The Odds Against Homeschooling
- Monday, July 18, 2011
If a husband decides to go back to college at 30 to become a pharmacist—and his wife has to support him and the children for the next decade—he will have praise of the multitudes: “It’ll be tough living on one income, but you can do it. You just hang in there. It will all be worth it.”
If a woman quits her demanding job as a nurse to start a scrapbooking business in the spare bedroom, her friends are green with envy. “It’s your life . . . do what you enjoy. Set your own pace, be independent. Best wishes! Making a living isn’t all about money, it’s about enjoying what you do.”
But let someone say, “I want to homeschool my children,” and a thousand eyebrows may instantly raise. The masses gasp for breath, and counselors crawl out from under every rock to warn of “the dangers” of entertaining such thoughts. Cunningly, the vacuum of doubt attempts to abort the dreams, aspirations, and faith from the hearts of parents who are being called to the road less traveled. Are the odds really against homeschoolers, or are the challenges really part of a higher plan which God uses to manifest His wonderful grace?
My wife Jenny and I have lived through a lot of stuff, and some of it was not good. In the process we’ve been blessed—though we didn’t always realize it until after the “stuff” was over. I would say that our greatest blessings have been the results of beating the odds. For some reason we believed that God would prove Himself through life’s overwhelming challenges. Time after time, our heavenly Father has manifested His power in the face of all those odds. Let me tell you about a few of them.
“Today’s family can’t make it on one income.”
I’ve done some dumb things in my life, but I never cared how dumb I appeared to everyone else. In 1990, I quit my job at a bank in Dallas to move to southern Ohio so I could raise my children in a rural community close to my kin.
“Are you insane?” my banker buddies said. “There’s no jobs up there. You’ll never find work! And your wife wants to stay home? Is she as dumb as you? What about her career? What about her self worth? Why would you allow her to do that to herself? What about your bills?”
Did I mention that I quit my professional, secure, benefit-drenched banking job without having a prospective employer in Ohio? That I had two babies? That I had debt and no savings? Dumb, huh? I took a ridiculous risk because I believed God was giving me the green light to go. At the time I had no idea just how great my God was or how much He would grow my faith.
I was unemployed for six weeks. Three months later I was living in a nice, two-story house, five minutes from work. I went home for lunch every day. My wife got to babysit our own children. Chicken soup was on the menu every other day and tomato soup in between. Yum! On paydays we splurged and bought a box of brand-name crackers to go with the soup. We thought canned tuna (on sale) was equivalent to take-out seafood. Life was good.
Nine months later we bought a mobile home. Five years later we bought a small house, and a year after that we doubled our square footage by adding on. Were times tough? I guess. Were we burdened with bills? I think so. Did we cry ourselves to sleep at night? Most likely. But at the same time, our faith in God was growing by leaps and bounds—and we knew our dreams were becoming reality. Through it all we persevered: for God, for ourselves, for each other, for our church, for our children, and for our relatives (who we knew did not want to end up raising our kids). And we discovered that living on one income was possible. Moreover, two incomes would have complicated most of our problems—not resolved them. Through faith we learned this truth: “With God all things are possible.”
“You will go crazy being with your children every minute of the day.”
Okay, well—this one might be true! I vaguely remember a time when we didn’t have kids, but I’m pretty sure that my life was pointless and boring back then. If we did go crazy, our children certainly are not the ones to blame. Other forces probably came closer to pushing us over the edge than our children ever did. Truthfully, I think God enabled us to fare quite well. Neither my wife, nor I, nor our children, have ever had to see a psychologist, a therapist, a psychiatrist, a social worker from Children’s Services, or a professional counselor. To date, none of us have been on medication. Insanity Cessation classes weren’t covered by my insurance.
“You’re not qualified to teach.”
Hello? There are a lot of things I’m not “qualified” to do, but I do them anyway. Wait a minute . . . I am qualified in one area . . .
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, I am qualified to hunt wildlife (in season) with a gun. Several years ago I took a hunter’s safety test with my son, Dane. I wasn’t personally interested in hunting, but I did it just to support him. I passed with a 98%. But trust me—you don’t want me to go hunting with you, or even near you for that matter. The license (i.e., qualification) means nothing. Really!
On the flip side, just because someone has a teaching degree doesn’t mean they are qualified to teach. I’ve met teachers who couldn’t write or talk their way out of a paper bag, let alone impart truth and knowledge to a child. They were dry, disinterested, oblivious, and unskilled in the most common principles of communication—yet they had degrees. Go figure. A degree does not qualify someone to teach.
