Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reduction, or Why Shouldn't Everyone Homeschool?

This is an article I wrote for my local homeschool group's newsletter. I post this after my last about being called to homeschool because if we end up answering that call, made by the Holy Spirit, and embrace the job that is before us, we all will come to this point. Either we will embrace it to His glory it or resist it, to ours and our children's detriment. These words are more true now than they were when I first wrote them.

I like to cook. Really, I do. Now, let’s face it, I don’t like to cook under pressure, when the family day has had too many things packed into it and my husband is heading home from work and I’m asking him, “what do you want for dinner?” knowing full well that it’s going to be a scrounge night.

The kind of cooking I like to do is leisurely—I’ve browsed through some cookbooks, been inspired, have a menu and a plan and an apron, and voila! Dinner is done, the family is happy, I’m the perfect mother, and God is smiling. How often does this happen? Probably about as often as it happens in your house, if you’re honest.

If you’ve ever made a reduction glaze, it’s rather simple...brown some chicken in a pan, take the chicken out, add some wine and allow the beautiful browned bits to simmer with the wine as it cooks away, add some seasoning and (to quote Emeril LaGasse) BAM!…you’re left with a beautiful sauce for your meal. Any food that requires reducing must be done over a low heat, and seasoned later in the cooking process to avoid over salting. It must be tended carefully to watch for the texture and thickness of the sauce. I see an analogy forming here…

I write this from a different perspective than most of the moms reading. I’m just starting out with homeschooling. I have a first grader and a toddler, and I’m in my late thirties. Most of the moms my age have at least one child who is in third or even fifth grade, or possibly even teenagers. They are what I’d call “seasoned” homeschoolers. I’m a keen observer, however, and have watched through the years as friends of mine, including family members have homeschooled well, but unfortunately I’ve also seen families crash and burn. It’s a strange dichotomy. One does not expect to see the children of Christian homeschooling families run away and get pregnant, have children out of wedlock, turn to blatant homosexual lifestyles, use drugs—but I’ve seen all of that. What far outweighs these results, however, are the kids who begin to pursue God at a very early age, assume positions of leadership, cooperate and relate with people of all ages, and display character traits that put most of us to shame.

Most of the moms who undertake the task of home educating have a myriad of noble reasons—they like the results they’ve seen in other families, (i.e. “her kids are practically PERFECT!”), or they don’t want the indoctrination of the public schools to prevail, or “my child should be raised by me—not a classroom of five-year-olds,” or they want the lifestyle, or they want to have devotions with the kids every day, morning and night. All of these are good and noble reasons for homeschooling and if you look back on your journals in the days before you made the decision, you’ll probably see many of these being examined in some fashion or another.

Proverbs 16:9 says “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” These reasons, intentions if you will call them that are the course that we plan, the menu for our children’s lives. The sauce is thin and watery with no seasoning, as yet. What I am discovering on my short journey into homeschooling, however, is that the steps that the Lord is determining for me are the process of reducing me to ONE THING…this homeschooling is not just about me. I’m not even sure how much of it is about my children. I’m becoming more and more convinced that this journey is about healing and drawing near to God’s very tender heart. His purposes are so much larger than our own we can’t begin to see how far out the ripples will extend when we drop that proverbial pebble, so the focus must be inward, on the “sauce,” and how it is to turn out. In order for that ONE THING to take place, I must be completely surrendered to the Lord, completely broken, and completely fulfilled in Him. I must allow him to come into my dark places and heal what is broken, bind up my wounds, and comfort my sorrows. It is a process that must be walked out every day, a simmering on low heat, a latent addition of salt and herbs.

The decision to homeschool does little for our children no matter how noble our intentions. It is the attitude of our spirits, our “broken and contrite hearts” that will ultimately be teaching them. It is from this place of brokenness and healing that we can protect and raise our kids. If we reduce our desires in homeschooling to that ONE THING, I believe that no matter what transpires in our day-to-day, the Lord will honor and redeem our efforts and bring our children into the place that we desire they go—a deeper relationship with him, and a journey of their own into eternity. May you be encouraged today to place yourself in his tender care, be reduced to ONE THING, and walk out your own journey of healing.

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