that you love to sew or do other crafts, but never get the chance, given your busy season of life. And, let’s also say that you need to clean out the kids’ drawers and closets in order to change over clothing for the upcoming colder weather. Try this: ask your husband if he’ll help you. Plan to clean one of those closets during the week ahead because he’s agreed to take the kids on a field trip and give you all of next Saturday afternoon to sew your little heart out. Start early in the week, and remind yourself that there’s a tangible reward coming if you can just get over the starting hump!
Or, say you love to read fiction and never get time, and you know there’s that pile of school papers that need correcting and filing. Alrighty: harness your love for reading to that paperwork. Plan that you’ll do 15 minute attacks on that paperwork per day, and reward yourself with reading two chapters of an exciting new book that you’ve been wanting to peruse. Hold that line: if there’s a day with no filing (which can happen in a busy homeschool environment), then there will be no reading! But, if you manage to find a way to squeeze in that paperwork each day, then you get to read!
What you may find, as I have found in this recent cleaning out of my shed, is the unexpected sense of delight and satisfaction in the job well done. For me, cleaning that shed has become a delight in itself that is now only heightened by the anticipation of enjoying a barn this winter. I’m finding things that were lost, throwing out junk, and seeking order emerge from chaos. All of this delights me and keeps me coming back to do more. Similarly for you, tackling some of those ignored corners of your life may not only cleanse a guilty conscience, but the task may become a joy in itself! Try it and see: pick one small area to tackle, and think of a corresponding delight that will give you fresh motivation to do what’s right to the glory of God, and as an example to the small people around you who will watch, notice, and learn from your example.
In my last post (Do You Have a Guiding Star? ) I wrote about the confusion that most newcomers feel when first confronted with the “night sky” of the homeschooling world. The starry array has its beauty, its darkness, its bright stars, its moving comets and its constellations, with an occasional passing plane soaring overhead, just to confuse things. In the next few posts, I hope to help those considering homeschooling to make sense of what now seems like a bewildering multiplicity of choices.
Like any new star gazer, to make sense of the night sky and get any use out of it as a guide for your journey, you must learn to see the patterns of stars in the sky above. There are two broad ways to pattern choices between homeschooling resources. One can group them by educational philosophy or by methodological approach. Let me define these simply.
- Educational philosophy expresses the “why” or the “where” of education. It asks, “Why do we teach?” and “Where we’re trying to end up?” It is focused on the meaning and goals of the educational journey.
- Educational methods are the means that we adopt to get to the philosophical ends that we’ve defined. What content do we teach? What delivery options do we choose? How do we measure success as defined by our educational philosophy?” Etc.
All homeschooling resources have a guiding educational philosophy as their basis. Some vendors are clear about theirs and explain it to the new buyer. In others it’s either assumed (doesn’t everybody already know that this is the goal?) or it’s so underlying as to be invisible to the newbie. Many newcomers get caught up in the details of the methodology as a first step. I’d direct you to consider the “why” of homeschooling before even beginning to look at the “how.”
Since all resources have as their starting point their view of education, if we’re talking about picking a star to head for, I posit that job #1 is to figure out your educational philosophy for your unique family. Start with your direction, then choose a star in a constellation that rises in that direction.
Now, before you get overwhelmed (or stuck) let’s remember that we’re on a journey here, so our educational goals (and often our methods) will change with the different stages of the journey. I mean, if you were taking a trip from east to west across America in the pioneer days, your first, short-term goal would be getting across the Appalachians (needing light loads and some warm clothing). Next, you’d need to truck across the flat lands to the Mississippi (via horses, by stage coaches) or even get there by water. Then you’d need to cross the prairies to get to the Rockie Mountains (time for a covered wagon full of supplies for this phase). Finally, you’d need to get over or around those imposing Rockies (mules are good for this!).
Each stage of the journey would have shorter-term goals (just to the other side of the mountain, that’s all) and equipment specific to that phase of the journey. You can might even decide to stop along the way and settle down just after crossing the Mississippi because you find that, hey, after all you like the flat lands of the Mid-West! You might veer north to Canada! While change and in-course corrections are always possible, having a long-term goal for which you are heading means that each leg of the journey, each short-term goal achieved, should also get you further down the road towards your overall goal of reaching the West Coast, as long as that’s still your direction.
So, with education we also have short- and long-term goals, and must try to start with the end in mind. But again: Where are we headed? Why are we going there? Once we know that, we can pick a guiding star to steer in that direction. I believe that you’ll best find your educational star to steer by if you sit down with your spouse and ask a series of questions, some of which have little to do with education, but everything to do with direction. Here you go:
- What are we, as a couple and as individuals, most passionate about regarding God’s glory and Kingdom?
- What are immovable constraints that will shape our family? (Such things as vocational choices, regional conditions, and money issues)
- What is most important to us as parents? Finish this sentence, “My parenting would be a success if ___________.”
