More than anything else, I need (________) to homeschool effectively. What would you put in that blank? My guess is that nearly everyone’s answer would match mine: patience. I hear it from other Moms, I read it in online forums, I see it at homeschool get-togethers: patience is a primary goal for most homeschooling parents. There is that old line about the most dangerous way to get patience is to pray for it, because God will allow you to go through a very painstaking process to develop patience. Homeschooling often seems to fit that description quite well. Besides desiring patience for ourselves as teachers, we secondly wish for our students to have patience: with themselves in learning difficult lesson concepts, with their siblings, with us as fumbling, first-time teachers.
A similar aspiration to patience would have to be self-control. I may be able to find the patience to go over a lesson for the umpteenth time, trying to help my student understand the concept, but I definitely have difficulty with self-control over my initial reactions. Frustration, anger, despair, confusion, and many other emotions may burst to the surface before I can stop them. Sometimes laughter erupts at the most inopportune times, leaving my child embarrassed and self-conscious, when that is never my intention. Students also will benefit from a healthy dose of self-control — sibling rivalry starts with a lack of it and could be stopped by the presence of it. Control over self and all of self’s insecurities would propel students forward to try again and again without despairing over repeated failures.
What other attributes do I desire for my children to have as they grow into adulthood? Primarily, I want my children to have faith — a strong faith in God that will stay with them for a lifetime. Faith, an unyielding trust in God, is what keeps us going during the dark times, the hard seasons of life. Faith, a reliance upon God alone, pays its own rewards when no one else seems to notice our efforts. Faith reminds us to be humble and to look upon others through God’s eyes of unconditional love.
I also want my children to be kind to each other, to be kind to others outside our family, to be kind to animals, to treat all of life as the precious creations of God. I want them to be gentle with their younger siblings, gentle with their pets, and gentle with their possessions. Kindness, gentleness, and respect are virtues that no one can argue against.
We all remind our children to “be good.” When they go off to play with a friend, when they leave home for a weekend at Grandma’s, when we leave the room to answer the telephone, we admonish them to be good. “Good” is a relative term. “Good” is much better than “bad,” but not quite as nice as “wonderful.” Of course, I want my children to obey the family rules and to stay away from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, but I do not just want them to be good, I also want them to do good. I want them to think of others first and offer the last brownie to someone else before snarfing it down themselves. I want them to carry the groceries in from the car instead of considering that to be Mom’s job. I want them to pick up after themselves, not just to avoid being nagged about it, but because they know they should do it. I know my children will play nicely with others, will say “please” and “thank you” to Grandma, and will not kick the dog the minute my back is turned, but I also want them to be shining examples of goodness wherever they go in life.
When my children have learned to be kind to each other, to do good for each other, to treat things gently, and to trust God for patience with me, with their siblings, and with themselves, and when I have gained self-control and patience in teaching, our homeschool days will be filled with peace and joy and love for each other. However, our personal attempts at mastering each of these things are limited by our human capabilities. I will be sailing along, having a great day, thinking that everything is finally going according to plan, and boom — it all falls apart. Something surprisingly insignificant can trigger a chain reaction of nuclear proportions, tumbling my perfect day into ruins.
The only solution is to bring in a power larger than myself to maintain the peace. God’s word says that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are the fruit of His Holy Spirit. A life filled with the Holy Spirit will bloom with these attributes. They are the direct results, the consequences, of giving one’s life over to God’s control. No matter how much I try on my own, no amount of effort will produce them with any lasting results. Only God has the ability to control my self-will, place in me the desire to be truly good or kind or gentle, to keep me at peace, to fill me with His love, and to override all the downfalls of my days with His ever-present joy. The ideal life and the ideal homeschool atmosphere are the outcome of total reliance on God for His guidance every day — and I have to remind myself of it every day.