A Homeschool Pause

Today I want to share something that is going to be incredibly life changing for me this coming year. As many of you know, I am currently homeschooling four of my five children – and now, after my sixth year of homeschooling, I am going to take year seven to pause and reflect.

Thats right! My five precious children will be strapping on their backpacks, and lining up like little ducklings to face “real school” 😜 this fall! (For those of you who don’t get my reference to “real school” I mean public school, although you fellow homeschoolers will know exactly what I’m mean!!) Watch out everyone…the Bergen’s are coming!!

I have known our plans for a couple months now but just recently have begun to share the news and I must say, it’s very interesting to see all the different reactions that have come from this decision…

I’ve had it all from, “Are you sure you want to send your kids to Public School?!?” (Spoken like I’m sending them away to some evil war camp) to “Wow! Good for you! Won’t that be nice to have an empty house and all that free time?” to “Oh finally you’ve come to your senses! Are you going to be normal get a real job now?”

Ok. I’m exaggerating just a wee bit. None of those things were actually said to me, but I’ve had many conversations that give me each of the vibes above and I’m quite sure that none of them are what I’m actually feeling.

So let me answer these questions for those of you who are too polite to ask them in the first place:

1) Yes, I am quite sure that for this year, our five children are going to attend school together. One of the reasons I am sure of this is that for the past few years I have felt very split up as a family, having one child in public school and the rest at home. I have comforted myself by the fact that we would be split up anyway if they were all in school (as in my youngest was still to young for kindergarten so he’d be at home with me.) This year is the first and only year that my children will ever be able to attend the same public school altogether. This brings me so much joy and excitement – the thought that my five kids can experience school life together; bus rides, assemblies, family days, etc. I also am confident that even though yes, there will be some negative influences in their lives, the school is a very good one with wonderful teachers. I also am prepared to clear our evening schedules as much as possible so that I have time to spend with our children each evening.

2) No I don’t expect a break. I don’t even expect an easier year. I don’t expect calm days of doing whatever I want. I just don’t! Helping five kids adjust to public school after homeschooling will take a lot of correspondence with the teachers, a lot of patient evenings helping with homework, a lot of volunteer hours so that my children can see that I still value their education and work environment, a lot of healthy lunch planning, ALOT of papers brought home (found in crumpled balls at the bottom of their school bags – along with…”Eewww!!! What’s that?!?”), and to top it off a lot of driving around and planning for the future!

3) And lastly, no, I’m not going to finally be normal. I will continue to be my weird self, no “real” job in my near future, AND my hopes are to continue homeschooling at least two of my boys the following fall.

So, you may be wondering…why the change? Will one year off be worth all the paperwork, adjustments, etc. of public school? Why not just keep the two boys at home and start a new normal?

To answer that I would refer back to the first answer I gave: But they’ll all be together!

And I also will add that these last couple years my homeschooling hasn’t been at its finest. I’ve still been committed to giving my kids an excellent education, but I’ve really resorted to doing the bare minimum and even that lacks creativity. Quite simply, I’ve lost my former spark and zeal for homeschooling.

So instead of viewing this year as a rest, I’m focusing on using my year “off” to reassess some of the reasons I began homeschooling in the first place. Creative teaching and planning takes time, lots of time and to continue for a couple more years I’m simply setting aside this year as a gage of where we are at. I’ll be answering a lot of questions. Is my heart still in it? Do the benefits of it outweigh the inconvenience? What is our long-term goal, and how is homeschooling accomplishing it? How has homeschooling been beneficial to my older kids? Have they been able to adjust to life among their peers? And so on. You get the picture.

So that’s my big news for today! How about you?

Do you homeschool? A former homeschooler? Have you ever had to make a similar adjustment? If so, how did it turn out for you?

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A Parents Call to Pray

I’ve been all over God’s word today… Deuteronomy, Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Proverbs… and you know what I see throughout it all? The same loving, gracious God, gently calling and beckoning his people to walk in his ways and teach his ways to the next generation.

And the realization hit me: I can teach my children, but it is God alone who can save their hearts.

God alone can grow the seeds that I’ve so earnestly planted. God alone can hold their hearts and win their love and devotion. This is why my prayers are so important. For what my teaching is powerless to do, my prayers CAN do! I don’t want God to just have their outward obedience! I want him to have their hearts to the very core!

Dear parent, do you feel helpless for where your family is at? Pray!

Do you feel like all your efforts in teaching your children were in vain? Pray!

Have your children rejected your teachings? Pray!

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat, for He grants sleep to those he love. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in ones youth.”

Psalm 127:1-4

Surely the Lord answers our prayers in accordance with his will. And we know from scripture it is his will that NONE should perish, but that all will come to repentance.

Public School Didn’t Prepare Me for Life… My Parents Did

“How in the world do you expect your children to function out in the world once they leave the bubble you’ve created for them?”

This is honestly a statement that was said to me a few years back.

And to be honest…it stung.

One of the most common questions I hear as a homeschooler is how am I preparing my children for the “real” world. From topics of socialization to missed opportunities, there are literally hundreds of different opinions on whether homeschooling has benefit, or if it actually hinders children from real life.

Let me tell you something that may shock you:  The public school system did not prepare me for real life.

Not for my real life.

There I said it….it is out. I can breathe.

