If you know the story of Israel, then you know the story of the Threadgill home school adventure. As Israel spent time in captivity and bondage to Pharaoh, we too, spent time in captivity and bondage to the American dream, pinning our hopes on government promises.
However, the Lord had other plans. As our oldest son approached the age of five, our dear, yet strange, friends announced they were homeschooling. In spite of past unconventional ideas to which they had introduced us, like Larry Burkett’s money management program (which has blessed our family), we investigated homeschooling because of Cameron’s summer birthday. In fact, in our household discussion, we had already started weighing educational options when they telephoned.
The debate? Put him in public kindergarten shortly after he turned five? Or hold him back to start when six? For those of you with summer birthday boys, you understand the debate and, more importantly, the emotions. The rest of you will have to trust us; it is not as easy a decision as you would imagine. Back in July 1993, Cameron was tall for his age, though his fine motor skills were not advancing as fast as his peers.
Providentially, we followed our wiser friends, committing to homeschool one year; however, we emphatically assured them that we would not listen to any more of their strange ideas. Home schooling was as far as we would go! Honestly, our plan was to enroll him in public kindergarten at six if I ruined him. They could “fix him.”
Kindergarten was fun! We joined Plano’s support group, PEACH, and met some very normal people who were also experimenting with home schooling. With new PEACH-y friends, we enjoyed kindergarten play group, countless field trips, and more. We thoroughly discussed all the blessings surrounding us as forward-thinkers—more time with our children, less time selling school fund raisers, more playtime with siblings, less homework. Besides, who would want to break up best friends by separating Cameron from Ryan, his younger brother?
Where do the children of Israel fit in? As Israel marched out of Egypt with treasures, we marched out of public education with our treasures, our children.
Home school bliss continued until I began feeling discontent with textbooks, which suddenly became boring and dry. In fact, I sounded like Israel crying out to God for meat instead of manna. I wanted something fresh and new, too. Lord, what have you gotten us into? At least we had vegetables and meat back in Egypt. The public school has computers in every classroom and a whole library full of inspiring books. We are living on one income in a two-income country in one of Texas’ best school districts. What had possessed me to homeschool?
The Lord provided fowl for Israel; He provided Sonlight and Spelling Power for me. I was happy; my husband smiled in relief. We had not broken the bank to enrich their education. I discovered used book sales!
Life padded on for a few more years. We joined an enrichment co-op in a neighboring suburb, and all the Threadgills flourished, as we now better understood the boys’ learning styles and curricula tastes. During these days, I planned field trips for PEACH and soon became treasurer. One day, while praying with friends, I confessed that the Lord might be leading me to start a neighborhood home schooling co-op so that my boys could enjoy their co-op fun and learning with Plano friends.
My friends did not even want to pray about if we should, only how we should! This experience marked the beginning of crossing our Jordan, which is the single decision that pushed us from wandering the desert to learning about God’s provision on a much larger scale. My personal walk with the Lord was revolutionized. It was during these heavy years of schooling, organizing N-Tech, and learning how to put boundaries between leadership demands, personal needs, and family responsibilities that I learned about the hand of God—His ability to change 40-year-olds into maturing adults.
Our river crossing took nearly a decade. God knows we are fragile creatures made of dust; we cannot change all at once. Gradually, He used N-Tech, as well as other organizations, events, and people to open our eyes to the consequences of trying to co-pilot with Him.
Although I do not want to overstate our life today, I can firmly say we are now in God’s Promised Land. I pray we stay. Phil and I do not live in paradise. Our laundry does not magically wash itself each day. The routine of life wears us down, just like any normal family with too many responsibilities. But we get it. He, the great I AM, wants to drive our lives.
We live in the Promised Land, but like Israel, we continue to fight enemies we should have driven out years ago. The enemies are habits that have festered into trouble. Sometimes it is merely our bad habit of choosing the good versus best; other times it is much bigger. Although we are not wandering any longer, God continues to refine us—often using fire.
Yet we hold to the Lord and His voice, not to a laundry list of things we want to teach our children. Nothing is resting on our shoulders except hourly obedience to Him. Although we have consistently honored Christ in our home, I cannot make sure my children seek Him. It is all about Him seeking them, just as He seeks me when I am the most unlovable.
If the Lord let Israel wander in the desert for 40 years, if He let me wander in my spiritual wilderness for 40 years, why would I place my personal expectations on my boys’ spiritual lives? We are each called to work out our own salvation.
This is not lazy parenting. It is adjusting to the new roles we have as parents of older children. Listening and obeying is more work than anything I have ever aspired to, yet it yields proper perspective. Our hopes are not pinned on graduating precisely educated boys, but on raising men with the personal perspective that pin their hope on the Lord.
Terri Threadgill and her husband Philip live in Plano, where Terri homeschools their two sons and serves as director of the North Texas Enrichment Classes for Homeschoolers (N-TECH). Terri, nominated by 56 different people from several of the groups in which she has been active, was recognized as the 2007 THSC Leader of the Year.