by Joyce Burges
It is 4 a.m.; I cannot sleep. I begin to pray, as I do each morning. I look out my bedroom window and see the shadows in the night. I cannot quite make out what is before me; I am still sleepy. The trees that fill our property seem to be walking during this dawning experience. The branches hang low. However, underneath these branches I see a herd of deer—what a lovely sight!
I try to count them, although my vision is still not clear. I finally decide there are nearly ten of them, quietly nibbling on the grass that was softened by last night’s storm. As I gaze out my bedroom window, my favorite book, which I hold in my hand, falls to the floor. The sound disturbs their quiet meal, and they run off into the woods on the north side of our property.
As I continue my gaze, many thoughts flood my mind. I begin to think about my children—now older and more independent: Eric, Jr., who serves as a sergeant in the Army; Lawrence, who is in music school at a local college; Candace, who is studying to be a doctor; Candra, with aspirations of becoming a public relations director; and Victoria, whom I am still homeschooling.
When my husband and I were training our children, we were careful to teach them about their relationship with God. Scripture says that His sheep hear His voice. As I pondered this verse, I wanted very much for that to be true for my children. I wanted to train them to hear the voice of their Heavenly Father and also of their earthly parents. I knew that, as they discovered more of this world, they needed to be more sensitive to the Voice of good and excellent things. I knew that I had to be more tender toward my Creator so that I could be equipped to train my children.
This is the reason I rise early each morning. The morning is quiet. It is gentle and inviting. It is still. I wanted to hear from my Father about the right way to train and teach my children. So I asked for His insight and wisdom, and He instructed me in several ways.
Train them to know Me (God). Knowing God is essential. As our children’s foundation is built on our Creator, nothing is too difficult. No challenge is too complicated; no problem is impossible. The Bible is full of promises for successful childrearing: peace, discernment/judgment, wisdom, righteousness … These are fruits of our Father’s heritage. Children need someone to love and worship. Let it be God.
Train them to know that your heart will always be turned toward them. The hearts of the parents should be turned toward the child forever, and the heart of the child will continually reach toward the parents. This is a great truth filled with divine strength. Each year as we prayed about our home school project for the next year, we had a family meeting.
As a mother, I nursed and nurtured my children for protection and for closeness. This action was important for the children. It taught them to be family-minded and to stay close to the training of their parents. It reinforced the reason their training was important. I paid, and continue to pay, close attention to my children. I wanted my activities and interests to be limited so that I could give my young children what they needed during their formative years. Until our children were strong enough and firmly grounded, my husband and I knew that we were the protectors of our tender family.
As I think about the whitetail deer that populate our property, I am reminded of how close they are and why they move together. As our children grew older, we established strong connections with them before they were exposed to other people. Then we exposed them to good and fine people whom we thought would benefit them as they grew. My Heavenly Father taught me to value the old, good friends of my parents. This lesson was quite useful to me as I became an adult; this was what I wanted for my children. Now that we have done our part thus far, I look forward to seeing them continue to seek out the heroes of nobility, the heroes of faith, who defend truth and justice, heroes who love family and virtue.
The deer also remind me to be gentle with my children. Sometimes, as mothers, it seems as if we are carrying the load: the teaching, the training, etc. But our Heavenly Father knew this as well. He has equipped us with more than we need to do our jobs. Our strength is from Him. He gives us joy when our children are born and energy to nurture them in His way. Sometimes, as women, we try to force things. Let us do away with this negative energy. Let us focus on gentleness, graciousness, and our love for our families. This is the positive force that will change not only your family but also the world. This kind of traditional training is natural and suitable for children; it is truly in the children’s best interest.
Train them to be disciplined. Discipline strengthens children. It is good for their minds and bodies. It keeps them steady and centered. It provides an unmovable posture of which young children in this generation need more so that they can carry the torch.
Train them to be focused. A family whose core values are intimacy, prayer, and wisdom knows that godliness is priceless. Training children to be focused keeps them centered on the vision of their Creator and on the family’s value system.
Train them to be joyful. These days, joy must be taught. It must be possessed. It must be a priority. Many negative thoughts flood our youths’ minds; of this we have daily proof. Joy must be shared from a biblical perspective. Children should be inspired to do some tasks joyfully and without complaining. They will enjoy the benefits of joy: strength, endurance, and everlasting delight. Our children must realize that, as they listen and respect the counsel of their parents, they will then experience joie de vivre, the highest joy.
Train them to be honorable. Tell them that sharp and quick obedience is a deposit in their future. Impress on their hearts that good will and long life are consequences of obedience, and that honor belongs to them for doing well.
As I think about the herd of deer that graces our property and how their sense of hearing is so sharp and sensitive, I pray that my children will continue to know their Shepherd’s voice and the “holler” of their mother. When I was a little girl playing with neighborhood friends across the street from my house, I could hear my mother hollering for me. I could hear several things in this call: Where are you? What are you doing? It is time to come home—now. This is what I desire for my children, a listening ear.
In the midst of so much ungodliness, I boldly pray for all of our children that God would keep them from the evil that is in this world, understanding that some have been cheated in our present-day learning institutions. The Scriptures indicate that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins. Our children’s minds are new and open to creative things. Like fine wine, learning is premium—no more quick educational shortcuts! On to higher learning! We owe our heritage to the Creator, from whom great love evolves generation after generation. Learning should be slow and deliberate. Learning in God’s Word yields success. Nowadays, it should not happen any other way!
When my husband Eric and I started National Black Home Educators (NBHE) in 2000, we had a vision for family. Our target group was African-American families, because many did not know that home schooling was a viable option for them. There were many myths mixed with this great home schooling movement that inhibited blacks from choosing this more excellent way of teaching children. Eric and I are always looking at opportunities and challenges from a different point of view, because we know what it takes to teach successfully and to turn passionate learning into great results. No one likes to be held to a low standard, and is not a fine education all about individuality and originality? It must be!
Now that our organization is seven years old, we have seen home education grow exponentially in the black community. I have homeschooled since 1989, and some of the same challenges I saw then, many black families face now: lack of acceptance, very little ethnic curriculum, sports, support groups, finances, etc.
The National Black Home Educators’ vision is to empower parents to educate their children for excellence by mentoring parents and training them. We believe that today’s black families can prepare tomorrow’s exceptional leaders through home schooling. NBHE provides encouragement, information, networking, and resources to enable families to realize this vision. NBHE is a service organization that is open to anyone who adheres to our vision. All are welcome, regardless of religious belief, political persuasion, or ethnic background. We seek to connect with other like-minded organizations in order to further provide resources to our families.
Eric and Joyce have homeschooled for nearly 18 years. They have served in leadership in the Louisiana state home school organization and founded the National Black Home Educators. The Burgeses travel nationally to speak about the family dynamic, and Joyce is the author of a new book entitled, Teach Me How To Teach My Child – Creating an Atmosphere of Learning for our Children – available at www.nbhe.net.