These days, despite the hefty responsibilities of guiding a teen through homeschooling eleventh grade and breathing life into a fledgeling business, I still feel called, more and more, to the Goliath-sized goal of inspiring other homeschool parents to a very specific task.
Feel free to laugh, but it’s on my heart to direct and encourage those hard-working, godly homeschooling moms (mostly) to dig into their own needs, challenges and doubts. In other words, I’m going to suggest that they (and me!) do more work.
My wonderful church lady has said these words to me often: Do your own work.
Usually, it’s when I’m trying hard to direct my children’s moral development or academic achievement while feeling like I don’t have the time or space to intentionally grow myself. I’ve needed frequent reminders that my children are going to benefit more from a mother who is ‘doing her own work’ than from one who is instructing them to do theirs.
Do Your Own Work
Here’s how I describe what ‘your own work’ looks like:
Doubts, despairs, relational issues and brokenness that you know aren’t glorifying God, but that keep getting pushed off until ‘someday’ in favour of homeschooling – or simply raising – your children. Our own work is the personal work that would directly benefit us in leading our children to godliness, but that never seems to get done.
Is it possible that some of us, for a season, should ease off the academics and the pressures to perform? Do we need some time to refocus on our relationships both with God and the people we live with?
(For me, whenever I set my sights on making sure my kids’ relationship with God is being attended to, it’s likely that mine is being neglected. Sigh.)
In our family, there was a whole season of homeschooling when my own, and my daughter’s, personal work came first and foremost. And academics did fall back some. I wasn’t overly concerned at that point. I could see what the real need was. Even if I hadn’t seen it, I couldn’t have neglected our personal work if I had tried. It was just too big.
We had just come through an extreme family trauma that changed the face of our everyday lives. Isn’t that the way God works? We put off his plans for us until he backs us right into a corner. He uses some life circumstance to leave us no choice.
Like I said, I could have tried to stuff it all and force us to jump through normal academic hoops during that season. But picture, if you will, someone jumping through literal hoops. Now, picture someone whose left leg is gone and whose right leg is broken jumping through those same hoops.
If this is what homeschooling looks like, we’re doing it wrong. We’re trying to raise holy adults, not just hoop jumpers.
Sometimes, Healing Isn’t Optional
Spiritually and emotionally, we had broken legs. And they needed to be healed and in order for us to be able to thrive academically.
And, you know what? Once we had done a lot of our work, the drive and desire for academia returned with a power that we hadn’t felt in a long time.
Could you be trying to jump through the hoops with broken – or even slightly sprained – legs?
Maybe not, but the point is, our daughter caught up.
After we both allowed time for God’s healing. (But, honestly, even if she hadn’t caught up, I would rather have a spiritually healthy child and a functioning family than an educated child any day.)
Did we completely drop education during that healing time? For sure not. But I was prepared for days to start out as school days and end as healing days. And often, that’s exactly what happened.
I also got creative and opted for project-based learning. I guided my daughter through a fairly ambitious fund-raising project. Every day involved an assortment of radio and print interviews, much email writing, much accounting for funds used, etc…
Was it all strictly grade appropriate and quantifiable learning? Not at all. But it was something we could do and we could heal at the same time.
Your homeschooling story may not have as much brokenness as mine. But it doesn’t mean any of us should be putting academic achievement ahead of doing our personal work. The power and energy we all have for learning only come from our relationship with God. Anything in the way of that is in the way of our best education, as well.
What Will Your Children Remember Most?
Our children are going to remember far more who we are, and who we called them to be through example, than the assortment of excellent curricula we serve up in our homeschool rooms each day.
Don’t misread me.
I absolutely love learning and academic knowledge. My favourite ‘game’ on my phone is my Khan Academy mobile app. But I know that a child who has a daily example of how to walk humbly with God is going to be far more able in every area of life, including academic.
3 Action Steps for Doing Our Own Work
First, Seek God
I’m not good at this, I’ll admit it. Rushing ahead with my own great wisdom is my speciality. But I’m going to tell you anyway. Here it is: Don’t take any advice – EVER – without seeking God’s wisdom and will for your specific situation.
I don’t want to hear anyone saying, “I took your advice, Colleen, and stopped working on academics with my kids so I could connect with my inner child”. No. Don’t take my advice. Seek God. If he says to, then do Step Two before changing anything.
Seeking God is the whole point I’m driving at. Our own work is to clear away anything that blocks our relationship with God in any area; especially parenting.
Have a mentor. Period. I have learned this the hard way. We simply cannot mentor ourselves.
Our lives, our levels of challenge, are so varied that I can’t give a map that fits all. But a solid, godly mentor can help you see your own blind spots. I believe that it’s not an option if we’re going to be intentional, Godly homeschool parents.
In person or from books… in areas where you know you’re dropping the ball, seek another’s experience to bring perspective to how you’re doing life.
Have a cheerleader… at least one.
I realize they can be hard to find in real life, and online encouragement can be easier to come by. The trouble is that it’s easy to discount encouragement that comes from someone you don’t really know. They’ve only seen the social media version of your life, after all.
What you’re looking for is someone who sees the whole, real, unfiltered, un-staged you… and cheers you on anyway.
Find a real, live cheerleader.
I Know You’re Overwhelmed
I call it personal work for a reason.
It’s work. It’s hard, frustrating and emotionally draining. You may feel like you won’t have anything left to pour out to your children if you turn to your own healing tasks.
Here’s the thing. We’re all broken, to varying degrees. This is not the Treasure in Jars of Clay analogy. This is the Leaky Bucket analogy.
God can pour and pour into your life, but if you have a massive hole in your bucket or a bunch of tiny holes, there is a problem. You’re never going to have enough to pour out for your kids (and what you need for yourself).
And, if it’s God who is doing the pouring, then no amount of trying harder on your part is going to dump more into your leaky bucket. You can’t work hard enough to keep it topped up.
Dear Homeschooling Mom…
So, my dear Mom, maybe now is the time to have a look around at your personal landscape. Is there something blocking God from pouring into your bucket? Or is there a drain on your bucket so large, you can’t be refreshed by the love he has for you?
That would be your own work.
And it just might be the time to get it done. Get it done so you can get on with the great plans that God has for you. The plans that he will cover with grace and a peace that passes all understanding.
And, don’t worry. If you truly have personal work to do – and I believe we all do – God will cover you and your kids with that same grace as you walk with him to do your own work.