The world is in crisis. Mexico just announced that its public schools will not be open for instruction at the start of the school year.
CTV News just reported today, "Throughout Latin America, nearly all schooling is being carried out online or through television as the pandemic continues to surge here. School districts around the world are struggling with the decision, knowing that for most students there is no substitute for in-person instruction."
I am watching from the sidelines as the school district in my community is struggling to work within the ever-changing framework(s) provided by the ever-changing mind of our governor and her leadership team. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to sit in our brand new district superintendent's shoes at this time. Leadership under normal circumstances isn't easy. Leadership during crisis tests a person's skills, character, and methods to the core.
Additionally, there are no excellent options from an institutional perspective when so many varying needs and responsibilities hang in the balance while crises rage. I don't care what anybody says, 100% online one-size-fits-all, big-box curricula aren't going to be a good fit for most families, even if a school district tries to pass it off as an exciting new "homeschooling" opportunity. (It's not homeschooling, by the way; it's schooling at home. You can ask me for more information if you'd like because it does matter that we keep these things straight. There are reasons.) Sometimes these programs work wonders for families. Often they don't. But don't even get me started about six-foot boxes and social distancing in dystopian school environments...
At any rate...
It was in response to the mortgage crisis of 2007-2008 that God first began speaking to me about homeschooling. I thought He was crazy. (Don't ever think that about God!) I couldn't imagine how it could be a good educational option for my kids, and the little exposure I had had with homeschooling up until that point hadn't been stellar.
I remember how the process of deciding to homeschool (ahem, obey) was a gradual one. It took years for my mind and heart to adjust to the idea that my kids would be at home with me all. the. time. It took a lot of courage to accept the thought that I would take on the responsibility for their education, permanently altering their life's path from what I always assumed would be the story of their lives.
I was terrified. As the school day started everywhere else and I knew I would not be sending my child to the otherwise much-anticipated first day of kindergarten, I trembled under the weight of my decision. What would this look like? Could I really do it? Would it work?? This isn't how I planned things would be when I held my newborn baby and introduced myself as Mommy five years earlier.
But the world wasn't what it was when I brought him home from the hospital. The housing market had collapsed and there was no way we could afford to live in a neighborhood where I felt comfortable with the schools while our house was deeply underwater in a financial sense.
That first-day-of-school morning I attended my women's Bible Study as usual. In an unexpected turn of events, a dear friend pointed at me from across the room and in front of everyone said these words: "Kimberlee, 'strength' is written across your forehead." She followed it up with more encouragement that I really could do this. I could homeschool. And my kids would be blessed for it.
I thought of her words every day for years. I remember one night during a season of discouragement when I had a dream. In it, the scene from real life played out afresh. "Kimberlee, 'strength' is written across your forehead," she repeated again and again on the stage of my mind. God used her words to minister encouragement -- to infuse courage when it was needed most.
It didn't take long for us to see that God knew best when He directed us to an unconventional educational path. In His wisdom, God knew exactly what we needed! While not every day is easy (which is not unique to us as homeschoolers...it's just life!), it has been an amazing journey. I have treasured more moments than I could count, and I feel rich with a deep and abiding sense that God has blessed those feeble but obedient steps. He has strengthened us, guided us, and led us to more than we could have ever asked or imagined!
When we began homeschooling in 2010, we had no idea what 2020 would hold. We had no idea that a full 3+ months from the end of the school year the president of the United States would declare an emergency of such significance that most American children would not return to school for the remainder of the school year. (And remember, the United States is far from alone in this crisis. The rest of the world has been reeling all this time too.)
While that sort of emergency declaration also impacted (cancelled) our dream, epic field trip to Italy, we were able to look at each other as a family, shrug our shoulders, and say with gratitude, "Well, we'll keep doing school!" My kids would continue to receive a top-notch education and achieve academic milestones within the context of the resources, routines, and rhythms with which we were already so familiar.
We knew it wasn't that way for most families.
Many months past the beginning of this crisis, we now recognize God had not only provided a huge blessing for us in the joy of homeschooling, but He has equipped us to be of unique assistance to many, many families who now find themselves caught in the midst of the chaos.
We are in a position to say this: "Friend, 'strength' is written on your forehead." Things may not be turning out how you always figured they would, but when you put your trust in Him, you can do whatever it is God calls you to do in this moment whether it has to do with your kids' education or not.
Now, hear me out. I am passionate about homeschooling. My whole family is. It has been a massive blessing to us, and while it took me time to get to that understanding, we wouldn't dream of any other way at this point in time.
