Monday, December 8, 2008

First Things First!

Hi all, this is an article I wrote for my newsletter last year. I have been asked to reprint it, so here it is:

I began my homeschooling journey with a deep conviction that this was God's call upon my family. Many of you felt that same calling. You knew that God had a great plan for your children's life and He wanted to lead you as you guide their spiritual and academic development. God hand picked you to be their parents, and no teacher could love them, nurture them or would care about their success more than you. No teacher, except you, could early-on pinpoint their unique talents and gifts and be able to nurture them while still lovingly helping them with their weaknesses. You were uniquely positioned to be a devoted teacher, spiritual mentor and coach for these children which God has given you.

As I stepped out in faith into this wonderful journey of homeschooling, I discovered an exciting new universe: a world of curriculum, educational philosophies, supplementary activities and courses, academic endeavors, field trips, and opportunities abounding for the betterment of my little protégés. With a thrill, I realized that I really could give my children a better education! Only one major problem existed: fitting it all in. So, if we were going to do it all, we had better get on the stick!

Can you guess what fell by the wayside in our zealous efforts? Personal discipleship: Bible reading, morning devotions, deep spiritual discussions, heart training, and even our dear Lord Jesus. Sadly, I caught a terrible case of "Academics Attack", a malady that strikes many a homeschool mom. Indeed, my quest to provide my children the "best" education and the "best" enrichment resulted in an attack on our true purpose for homeschooling - to nurture their hearts for the Lord and help them grow into children that have their own personal walk with God - one that is Spirit led and powerful.

Though I believe God desires our children to do all things with excellence and to infiltrate every arena with light, including fields of study and trade, we must intentionally bear in mind our true purpose as home educators. If we are not proactive, we'll pave our homeschool highway with good intentions unfulfilled. There is a way that seems right to man, and focusing on academics and achievement would seem to provide a bright future for our offspring. Yet, in God's economy, we must continually seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things shall be added to us as well. Seek ye first.

Our first priority should be training the hearts of our children to love the Lord, to love others and to really, really know God. We should be diligent to make heart training the important first in our day - a quest we purposefully and actively pursue, rather than just waiting and hoping for teachable moments to arise. Frankly, academic or extracurricular interests can quite easily become an idol to our hearts and to the hearts of our children. We find ourselves devoted to these pursuits, dedicating most of our thoughts and attention to these things. It's quite a task to make heart training a priority, but God promises that our diligence to do so will yield tremendous results: He will take care of everything else on our behalf - He will do it. He will fulfill His promises (Psalm 138:8).

When a love for God is truly cultivated, everything else, including academics and other endeavors, will fall into place. In fact, if we neglect the spiritual training, the other pursuits won't yield the fruit that God intended.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
John 15:5

Apart from God, all our efforts come to naught. Nothing. Zip. Zero. A law degree? Maybe. But in God's eyes, it's worth nothing apart from Him. If we genuinely focus our homeschooling on spiritual training, it will produce fruit, fruit far superior to that which we could ever manufacture through our own efforts. Spiritual maturity produces academic success with less effort. Spiritual Maturity allows our students to be led by their Maker into that which they were created to be, and it's always better than what we could plan or hope for.

After a year or two of relentlessly working to provide the best education and enrichment for my children - putting spiritual maturity on the back burner, I was at the end of my rope. I found myself driving slowly by the public school. Needless to say, things were not going well. My kids were fighting constantly, no one enjoyed school - including me. I realized that all the field trips we took were just an excuse for a day off and no one learned anything, no one wanted to do their work. Each day we were frantically rushing through the school work because we usually had somewhere to be in the afternoon, and anger was the flavor of ice cream I served up on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Yum.

Finally, in silent desperation, I did what we do when we find ourselves in a deep, dark pit: I gave up and fell on my face before God. With fresh revelation, I got up with a new plan - morning devotions instead of school. Yes, for a while we just gave it all up and only did devotions. We did them for more than an hour every day.

Within a short time, our entire family life changed. Peace reigned where chaos was once our dictator. Kindness marked our attitudes, and diligence began to sprout in my children's little hearts as they completed their assignments and did what they were asked. When I said it was time for school, I no longer heard the familiar groans. No amount of begging, pleading, rewarding, or threatening to call dad could have produced this behavior. It was the fruit of my children's renewed walk with God. Their faith grew as their prayer lives matured; they began to regularly pray on their own - in every situation, especially before subjects that were the most difficult.

There have been times over the years where we have fallen out of the routine of devotions - either we couldn't find a good devotional book to read, or we went on vacation and couldn't get back in the groove, or I just allowed busyness to distract us. Invariably, within a short time of neglect, things would begin to crumble again. Unfortunately, we simply can't coast on the manna we received last month - we'll ramble along for a bit before we begin to slide downward into another "Academics Attack."

If I could tell moms only one thing that would help their homeschooling, having regular morning devotions would be it. Truly, nothing else has blessed our homeschool experience more.


YooperMama said...

More words of wisdom from Jeannie! I think we all have at one time or another fallen into the trap of upholding the world's view of success above what the Lord views as being truly important for our children. Keep posting.

Bookworm said...

Such godly wisdom Jeannie! Thank you. I love the fact that you are always so transparent as you share what's on your heart. You are such an encouragement to me!
Love and Joy in Jesus,

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

This is an excellent post, Jeannie. I have experienced this same thing in our young homeschool. It's certainly not something that is exclusive to older children. :-)

Would you mind if I copied this and emailed it to our co-op loop? I would of course include the credit at the bottom. I just think we all need the New Year reminder.

I will wait to hear a response before I send the email. Thanks!

BevG said...

Thanks for sharing! I had not thought a whole lot about it until I read your post. This year we have been really consistent in reading the Bible and praying every morning. Our school has been so much easier in terms of attitude!

Thanks for reminding me to thank God for his blessings!

Truthseeker said...

Wow. I really really needed to read this, Jeannie! I've definitely fallen into this trap over and over again! I feel like I'm in this sort of loop again lately. The Lord is so good to show us these things!

Coconut Clan said...

What a blessing to hear what God has laid on my heart many a times! Would I be able to copy this post to put in our home school e-newsletter?

Thank you and praise be to God for His faithfulness!

Coconut Clan said...

Thank you for sharing, Jeannie! My experience and thoughts exactly!

May I copy your article for my homeschool groups e-newsletter?

Thank you and Blessings,

Gilda said...

As I am beginning this new adventure of home schooling, I find myself in a dry spell myself, wondering, where is the joy I once had, how am I to then lead my children in faith, in academics in attitude...busyness makes it easier to forget that the living water, the source of our joy is our God, if we do not dwell with him we loose that light for ourselves and are unable to share it with others too. Thank you for the gentle reminder that it is in dwelling in the presence of our love that our thirst is satiated and our spirits filled.

Carmen Bruno said...

such encouraging words and so true. I can testify that when devotions are not done in the morning or totally skipped for the day, we are headed for a rough day or more. I am adamant for daily morning devotions and try to get that in mostly every day.

Serene said...

Thank you for the reminder on WHY we homeschool.