The Princess and the Pack Mule
- Friday, March 05, 2010
After twenty-nine years of marriage and twenty-five years of raising kids, I've put in a lot of miles in my adventure as a wife and homeschooling mom. And although I spend a good deal of time these days traveling and speaking to home educators, you can put away the pedestal, because I live where you live. Behind my dusty window blinds I'm washing dirty dishes while debating brilliant teens, still working out difficult issues with my husband of nearly thirty years, and watching the laundry breed, just like you.
In the middle of the muddle, we moms can have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. We can begin to think we're "just" preparing one more meal, changing one more diaper, breaking up squabbling siblings (again!), nursing whoever is sick this time around and correcting—double ugh—algebra papers at 1 a.m. But I'm here to remind you of who you really are and what you're really doing as the dailies try to blur your vision.
You are not only teaching history; you are writing history on the hearts of your impressionable youngsters, and you are making an impact on multiple generations. "But it doesn't feel so glorious," you might say. I agree. It often feels mundane, tedious, exhausting, and utterly demanding. Some days, I must confess, the big yellow school bus that lumbered down my street looked awfully inviting.
Six students have been home educated at our house. I've been busy training five sons, and God's been busy training me. Married life and child rearing have proven to be God's Extreme Makeover for my character. That point brings to mind an email I received from a woman in Canada:
I have been thinking about homeschooling for about a year now (it's my second choice as the Christian private schools are just unaffordable for a one-income family), and I was wondering if you could give me the hard facts about successful homeschooling. No flower, please. My husband doesn't think I can do it because of my temperament. Can you give me some insight?
Here was my response to her:
Your hubby's got a good point. The hard facts about homeschooling boil down to three little words spoken by Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:31: "I die daily." That's why a commitment to homeschooling based on the weak foundation of it being your "second choice" most likely won't take you all the way to the finish line. Home education is not expensive, but it will cost you pretty much everything.
You see, as a twenty-first-century Kingdom woman, my "life is hid [somewhere!] with Christ in God," (Colossians 3:3), and as long as it remains there, I'm a success. I've only ever "found" my life as I've laid it down. (See Matthew 16:25.) Jesus said, "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11), and seeing that we've been called to untiring service (yawn), we have numerous opportunities 24/7 to display our greatness.
Let's face it, moms: we're a lot like pack mules. "Mama, can you put this in your purse?" "Honey, can you hold my keys and BlackBerry while I toss the ball to Junior?" "Mommy can you carry the baby? I wanna go swing now." U-huh, pack mules for God.
I've never lived on Easy Street, and that's probably worked a lot of muscle into me, which I've needed to sustain the battle. I said "battle." Our very lives as home educators are a declaration of war. First, we're fighting against our own selfishness and materialism as people choosing to live within our means so Mom can stay home where she belongs and train the children. (See Titus 2:4-5.) Then, we're facing off with our nation's worldly system of public education fed by 500 billion tax dollars a year,1 generational segregation in our families, peer pressure, societal compliance, the enemy called "average," and even the powers of darkness. (See Ephesians 6:12.)
I believe our sons and daughters are potential weapons of mass destruction against the diabolical strategies of hell, just like Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel and Peter were. That's why our grassroots movement is constantly under enemy fire. Haven't you noticed the target that seems to be painted on your back, your marriage, and your offspring? It's not your imagination or that rascal of a man you married. You are engaged in critical warfare.
Homeschooling is a no-brainer. It works. Home-educated kids aren't only testing higher on average than children who are conventionally schooled,2 but they are a fundamentally different specimen altogether. Their substance is rich, due in large part to living life daily with the true experts they need—us, the parents. Homeschooled kids also have a built-in learning lab called "loving and serving our siblings," a daily exercise that builds character and fosters deep camaraderie with their brothers and sisters whom they likely wouldn't even know or would at best endure, after being divided into age-segregated institutional settings rife with hostility and peer dependency for eight hours every day.
Even the media is acknowledging our exploits and censuring the public educational system. In fall of last year, Fox News declared, "Homeschooling Surges in U.S. as Parents Reach for Legal Rights."3 Recently WorldNetDaily's popular Internet site shouted, "Homeschooling Goes Boom in America: 74% increase in number of families teaching own children,"4 while in another camp, CNN.com's Jack Cafferty heralded, "Our [public] schools get lousy grades." Cafferty charged, " . . . The [state educational] system has morphed into this giant government bureaucracy that sucks up billions and billions of dollars for everything except teaching children reading, writing, and arithmetic (and sciences). We pay school administrators hundreds of thousands of dollars to preside over these failed enterprises that produce their share of functional illiterates."5
"The foolishness of God is wiser than men" (I Corinthians 1:25), and God continues to display the utter nonsense of the experts of our day who persist in pushing parents further and further to the margins of their children's lives. Those experts are doomed to fail, because parent-teachers are God's idea: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
So why must we pray about whether or not to send our kids away to be trained by institutions for the best forty hours of every week? Most parents won't share their car keys or pin numbers with anyone, yet they'll give strangers complete, unsupervised access to their most valuable treasures—their offspring—without a second thought.
