Have you ever spent time blowing up a large balloon only to have your fingers slip, the balloon escapes from you, flies across the room, and all the air leaves the balloon? How discouraging it is to have emptied your lungs for nothing and have to do it all over again!
A few harsh words of criticism to your children can do a quick job of deflating them, and undo all your efforts in building them up. As homeschooling parents who are both teacher and parent, balancing between constructive correction and criticism is a challenging job. They have opposite effects on a child. Correction can build up a child. It is empowering for him as he receives tools and specifics for improvement. Criticism however, deflates a child, causing them to retreat in a broken and hurt state feeling rejected. Correction can cause a child to thoughtfully examine themselves while criticism usually results in a child responding with defensive denial of any wrongdoing on their part. A child tends to start blaming others and move farther and farther away from the developing the humble teachable spirit that the Lord wants us all to exhibit.
So, how can we avoid this destructive trap? The Lord calls us to give gentle instruction (2 Tim 2:25) and to work towards gentle restoration (Gal 6:1.) There is no place in Godly correction for harsh words and tone of voice. When we must correct our children, we need to make sure our motives are pure (Phil 2:3.) We should not be trying to get even with our kids, to compete with them to feed our egos, or to get our own way. We are called to come in humility (Prov. 22:4.) Constructive correction addresses specific behavior and does not make generalizations. For example, “You need to finish your math homework before you can play your video game” vs “You are so lazy and never get your work done on time!” There is no place in correction for comparing your child to their sibling or friends. That will only destroy. God does not say to me “Susan, why can’t you be like the other godly people in your church who give so much time to me?” He says “Susan, remember to ask me before you say yes to anyone else about priorities for your time.” Correction should always include specific steps for our children to take to make a change. Another very powerful thing we can do as parents in helping our children respond positively to correction is to model that for them. With humility, let your children know about times you have received correction and about the things you are working on to improve.
Remember Christian homeschooling is all about discipling our children and when we deflate their spirits with selfish words of criticism, we are not doing our job. Praying the Lord will give you the clarity to see the difference between correction and criticism and help to inflate your children’s lives with the Word of God!
In His service,
I am so in awe of Christ’s resurrection! Because of the Resurrection, I can walk by faith and not by sight. As I look back over my life, in all those moments that I walked by faith and followed the Lord’s direction instead of walking by sight and doing what seemed logical, God worked in amazing ways.
When everyone counseled us to not take my mom in to live with us when she couldn’t pay for her housing anymore, I was able to walk by faith and take her in anyway and care for her for 25 years. When family finances didn’t look like it made sense for me to stay at home and be a homeschool mom, I was able to walk by faith and stay home anyway and watch God work in very creative ways to bring our finances together. When God allowed us to become parents to a severely autistic child, I grew to live in peace (eventually!) and not in constant fear of what our future holds. When my husband had a heart attack two years ago and it looked like I might lose him, I was able to walk by faith that God has the perfect amount of days numbered for our lives. There is power in the Resurrection!!
My hope for you this Eastertide is that you will be able to impart to your children the power the Resurrection can have in their lives. Look for opportunities to encourage them to make choices based on faith in Christ and not based on what the world is telling them to do. Teach them to make the hard decisions to obey Christ and not to do what seems wise in their own eyes. May the amazing fact that Christ rose from the dead, give you faith that you can trust Him and be obedient to Him.
Praying for you and your family to have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
So, how has your new year been so far? I bet most of you answered that in your heads as “busy!” As we head into the month of February and the stores force us to think about love and gifts for loved ones, my question for you is “Is your life so busy that you are too busy for love?”
Are you too busy to pick up the phone when a friend calls? Are you too busy to read your emails that you end up missing the one asking you to sign up to bring a meal to a friend’s family who is in a crisis? Are you too busy to recognize when your child just needs you to sit with them and listen instead of driving them to the next “amazing experience?” Are you too busy to stop and think of something thoughtful you could do for your spouse today? Are you too busy to find 15 minutes to spend alone with your Heavenly Father each day?
There are so many passages in Scripture which instruct us on how to love but the one that God kept bringing to my mind as I was mulling over this “busyness problem” is the well-known passage in Luke 10 about Mary & Martha. Jesus is over at their house and Martha is stressed and busy in the kitchen preparing food while Mary sits as Jesus’ feet and listens to his teaching. Jesus admonishes Martha that her “busyness” is not the better path.
