I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I am a homeschool mom want-to-be. I remember the first time that I heard about homeschooling. I was in high school, and I remember wishing that my mom would drop her life and homeschool me! I loved the idea. My big sister homeschooled her older four children, and several of Erik and my very best friends have chosen to homeschool. And, their kids are awesome ~ confident, full of Godly character, well-mannered, and do awesome in social settings. These parents don't homeschool in order to shelter their kids. Their kids are involved in lots of activities and more importantly lots of ministries. The fact that their kids are not exposed to certain things until later is simply an added bonus, their main motivation for homeschooling is simply to be able to spend more time with their children ~ time they use to not only build an awesome relationship with their kids, but also they are using the extra time to focus on character issues and spiritual growth. The Daniel in Erik Daniel came from Erik's Godson who is one of these amazing kids. It has been such a joy for us to watch as God has used Daniel's parents to mold him into the awesome young man that he is today. And, he is just one of many. . . ahem. . . Tim Tebow. . . :-)
And, I'll be honest, it bothered me last year that Joshua's teacher got to spend more time with him during the day than I did. I missed his sweet face at lunchtime. I missed him when I walked Rain while the younger boys napped. I missed him off and on all day nearly everyday. I do think that kids need to spread their wings, to be out in the world, to be away from their parents, but to be gone so much when they are so very young is simply hard for me to swallow.
Thus, I felt the desire welling up in me to homeschool him at least for the early years. I love the idea of homeschool. I want the folders, the lesson plans, the choice of curriculum. I want to spend hours teaching them scripture ~ growing in them a love for God's precious Words. I want to have school outside on a blanket under the shade of one of our Oak trees. I want the boys to say the pledge to a flag hanging from my front porch. I want the high fives when they finally get something that we have been working hard on. I want the trips to the nursing home, local orphanage, and not to mention the fun field trips we could go on. I want the bonding of brothers through hours and hours of outside playtime. I want to do science lessons in the backyard ~ hands on, of course. But more than anything I want the time with my boys. Time is a slippery slope, and it is a rich commodity. Before I know it, Joshua will be out of elementary school, middle school, high school, and college. Whew! But, I will say that mostly my desire to homeschool is selfish. I am happiest, most at peace (imagine that with four boys :-) when my children are all around me! I love them. I mean it. Like crazy. And, they say that in second and third grade the kids at our school have 2 to 4 hours of homework a night. So, between homework and extracurricular activities where is the time Erik and I desire to pour spiritually, emotionally, and playfully into our children? I must admit that I fear we will get caught up in the activity, lose sight of the goal, and be carried away with the tide and before we know it they will one by one be gone. Makes me want to get pregnant again! :-) (Just kidding!)
Little disclaimer: I am writing this so that when Joshua and his wife are grown, married, and have kids they will know that Erik and I sought God's face like crazy about the decisions that we made. I want Joshua to know, and I have shared all this with him, but he is only 6, so I feel compelled to journal it. Just for the record, I do not feel that it is God's will to pull all Christian kids out of the public school system. I simply do not. That would be too easy, and God is not about easy. He is about us seeking Him face down with all that we are and listening to his sweet whispering deep within our souls. On the flip side, I get frustrated with the stereotype that says homeschooling is sheltering, overprotecting, and holding a child back socially. When done well, homeschool is not like this. The important thing, I am learning, is that it is not about whether we homeschool or send Joshua to school, it is about our listening to our Creator and allowing Him to lead and guide all of our decisions ~ and modeling this for our children.
Okay back to the story. . . So, last year we prayed about homeschooling, and we felt we were to send Joshua, and God confirmed this to us in little ways and big ways but that is another story. Anyway, I have been praying fervently since the middle of the year last year that if God wanted us to pull Joshua out in first grade that He would make it clear. I prayed that He would reveal it to Erik without my saying anything to him. I waited. Nothing happened, but I really wanted to homeschool, and the summer was well underway. (And, by the way Joshua had a great kindergarten experience. This has nothing to do with his school only to do with my heart.) So, I broke down and told Erik what my heart was screaming. So, he began praying with me. We have prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. I can honestly say that besides the health of his mother we have never unitedly cried out to God for anything with this much fervor. But, He wasn't really showing us anything either way. And, I wanted so badly for Him to let us know in undeniable ways that Joshua. should. stay. home., but He didn't. So, we have been uncertain for the last few weeks. Our uncertainty coming from an inner peace that we were both lacking about homeschool. And, I must admit as much as I have wanted it (still do) something just wouldn't settle. Something just didn't feel right. But, I had one last hope. . .
In the first grade their are 5 teachers. One has taught for years and is supposedly WONDERFUL (also known for being great with little boys - raised 3 of her own), then there are three that are good, and then there is one that several people warned us that we do not want Joshua to have. One mother, through tears, told me of her child's experience under this particular teacher. So, Erik made the decision that if Joshua got her the deal would be done -bring him home! I think that I was the only mother hoping that my child would get this teacher! Erik and I prayed so hard, and the night before orientation we were leaning heavily on the side of homeschooling. But, then I woke up at 1 a.m. to feed a sweet little fuzzy headed baby, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I stayed up until after 3 wrestling with God and with myself. I kept crying out to God, "Don't be silent. Speak Your Thoughts. We want what You want! Why can I not hear You, see You, feel Your heart on this! Don't you want me to do this? Don't You want me to homeschool?" So, when we got up the next morning I told Erik about my restless night, and we made the decision that I would go to orientation without Joshua. We needed confirmation. I felt so uncertain that I was supposed to bring him home ~ so uncertain that I needed to hear that he had been put in the class of the teacher who would close the deal for us.