- What do we value in life that we most want to pass on to our kids?
- How big a family do we plan to have? How does that limit our time, energy, and financial resources?
- Who will primarily do the teaching, and what kinds of gifts, talents, passions, and weaknesses does this person bring to the endeavor?
- Where are we today? (How old are our kids, what jobs do we have, where do we live, etc.? All the stuff above.)
- Where do we think we might be in 5 years? 10 years? 25 years? (Chart this one on paper, noting ages of kids, career, location, etc.)
- What gifts, talents, and drives do we already notice in each of our children? (On one piece of paper per kid: profile them academically, spiritually, and socially as they now are.)
- Which of the above gifts, talents, and drives do we think God wants us to steward and promote? What weaknesses have we identified, and how do we want to help strengthen each child over time, with God’s help? (Again, record these on the child-specific profiles.)
- If we had to boil our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children down into a couple or three theologically-informed sentences, what might they be?
Below are some examples that, while different, all have validity.
- Example #1: Bill was an Olympic athlete who won a silver medal, and Judy was, before kids, a triathlon competitor, first in her state. As this couple talks and prays, they realize that glorifying God in the public arena through stewarding carefully the gifts and talents of each family member is most important to them as a family value. Given this focus, a small family is planned so that there will be enough time, financial resources, and mobility to carefully steward the development of each child to his or her fullest potential.Now: we start with longest term goals and work down to today:
- One supportive, educational, long-term goal to the above could be to work towards attaining a sports scholarship to a university, for the purposes of making the most of gifts and talents that their 5 yo has early demonstrated as a gymnast.
- To this end, this talented first child will need a flexible academic program that leaves plenty of room for practices and meets throughout junior and senior high school years. Since gymnastics is an individual sport, he doesn’t need a school setting in order to further his goals, and homeschooling gives us the flexibility to control his schedule and provide Christ-centered tutoring.
- However, we all know that injuries happen, and there is life after sports fame, so Bill and Judy also want to prepare their children to serve God in other sports-related industries, such as becoming a sports therapist, or journalist,.
- Since their eldest child is now five (but showing clear talent in gymnastics even at this tender age) they should probably choose curricula that will serve God’s purposes as they now understand them by allowing them to build a solid foundation in the 3 R’s while still giving time for abundant gymnastics lessons and practices.
Please note that, so far in this process, no curriculum decision has been made. What has been established is clarity about the why of a couple’s homeschool journey. This kind of guiding star enables this couple to pick a point and begin to head for it. I chose this as my first example because of the obvious (perhaps over simplistic), clear direction that this couple has. Not all couples have this.
But, also notice that such sports-oriented plans are sometimes more subject to change because of injuries or lack of enough talent to make the cut. These wise parents have a two-part approach: they plan to give their kids a solid education and Christian values that back up a possible failure of the ambitious desire to have their student excel in the sports world to the glory of God.
- Example #2: Bob and Sue both grew up in the same Mid-western, farming country. Bob’s dad owned the regional tractor dealership and farmed. Bob had seven siblings; five still live close by. Sue grew up in the town near Bob’s farm, but she was an only child. As they talk, Bob and Sue realize that their central focus is family unity and generational discipleship. Bob and Sue both envision having a large family, being involved with both sides of a muli-generational family that lives nearby and comes from a strong Christian background.
- As they talk and pray, the defining, long-term goal for this couple becomes the hard work of developing a family business so that Bob can be a hands-on dad, much more available than in many other vocational contexts. A secondary benefit that they see in this is that involvement in the business can both train kids in valuable skills and bring generations together as they work together to the glory of God.
- To this end, the general academic direction of the children will include not only basic academic subjects, but a strong emphasis for each one on some aspect of the family business, determined by their emerging, God-given gifts and talents.
- There will need to be some time left in each day for Sue and the kids to assist Bob in the business, especially during its early years of development.
- As they talk, they realize that between business demands and the number of planned children, their curriculum will need to be pretty simple to execute: open, point, and shoot. Academics are not the focus for Bob and Sue right now: they are the means to the greater end of family unity and business success.
- Since Sue’s eldest child is now five, with a 3 yo brother and 1 yo sister, and Sue plans to be pregnant next year again, the curriculum and methodology they choose will be very basic and easily accomplished in short lessons.
- Example #3: In a third family, John has chosen a military career to the glory of God, so he and Martha have chosen to homeschool knowing that frequent moves will otherwise disrupt the social and academic courses of the children.
- As they talk about their future, they realize that Martha is going to have to be the prime mover in homeschooling and discipleship of the children, since John is going to be deployed overseas, sometimes for a year or two on end.
***May I stop this hypothetical example to say THANK YOU to all the heroic military families reading this? THANK YOU for serving so selflessly so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have!***
- There will definitely be some times when this family will enjoy sweet fellowship and support on military bases, but also the couple can anticipate periods where Martha will be isolated from real-life support. One long-term goal that they identify is to make computer technologies and long-distance communications a budget priority from the get-go.