How often are we the “Marthas” who are just “too busy” to stop and pick the better path? This month as we focus on love, I encourage you to stop and be intentional about making space in your life to build into the community around you. Drop some of these activities that the world has told you that you have to be involved in and seek God’s direction for investing in the lives of people around you. Make time to get to Park Day and sit and deepen a friendship with another parent. Make it a priority to get to a Mom’s Night Out where God may well have a divine appointment for you to make a new friend. Open up your schedule so that when a friend needs you to bring them dinner or pick up their mail while they are on vacation, you can do it happily. There are so many opportunities around us every day to be loving and share God’s love and we don’t even see them as we are rushing to our next activity.
Slow down and create space in your life for love!
“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17
This week marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation of the Christian church when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. This is an important event on which any Christian homeschool should pause and focus and discuss its meaning and impact.
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century changed Christianity forever. Concerned by the corruption and abuses they saw in the church of the time, visionary pastors and leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin spearheaded a movement that transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today.
The Reformers were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity, especially in regard to what it was teaching about salvation—how people can be forgiven of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and receive eternal life with God.
Below are the “Five Solas” that emerged during the Reformation to summarize the Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity.
1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
Of particular focus during this time was “Sola Gratia,” the fact that we are saved by grace alone. Scripture teaches us that there is nothing we can do to insure our salvation. It is only by God’s amazing gracious gift that we may have eternal life.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8 & 9
Why is God’s grace so important?
Today’s world is very performance focused and we are constantly thinking about how we “measure up.” Is our house as nice as our neighbor’s? Is our car too old? Did our kids learn to read before all their peers? How fit do our bodies look? How impressive was our last vacation? Is our child the star player on the soccer team? And the list goes on……… Social media has become a breeding ground for an out of control focus on performance, instead of what it should be - a positive place to connect friends.
The result of this achievement focus is exhaustion, anxiety, discouragement, and depression. You have either experienced it personally or seen it in a loved one. It is all around us. These negative patterns and emotions can be minimized when we focus on Gods’ Amazing Grace. When we truly grasp that there is nothing we have to do to receive God’s gift of love and acceptance and eternal life, what a peace and freedom that brings to our souls!
Then and only then are we full enough of God’s love to share His grace with others. Then we can be loving enough to not judge and criticize everyone around us. When we completely understand what God has done for us in our sinful wretched state, then we will stop standing in judgement of everyone else knowing that we are no better and can share God’s grace and unconditional love with others.
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world to live in?!!!
May you have a grace-filled Reformation Month!!
In His service,
As our month of October begins, our thoughts often turn to costumes as our kids start asking “what shall I wear to our Harvest Party?” Well, I want to encourage you to consider, “What costume do you want to wear as a homeschool parent?” Not for an upcoming Harvest Party, but all year long!
Some options might be:
Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus – always has an answer for everything and fun-loving
Sherlock Holmes – always serious and carefully studying everything around him
The Hulk – strong and authoritative letting your anger get the best of you
Maurice, Belle’s father from Beauty & the Beast – very loving and smart but lacking in common sense
Fairy Godmother from Cinderella – focused solely on making everyone’s dreams come true and keeping them happy
Or perhaps…..Mary Poppins – “Practically Perfect in Every Way” – the nanny with the perfect balance between seriousness/responsibility and a love of play and enjoyment of the fanciful.
Most of us start out our school year with fresh new books and lesson plans and we are determined to stick to them and stay on schedule. Our day becomes all about making it through the assigned pages. I’d like to encourage you to not forget to allow for an occasional trip into a “sidewalk chalk painting” and allowing for everyone’s imaginations to flourish! Let there be purely “fun” moments in your day. Don’t get so over committed to outside classes and activities that you can’t just drop everything and go outside and pretend to be the honey bees you were just reading about in your science book. Stop and have everyone put on some eyeliner like Cleopatra wore. Trace the outline of the state of Texas on your sandwich bread with a knife at lunchtime. Have everyone practice an Irish accent as you talk about the potato famine in Ireland. Give your dining table a voice as it begs to be cleaned up for dinner time. Have fun! Be silly!
These “diversions” may slow you down and may mean that tomorrow you might need to do two pages of math instead of one, but it will be SOOOO worth it! These fun and silly moments will be the things your kids will remember and will help them build a tighter bond with you. Jane and Michael loved Mary Poppins because she played with them. She didn’t just smile at them and spoil them like their mother and she wasn’t just strict and logical like their father either. She was a balance of discipline and whimsy which is what Jane and Michael needed to snap them out of their selfish whiny ways.
