Friday, July 18, 2008

How did we get here?

This is a reeeeaaaallllly long post. If you want to just read the first paragraph, then skip to the last two, I think you'll still get the gist of it! :)

Let me just start by saying that homeschooling was never—and I mean never—in our plans. It's not that we thought it was strange. We've always known so many families through church who have chosen that route that it's actually just as "normal" to us as public school or private school. But since Greg and I are both products of public school and are/were both public high school teachers, it just made sense that that's where we'd send our kids. But God had something else in mind for us, and He made it so remarkably clear that I want to document it so I never forget what He did.

I guess it really started when Camille was around 6 months old, and I would have frequent thoughts about how much our lives would change when Hannah started kindergarten. No more relaxed mornings with the kids waking up and playing while I cooked them breakfast. No more jammies 'til noon if we had one of those days where I just couldn't take the mess anymore and needed to get the house in order. No more field trips to Old McDonald's Farm or The Children's Museum because I'd have to be back in time to pick Hannah up from school. And worst of all, no more spur-of-the-moment trips to visit Grandma & Grandpa or Meemaw & Kimpaw. The more time passed, the more frequent and oppressive these thoughts became. But still, I never considered homeschooling. So God kept working.

Then last spring, Greg had lunch with an old college friend of ours who is now a pastor. Homeschooling came up at some point during their conversation, and they spent the rest of their time together talking about it. When Greg came home that evening, he told me everything that he and Dustin had discussed. He ended it by telling me something to the effect of, "I'm not saying that you have to homeschool, but I am saying that I think you should keep an open mind about it and see if this is something God might be leading you to do." God, in His infinite wisdom, got Greg on board before He ever began working on me. That would prove to be a much longer process, so God kept working.

Throughout the summer months, gas prices began climbing to record highs. I became obsessed with figuring out how much money it was going to cost to shuttle Hannah back and forth to and from school every day. (I knew I couldn't put her on the bus; I've always had a fear of some creepy junior high boy using her as his anatomy partner while the bus driver isn't looking. Yes, it might sound paranoid, but we live in a really sick world nowadays and you just never know.) Anyway, we live in a rural area and had a Suburban at the time, and we figured that we would spend approximately $300 a month just on gas to take Hannah to and from school every day. That's not including gas money for groceries, church, BSF, etc. That's just for school. And for us, that's a lot of money! I was very stressed and very unhappy; but despite what my husband had asked of me, I still wasn't considering homeschooling as an option. So God kept working.

When BSF started in September, I met a girl named Carrie, who is now a very dear friend. Carrie was just beginning her first year of homeschooling. One day our kids were playing on the playground after BSF and, just to make small talk, I asked her how school was going. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed listening to her answer! I was even more surprised when she said, "Nothing in my flesh cries out, "'Carrie H***** wants to homeschool!' This is all from God." My ears immediately perked up. I could easily relate to that statement because, deep down, I was counting down the days until Kindergarten Roundup. As much as I was dreading the changes kindergarten was going to bring about in our home, there was also a part of me that was looking forward to a few hours of peace in my home each day! No bickering between the girls over who had which toy first or who hit whom first. And no more battles of the will between Hannah and myself to see which of our stubborn, hard-headed selves would wear out and give up first. But as I listened to Carrie share some of the ways God has blessed her life through homeschooling, my curiosity piqued. I felt excited, and as I listened to her, I found myself thinking, "That sounds fun. And I could do that!" I was finally open to homeschooling, but I wasn't convinced. So God kept working.

By January, thoughts of homeschooling were consuming my mind. A CBD Homeschool catalog came in the mail, and every night after I put the girls to bed, I would go get online and read samples of every curriculum advertised in the catalog. There were so many choices that it didn't take long before I felt overwhelmed. One night I was particularly discouraged, and I remember thinking, "If I can't even do the first step and choose a curriculum, how can I possibly homeschool?!" That night I decided that I was definitely NOT going to homeschool. So God kept working.

For a couple of months, I had had a very uneasy feeling when I wrote out a check for Mother's Day Out. Something wasn't right, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. As Carrie and I were talking one day, she made a passing comment about how much more affectionate her son had become since she started spending that one-on-one time with him during school. Immediately I knew why I hadn't had a peace about Mother's Day Out. I thought God was telling me I needed to spend more one-on-one time with Hannah before I sent her off to kindergarten in the fall. However, knowing this and actually doing something about it are two different things entirely, and I just wasn't ready to pull Hannah out of school and give up the only two days I had each week to devote to youth ministry. So God kept working.