- The curriculum and other family rhythms are going to need to be comfortable for Martha, who will function as a single parent for significant portions of the children’s upbringing. But, they are looking hard at ways that John can actively lead his family, and help and support his wife and growing children as the years unfold.
- Besides academic lessons, this couple is going to need to determine how their kids’ social needs are going to be met. Will the curriculum, the Internet, the social media outlets, or local church attendance be means of grace or avenues of sin to such kids? For instance, do they want to promote Internet relationships so that moves don’t disrupt them, or limit these in favor of a series of short-term, local friendships whose longevity or not are seen as part of God’s sovereign plan for each of their kids’ shaping and ministries?
- The vocational choice here doesn’t really dictate curricula choices as clearly. Martha’s personal learning style, degree of personal discipline, strengths and weaknesses academically, and personal passions have much more influence for the choices that this couple makes.
- As they look at their eldest, a 5 yo daughter, they plan to be in their current duty another three years, with John home for at least the next two years. This means that they can now go on to learn about the diverse array of homeschooling resources out there (which I’ll try to profile in my next post). What they now know more clearly, though, is that Martha will be the “lead duck” in choosing the curricula that she is most in faith for as they start out.
- As they talk about their future, they realize that Martha is going to have to be the prime mover in homeschooling and discipleship of the children, since John is going to be deployed overseas, sometimes for a year or two on end.
- Example #4: In this last example, Paul and Sarah grew up in (different areas of) East-Coast affluent suburbia and are comfortable in that lifestyle. Paul has a good job as a white-collar administrator for a large, stable firm, and Sarah enjoys cooking, home making, crafts and girlie stuff. Since they met at college and decided to settle in the same area, their parents don’t live close. Both are Christians and go regularly to a Bible-believing church, but it’s not the center of their world. Neither of them have have discovered driving passions to help them define unique long-term goals, since their life has fallen neatly into relatively easy, predictable paths. But, all of a sudden, they’ve realized two things: their son’s Kindergarten teacher is atrocious, and they themselves didn’t get a very strong education. In fact, they’ve never really thought about education much at all. Having been educated in the public school system, they’ve always assumed that their children would do likewise. Now, this curve ball in their otherwise placid life has them scrambling.
- The motive for this couple to homeschool is circumstantial: they cannot in good conscience leave their son in his current educational setting, and it is mid-year, which is the wrong time to attempt entry into a Christian private school. The seek a quick answer to the burning question, “How do I homeschool? Where do I start? What do I buy to use to teach?”
- Paul and Sarah have advantages in this crisis that some other families lack. They have money and Sarah has availability. Their eldest child is not very far into the school years. There is time for them to learn all that they need to know. What they lack is an overall understanding of their choices, and the places that those choices will lead them. Given the tight time constraints, the best single thing that they can do is to look around their church family or friends for a mentor who knows the homeschooling world well. (Actually, even if their kids were much older, this would be the wisest course for someone who had a sudden need to homeschool, for whatever reason!)
- Paul and Sarah can take their mentor’s curriculum recommendation and purchase a program that will finish out the school year. With that mentor’s help, Sarah can begin to set up her daily rhythms and begin to learn to teach their son. They should, however, realize that just because they have begun at the short-term end of the stick doesn’t mean that they won’t need to set those long-range goals if they are to succeed in homeschooling (and I would add: in life!).
- After the crisis is answered, Paul and Sarah can begin to pray and talk about their long-range and short-term goals.
- Shorter-range questions are like these: Should they continue to homeschool after this year? If so, why will they be doing so? (There are options! Christian private school is one; secular private school is another, or they could continue to homeschool.)
- The bigger, more far reaching question awaiting this couple is, “Where are you headed?” To answer that, they will need to work through that starter list of probing questions above. The good news is that the crisis will have clarified certain boundaries, and the catapult into homeschooling will have at least acquainted them with a mentor and some homeschooling jargon!
Before you go, let me flesh out for you what I mean in that last starting question above: “If we had to boil our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children down into a couple or three theologically-informed sentences, what might they be?”
I’ve actually given you examples in the profiles above. Did you catch them?
- Bill and Judy’s crystallized vision for their family might be stated as: “We want to glorify God in the public arena through stewarding carefully the gifts and talents of each family member.”
- Bob and Sue might say, “Our vision is to build family unity and generational discipleship, expressed through the means of a successful family business, run on Christian principles, to impact our community and serve our neighbors to the glory of God.”
- John and Martha believe that God has called John to the military. They would say, “We believe that serving and supporting John as he serves his country to the glory of God is the primary calling for our family. Secondarily, we believe that God provides grace and help for those in need, and as the father of this family, I (John) believe that I should diligently seek God’s will in supporting and loving my wife, and children, even when my vocation takes me away from home.”
