I’m back! After an incredibly busy summer, making the decision to homeschool and preparing to teach two of our three daughters (our oldest is a senior and doesn’t want to homeschool), I am returning to the place where I have been longing to be, Radical Motherhood.
The last couple of weeks I have been learning how to homeschool teenagers. Let me tell you, it is way more difficult than sending them to public school. There is a considerable amount of preparation each week (even though sometimes it is fruitless-we don’t stick to the plan), constant navigating the waters of teenage moodiness, juggling activities that we chose to incorporate in our school, volunteering, socializing, not to mention someone still has to make dinner every night (and that’s still me). It has been a steep learning curve.
My biggest struggle has been internal (which, Alyssa could tell you, is a type of conflict found in literature, and that her favorite character Holden Caulfield is experiencing). I am torn between two separate worlds. The one where I want us to dig in and get school done as efficiently and orderly as possible, on a schedule, focused and organized, filling all of our time with learning, and the one where I want to let the girls sleep a little later, study a little less, paint, draw, laugh, and play games.
I have moments of panic looking at their weekly assignment schedule and not seeing enough items crossed off at the end of the week. I start to think about if we are as far as we should be and if we are doing enough. Then I scold them a little, pointing at the list, asking “what have you been doing all week”? We argue, I win, they do the work grudgingly.
Then we have other moments, when none of us wants to learn about supplementary angles or edit a sentence from the workbook, but we all want to listen to music and paint, or play a game of ping-pong, or talk and laugh. Those days we just enjoy ourselves.
This week I have been thinking a lot about the sermon from last Sunday. It was based on James 4:4, and all week I have been noticing the message playing out in my real life. (I think I had another AHA! moment if you will, like when I quit my job to be a SAHM again.)
Anyway, James 4:4 says
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
How do we avoid being friends of this world?
We are surrounded by messages that tell us to invest ourselves in this world. That we should have a big house and nice cars, that it’s ok to spend all of our free time watching Netflix, that our kids should be involved in an after school activity everyday, no matter the cost or time commitment. We start to believe that God is for Sunday’s and holidays, not every day. Everyday is for the world.
For teenagers especially, homeschooling allows us to ignore a lot of the things of the world. We avoid so many things that draw kids into worldly temptations- boy-girl relationships, competition, comparison, alcohol and drugs. That’s not to say that we are living under a rock not socializing with anyone. But the difference in attitude in my girls when they were going to public school versus homeschool (not absence of attitude-just not as constantly aggravating), the openness and communication, and their innocence, which was slowly disappearing, has returned. Our days are more lighthearted, calm, quiet. There are fewer tears, less yelling, and more hugs.
We don’t feel like it’s necessary to be involved in everything and don’t feel like we’re missing out on everything (because most of the time we are unaware of what everyone else is doing). Feeling like you are missing out is a huge, terrible thing for teenagers that often leads to bad decisions.
I am reading “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” for my Monday Bible study, and in it I found another great example of why I need to learn not to be a friend of this world. The story of Mary and Martha resonates with all women of course- the desire to be a perfect hostess for the Lord versus the desire to ignore the world and sit at his feet. It certainly speaks to me. I love this passage from the book:
“The world clamors, “Do more! Be all that you can be!” But our Father whispers, “Be still and know that I am God.”
The world tells our teens to ace that test! Be in every sport! Do that activity so it can go on your resume! Buy that outfit! Look like her! Fit in! You’re too old to play! You need to be busy!
I think that God whispers through Christian homeschoolers to be still, take the time, know each other, love each other, focus on truly important goals. He shows us that busyness is a distraction and waste of time. He tells us, as he told Martha, that she need not be worried and upset about many things, that “few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) He keeps us away from the destructive things that face our teens in schools. He shows us where we need to grow and allows us the time to do so.
Back to James. I love the book of James, for one, because it’s short and I can read it in one sitting. But I also love the no-nonsense writing, the urging to do what is right and good. It’s an instruction manual for how to persevere through persecution. James reminds us that we will have problems, but that we need to commit ourselves to Godly living and persevere.
As a homeschooler, I sometimes feel persecution (sometimes just from my own mind). Sometimes I doubt whether we are doing the right thing. Whether my girls will get enough from being at home. If they are missing out on something at school. Whether they are learning enough and checking off enough of the boxes.
I just need to remember that the goal is not to measure up to the standards of the world. I need to listen for that whisper.