God gave me the authority to train my children, and He also gave me the command to do it. Hence, I am qualified. You see, God doesn’t command me to do something and then withhold the necessary resources to accomplish His will. I may not be qualified by the government’s standards, but I am qualified by God’s. What I don’t understand today, by His grace, I will learn tomorrow. Since God’s wisdom is infinite, all I have to do is 1.) Seek, 2.) Ask, 3.) Knock and sometimes, 4.) Repeat steps 1-3.
One reason the “Are you qualified?” question comes up so often is that people don’t understand the difference between being “qualified” and being “called.” If you are applying for a job then your chances of being hired for that job will be based upon your qualifications: experience, knowledge, aptitude. This is the case if you are applying for a job.
On the other hand, if you are “called” to a specific task, then the person calling you is already convinced you are capable of doing a good job. You may not think you are ready for it, you may feel ill-equipped, ignorant, or frightened by the magnitude of responsibility—but the one who has asked you to do it is willing to mentor you and enable you so that you will function successfully in the new position. Can you see the difference? Homeschoolers aren’t applying for a teaching position—God has called them to it.
After I’d worked as a banker for seven years, a man from a large local business contacted me and asked me to work for him. I questioned his sanity in thinking I could be an asset to the company. He persisted, so I went to work for him. He sent me off for training, worked around my schedule, and offered me bonuses and incentives that amazed me. I worked harder. We became good friends. He trusted me with more responsibility. I couldn’t disappoint him. In many ways, our business relationship grew into a ministry. There is a broad difference in being “qualified” for a job you are seeking and being “called” to do a job by someone who can enable you. A “calling” seems to spur more loyalty.
A “calling” also helps you persevere. If I apply for a job—because I think I’ll like it or it will pay well—then I won’t feel bad at all if I choose to leave it for something better. If, however, the Lord “calls” me to a task, I am more apt to stay when the going gets tough. Why? Because I didn’t choose this on my own. It wasn’t my bad judgment call. I wasn’t misled or deceived. God led me here, and He knew everything that would happen. He knew that, with His help, I could handle it. It’s better (and safer) to trust Him than to jump ship. Surely He knows more than I do.
So by the world’s standards, I’m not qualified to pastor, preach, write for homeschooling magazines, train horses, shoe horses, build a house and stables, counsel people, organize educational clubs, or teach my own children in my own home. Oh, well. Being unqualified hasn’t stopped me yet. Maybe one day I’ll run for President.
“You don’t have patience.”
At times we didn’t have it, but like any other virtue, the Lord laid the proper foundation and built His character in us so that the Holy Spirit could bear His righteous fruit of patience in us. If we had waited until we had our act together, we would still be waiting—or else we would have given up.
“You can’t afford to buy all that curriculum.”
Wow, that is almost a good argument! That is, until you consider the savings you will build up by not buying gym uniforms, band uniforms, brand-name clothes, duplicate items stolen from your children’s locker, hundreds of leftover candy bars from those annual, semi-annual, and quarterly fundraisers, and gasoline to get you to all the blessed public events. See, you can afford all kinds of cool curriculum now.
Finances is one of the areas in which the Lord has really surprised me. My income has never been extravagant, yet the Lord has provided for my every need—and more wants than I could mention in one article. I have never had to beg, plead, join a pyramid scheme, play the lottery, or send chain letters to make ends meet. I have given to the Lord’s work and to those who had nothing; after which, it seemed the Lord would load me up again.
Curriculum of all sorts has found its way into our home. Everything from music books to science books to Bible study aids. Most of it we purchased ourselves. A bunch was given. On top of all the curriculum we’ve purchased, we have also been able to afford uniforms, dress clothes for church, outfits for showing horses, sports equipment, and a myriad of other things. Homeschooling did not create a financial burden that crippled us and made us miserable. Actually, it did the opposite. It opened us up to the vast, creative resources of God. And He is still amazing us!
Homeschooling presents a host of challenges, but if God is calling you to the task, then survival and success are possible. Don’t let the odds distract you—not even for a minute. Look to Jesus Christ for the inspiration you need to carry out the plan; find strength in His Word each and every day. Those obstacles (which He allows) are not meant to discourage you from doing His will. They are meant to strengthen you as He manifests His awesome grace to overcome them—one by one.
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
Timothy Palla is pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in southern Ohio. He and his lovely wife, Jennifer, have five children—Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan—and have been homeschooling since 1993. You may contact Pastor Palla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2008 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/ to request a FREE sample issue today!
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