Here are some other family visions that I have heard over the years:
- Our family is an outpost of the Kingdom of God. We want to build a loving, warm, stable family into which the world may come when invited, on our terms, so that our children may learn to recognize evil, minister to the hurting people of this world with compassion, and become equipped to answer the enemies of God in the gate of the city when they become adults.
- Our family lives in the inner city because we feel a call from God to minister to broken people. We live conscious of the fact that not a single sparrow falls to earth without God’s permission, and so we trust Him for provision, for protection, and for the souls of our children as we function as His ambassadors here.
- Our family is called to be overseas missionaries. As such, we homeschool so that we may instruct our children academically fulfilling our call to minister on the front lines of God’s ongoing battle for the souls of men and women in this place, where Christian witness is practically non-existent.
Inspiring, aren’t they? If you are just beginning this process, or if you’ve been in it for awhile, I would LOVE to see: what is God calling your family to? What’s your guiding star? What is the end that you have in mind as you begin (or are working through) your homeschool journey? Do share!
If you are new to homeschooling, you have already found that you have to contend with a myriad of choices and voices. As with any new endeavor, you must learn a new vocabulary, involving such words as “modalities” and “fine motor skills” and “unit study approach.” It’s a steep learning curve about a really important topic–your child’s education–and it can be bewildering and stressful!
Many different vendors of curricula, leading authors, and well-meaning friends (or relations) may tell you that their program is “the best” or “the only” or “the essential” ingredient to successful teaching and/or parenting. These mentors all sincerely believe what they say, or they wouldn’t be teaching others to do as they do!
But the truth is that there are many different, valid methods that will help you to achieve the general goal of successful homeschooling. So, if you are a newbie, how can you know what to choose? If you have a newbie in your network, how might you help them to know where to start and what to choose?
It helps to start with the end in mind. The years of homeschooling are well envisioned as a journey, with different phases, many adventures, and an ultimate destination. This journey requires dedication, perseverance, and faith.
Because many of us did not grow up homeschooling or seeing it done, we are like the early explorers or merchants who launched out by sea and land to seek a vaguely conceived prize with only the most rudimentary navigational aids. For centuries, adventurers steered by the stars.
Have you found your “guiding star” for the homeschool journey?
As I demonstrated in my “Why DO you homeschool?” post, parents start homeschooling for a wide variety of reasons. Before I go on, remember that all of these reasons for beginning the journey are valid, sensible, and motivational. God has all kinds of ways (some full of humor) of drawing us to paths that He’s marked out for us.
- Some start the journey as a reaction to life circumstances (from “my child’s Kindergarten teacher was intolerable” to “we are a military family and move a lot”).
- Some moms start homeschooling because they support someone else’s vision (like “my husband grew up homeschooling and really wants me to, so I am going to give it a try”).
- Some parents are eager to start, but only see homeschooling as a “get ahead” measure: they plan to homeschool only until their child is reading well, and then put them into a school. For them, it’s a “head start” measure.
- And then there are the ideologues: parents who homeschool for principled reasons, most typically related to education, religion, and/or family building.
These last parents have typically found what I’m calling their “guiding star” for the journey.
My biggest concern for many young couples who are attracted to homeschooling for the more practical (vs. principled) reasons, is that they have not yet crystallized their vision: they may lack a clear sense of why they are homeschooling. Sometimes, they have no clear vision of what success would even look like. When they are confronted with early schooling choices, they may have no star to steer by.
You may be in this position now, or you may know young couples who are at this awesome, overwhelming starting point. Given the long-distance nature of the journey and rigors along the way, it’s hard to sustain momentum. You may wonder if it’s even going to be worth it–whatever “it” is!
The learning curve is straight up, and all choices and voices seem equally valid.
Moms in their first years of the journey need motivation, need context for making decisions, need trustworthy guides, and need resources by which they can choose the first guiding star that they can steer by. To borrow from a career book title by David Campbell, If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else.
I believe that in most areas of life, couples need to take time to ponder their goals, not just the means that they will adopt to get to their goals. My husband and I have spent hours and hours and hours over the years (mostly on long car trips) talking around and through what we want to achieve in our parenting. We have found we do best when we start with the principles, and then figure out our practices. Our principles (our values) serve as our guiding star, no matter where the practical affairs of the journey take us.
So, for homeschooling, let me ask you: “What is your guiding star?” Where are you headed? How long do you think it will take to get there? What would success look like? When will you have arrived?
Before those questions overwhelm you, take a deep breath. Remember, your stars will change with the seasons! Like the constellations of the night sky, different seasons will bring different goals.
Those goals that you crystallize for your grammar-school years may not serve you well in the teen years. As God grows you and your capacity to love and serve, you may find that your guiding stars are quite different at the start, in three years, and in ten years.
