My two little boys have a new favorite TV show, Bob the Builder. It is a cute, little show about Bob the Builder and all of his construction machines. The trucks, tractors, and mixers are all animated, and they work together as a team. In the theme song, they are all singing, “Can we fix it? YES, we can!” “Can we build it? YES, we can!” Working with new home schoolers, sometimes I feel like that kind of a cheerleader: “Can we homeschool?” “YES, you can!” I try to give information and encouragement to show that they can be successful home schoolers. Sometimes my own struggles make me feel like something of a hypocrite.
Two years ago I had a very bad year. In July when my morning sickness was at its peak, I found we would have to move. The month of August was spent trying to find a place and secure financing. In September we moved our enormous household. In October my mother-in-law underwent quadruple bypass surgery. In November my brother underwent emergency colon surgery. In December our only vehicle was totaled. In February our sweet little David was born, and, of course, we all know how school goes with a new baby in the house! While most families were finishing up the school year, we were covering lessons about Christmas! We had to schedule school through the summer with a short break before starting again in September. My house? After seven months it still looked like we had just moved in. I felt that all I ever did was yell at my kids and take my husband for granted. For every good day, I had five bad days. For every day we accomplished school, we seemed to miss three! I would take one step forward and three steps back. In the end, I crumbled before God and wept and wept and said, “God, I am a miserable failure. Everything in my world is a mess. I cannot do this!!” Do you know what God answered? He said, “That is what I was waiting to hear…” His answer to me involved three passages of scripture written by Paul.
The first passage has been dear to me for a long time. My Bible calls it “The Strife of the Two Natures,” but I call it the 3:00 a.m. passage because it sounds like the kind of struggle you have with yourself at 3 o’clock in the morning when you cannot sleep and you are trying to figure out the mysteries of existence. It is found in Romans 7 verses 15 through 25. The gist of the passage is that “…the things that I don’t want to do, those are the things that I do and the things that I do want to do, I do not…” Does that not sound just like our home schooling struggle? I do not want to fuss at my kids or neglect my lesson plans or fall behind, but that is where I find myself over and over. I want to be patient and loving and encouraging and to find the methods that work for my child, but I just cannot seem to accomplish that. Paul was talking about our human nature struggling against our desire to please God; I see such a clear correlation to my desire to be a good home schooler.
The next passage gives me an answer to this “Strife of the Two Natures.” In fact, I think this is one of the most important passages in the Bible – not because it is so revolutionary but because it is so simple and basic. Of course that is why we often forget its great truth and wisdom! When I reach the point of complete breakdown and I throw myself before God and say, “God, I cannot do this,” God says the same thing to me that He said to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 –
“My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In this passage, Paul is talking about a thorn in his flesh, and there are days when my home schooling lifestyle feels like a thorn in my flesh! But listen to the reason for the thorn in verse 7: “Lest I should be exalted above measure…” In verses 9-10, Paul goes on to say, “…Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong.” When I admit that I cannot do it, it is at that moment that God can begin to work. “When I am weak, then am I strong.
Are you struggling? Do you feel that nothing is going the way it should? You cannot find a math program that works, your children are fighting with each other, and your husband is depressed because he never has clean socks? You are all bound in what you are able to do, and you are realizing that you are not able to do it all. “Can you do it? NO YOU CAN’T” – at least not without help. Here is your help: my third passage of scripture, Philippians 4:6-13.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things… Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how In May 2001 (my Very Bad Year), my family went to the Capitol for the home-school rally. The weather was not terrible but was pretty warm, and the day turned into a long one when we stopped on the way home for groceries and fast food. By the time we got home, I had prepared myself for a miserable evening – I knew everyone was hot and tired, and I expected them to be fighting and whining and generally making me wish I could sell them to a band of traveling gypsies. But a very funny thing happened – we put away the groceries and ate our fried chicken without too much fuss. About half an hour later, I found myself in the living room feeding the baby while the rest of my family participated in one activity or another. Laura (9) was helping Nathan (2) with a puzzle while Lee (4) quietly worked another puzzle. Rachel (5) was sitting in her daddy’s lap while he read her a story. My 7-year-old, Sarah, was sitting next to me on the couch reading a story to herself. My 15-year-old was a few feet away working on a Lego project in his room. It was such a peaceful scene! I relished it, breathed it in, drank of it…I took a mental picture of it and posted it on the bulletin board of my mind as a constant reminder that God IS good.
When I went on my knees before God, He heard my request. I told Him that I could not go on, and He said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” When I sat in my living room that night, He pointed out to me the beauty that is my family, and He said, “Think on these things,” and He filled me with the peace that passeth all understanding.
Yes, my house is still a mess and continues to make me feel like the worst housekeeper who ever lived. Yes, at the end of the week I still see lessons that were not completed and projects that were not finished – or even started! Yes, my kids still fight with each other. Will I ever learn “in whatever state I am, in this to be content”? I do not know. I know I will continue to have problems. I wish I could tell you that the home-schooling lifestyle is perfect – your children will be obedient, and your husband will take over all the housework or get an enormous raise and hire a maid for you, but the truth is, you will still have problems – you will face illness, financial problems, emotional problems, or marital problems. Remember the thorn in Paul’s flesh? I believe there are two reasons we, as home-schooling mothers, face these struggles. First, we have made our families a priority. We have gone against society and decided we want something better. And for that the enemy will come against us. I cannot tell you how many families I know who faced huge problems just days after making the decision to homeschool. However, there is another reason for the thorns – the reason Paul mentioned – if I am weak, then His strength is made perfect. If I can do it all on my own, then it is just about me being a terrific home schooler. How many of us stay humbled before God when things are going great? These struggles serve to keep us where we belong – on our knees before God. So that “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” we will let our requests be made known unto God – in everything – in curriculum choices, in dealing with resistance, in running our homes. If it were easy, would you turn it over to God? It is not easy. In fact, at times it can be downright staggering. Now, I truly do not believe that home schooling is for everyone or for every season; but I beg you, if you ever think about giving up – and you probably will – do not do it because of what you are not able to do. Listen to Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”
I hope you will remember my words if you face a year like I had. Some of you will face trials much greater than those I have mentioned here. Some of you will be crippled by less than what I have experienced. All of you will hear the enemy say to you at least once, “Why are you doing this?” He might point around your house and say, “You cannot even get the basket of socks sorted – what makes you think you’ve got it together enough to teach your children?” When that happens, remember these three things: God’s grace is sufficient unto you, His strength is made perfect in your weakness, and you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Continue to be obedient and let God take care of the rest.
Mary James – has written 14 posts on this site.
Mary James has a heart for those parents who are new to home schooling or in the process of making that decision. She is the mother of eight children, and is currently homeschooling the seven who are still school age. Mary serves on the Texas Home School Coalition Board of Directors and is the president and cofounder of of Smoothing the Way, a support group to inform and encourage those who have decided to take on the exciting, yet sometimes daunting, task of educating their own children. Mary and her family live in Bastrop, Texas.