Ask the Lord for creativity and for help in developing a playful spirit and you might be surprised what tricks He puts in the carpet bag of your Mary Poppins costume!
Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
With a joy-filled heart as I pray for you,
For tonight’s Back-to-School inspiration, I’m going to start with an old Sunday school favorite.
Play a few seconds of “The Wise Man Built His House upon the Rock”.
You all know how it goes. About a month ago, after a lot of praying to God and asking for what Scripture He wanted me to share with you tonight, He pointed me back to this well-known parable that Jesus shared at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. As the events of the last few weeks have unfolded in Houston and Florida with the hurricanes, I know see why God had me meditating on the passage about the Wise Man and the Foolish Man. We have an amazing and dramatic object lesson happening right in our midst.
The beginning of the passage is up on the screen. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24
We know that it then goes on to talk about the foolish man who builds his house on the sand and what happens to each when the storms come. What I hope to do tonight is apply this parable in some very practical ways to your homeschools. I want you to have a really successful school year. As Christian homeschoolers, we know that our jobs are so much more than just being educators. We are our children’s disciplers. The health of our homeschools is directly related to the health of our homes. There is no “right” curriculum that is going to do nearly as much to help your child grow and flourish as a healthy home.
If I were to ask you to describe your house to me, you would most likely tell me about the location, the color, the design, the square footage, the size of the lot, and the number of bedrooms. But you probably wouldn’t tell me about the foundation. You might not even know much about your foundation. Yet, as we have seen from the hurricanes, the foundation of your house makes all the difference. This is true not only of your house; it is also true of your life.
So what does it mean to build your house on solid rock?
In the same way, we can hear all of Jesus’ words and even have it memorized, but if we don’t do what He says, we aren’t building the right foundation. We can know that it is wrong to lie, but if we take our 13 year old to the movies and have them say they are 12 to get the child’s discount, we are not obeying God’s word and very likely, our child lies to us regularly about things like getting their schoolwork done. We can know that the Lord calls us to self-control and to use our speech to edify and build up others, but when our child disobeys for the 10th time and we lose our patience and lash out in anger, we are not obeying God’s word and very likely our child is being disrespectful back to us as well. When we’ve been the victim of gossip or slander and we react with the same thing trying to take revenge instead of being forgiving, we are not obeying God’s Word and we see our children starting to treat people the same way. However, obeying God’s Word will strengthen your foundation.
This is so critical because the parable goes on to say in verse 25,“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” It’s important to note that Jesus does not say “if the rain falls” or “if the floods come” or “if the winds blow.” He tells us straight-up that storms will come and we will not be spared! A strong foundation based on obedience to God’s word, however, will give us the strength to withstand the storms.
As I look out tonight at you all, I know there are all kinds of storms going on in your lives - there are financial pressures, newly discovered learning challenges, lost jobs, health problems, ailing grandparents, wayward adult children, wayward teens, marital conflict, anxiety/depression.
When personal storms come, often lives are destroyed and left in shambles. But if we construct our lives according to Christ’s building codes, we will not be destroyed. While obedience to Jesus’ words is not a protection from the troubles; it is a protection in the troubles. I want to encourage you: All the time that you have invested in laying your biblical foundation will pay off. It will keep you from spiraling down into depression or anxiety and help keep you strong in your faith and trust in God as being sovereign. Storms will come and go. We are all either in a trial, coming out of a trial, or entering into a trial. Nevertheless, if you’ve built your life on the foundation of Christ, you have nothing to fear.
However Jesus knows that we are not all going to do that, so he goes on in his parable to talk about the foolish man. In verse 26 He says, “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” The foolish builder also heard Jesus’ words but didn’t act upon them. So, why does the foolish man build his house on the sand? He doesn’t figure any storms are coming. He thinks the sand is a good location. It’s adequate. It’s a lot easier than digging down deep if you don’t have to. It takes more work to build on the rock. It takes more time and energy. And it costs more.
The same is true when it comes to the foundation of your life. To have a foundation built on sandy soil is to take the easy route, to compromise with the world - in your entertainment choices, in your priorities. It is easier to go with the crowd. As a homeschool parent, this might mean skipping your bible course work and focusing more on your math scores so you can brag to acquaintances about how great your child is doing or possibly manipulating your child’s behavior with bribes to get them to obey you instead of taking the time to biblically train their hearts.