That’s OK! Homeschooling is a journey, and the great delight of picking a star to head for is that now you can make choices and gain some headway, instead of being anxious, or knowing that you’re wandering around in circles! You don’t have to know each bend and turn in the road ahead. God’s guidance is usually more like headlights on a car, illuminating only the path immediately ahead of us, than a MapQuest print out that tells lays out the whole journey at a glance. That’s where faith and trust get built. But we do need to start. And, to start, we need to pick a direction that we think is good to head. Only then can we begin to say “yes” to some choices and “no” to others!
In my next post in this series, Starting with the End in Mind, I offer you a starting point as you seek to pick your direction and go for it. I think you’ll pretty quickly see that many new homeschoolers start at the “how” end of things, when really the question to be asked first is more “why?”
It occurred to me that one role I have as an older women is to share encouragement and perspective (dare I call it wisdom?) with those coming after me. I am privileged to have completed the homeschool journey with six children who are now adults, and have made me the grandmother of six (so far). As such, I am able to look back on the road from a bit of a height, and with hindsight. And you know what they say about hindsight–20/20 vision is much clearer! So, this post is meant as encouragement from an older woman, who looks back and is able to get above the fray and pick out some major milestones that might be hard to see when you’re in the middle of the journey with only the headlights on your car to guide you through the fog.
Permit me to start with an analogy of how I feel that all of life (including homeschooling) works. Imagine with me a virgin forest: the kind with lots of tall, deciduous trees and not much thorny underbrush. Year after year, this forest is undisturbed by man. Year after year, each spring, leaves appear on the trees. The sun warms them; the rain waters them. They grow. The fall comes; they whither and fall to the ground. The rains come; the snow falls. The sun beats down; the winds blow. In the spring, new leaves appear, and the cycle starts again. After about 70 years of undisturbed cycles, what would you find on the forest floor? Usually, deep, rich humus: fertile, dark soil that has “naturally” occurred. But, what if a forest fire has ripped through about 10 years ago? Then the soil would have evidence of that event. What if humans had come through and done some logging? Their tire tracks and felled trees would have left their mark. Places where animals have wintered would have soils enriched by animal wastes, but also compression from where they had made their homes and laid down, night after night, to sleep. Etc.
Now, you can’t hurry the natural processes outlined above; nor can you hope to exactly duplicate them. Each spring, summer, winter, and fall contribute different characteristics to the overall quality and makeup of the soil that formed. Some winters were brutally cold; others mild. Some falls were wet; some summers brought drought. That fertile soil took decades to form, yet one could say that it was formed by individual leaves, by sticks, by animals, by weather, and by the grand design of God’s creation working silently, at His direction, year in and year out. Change any of these contributing elements or conditions, and the soil would be different. Each of these has a role, but you wouldn’t say that any of them was determinative. The soil is what it is, at its broadest level, because God caused it to be that way.
I think that our lives are like that forest. Season by season, year by year, we have thoughts, we have interactions with people, we have experiences, we make efforts, we read books, we make decisions, and we hear persuasive words. Some memories are clearly etched in our minds; other things that happened to us–and shaped us–are not things we clearly remember at all. Yet, taken together, these influences and the general gene pool (and spiritual gifts) that we were given form us–almost imperceptibly–year by year. They make up the soil into which the gospel seeds fall, and either flourish, or merely survive, or fail the thrive altogether.
Who can say what makes one soul’s “soil” more fertile than anothers? Well, there really are basic elements. Loving environments during childhood, educational opportunities, mentorship, opportunities for advancement, and the people who alternately teach us, cheer us on, or trip us up. These all play a part, certainly. But, could any human being duplicate the complex set of factors (inbred and external) that go into shaping a human life?
Americans are “can do” people. We love self help books, lists of steps to success, and the joy of individual achievement. When we homeschool moms start thinking about homeschooling, we naturally ask, “What must I do to be successful?” Seeing the daunting amount of work involved, we naturally want to know, “What do I do in order to journey well?” When looking into curricula, we ask, “Will this one make me a successful teacher, and my child a successful student?”
Here’s the thing that I want to say, in a nutshell: you were not formed by any one influence, and neither will your child be. What I see, looking back, is that my children remember so little of the day to day, nitty-gritty of the academics that we did in our homeschools. That nitty-gritty, daily teaching and learning mattered, but, at the same time, it was just one of the factors that shaped them–and to my way of seeing with 20/20 vision, a minor one. So many other little things were almost as life-changing as were the academic pursuits–things I couldn’t control, like an emotionally painful encounter with neighbor kids, or becoming lost in a grocery store, or winning an important sports match and becoming puffed up with pride. As homeschoolers, my husband and I —who we were and, thus, how we reacted to life’s situations, great and small, happy or sad, challenging or easy–were the biggest single influencers in our homeschooled children’s lives. Our characters, passions, hopes, and dreams have translated, in various forms and in various degrees, to all of our six (very different) children. The things that we did not value, esteem, or promote have secondary places in our adult children’s affections to this day.