This is not to say that the public school system didn’t help me out, or that homeschooling would’ve helped me more. I’m just simply stating that the things I learned in school didn’t prepare me for being a stay at home mom of five kids.  Being involved in extra curricular activities didn’t prep me for my day to day tasks either.

Yet, I see parents everywhere trying to rush from dance, to piano lessons, to the tutors house, to hockey practice, to swimming lessons, and to everything and anything else in between. To prepare their children for everything that they might ever want to be.

But there’s some things very few parents pay any attention to at all.

Character.

Work Ethic.

Responsiblity.

Commitment.

Compassion for the less fortunate.

Because while sports may keep you fit, and school may prepare you for your career, it doesn’t account for the most important values in life: God, family, and our responsibility to others.

There’s a push out there to drive children to dream big. From as young as three we ask them such huge, life driving questions: What do you want to be when you grow up?

As if they were capable of making that decision…still it’s cute to hear their answers!

But…can I just say that it’s a shame that we focus so much on career when a far more important question would be to ask, “what kind of person would you like to be?” And if they want to get married, “what kind of person do they want to spend their entire life with?”

Happiness doesn’t come from money or careers, we all know this, yet we raise our children to believe that those are the most important life goals. My question is why?

Why do we do this?

You know what brings misery? Marrying a miserable person. Going through life without a thought for anyone else. Riches without friends to share them with. Working endless hours just to watch the numbers in your bank account go up.

And yet we push and push our children to a single goal: Dream big and follow your dreams!

But…what if they’re like me?

What if they are like the millions of women around the world like me? What if they just want to stay home and raise a family?

What good does all of your rushing around do then?

And maybe it comes down to an even bigger question: What if they are content with raising a family, being a stay at home parent? Will they have let you down?

It’s not a waste, dear friends, to just raise a family. It’s a gift. A tremendous gift to the world; to raise up people who know they are loved.

There’s SO more to being a parent than just driving from place to place, and putting food on the table.

Now, do I have to homeschool to raise my kids well?

Of course not!

But it sure allows me more time to do so!

Let me ask you, if your children are at school eight hours a day, then at extra curricular activities for 2-3 more hours each evening…When do you have the time to teach them how to work? When do they do chores?

When do they learn about the importance of volunteering, or how to care for the less fortunate, or think about the needs of others?

When do you have the time to do devotions with them, memorize scripture with them, pray with them?

When do they have time to ask you questions about life, about morals, about sex?

When do they have time to just “be still”?

Are we so afraid of silence? Are we that afraid of stopping our lives and just letting kids play creative, made-up games?

Parenting well takes time…lots of it!

So going back to the first question that was asked: “How will my children function in the world?”

I except that they will be godly, hardworking, respectful, responsible and unselfish individuals, which quite notably, is rare in the world today.

But will they “fit in” with the rest of the world? Looking at millennials today… Nah, that’s not too high on my priority list.

 

Don’t Forget the Good

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been sifting through old journal entries. A lot of the entries focus on my frustrations, my failures, my kids failures. But then there was one, a complete gem, that made me vow to start keeping track of the good as well. This entry was so touching that it had me crying and smiling all at once:

Date: Aug 16, 2012

Yesterday my children put me to shame. I heard of an orphanage being built in Ethiopia that would house abandoned babies. It is already being built in faith that the needed funds will come in. But until the house is completed they are by law unable to take in any of the babies that are left in the wilderness to die. The government has strict rules on this so they need the money desperately – lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I had already had it in my mind to give $500, which is already $200 more than we usually give every month. As I wrote out a check, my eldest son, Isaiah, asked me what it was for. I told him the story of these babies and he ran to his room to get his piggy bank. He pulls out EVERY bill, toonie and loonie, only keeping a few cents for himself. It came to $75 – his entire life savings. Then, my next child (Bella) saw this and pulled out her piggy bank and the next child (Jonas), giving over half of their own money. Together, out of their own will, they gave all the money they have been saving from their birthdays, Christmas’ and other earnings. It came to $105. And here I am sitting on a big savings account. God, bless the tender, giving hearts of my children! It will take them years to save this money again! Isaiah is only 6, Bella 4, and Jonas 3…and already they are being generous for you. I wrote out a new check to cover their balance and have it in my mind to secretly put their money into the bank for them. Thank you for kids, who continue to teach me lessons that completely amaze me.

Often I just see the things that need to be changed in my kids lives, and quite honestly, the lists of behaviours and irresponsibilities they have completely overwhelm me. But then, I read this and step back to actually see my children through the Father’s eyes. And the truth overwhelms me: In many ways they are FAR more sweet, pure, forgiving, compassionate and gentle than I am. And I am instructing them??

I shared this journal entry with them instead of devotions one morning last week, weeping and asking for forgiveness. For too often focusing on the bad. For too often overlooking the good. When they are GOOD kids. They are often sweet and unselfish, and I often feel the opposite about them because I get stuck on teaching what needs improvement, but I forget that the most important thing in a teacher is the ability to see the good in their students and call it out. In doing this, we don’t try to make our children become something they aren’t, rather they begin to see who they are and flourish into a mature version of that. When I am told I am good at something, it pushes me to try even harder, to learn even more. But when I am told I’m terrible, or a failure, it makes me want to give up and not try at all. Teaching my children, has taught me this in a very sobering way.

I think God has a sense of humour, because I see myself as their teacher, but quite often they are mine.