Tend Your Garden

It may seem odd, when writing to encourage new home schoolers, to focus on life with teenagers, but for me it is natural. In many ways the pre-adult years are the fruition of the pre-school years.

We were living in Germany when we began homeschooling, so the whole idea of a “kindergarten”—literally, a garden of children—took root with me. Europeans are great gardeners, devoting consistent time to their window boxes, garden plots, and vineyards. I learned many lessons about tending children by watching them steward their gardens.

  1. Just as you must work with the land and climate you have, you must work with the personalities and family situations God has given you. Children are not blank slates. They come into unique families as unique individuals. The Word says to raise up a child in the way he should go, but when interpreting that verse, it makes a great deal of difference which word you choose to emphasize. Are we to raise a child in the way he should go—squeezing him into an idealized, pre-ordained mold? Or are we to raise a child in the way he should go—studying him and praying diligently for the Lord to show us His purposes for this child’s life?
  2. What you sow, you will reap. I love that poster that says, “If you sow criticism, they will learn to condemn. If you sow love, they will learn kindness,” etc. That is so true, but there is more to it than that. If children see that God is their parents’ top priority, they will learn that He is the most important thing in their own lives. If you sow enthusiasm for time spent learning, working, and living together, they will value these as well. If you resent the responsibilities of parenting, your children are unlikely to treasure family time.
  3. If you sow nothing, the world’s forces will sow wild seed when you are not looking. You must consciously instill the values you want to see from the earliest age, or the wild seeds of cultural norms and media-supported values will spring up. When worldly values, undesirable attitudes, and poor behavior appear like tares among the wheat, we see that our enemy, Satan, sowed seeds while we were not looking.
  4. Pull weeds while they are small, before they have a chance to form deep roots. The best time to uproot undesirable attitudes and behaviors is when you first notice them. If you catch the weed early, you do not have to pull as hard and can usually correct the situation much more gently. If you put it off, you will have to dig it out later or do heavy pruning! Ouch!
  5. A little consistent attention is more effective that infrequent intervention. One of the greatest blessings of home schooling is the opportunity to steward our children with daily diligence. If we spend larger amounts of time with them in close communication, we are more likely to spot opportunities to nurture potential and weed out problems.

It is really true that great oaks from little acorns grow. To make sure that we end up with children who will stand strong for God and His purposes, we must make sure that we do not despise the day of small beginnings but instead steward the most precious resources God has given us.

This article is the second in a series of three. The first article, Fear of Loss, Hope of Gain appeared in the November 2009 issue of the THSC REVIEW magazine. The third article, One More Lesson from the Garden, appeared in the August 2010 issue.