Sunday, November 02, 2008

Grace-Based Homeschooling

I have been reading through the book Graced-Based Parenting, by Tim Kimmel. I have taken my time getting through it, usually reading a few pages at night before bed. I have found that I (and my children!) benefit when I take the time every few months to read a book about grace. We all need it, daily, and I am a primary vehicle of God's grace in the lives of my children.

Over the past week, I read the chapter called "A Strong Hope." In this chapter, Kimmel points out that "the plague of today's children is a foreboding sense of hopelessness. It is the logical consequence of a generation of parents who took the permanence out of love and the absolutes out of truth. Premarital sex, cohabitation, divorce, and a series of live-in lovers have communicated to too many children that they can't put any hope in commitment." I think that is a great point. Hope is so central to every area of our lives, our children must develop a strong sense of hope to function healthily emotionally, intellectually or spiritually.

He then makes the connection to how being a "grace-based parent" produces a "hope-filled child." I so want this for my children!

I liked his three points in this chapter:

1. Children develop strong hope when they know their parents recognize their God-given abilities and liabilities and turn them into assets for their future.

"We need to be enthusiastic about helping them build disciplines around their gifts and skills. This will require grace from us," he points out, "because our children's gifts and skills might be our areas of natural weakness." Yes! How many of us math-phobic moms are homeschooling budding mathematicians? Or left-brained, analytical moms schooling right-brained, artsy types? When our children see us taking on areas outside of our expertise or interest and know that we are doing it on their behalf, Kimmel says "these efforts five them great hope... They gain hope when they realize that their parents aren't trying to make them into mini-clones of themselves or trying to rewire them from the schematic that God assigned to them."

Working with our children every day also puts us in touch with their weaknesses like no one else. This is where grace plays a HUGE part in homeschooling! Kimmel says, "These (weaknesses) test our patience and our sanity. Children need to see parents who approach their shortcomings without venom or condescension. As they find parents who take delight in building into them life skills that compensate for their shortcomings, they develop a strong sense of hope for the future. They realize that someone in their lives loves them supremely and wants the best for them." I love that as a homeschooling mom, I get to be the teacher that loves them that way. What a privilege!

2. Children develop a strong hope when their parents lead them and encourage them to live a great spiritual adventure.

When we started our adventure as a family into short-term missions several years ago, I realized I was abandoning "safe Christianity." Kimmel points out that "safe Christianity is an oxymoron," anyway! I remember as we first got shots for our then 8 and 10 year olds and journeyed with them to Africa, my confidence had to be in the Lord. When I sent my 12 year old to stay in China with some missionary friends for 6 weeks, I had to rest in the knowledge that God loves her even more than I do! Kimmel says, "We must put our confidence in a God who would not bring anything unpleasant into our children's lives except for those things that He deliberately desires to use to mold them into His image." He had to first deal with me, my lack of faith, my own insecurities, and my illusion of control over their heath and safety so that He could draw them, and our entire family, closer to Himself and show us new rooms of His heart. I am so glad that by His grace I allowed Him to do that! I hate to think of what we would've missed!

As homeschoolers, we already live on the outside of what's considered "normal." It's tempting, while in "control" of all areas of curriculum, field trips, exclusive homeschool groups, etc. to end up insulating them from any risk. While it's wise to be prudent, Kimmel points out that "it's easy to want to build a safe hope in them, rather than a strong hope." My prayer is that my parenting is helping to build a strong hope in the God of the universe.

3. Children develop a strong hope when their parents help them turn their childhood into a series of positive accomplishments.

"Our children are going to have to know how to work hard, get along with difficult people, solve confusing problems, handle money, repent, forgive, take good care of their bodies, minds and spirits, fear God a lot, fear their fellowman very little, laugh at the right time, cry at the right time, and bring out the best in the people closest to them." Is that on your list of "basic skills" in your curriculum this year? When I read through that I was reminded again that the purpose of educating them is NOT all academic! They could get a perfect score on the SAT and still not be able to do what matters most in this life, which I think is summed up very succinctly in the above sentence. I loved this reminder.

But, what came to mind as I read the word "achievement" in this chapter, is how easily we as homeschoolers can focus on it. After all, it is a bit affirming to hear that homeschoolers win Spelling and Geography bees, or are being pursued by ivy league colleges. While it is God-honoring to pursue things with excellence, Kimmel points out that "grace dictates that we keep achievement goal in context with the children's bigger role as members of God's chosen people. They need to see their commitment to achievement as a way to glorify God as well as a way to make them more valuable to others. Grace helps us keep achievement in its rightful place, as a means to an end."

I've wondered a bit over the years about competition, and what place it should play in my children's lives. I've got one who's highly competitive and one who, when he senses competition (even with a timer) he gives up, taking himself out of the competition rather than come up short. I know some Christians who don't play competitive sports at all because they believe it is exaltation of "self." I know other Christians whose children spend up to 5 hours per day honing a competitive skill. One sentence in this chapter that jumped out at me was this:

"Grace also keeps us from unwittingly turning our children into overachievers. In almost every case, overachievement is at the expense of something greater than what is achieved....Many disciplines that parents build into their children's lives don't make them better people; they just make them more proficient than someone else."

As homeschool parents, we've got a huge opportunity to be vehicles of God's grace in the lives of our children. This book is helping me to examine why I do what I do. Grace and mercy do not come naturally to me, for some reason. I am glad that I'm reading this book now, as I am currently smack in the middle of my "fall stall" and my "February Freakout" is just a few months away! I need grace! And if I need it, how much more do my children need it? Something to think and pray about.


Tiany said...

Great post! I am looking forward to reading the book! You have a lovely family!!

The Lloyd Family said...

I absolutely LOVE that book. I have had it for several years and my copy is filled with notes and highlighted sections.

Thanks for reminding me how great it is. It might be time to dig it back out and go through it again.

cameliamusings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cameliamusings said...

Thanks for posting this article, Cyndi. I've been enjoying reading your journey from afar through cyberspace so far without getting a chance to leave a mark. Can't count how many times you've blessed me, both on the homeschooling and your main blog.

We've been in the midst of house renos, and I've been really in a rut not being able to enjoy my kids while homeschooling. Today was a turning point, and your post really helped bring back perspective. Thank you so much!

I will be getting my hands on this book asap!

Daisy said...

Love the post! Am reading the book too (it's taking a while - so much to absorb). Love your perspective on how it relates to homeschooling. Very helpful. Will have to re-read the post and ponder it.

p.s. I enjoyed your updated slideshow. Fun family! In one of the photos, you and your daughter look like sisters!

Kristi said...

Thank you so much for this post. It gave me a lot to think about and some good reminders I needed! Congratulations on your new addition :).

Jill said...

I have just started reading this. Thanks for the encouragement.


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