My husband and I were given a trip to Hawaii by a friend who couldn’t use it due to unforeseen circumstances. I’m very excited for this getaway since my husband (of almost 18 years) and I have never truly taken a vacation together without our children. As if that weren’t fantastic enough, it just so happened that the incredible week on Maui that she gifted us was a Christian couples’ getaway, and we are going to enjoy music from Mac Powell, not to mention daily encouragement from Pastor Greg Laurie. We leave in less than a month. I’ve purchased a new bathing suit, decided what clothes I should pack, loaded up on sunscreen, and made arrangements for our six children to stay with another dear friend of ours. It seems like it is all coming together.
Even though I can imagine us lounging on the lush tropical shores, hiking through spectacular state parks, and becoming besties with Mac Powell and his wife, I am experiencing great anxiety. Not I’m-so-excited-to-get-on-a-plane-and-fly-to-paradise anxious, but rather I’m-afraid-of-what-is-going-to-happen-while-I’m-thousands-of-miles-away anxious. Some of my anxiety is legitimate. For instance, what if the kids get sick, or worse yet, get homesick; I will feel so helpless that I can’t comfort them. Other anxious thoughts need a little reigning in, like my tremendous fear of tsunamis perpetuated by the release of the movie The Impossible, or that an earthquake will rattle all of southern California and leave my kids without fresh drinking water. Will they remember that it’s okay to drink from the toilet’s tank, but not the bowl? It may seem ludicrous to you–golly, even I can see the ridiculousness that is plaguing my mind, but that doesn’t lessen the fear I feel. Some days I can rationalize it away, but other days, especially as the calendar approaches our departure date, it grips me and the scenario plays out, leaving me frightened and searching through paperwork to see if crazy is a valid reason for trip cancellation insurance.
I think this happens to a lot of us parents that homeschool our children. Not the natural disaster freak-outs (although the more I talk with other mothers, the more I find I’m not alone on this either), but the what-if-my-kid-is-a-failure freak-outs. You know the ones. You feel secure in your homeschooling path. You have been touting the wondrous blessings that accompany the style you are embracing. Your passion is so great, that you are researching how to become a spokesman for your said style.
Then it happens. You meet the mother at the park. You know, the one that homeschools differently than you. Her kids are excelling more than yours in all scholastic subjects, not to mention rocking the social scene. She humbly tells you of their accolades in extracurricular activities and how frustrating it is when she has to buy two years worth of curriculum for one school year because her children are that expeditious. Your stomach sinks lower and lower in your body cavity. The fear grips you and you taste bile in your mouth, because maybe you should be doing something differently. Maybe your theories on parenting and home educating are way off. Maybe it is a big deal if your eight-year-old isn’t reading Magic Tree House books on their own yet. Maybe it does matter if your pre-teen excels at Minecraft and still struggles with multiplying eight and seven. Maybe your kids will never get a job, will live in your basement causing the house to smell of sweaty socks while increasing the humidity level, and you will have to get a job to support their Hot Cheeto and Gamefly addictions.
How quickly we have fallen, thanks to fear.
Fear has a way of changing our view of what is truth and making us second guess our actions and plans. Most of us treat fear like the Puritans treated their underwear. It’s there, shaping us, but no way will anyone be allowed to see it. When we take this approach to fear, we give the enemy the upper hand.
My great fear of tsunamis began long before the airline tickets to Hawaii were purchased. It started during my fifth pregnancy with dreams of not being able to rescue all of my children from monster waves . For a while I never mentioned the fear, but it ate at me and I wouldn’t even consider fun getaways to sandy shores when the opportunity arose. A year later this fear continued to rob my family of impromptu vacations, and nightmares continued to plague me. I was in a Bible study by one of my all-time favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore. In the video study she challenged us to admit our fears to God, something I had never done, for fear that the devil would take that knowledge and use it against me. Verbalizing my fear out loud face down before the Lord brought an unexpected peace. The truth was that no matter what might happen in my life, God wasn’t going to stop being my God. Scripture says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is consistent and doesn’t leave our side during a natural disaster or a natural-style learning failure.
The Lord has given each of us unique personalities and creative strengths that complement our children’s learning styles, allowing them to blossom within that framework. When we begin to compare and let fear rule us by assuming another family’s teaching style in hopes of attaining the same scholarly results, we are messing with God’s handiwork spoken about in Ephesians 2:10. “We are the handiwork of God, created in Christ to do what God already planned for us to do.”
Do you see how this connects to homeschooling? God is intimately familiar with our strengths and knows our weaknesses because we are His masterpiece. He created us this way so that by the grace of Christ Jesus we could do what He asked us to do–homeschool our children in a way that works for our family! We need to embrace these traits and not allow fear to march right in like a confident mama with seemingly perfect academia-minded-trumpet-prodigy children. Fear has no place in what God has called us to do. We can make plans. We can change the plans. We can be totally afraid of how the plans or lack thereof affect our children, but it doesn’t add anything to our lives or change the plans the Lord has to prosper and give our kiddos a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Proverbs 19:21 says it best: “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
Homesick children, tsunamis, a semi-illiterate eight-year-old, or an orange-fingered forty-year-old in my cellar doesn’t change who Christ is or His purpose for my children and me. In times of confidence or fear we reach for God. We celebrate our individuality and recognize how it works within our families. We confess the state of our hearts before the One who understands. We get up and ask for courage to live in an uncertain world from the One who can boldly fill us with His Spirit. We enjoy black sand beaches with an assurance that even if the water recedes and comes crashing back down on us, the One we serve is still who He has always claimed to be–the Creator of you and me.