“Your wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your children like olive plants round about your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord. Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!” (Ps. 128:3-4, 6)
Our daughter, Jenni, was like an olive plant that was wilting and then blown to shreds by harsh winds of peer pressure. She had always been a quiet, sweet-natured girl, who was small for her age. Even though she was in a wonderful, Christian private school, other children would make fun of her and elbow her out of their way because they knew she would never protest.
When Jenni was 14, we decided to begin homeschooling her and our 9-year-old daughter, Melinda, in the middle of the year. As soon as we took them out of school, it was if we had brought shriveled, beleaguered olive plants into the house and given them a chance to thrive once again. The years that we homeschooled were some of the happiest years for our family. It was a delight to know what our children were learning and to be involved with them as they grew and made their own discoveries. We met some wonderful home school families, and our daughters developed new friendships with children who treated them with kindness.
As I was making plans to order curriculum for our fourth year of home schooling, I was contacted by a couple who were planning to start a new private Christian school. They asked me to apply for a position as teacher, and the opportunity to earn some much-needed income blinded me to what my heart really knew to be the right path. I accepted the position and gave up the joy and blessings of home schooling.
I taught at that school, and then at another private Christian school, for a total of ten years. Our daughters are grown now, with families of their own, and as I look back, my greatest regret is that I did not continue with home schooling.
It is so easy to be tempted away from your home and away from your commitment to home schooling, especially if you are facing financial need. But if you know that God has called you to homeschool your children, listen to Him carefully. I know that every family lives in different circumstances, but if you know that God has turned your heart toward home schooling, pursue that course with all your might. If you are pressed by difficulties, whether they are financial or personal, go to the Lord in much prayer and allow Him to meet those needs.
If you are feeling discouraged or your vision of home schooling is beginning to fade, there are four books that I recommend: Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson, For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer MacAulay, Hearth and Home by Karey Swan, and So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel (even if you are already homeschooling, you will be inspired by the stories in this book).
I had turned away from my own little garden and began working in another garden. I was teaching in one of the best Christian schools in the country, and I was working with teachers who became the most wonderful group of friends I have ever had. It was so fulfilling to make a difference in the lives of children and to hear the kind words of appreciation from their parents.
As I was basking in the affirmation and enjoying the new financial freedom that my job afforded, I did not realize that the garden for which I was really responsible was beginning to suffer. The winds blew, the storms came, and I was unable to undo the damage.
After long years of prayer, I saw God prove Himself faithful. My children’s roots went deep, and God raised them up again, strong and true. He blessed and multiplied back the time that I had spent at home with them. Both of them married God’s chosen men—husbands who are committed to the Lord and are devoted to their wives and children. As of 2009, Jenni and Eric are the parents of Joshua, 10; Caleb, 8; and Hannah, 4. Melinda and Bruce are the parents of Lauren, 5, Braden, 2, and one on the way. We are indeed seeing our children’s children, and what an incredible blessing that is! No one really understands what it is like to be a grandparent until actually experiencing it. “Children’s children are the crown of old men” (and women!) (Proverbs 17:6).
From the moment that we had our first child, I firmly believed that a mother belonged at home, caring for her husband, her children, and her house. I allowed my conviction to be stolen away from me by a perceived financial need. Now that I have been around that mountain and seen what is really there, I am convinced that I always belonged at home—and not just while the children were young. I know now that children continue to need their mother at home, even as they grow into adulthood. And now I am discovering that our loving Father, the God of second chances, has given me another chance to homeschool. He has made it possible for me to “homeschool” my adult children by giving me the opportunity to advise and encourage them as they labor in their own gardens. Except for my husband, our daughters are my dearest friends now, and we share laughter and troubles, encouraging each other as we go about our daily tasks.
Giving advice only when we are asked (usually!) and checking with our daughters before we make purchases for them, my husband and I contribute what we can to making their home school experience more effective. I locate learning resources, provide guidance and mentoring, and become part of the “teaching team” when requested. Whenever possible, we purchase books, toys, and games for our daughters that will be part of a rich home-learning environment. I share my hard-earned wisdom about child-raising and teaching (Again, I try to do this only when asked!).
I have made frontiersman costumes and “coonskin caps” for the boys, which they have worn constantly, and I am sure I have many more costumes in my future that will provide hours of pretend play. I enjoy doing art projects with the children and going for “discovery” walks with them. I have been known to crawl around on the floor pretending to be a bear, join tea parties under the table, and gallop through the house on an imaginary horse.
Grandpa, with his incredible ability to spin a great cowboy yarn, has become a tremendous source of delight for the boys. Soon he will have to start dipping into his creative abilities to make up stories for the girls.
We often keep the children and allow our daughters to have a much-needed break. We have also made our home a “grandchildren’s house.” There are toys and games in the living room, art and cooking in the kitchen, puzzles and baby toys in the den, Lincoln Logs in the dining room, and books in every nook-and-cranny. The grandchildren love to run, jump, play, and read to their hearts’ content. Our house sits on several acres that provide plenty of running-around space. In fact, our greatest summer pleasure is sitting in the front porch swing, watching the children play.
If your grandchildren are being homeschooled, they would be richly blessed by the special threads that only you can weave into the tapestry of their little lives. Your children, too, would be blessed by your encouragement and your help. If you do not live near your children, you can still be a part of their lives by purchasing books, art supplies, and learning tools.
If you are a home schooler and your parents are not able to help you, consider seeking out some “first generation” home schoolers who are willing to mentor you and come alongside to inspire and support you.
When you grow weary of tending your little garden, remember that the Lord Himself gave you these precious plants to care for. You will find Him walking in the garden and laboring with you.
Titus 2:3-5 says, “Older women should be reverent and devout, as those engaged in sacred service … give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble, so that they will wisely train the young women to love their husbands and their children; to be sensible, pure, homemakers, kindhearted, subject to their own husbands that the word of God may not be dishonored.”
It truly is a sacred service to be available to counsel and encourage our grown daughters who are building their homes on the foundation of the Lord and raising precious olive plants in their own gardens.