So, as you consider homeschooling academic things (like curricula, outside classes, hobbies and electives) consider yourself as well. To begin with, your soul’s “soil” is still forming. God is not done with you yet. Embrace this fact, and put your growth moments on full display. The best single thing you can do for your child is to grow yourself. Grow in godliness. Grow in humility. Grow in servanthood. Grow as a helpmeet to your husband. Grow in repentance, and in forgiveness. Grow in kindness. Grow in trusting God. Certainly, grow in diligence as you learn to teach academic subjects. Of course, actively instruct your child as you rise up, and as you sit at home, and as you lie down. Do make the effort to find the best fit for this season for curricula. I’m not making a plea for unschooling here! But, looking back, it was how Scott and I grew in all these things, not the content of spoken or written lessons that most shaped my homeschooled children. As a disciple (and homeschooling teacher) it is not required that you present a perfect picture of a Christian to your child, but you do want to present a passionate, pursuing, growing, changing, and ever-more-lovely (meaning, of course, more Christlike) one! If you are growing, believe me, your child will grow likewise! If you are stagnant, your instruction will lack that life-giving spark of authenticity that children need to be inspired to imitate you. “Do as I say, not as I do” has never produced good results as a pedagogical philosophy!
Before you get overwhelmed, let me just say this: God is already at work on this project! God uses your experiences in the season of journeying with your children into homeschooling as part of the mix of your unique soul soil. You aren’t finished yet, and as He equips you to meet and greet the challenges of the homeschool journey, the hills and valleys are all part of God’s rain and wind and drought and sunshine–the elements that He beautifully orchestrates to bring forth the varying expressions of Himself in you and in your children. Like that forest, the process is full of so many imperceptible moments and elements that no one but an omniscient, loving God could ever orchestrate it. But we do have such a God, and He really is at work! Be of good cheer, for, with Paul I can say with certainty that “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
One of the most fruitful parenting (and educational) paradigms that I ever learned came from Gregg Harris, father of Brett and Alex Harris, co-authors of “Do Hard Things.” At a homeschooling seminar that I attended in 1985, Greg told a little story to illustrate what he meant by “training in liberty.” Scott and I applied this to so many areas of parenting and teaching that I’ve long loved passing it along.
In my Foundations Series of the Tapestry Teacher Training webinars, I was sharing tips on teaching Grammar and Dialectic students (session #4), and launched into a full-blown explanation of Training in Liberty, which my son David then humorously illustrated. I embed the video here, and then I’ll add some application comments.
The video, as I now re-watch it out of it’s context within the larger TTT session, seems to lack enough detail on how to apply the Training in Liberty principle, so let me flesh that out briefly. (If you have examples as to how you use this principle, please add to this post via the “comment” button above!)
- You can use Training in Liberty to help your kids learn to responsibly keep toys and other belongings in order.
- Let’s say that their trouble is simply that there are too many toys for them to keep neat because storage is lacking. Well, that’s really your issue: you need to establish a place for everything, and everything in its place.
- But, now let’s say that there are good places on a shelf for ten toys, but your child owns twenty. What you do according to this principle is this: you get a big box, label it “Junior’s Toys,” and with his participation you have him choose the five toys that he’ll keep out on his shelf this month. He puts the remaining fifteen toys in the box.
- You keep track of how he keeps those five toys. You faithfully teach, correct, and train him to keep the five toys in good order. If he does well, great. If he does poorly, warn him that he’s got too much liberty, and he’ll have fewer toys to keep track of at the end of the month.
- At the end of a month’s time, retrieve the box with his toys in it. If he’s done well, allow him to exchange any five toys out and choose two more toys to take charge of (and play with). If he’s done poorly, reduce the number of toys that he’ll have access to, but allow him to change out and keep out any three toys.
- In all this you must remain kind, gentle, and encouraging. You are not punishing him for a lack of skill. You are training him by giving him only as much liberty as he can handle. This is very key to this principle: it is not punitive! You should always posture yourself as being in his corner, ready to help, and eager to give him ever more liberty!
- Now, let’s expand on the above. You can easily see how to use the same process on…
- Time spent with friends (or, actually, doing any desired activity, like playing video games or attending sports events) while balancing other responsibilities, like chores and schoolwork. Limit the enjoyable activities according to the way your child handles responsibilities.
- Kinds of friends teens hang with. If their liberty (choosing their own friends) begins to adversely effect them, then you (the parent) can apologize for giving the too much liberty, and (hopefully with their agreement) scale back the time that they are spending with poorly chosen friends. This idea applies to choosing music, clothing, or TV programs–if they aren’t going to choose well and wisely for themselves, they’ve got too much liberty to handle it well and we, as responsible parents, must scale it back (gently, in the fear of God, and hopefully with the child’s full understanding of this principle and agreement).
- Car or other privileges: driving, visiting friends, babysitting, any kind of job during high school–all these can be governed by the same set of ideas: we don’t want to give our kids more than they can responsibly manage! The things that they must do come first; the things that they wish to do are privileges given to responsible young people.