But in verse 27, Jesus closes His parable with “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” Jesus concludes His parable and the entire Sermon on the Mount with an illustration of warning rather than of encouragement. I thrive on encouragement. I like to encourage others and be encouraged myself. Yet, as much as I appreciate encouragement, there is something very powerful about a word of warning that snaps us to attention. If our home is built on sandy soil and the storms hit, our homeschools completely fall apart as we, as the leader spiral down without hope and faith.
Lots of Christians try to change foundations when the rain starts. When the sky gets dark, the winds pick up, and the rain begins to pour they pick up the telephone, call the most spiritual people they know, and say, “Help me build a new foundation under my house. It’s falling apart.” But it’s pretty hard to change a foundations when you’re in the midst of a storm. People in Florida right now, can’t go out and dig under their homes and pour a new concrete foundation. The foundation has to be poured on sunny days.
So I want to encourage you tonight to do a little building inspection. Is your home on solid rock? Is there peace in your home? Is there respect in your home? Are your lives reflecting the fruit of the spirit? Or do you feel like you’re hanging a bit by a thread and the next problem you encounter is going to send you in a downward spiral? If so, as you start out this new school year and you are busy getting new patterns set, be conscious and intentional about adding things into your life that are going to help turn your sandy foundation into a firm slab of rock!
God bless you and I pray that you have a wonderful year of discipling your children.
What are your expectations for the year ahead? Have you let a little fear about your abilities as a teacher creep in and lower your expectations? Did you have a rough year last year and so this year you are hoping to just get through half of your textbooks and have fewer meltdowns?
God gives us some instructions on how to proceed when we have reduced our expectations based on past experiences. In 2 Kings chapter 3, we read about three kings who had joined together to travel to Moab to deal with their revolt. In verse 9, we find that they have run into a problem of not enough water. Out of desperation, they decide to consult with the prophet Elisha to seek the Lord’s favor. After hearing from the Lord, Elisha tells the kings , “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ ” (2 Kings 3:16 NKJ) He goes on to tell them to make the ditches even though they will see no signs of rain or even wind coming. They obey and the Lord fills the ditches the next day with plenty of water for all and even goes on to deliver victory to them over the Moabites.
We learn from this passage that we are to be obedient to God’s commands even when we don’t understand them and we don’t see any obvious way as to how He will bless our obedience. As homeschool parents, we are to bring our children up in the teaching and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). So even when we are filled with doubts as to our qualifications to be “good” teachers, or we feel like failures because our kids are struggling in an area, it doesn’t mean that we are to give up and lower our expectations. No, keep on keepin’ on and trusting the Lord for the results. He wants to fill our ditches with living water, but we have to keep digging the ditches!
Happy to be in the field digging ditches with you!
I received a treasured gift the other day. As I was checking in with my college freshman daughter and trying to get a feeling as to how she was truly coping with this dramatic new chapter in her life, she said to me “I’m really having fun learning new things. I feel really sorry for a lot of my classmates who were at traditional school because they just don’t seem to enjoy learning. They are just really worried about getting good grades and getting their work done on time.” Well, of course I would love to have heard that she was really concerned with those things as well, but I stopped and chose to relish the fact that she uttered the words, “I really love learning!” Phew! I guess something good happened from our years of homeschooling!
My encouragement to you this month is to work at making your homeschooling day full of fun moments so your students don’t develop a feeling of dread when they see their textbooks and an attitude that learning is dull and boring. Textbooks are fine as a guide to keep you on track with what new topics you should be working on, but don’t be afraid to veer off the path a bit in your methods of teaching. Turn your spelling time into a fun exercise of chalk writing on the driveway. Recite your multiplication tables while playing hopscotch. Before you start your lesson on Egypt, tell your kids you need a few minutes and go put on some dramatic eyeliner and come out as Cleopatra! I bet you’ll get their attention a lot more than if you just say “Now read from page 5-9 and then tell me what it was about.” Make your home lots of fun and you will reap the benefits of increased family unity and hopefully some lifelong learners!
Christ tells us
“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11)
Well, if we are truly filled with a joyful heart knowing all that the Lord has done for us, shouldn’t we be living with a light, happy, and playful spirit? Let’s not let the responsibilities of life hinder us from bringing up our children to understand what it means to live a joy filled life based on trusting our Heavenly Father!
So, this month, remember to get a new textbook off your school shelf – your “Fun”book!
Praying you enjoy your homeschooling days this month!
