Christian Homeschooling Perspectives: The Process of Letting Go
by Michele Hastings
Since getting my book published, I’ve encountered a dry spell where writing is concerned. As our kids stumble through the early stages of puberty, and we bumble along beside them, my questions tend to outweigh my answers. Finally, upon returning from a weeklong holiday in Ontario where my husband was exploring his roots, I was hit with a dose of inspiration.
After hiking through the scenic areas in and around Thunder Bay, I was perplexed by the fact that my husband, although he appreciates the beauty of nature, did not become the avid outdoorsman one would expect would emerge from growing up in such awe inspiring surroundings. Although intimately acquainted with the lakes and woods of his homeland through Boy Scout canoe trips and hunting and fishing trips with his father, tennis is what stole his heart in his teen years. After committing his life to Christ in his early twenties, music took hold of him, and much later, alternative health, computers and technology became the focus of much of his passion.
I shouldn’t find it too surprising, however, that his environment didn’t play a huge part in shaping him. Neither did mine. Being the daughter of a teacher, our family spent the summers camping and sailing, yet, by the age of eleven, I traded my swimsuit for riding jodhpurs. I fell head over heels in love with horses and spent my weekends and summer holidays over the next few years mucking out stables in exchange for riding lessons.
Reflecting on this, I was struck by the realisation that despite the monumental time and effort my husband and I pour into our offspring, creating for them what we believe to be the ideal environment to grow up in, how they turn out will largely depend on their own choices. Although as parents we are responsible to them, as they approach adulthood, we become less and less responsible for them. What they believe; what they enjoy; who they want to hang out with, date, and later marry; and what they choose to do for a living will spring from something much deeper than the environment they were raised in.
Who knows why tennis became my husband’s obsession for that period of time, affecting his choices in every other area of his life? Why horses won my heart I’ll never really understand. What crevice of the soul do our own boys’ passions erupt from? The answers are far too complex for me to grasp. Only God knows. He was the One who formed them in my womb. Only He fully understands both their innermost hurts and their moments of greatest joy.
The area of faith is even more mysterious. Ted’s background in a traditional Anglican church gave him a foundational belief in God but left him longing for more, as did my own Roman Catholic upbringing. We both discovered a more personal relationship with God through Jesus at the age of twenty-two. Yet, both of us have siblings who remain unbelievers to this day. How does one become a true follower of Christ? Most people grow up being exposed to Christianity and church in one form or another and yet very few put Christ first and live their lives as if they really believe that the bible is the true word of God.
How will our children develop a personal walk with God? Will they? Will the fact that we chose a homeschooling lifestyle influence them to choose the same path we are following? Through homeschooling we are trying to disciple our boys, teaching them about life from a Christian perspective. To be completely honest, so far it hasn’t seemed to make much of an impact on them. Although we have great kids and we’re very proud of them, they seem no more spiritual than their non-church going neighbourhood friends do.
At times I question whether we’ve been strict enough or whether we should have discouraged their friendships with non-Christian kids. I often wonder if they’d be demonstrating more Christ-like attitudes and behaviours if they saw more of the power of God at church. Yet, in reading through Acts 4 and 5 I’m flabbergasted by the fact that although many became believers because of the signs and wonders performed by the apostles, many others were disturbed by what they witnessed. They chose not to accept the truth and did their best to shut this new phenomenon down. Even some that bought into the message of Christianity failed to fully get it…holding back financially, possibly due to distrust or greed, and ended up suffering the consequences of their unfaithfulness.
Once again it came home to me that God has given mankind the gift of free will. Despite our upbringing, good or bad…despite our environment and our experiences…and despite our parents’ influence, we each get to choose what we believe in.
This concept is as scary as it is a relief! Although it’s been a huge burden carrying the weight of responsibility for how my kids turn out, I’d gladly heave this load my entire life if it would ensure our boys’ salvation. However, God has made it clear to me that unfortunately, my own efforts don’t matter as much as I think they do. There’s nothing I can do in my own power to make our kids choose God for themselves or choose the path He’s laid out for them. Yet, thankfully, God cares even more about them than we do. He is also walking alongside our children, calling them to Himself throughout their life’s journey. He has designed them with unique gifts and abilities and planted desires deep in their hearts. He knows them better than we do.
At the same time the world beckons them, pumping its own wares. Usually it’s marketing a twisted version of the good things God longs to bestow upon His children. While the Father promises, "Come to me and I will fulfil you." The enemy taunts, "See what the world has to offer. All that God junk is boring. I will show you spirituality that isn’t attached to guilt, condemnation, and sin." Jesus breathes, "Come to me and I will give you abundant life." Satan retorts, " Sex, money, power, and fame is where it’s really at." The Holy Spirit whispers, "Come, I will lead you in the way of truth." The devil clamours, "Truth is relative. Only self-righteous bigots believe in one right way."
Amidst this battle that rages in the spiritual realm what can we as parents do to ensure that our kids make the right choices and decisions as they travel through life? Unfortunately, nothing we do will ensure that they go the way we want them to go but what we can do is:
1. Live lives of integrity and consistency in everything we say and do.
2. Pray and intercede for our children. It’s the Father who calls them, Jesus who saves them, and the Holy Spirit who fills and equips them to follow Him. A recent Daily Bread I read stated, "When we trust Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit creates within us a new desire to do what is pleasing to God. The flesh still has its pull, but the pull of the Spirit is stronger." Once we’ve done our part we have to trust that the Lord will do His.
3. Keep the lines of communication open and the relationship moving forward despite its ebb and flow. Our kids are changing and so must our relationship with them. As they approach adulthood and move further from the nest we become less the ultimate authority in their lives and more of a support system. Although we must take every opportunity we can to share with them our beliefs and perspectives…and do so with sincerity and enthusiasm…we mustn’t tell them what they’re supposed to believe, think and feel. It’s imperative that we show them the same respect and sensitivity we’d show those outside our immediate family, leaving them room to disagree, and allowing them the freedom to discover their own expressions of faith.
The process of helping our precious children grow up is similar to helping them learn to ride a two-wheel bike. Eventually the training wheels have to come off. For some youngsters it’s a smooth transition but for others there are countless spills. Yet, somewhere along the road we have to let go and trust them into God’s hands. Despite our fears, we can rest assured that He will never let go.
Michele and her husband, Ted, homeschool their two sons in Saskatchewan, Canada. You can see Michele’s excellent book, "The Homeschooling Trail", at her site, "Michele’s Musings", at www.michelehastings.com
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