In all of this, remember: the beauty is that you get to sit far more often in their cheering section than in their critics’ corner! You must and should verbally express time and again how eager you are for them to demonstrate competence in an area so that you can responsibly trust them with more liberty in that area! They need to know that you are for them! Tell them so; and demonstrate it by celebrations of key milestones along the way!
Another key element to know: we found that there are times when taking away liberties will initially bring anger and/or resentment. That’s OK. You stand before God as the gatekeeper of your child’s soul; you’ll need to take some heat sometimes. They are fighting ultimately with God as long as you’re truly acting on God’s behalf. You might need to remind them of that sometime. If your child is older and you’re just learning about training in liberty for the first time GO SLOW. You don’t just want to jerk away liberties. Choose your battles well! Finally, it may surprise you to find that, many times (especially with children who have been doing this awhile and/or are still young) you will find that narrowing down liberties is actually a relief to your overburdened child! What a joy it is when that is the reaction!
Parenting in the fear of God involves training our children to responsibly handle both their responsibilities and their leisure time. Keeping those in balance in our modern society is a learned skill that takes years to master. I hope that this one principle will aid you in your quest to do the very best job that an imperfect sinner can do of helping your child to grow in both liberty and responsibility! Remember, though, that without God’s help, no parenting principles are worth much. Please do as Father to help you to see how you can use this tool in joyful submission to and dependence on Him.
Jody (not her real name), one of the most sweet, humble, earnest Christians I know was asking for help lately. She was troubled. She strongly suspected that one of her teenagers had recently lied to her. Jody wanted to know what to do in response. She admitted that she was struggling with hurt feelings. She was tempted to return evil for evil: to withhold her affections, intimacy, and conversation. She felt like her relationship with her teen was broken and betrayed, didn’t feel like she deserved it. She was having trouble even connecting with her teen’s pattern of sin: Jody hadn’t been tempted to patters of lying as a child herself. Unbidden, her mind jumped to “we’re doomed!” as she contemplated a future with little hope if this was how her teen was going to choose to do life. Jody knew that something was off in her responses, but she was stuck.
Jody’s situation is common. Many of us have had our teens lie to us, and have felt these emotions and thought these thoughts in reaction. Like Jody, we want to know, “How should I handle this? What should I do? Should I confront my child? Ignore it? Pray more?” Etc.
As I listened to Jody, what struck me was the nature of the kinds of (normal, honest) questions she was asking. She wanted help with both her own reactions to the suspected lie and with wisely taking next steps in parenting her teenager. However, it occurred to me that she would be better helped by asking different questions. To do this, Jody needed a change of perspective, from the horizontal to the vertical dimension of what was going on.
It is so natural when we have relational conflicts with our teens to look only in horizontal directions. Some of us look in a mirror, for instance. We ask, “What did *I* do to deserve this?” We think about how we are being harmed, or how we’re reacting, or should take action in the near future. In this approach, we stay center stage, and the whole situation revolves around our feelings, reactions, and self-determined course of actions. “What should I do about this? What would be the wise response? How can I stop feeling angry? Is it wrong or right for me to confront my child?” Etc. It’s not that we don’t pray and ask God for help, but it’s that we have ourselves at the center of the picture.
Another horizontal direction to look to is our husbands: “What should he do about it?” Or, “Why doesn’t he confront her?” Or, “Why can’t he be more involved in parenting our child? This wouldn’t happen if…” Etc. This is where we are putting blame or trust in someone else to counsel, correct, or confront our child. While they might really be responsible before God to do this work, and appealing to them may be a good idea, this is not the best initial direction for us to look, usually.
Another horizontal direction: looking at our errant child. Thoughts like, “How can he do this to me?” Or, “What should I say to him?” Or, “What if I do the wrong thing and drive him even further away from me?” And, “How will he ever become a responsible adult if he goes on this trajectory?” Etc. These thoughts center on the child as the thing to be fixed, or the problem to be solved, or the future to be feared.
Let me offer a different perspective. What if you look vertically, at God. What if your first question was not “What should I do?” but instead, “What did He do?”
Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners. Sinners like your child, yes, but more importantly for you at this moment, sinners like you. The first step to effective parenting (especially of teens) is to identify yourself as a sinner saved by grace. You have to get yourself to the level ground at the foot of the cross of Christ. You can’t stand above your child in order to pass judgment on him and sentence him to some kind of penance. Although appropriate discipline and consequences may eventually be needed, where we start is with a reminder: I, too, have sinned grievously. I, too, need the saving mercy of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, just like my lying child. In fact, in Jody’s case, she could discover quite a lot to repent of before she even went on to the next step.
- Jody suspected her child of lying, but she didn’t know the child had actually lied.
- Still, she judged the child as wicked and became angry, allowed herself to withdraw love, and harbored hurt feelings towards the child.