Failure is something we all try to avoid. We are embarrassed by it and discouraged by it. Our “self-esteem” plummets when we experience it. We attempt to hide it or deny it. And as parents, we definitely try to keep our kids from experiencing it!
This month, I want to encourage you to let your children go through some of those dreaded failures! I want to encourage you that it could actually be very good for them for you to stop being 10 steps ahead of your kids at all times making sure there are no bumps in their paths. Stop making their lessons easier so they don’t have to struggle to grasp a new concept or giving them fewer practice exercises because “they are too tired.” It is through failures and struggles that we grow and most importantly humility is built. When our children “apparently” succeed at everything they try because we have either eliminated the challenges ahead of them or hid them, our children become “wise in their own eyes.” Proverbs 3:7 warns us from becoming wise in our own eyes and encourages us instead to fear the Lord. When a child stumbles and struggles and experiences failure, he has an opportunity to learn about his human failings and his need for a savior. Going through failure can actually help point our kids back to God! And that is what our parenting is all about, right? We want our kids to understand their need for a savior and surrender their lives to our Heavenly Father.
I have encountered a fair amount of teens who have been shielded from failure for most of their early years and are now sadly lacking in humility. It is hard for them to completely surrender their lives to Jesus when they are prideful.
Please understand that I am not saying in any way to be harsh with your children and overly critical and creating a desperately insecure child. Don’t structure situations that set them up for failure. Just don’t make everything so easy for them so that they don’t have to deal with the natural consequences of their actions and limitations. My husband and I chose to involve our children in youth theater, knowing full well that it would expose them to the very probable experience of disappointment of not being cast for roles they wanted. There were many opportunities for growth during their years in theater, but the one that I found the most positive was learning humility.
Scripture tells us:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
It took me many years to fully embrace that verse. I did not want to look at the trials in my life as joyful events. After years, I have come to understand how powerful they have been and how they have drawn me closer to my Heavenly Father. Many of you know that I have a severely autistic 20 year old son who functions at about a 2 year old level. Parenting him, while bringing me many joys, has also brought me to the end of myself and to the feet of Jesus to ask for His wisdom, patience, and strength.
Our goal should be to learn from our failures and become like the righteous man described in Proverbs:
“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again,
But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16)
In His service,
There are moments as a homeschool parent when the doubts about your adequacy start to replace your excitement and enthusiasm for your choice to travel down the uncharted road of homeschooling. We all have the tough day when everything seems to go wrong – the kitchen sink backs up, the baby comes down with a fever, your mother-in-law calls and needs a ride to the doctor and your best laid plans of taking your 1st and 3rd graders to the museum and have a picnic lunch at the beach while studying about dolphins have to be put aside. At those moments, you start to wonder if you are cut out for this “homeschooling thing” or if you are doing your children a disservice. As I approach the ending of my journey as a homeschool mom, those doubts creep into my mind too. Have I taught my daughter everything I was supposed to? Why didn’t I spend a little more time on quadratic formulas in Algebra 2? I’m sure she would have done better on her SAT if I had been better disciplined and used every spare moment to teach her more things! It’s all my fault I am an inadequate human being!
As I was wrestling with these kind of thoughts the other afternoon, God prompted me to remember the story of Moses. God chose him to deliver God’s people from the oppression of the Pharaoh. He was not a fully equipped and trained leader. He was actually a man in hiding trying to escape punishment for killing the Egyptian. Not exactly who we would think God would choose to do such a mighty work! Even Moses knew he wasn’t the “perfect” person for the job and tried to get out of the call three times. The first time he said…”Who am I?” (Ex. 3:11) The second time he said…”But they will not believe me or listen to me.” (Ex. 4:1) The third time (can you imagine his desperation)…”I can’t even talk right!” (Ex. 4:10) And God’s answer to Moses was, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Ex 4:12)
God doesn’t call perfect people to do His work. He chooses the broken, the imperfect, the weak, so that His power can be revealed. (“Therefore I will glory in my infirmities, for when I am weak, You are strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9) And God says to us, homeschool parents…”Now, therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak…” Most definitely. You can be sure of it. He is here for us. We are not doing this job alone and we do not have to be perfect to be used by Him. All He wants is a willing, obedient heart. My prayer for you is that you remember Moses on those days when the doubts creep in and don’t get discouraged! God is with you!
In His service,
This is a collection of the reflections our principal, Susan Truman submits to our monthly newsletters. She is married to her college sweetheart and is a mother of three. She graduated two of her children from Coastal with her third child attending a special needs school.