By Rachel Baker, Crosswalk.com
I have been sitting on the edge of my seat for the past two weeks as I’ve been following just about every news article and local report for my school district.
Tonight, our school board will deliberate and determine what the public school system will be doing this fall. Perhaps another semester of online learning or maybe a hybrid model. As of now I have no clue, I know nothing, other than the fact that I’m parenting a 5-year-old who is supposed to start Kindergarten and cries because she can’t read yet.
When I attempt to teach her I realize just how inept I am. Then there is my 9-year-old. My sweet boy, who emphatically tells me he was the smartest kid in his 3rd grade class. He promises he knows all of his multiplication tables—he does not—and that he is easily reading at a 5th grade reading level—this might be true.
I’m mentally preparing to homeschool or hybrid school, and basically fly by the seat of my parenting pants until further notice.
I weigh all of the options and don’t feel great about any of them. So, what am I to do? What are all of us parents to do as we tackle educating our children this fall?
As we approach educating our children, perhaps the very first stop is a lesson—for all of us parents—on reliance. Where do we put our trust this fall and how do we do our best for the children that God has entrusted to us?
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1. Rely on God
For any Christ-follower reliance on God and the teachings of Jesus, is foundational to our faith. Psalm 59:17 says, “You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”
Even so, over the past few months as things have progressively felt out of control I’ve had a tendency to try to grip control on my own. When nothing seems clear, controlling what we can is very human. Maybe you’re experiencing this right now as well. You, like me, can’t control very much of anything, and yet we attempt to control what we can.
While this desire to control may have a few positive benefits, I know for a fact that actually putting God in the driver’s seat of my life creates abundant peace even in chaos.
When it comes to educating our children this fall the same is true. We may not like any of the options offered. We may decide homeschooling is what brings us the most peace, or we might pursue another option. At the end of the day, as you and your family are determining what works best for your family, submit everything to prayer.
Ask God for his peace. Remember that each of our children is an individual, and while something may work for one child, it may not work for every child.
Rely on the Holy Spirit, which if you are a Christ-follower resides within you, to make the best decision for your family. I can’t promise any of it will be perfect, but peace within chaos is at our fingertips.
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2. Rely Not on Our Own Understanding
Proverbs 3:5 reminds us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…”
This verse is often easier said than done. If we are really relying on God to steer our lives, then when we find ourselves bewildered by the challenges at hand we should be able to shift our reliance from self and put our trust in God’s hands.
There is so much beyond our understanding right now. I’m sure so many parents feel this way presently. Personally, I don’t understand how this year is going to work. I don’t know how my family is going to be able to balance work, life and educating our children well.
Somedays I wake up feeling absolutely confident that homeschool is the best option but by 1pm I’m wavering. Other days I “know” that engaging in a hybrid model will be better, again, by mid-afternoon I’m just not that sure.
I have friends who have already made a definitive decision based on the unique needs of their children. Even they question if they’ve made the right choice.
As we approach the start of the year our solace is this: In parenting we are going to make mistakes. This year perhaps more so. Everything feels experimental. Homeschool may feel like the very best option for your family this year, so go for it!
By next year something may have changed and we’ll need to reassess. Approaching the school year knowing we don’t know it all can reduce much of our fear, stress and uncertainty.
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3. Rely on Community
Last week I had an education induced melt-down. I wrote out pro and con sheets and discussed what would be the “most right thing” for our children with my husband.
Even the most right thing didn’t necessarily feel like the right thing. I couldn’t get out of my head—and that’s not good for anyone. That’s when I realized I needed to reach out to my community of mom friends for some perspective.
Through engaging with my community I realized that I am not alone. Every family I know is grappling with similar discomfort wrapped up in the desire to do the best for their children and family.
Talking to other parents helped me back off the ledge. As I started pursuing homeschool as an option for my kiddos I reached out to friends who have been doing it for years. I also connected with friends who work in education and picked their brains.
My homeschool friends were amazing at sharing curriculum and creative ways to inspire their children to love learning. My friends who work in education were also able to shed light on what virtual learning and hybrid model learning could look like this year.
The more information I had the less anxiety I felt. In truth, I still don’t feel 100% fantastic about any of the options, but knowing that there is a whole community of other parents who are walking the same path as my family helps relieve some of the pressure. Knowing we are not alone is huge!
4. Rely on Our Abilities
I am not an educator. I do not have a background in child development or education. Even so, I have some life experiences and passions that my children can learn from. I would assume that this is true of most of us. We all have something to bring to the table and can use these interests to help educate our children.
When our children were unable to return to school last spring my husband and I realized that we were going to need to use everything in our arsenal to educate our kids. We tried to introduce new ways of learning and engaging with our children in an educational manner.
The majority of the games we played had an educational function. I discovered a whole plethora of learning resources available to equip me. I realized that educating my children could be immensely fun, and that I could even learn new things through teaching them.
I learned to pay attention to my children’s passions and center learning around their interests.
As this school year approaches, as parents, we’re going to need to rely on some of our unique God-gifted abilities. Each of us has something to offer.
I have friends who are incredibly artistic and others who have an amazing way to educate on a particular subject. If we pair our reliance on our own abilities and the abilities of those in our community our children will likely benefit.
This pairing could even help us shift away from isolation and fear and create a safe haven for our families.
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5. Rely on Truth
At the beginning of COVID, as it pertained to educating my children, the biggest lied I believed about myself was that I was incapable. I’d cry and get frustrated when trying to keep my 9-year-old on task. He’d cry, I’d cry. It was a mess.
As we approached the end of summer the little lie of incapability snuck back in. Was I ill-equipped? Sure. Was I unprepared? I think the majority of us were. But, was I ultimately capable. Absolutely.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
If you are parenting during this season I absolutely have to believe that God has equipped you to educate your children at this time. Again, it will not look perfect, and really perfect doesn’t even exist, but take heart. We are all on this earth for a purpose, we were given our children as a gift, and ultimately there are no surprises to God.
With that in mind, we absolutely must focus on truth. Rely on God who is truth, and tackle educating our littles as work unto God. Approaching education, whether it be homeschool or virtual learning or a blend of the two, with a desire to ultimately glorify God can take the focus off of “us” and put it onto Him.
Shifting the focus and leaning into truth can relieve the pressure and burden, it can reduce stress and anxiety and might even shift our perspective to something more eternal.
Ultimately, my desire is to look back on this year and focus on what we have gained rather than what we have lost. I want to remember the hours spent with my children painting birdhouses, building Legos and reading every book we could get our hands-on.
There is sweetness to be had and joy to be found even in the most difficult of moments.
My hope is that my kids will remember this time with fondness rather than fear. I hope that they’ll remember the long walks we took as a family, the rounds of go-fish that we played and the treehouse we built.
As Paul wrote in the book of Philippians 4:11-13 “I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
None of this is to say that the struggle isn’t real. The struggle is absolutely real, but with reliance on God, our community, truth and our God-gifted abilities we can do this! It is through Christ that we have strength, none of us is alone, and we need not do this on our own.
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