- Jody lost hope; she believed the worst of her child, and then started reacting to that hopelessness in a downward spiral of discouragement.
Seeing these things enabled Jody to repent and to have a direction for opening the topic of discussion with her teen. She could start the ball rolling by repenting to her child thus, “Brandon, I need to tell you something. Yesterday, I thought that you might have lied to me about where you were after soccer practice. I assumed the worst and judged you. I was angry and withheld my affection from you on the way home in the car after I picked you up. I am sorry. Can you please forgive me?”
Even if she didn’t choose to take this approach openly, confessing her sin to God and reminding herself that she stands daily in need of a Savior (and has a great Savior who promises to be there) gets her to a place where she can parent in light of the cross. She can see her errant teen as trapped in sin, and be for him. She can seek to restore him to fellowship with God and family (Galatians 6:1-2).
Having had her heart softened towards her teen by the realization that she and he stand equally sinful and equally loved and welcomed nonethless, Jody was more able to ask the next good question: “What is God up to?” Centering in on the gospel enables us to love an errant child as God loves us. Full of the love and forgiveness of God, we can seek to understand what God is doing in the life of our child when He allows this situation to arise. Kids may lie for so many reasons! Here are five off the top of my head:
- They are fearful of your disapproval.
- They want the approval of their friends.
- They are self-righteous and don’t want to be found out as sinners.
- They are attempting to get something that they know they shouldn’t have.
- They want to impress a girl (or guy) and puff themselves up.
The good news is that God looks on the hearts of our teens. He knows what’s really going on, even when we are clueless. When we look to Him and ask, “What are You up to, Father?” we tune in to the fact that the situation is well in His control and being worked out according to His plan. He loves our children more than we do, He is all-wise, and all-loving, and doesn’t make any mistakes. Whatever He’s up to, He’s doing it well and at the perfect time. Here are scenarios that relate to the above possibilities:
- Perhaps you have been hormonal or pressured financially in the last few months, and unnoticed by yourself, have grown habitually more impatient with your teen. Could your loving Heavenly Father be using this situation of a lie discovered to show you that you need to repent and work at being kinder to your child?
- Perhaps the trajectory that your teen is on involves people pleasing. Father knows that your child will not become the man or woman that He wants them to be if sh/e continues to give into the social pressures of peers. As you talk with your child as a fellow sinner looking for Father’s hand in the situation, you discover how much your child has come to be influenced more by her friends than she is by righteousness and serving God. Thus, you are enabled to come alongside and instruct and protect your child from man pleasing instead of God pleasing.
- Or, perhaps you have a pharisee in the making. Your child is a “good Christian kid” and really doesn’t ever put a foot wrong. As a matter of fact, you are apt to praise this child in front of others, and s/he knows that you think a lot of his or her right choices. Now, a wrong choice as been made and, through either pride or fear of losing your precious regard, this child is more concerned with his reputation and standing in his own eyes (or yours) than he is in doing good, loving righteousness, and going to Christ when he’s found to be a sinner. As you talk with your child, drawing him out as to the reasons he has lied, you see this pull in his heart, and you can restore him with love to a right relationship of dependence upon a needed Savior (and maybe adjust your own tendencies to tempt him to self-righteousness by praising him instead of giving glory to God).
- Covetousness is a deadly sin for our children and for their communities. If your child is attempting to gain what he wants when he knows he shouldn’t have it, and gets away with it, he’s bound for trouble. The lie discovered in this setting is God’s kindness in exposing a sin now, while the consequences are not great, and while you can–in love, not fear, as a fellow forgiven sinner–come alongside and tell him of the fruits in your own life when you sought to obtain forbidden fruit, and what happened next. We all sin in this way at one time or another, and the result is always sorrow of some kind. How good of God to give you the opportunity to minister to your endangered child!
- Sexual drives are strong in the teenager. Strong and new. Most of them don’t know how to handle them, or what they’re looking for in a mate. Exacerbating the scene is the cultural norm of early dating way before children are ready for marriage, and the permissive, immodest nature of media, worldly friends, and even some church youth group cultures. If the lie was a result of the normal pressures that the entrance into puberty brings, what a blessing you’ve been given to look into the heart of your son or daughter and see there a struggling, confused sinner just like you were 20 years ago! Father is giving you the opportunity to love your child, and come alongside them. You can help them understand their physical drives, the traps that surround them, and the truths that can direct them to safe paths through a murky swamp that we call adolescence!
Can you see how a change in perspective can make all the difference? When we are cross-eyed parents, we start with our own hearts so that we can love our teens as God loves us. Then, we can look again upward and ask, “What is Father doing here? How is He seeking to do us good and not evil? What blessing is He seeking to give me as He gains my attention through this situation?” With hope, with confidence, we can draw near to the Throne of Grace and look for good and perfect gifts, because God loved us enough to send His Son, and has promised with Him to graciously give us all things.