I'm passionate about this stuff, but I didn't always see things so clearly. Rewind about thirty years and there I was: a naïve but determined radical feminist by the age of 16. Yep, I was the fruit of Gloria Steinem and her cronies by my sophomore year in public high school. I didn't look at little ones playing in the park and think, "How cute." I thought, "What snotty-nosed, inconvenient pains in the neck." I was planning a future without a husband, children, and all their entanglements. But just before I could entrench myself in the adult decisions propelling me to such a destiny, God boldly interrupted my plans.
I became a bona fide "born-again." Everything about my life changed so rapidly that my parents' heads spun. They wondered on a daily basis, "Who is she, and what has she done with our daughter?" I became engaged and married to Gregory, a minister (the plot thickens!), within about a year—just six months after graduation at the tender age of 18.
I didn't immediately warm to the idea of children, but after befriending several pregnant ladies at church, my heart softened, and four years later I was thrilled to be expecting our first child, a boy. Twenty months passed and along came boy number two. Twenty months more and we welcomed boy number three. Then, boy four and boy five. Boy, oh, boy, when God changed my heart, He really did the job!
At the time, homeschooling wasn't anywhere near my radar screen. I equated the concept with hippies, gypsies, and other weirdo subcultures. But then I got a revelation.
I'm convinced that most parents in our nation don't need more love for their kids; they need a revelation. Americans and evangelicals in particular love their children. Just open the door to any kid's bedroom in the United States of America and the love comes pouring out of every nook and cranny: pricey clothes and shoes, beauty supplies, trinkets of every kind, iPhones, iPods, laptops and software, any number of gaming systems costing as much as my first car, musical instruments, and fast food on demand. These and more spell l-o-v-e to vast numbers of well-intentioned parents.
But "love" is not enough. Dads and moms need a revelation.
Revelation is defined as follows: "1. a revealing 2. something disclosed; disclosure; esp., a striking disclosure, as of something not previously known or realized 3. communication, by a divinity or by divine agency, of divine truth or knowledge; specif., God's disclosure or manifestation to humanity of himself or of his will."6 A revelation opens our eyes to see something we haven't really seen before, motivating us to do something we've never done before! When Moses's mother "saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months" (Exodus 2:2). When God allowed me to see beyond the natural to the supernatural potential that He had deposited in our sons, I took action. A revelation in my heart brought a revolution to my home. A revolution is a far-reaching change in ways of thinking and believing, and God knew I needed to be changed (Romans 8:29). But if you know anything about history, a revolution never comes without a battle.
Yes, that day God recruited me to start a war. And I was His first target. Ouch.
Isaiah 53:6 states the problem precisely: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." It's not about one type of sin or another—it's about our wicked human hearts. We want our way, and God is committed to taking the "me" off the throne. After all, He can't do much with a princess; a pack mule is much more useful.
I always used to scratch my head quizzically when I read 1 Timothy 2:14-15, "The woman . . . . she shall be saved through childbearing . . . ," until a few years ago when I realized the work God has worked in me through mothering. It occurred to me that most of what is valuable in me came as a direct result of yielding to the process of living life with my boys.
Home education isn't nearly as much about curriculum as it is about living a lifestyle—a lifestyle of families dying to their self-centered agendas in order to swim upstream, against the current of our secular, hedonistic society. In essence, these busy boys saved me from the tyranny of self! And what a wicked monster she is.
Now, after twenty-plus years of home educating our sons, at particular moments I'm still astonished to think, "This is my life." And I must say, it is my best life now—even on the hard days, and there have been lots and lots of those. You can't be changing the world—and that's precisely what we homeschoolers are doing—without some fiery trials (I Peter 4:12).
Winston Churchill said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." So . . . march on, Mama!
Denise Mira, author of No Ordinary Child: Unlocking the Leader Within Your Child, has been married to Gregory for twenty-nine years. They are the parents of five sons. Denise has traveled extensively, both nationally and internationally, inspiring change as she shares the message God has given her for families. She would love to have you visit her blog at www.denisemira.com, and she can be reached at email@example.com.
1. www.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/10facts/index.html, "Overview: 10 Facts About K-12 Education Funding." Total taxpayer investment in K-12 education in the United States for the 2004-05 school year is estimated to be $536 billion.
2. www.nheri.org/Research-Facts-on-Homeschooling.html, Brian D. Ray, Ph.D., "Research Facts on Homeschooling," September 18, 2008.
3. www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,426150,00.html, Monday, September 22, 2008.
4. www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=85408, January 5, 2009.
5. www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/03/30/cafferty.schools/index.html, March 30, 2009.
6. Webster's New World College Dictionary on Power CD, Zane Publishing, Inc., 1995.
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2009/10. Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store.
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