One day we were getting ready for Mother's Day Out, and Hannah just started crying. "I don't want to go to school," she said. "Can't I please just stay home with you?" I couldn't believe my ears! This is a child who loved—I mean loved—Mother's Day Out! I chalked it up to a bad day and let her stay home. But the same thing happened again, so in February I pulled her out of Mother's Day Out. Camille was still enrolled, so Hannah and I would use our Tuesday and Thursday "alone time" to search for bugs in the backyard, cook, make arts and crafts, play games, etc. The tension between us had eased up considerably, and we really began to enjoy just being together. Everything seemed to be "fixed" now, so I told Greg that I honestly thought this was what God was trying to tell us all along: not to homeschool Hannah, but just to love on her a lot before we sent her off to kindergarten next year. I was more certain than ever that I wasn't going to homeschool. So God kept working.

A couple weeks later, we were talking to one of the teenagers at church. Matthew started talking about how blessed he was because his mom homeschooled him through his 8th grade year. He mentioned how close his family is because of the time they all spent together. He mentioned how he would never be where he is today (valedictorian) without the extra help his mom was able to give him with reading when he was young. He mentioned that he was able to do extracurricular activities like piano as part of his school day and still be home for family dinner in the evenings. One thing he didn't say but which still spoke volumes to us was how much he loves the Lord. After our conversation with Matthew ended, we got in the car to head home and Greg said, "I think we need to go back and explore this homeschool thing again." After several days of discussion, we decided that we both really wanted to do this. But I had a new fear: How in the world was I ever going to tell my mother (teacher of all teachers) that I was going to homeschool? And believe it or not, I was scared enough to tell her about my desire to homeschool that I was going to do the public school thing just so I didn't have to. (Really pathetic, isn't it?!) So God kept working.

The next week the library called to let me know that a book I had requested through interlibrary loan had come in. (By the way, it's called So You're Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel, and after reading this book I found myself thinking, "How could I not homeschool?!") Anyway, being the bathtub reader that I am, I would read a little in the tub each night and then stick the book on top of the toilet tank when I was finished. Well, Mom and Dad came over to spend the night one evening and Mom needed to use the restroom. I was bathing the girls in the guest bathroom, so she went into my bathroom instead. Later that night when I went into my bathroom, I saw the book laying there and immediately tensed up. It was the same feeling I remember having as a child when I got caught doing something I wasn't supposed to be doing. (Again, pathetic, I know.) The next day I asked my mom if she saw the book, and she said yes. I asked her what she thought about it and was pleasantly surprised to hear that she was very open to it. We talked for a while about academics and socialization, and I remember feeling so excited to be "talking shop" with my mom the super-teacher! Now nothing was standing in my way. Greg wanted to homeschool. I wanted to homeschool. It was just a matter of actually committing to it. So God kept working.

A couple weeks after this, Mom and I were out shopping and decided to swing by Big Lots. While we were there, we found Hooked on Kindergarten (the Hooked on Phonics kindergarten math, kindergarten writing, and kindergarten reading) for $40, which is an incredibly good price. Mom has a really hard time passing up a bargain, so she asked if we had decided whether we were going to homeschool. I told her I thought we were, so she went ahead and bought the Hooked on Kindergarten set. Hannah and I worked on the reading lessons for the next several days, and we had so much fun! The first time she read a book, I remember thinking, "I can't believe this! I just taught my daughter how to read!" It was a wonderful, indescribable feeling. I felt like God was telling me, "Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer! You are so slow to learn! Here...experience the fullness of my blessing and see if you can still say no!" Finally, I surrendered (joyfully, I might add), and gave God a bit of a break.

I'm not a homeschool-or-die, public-school-is-from-Satan kind of person. I'm just a person who wants to be where God wants me to be. And for whatever reason, for this child, at this time, God has made it clear that it's what He desires from us. It's so amazing to go back through these events and see Him at work. Dustin and Greg hadn't talked in years, but God orchestrated that lunch so they could meet and discuss homeschooling and Greg's mind would be open to it. He brought Carrie into my life so I could see someone like me doing this and hear bits of wisdom from her experience. He had Matthew open up and share so many of the ways he has been blessed by homeschooling so Greg and I would see that, despite what the world wants to tell you, homeschooled kids really do love being homeschooled! He orchestrated our trip to Big Lots so that I could have the Hooked on Kindergarten kit and see that I really could successfully teach my daughter!

Psalm 143:7-8 reads: "Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." It amazes me how faithful He was to show me the way I should go. When He quietly came beside me and took hold of my hand, I didn't even acknowledge His presence. When he leaned over and gently whispered in my ear, I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you." When he repeated it in a louder voice, I told him I still didn't understand. So then He wrote it on the wall for me. But my response was to look at His writing—his beautiful, perfect writing—and say, "But God, there's no exclamation point. If you really wanted me to do this, wouldn't you have put an exclamation point?" So in His faithfulness, He went back and added one. What an awesome, awesome God.

1 comment:

laura said...

yes, yes, yes. so thrilled to be able to join you in the journey- carrie is a treasure isn't she? you are doing a great job with h.s.- all with the Lord's help. it took me awhile to get to the point where i finally decided to trust that God knew best for our family and that is why we are homeschooing as well! enjoyed reading your blog backwards. i'll keep checking back!