It was a very rainy day. I prayed all the way to school. I prayed for clarity, for God to speak, for me to know as I walked those familiar halls. But, in my heart I just knew that he was going to get one of the "good" teachers which really wouldn't make a statement either way.
So, I walked in the school hardly making eye contact with anyone, dodging questions about where Joshua was, and shaking like a scared cat. I could hardly fill out my paperwork. My hands were shaking so badly! After I went through the process, I walked up to a good friend of ours whose job was to tell me what classroom to go to. . .
This was it. . .
My heart was literally in my throat. . .
She handed me a sheet of paper and said the name of his teacher with a knowingly sweet smile. . .
He got the AWESOME teacher. :-(
So, I smiled a somewhat fake half-smile back at her, told myself that this was not over, maybe I won't like her, maybe God will give me discernment in the classroom ~ discernment telling me that we should homeschool Joshua. . . Just because he got the wonderful one did not mean that this was right. I would have to feel within my spirit that this was right, and I was not there. . . yet, anyway.
I got to the classroom. She greeted me at the door, motherly, sweet, asking about Erik's parents right off the bat (never met her before). She told me to pick a seat for Joshua. Of course, I picked a place front and center. She sat in the seat next to mine and talked with me as I filled out more paperwork. Here are a few excerpts. . .
Me: I really have issues with being away from my child all day. It just seems to be such a long time. . .
Her: I agree. Know that you are welcome in my classroom anytime. I do things the same if you are here or if you are not, so you are more than welcome to come observe anytime you like. You can just sit back and watch, or if you would like to come and read to the class, I would love that!
Me: I really like to bake. I don't know how many fun things you do in first grade, but if you let me know, I'll bake something related to your theme. . .
Her: Oh, we do lots of fun things in first grade! And, I love to bake, too. We actually bake a lot in the classroom! We will make butter. We will make applesauce, biscuits and jelly. We will do lots of baking right here in the classroom. And, on the days we bake, I love to have an extra set of hands. I would love it if you would come and help on those days!
Me: Well, what about homework?
Her: Well, I have a different philosophy than some of the other teachers. Every night they will be sent home with a different reader which they will have to read. These readers will take only 2-3 minutes to read for most children. I give homework on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights only, and it will take no more than 30 minutes to do and that includes the time it takes to read the readers.
Me: Well, what about tests?
Her: They will be tested every Friday, but you will be well informed of what will be on the tests. There will be no surprises. In fact, the first test will be simply for practice. I'll be easy on them. I was a mother, too.
I was beginning to feel my control grip loosening, as God seemed to be whispering, "I have prepared the way for him. . ." I could literally feel the little pieces being put together before me. It wasn't just circumstantial. God was speaking peace to my soul.
A few minutes later a little boy that we know came in with his grandparents. The little boy and his family are patients of Erik's. The sweet teacher got down on his level and said, "S., I want you to sit by your friends. I know that when I go somewhere new I like to sit by my friends, so I want you to be able to pick who you sit beside. And, I don't mind if you talk sometimes. There will be times when it is fine for you to talk to those around you. But, when I stand up at the board and when I am talking, you have to be quiet and listen. As long as you can do that, I will be glad to let you sit by your friends." The little boy said he wanted to sit by Joshua.
As I walked around the room looking for a red flag from God, I noticed that the names of Joshua's classmates were laminated and placed in rows on a bulletin board. I began to read the names, and my jaw dropped. Out of 5 classrooms, Joshua's two very best friends were in his class. One of the boys he has played with since he was 2. The other he met in kindergarten ~ they were inseparable last year. Both a little on the timid side, they clung to each other like crazy last year. I never dreamed that God would put them in the same classroom again! The thought never even crossed my mind. Then, I saw the clincher, and I had to smile. Among the names of Joshua's classmates was. . .
Seriously, Jesus is in Joshua's class. My heart chuckled. God has a sense of humor that absolutely floors me at times. So, I glanced back at the teacher, smiled and said, "Well, I feel much better knowing that Jesus will be in Joshua's class." She smiled and said, "Me, too!!"
I can't wait to meet Jesus! As if no one has ever said it to him, I am going to say, "Jesus, I have always wanted to meet you face to face!!!!!!" :-)
Oh, I digress. So, I said goodbye, walked out into the hall, (somewhat in a state of shock) and if all this was not enough, I saw her. She is a pastor's wife and for months she has been on my heart to talk to about Moms in Touch. And, there she stood waiting in line with two of her children. I took a second to talk with her about my heart for praying for the our children, their teachers, the school, and the school board. She was very interested, and we made plans to talk further about it. I walked to my van in the rain half laughing at how clear it all seemed ~ Joshua to be in school and me to pick up where I left off with Moms in Touch. I called Erik and began the conversation saying, "You are never going to believe this. . ." I could hear him smiling as I told him of all the little things that for us added up to God saying, "Not this year. . ."
But, that is not to say that He will not say "Yes!" to me homeschooling next year! :-)
Year by year following His lead, it makes this journey an unpredictable adventure!!!