But...homeschooling's not for everyone.
I'll tell you what: God's plan.
God has a plan for my family and He has one for yours.
There is a good chance homeschooling might be that plan for you this year. There is a good chance now is the best time to dive into something you always feared, or didn't think you could do, or thought might hinder your kids' socialization (which is a myth, by the way).
There is a good chance there's never been a better time for you to take on greater responsibility and ownership of your child's education, and that it will be good for not just your child, but for you, as you come to terms with a different way of doing things. There's a good chance you might find yourself realizing this is the best thing that could have ever come out of a crisis, as happened for me during a crisis we now call "history."
BUT...Are you still with me?...There is a chance God has something different for you than what He called me to — something different but wonderful all at the same time. School districts and educational institutions are scrambling right now to figure out how to come up with a plan that will work for the families they serve and the budgets to which they are beholden. I can't imagine the pressures they face.
I can shout from the rooftops the benefits of homeschooling, and I am happy to help anyone who inquires and tries to figure out where to start.
And. I. Do.
(When you find something wonderful, it's natural to want to share it!)
BUT HERE'S WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT:
You hearing from God.
Did you catch that?
Not making the decision that makes the most sense.
Not doing what you feel you have no choice but to do.
Not running with the most popular choice among your friends.
Not running from something that made you mad. Or frustrated. Or afraid.
The most important thing is that you hear from God.
He has all the wisdom, and He knows exactly what's best for you.
You know what else?
He knows what's best because He knows what's to come.
He knows all about the rest of 2020, and 2021, and 2022...and 2050...and about the day your now little boy or girl sits down and tells their grandkids all about their childhood and how their parents handled a crisis no one anticipated.
He knows how they will tell the story about the choices that were made, and why, and about their outcomes.
What will that story be?
Perhaps not the same as mine. It will be yours. And hopefully it will be yours according to the plans and purposes of the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-3).
So...How do you do that? How do you hear from God?
His thoughts aren't always your thoughts, and His ways aren't always your ways (Isaiah 55:8), but His ways are perfect!
And James 1:5 says this:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
When you ask God for His wisdom, He will not withhold it.
James 1:5 makes these promises:
1. God's wisdom is intended for those who lack it.
2. It can be obtained by asking for it.
3. God gives wisdom generously.
4. He does so without finding fault, even if you know you don't deserve it. He'll overlook all the things you thought would have disqualified you from receiving wisdom if you ask.
5. It's a gift. For you. And you can count on it!
It's a shame when people ask God for things and don't hang around to find the answer.
God may speak with a booming voice from heaven right into the midst of wherever you are and say, "DO THIS NOW."
But...more likely...He'll give you a chance to wait on Him because He cares more about relationship with you than He does what you do with your kids this fall. Yep. That's right. He cares deeply about your kids' learning and preparation for life, but He's really after your heart! (And your kids' hearts!)
The beauty of relationship is that it involves conversation and discovery. It's no different with God. When you have to seek, and that seeking involves seeking something from God, you're likely to find more than the thing you seek...You're likely to find Him.
All truth belongs to God. All wisdom belongs to God. All perfection belongs to God. And when you truly seek any of these things...you're probably going to find yourself on a path straight to God.
Push aside the pressure to have an answer right now (this minute!) and recognize the value in the seeking.
When you think you've found the right door, knock and let Him open it.
(Let who open it?)
Let God open it.
You see, when it's the right door, God will open it. If God wants you to take advantage of something your district or private educational institution has to offer, He will open that door, and you will know it's right. You might be nervous. It is likely going to feel different if you live in a state like I do where the governor probably isn't going to let schools open no matter what assurances your local leadership is trying to give, and how they’re attempting to string you along (probably just hoping you won't jump ship and go it alone because...funding, of course). You might not be sure how all the details will work and how you'll juggle responsibilities you weren't planning on having to be responsible for.
But if God wants you to step into something entirely new...maybe something like homeschooling...He'll open that door too. You might not know how you'll find the time or the energy. You might not know how you're going to afford it. You might not know how to pick resources and curriculum and keep things legal and all of that...But whatever the case...He'll open the door.
Jesus gives a wonderful assurance in Matthew 7:7-11:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Praise God, the Giver of good gifts! All we have to do is ask, seek, and knock. The One who writes 'strength' on our foreheads despite our weaknesses opens the door for us, and we can walk through to whatever brave new world He already knows with courage, just like a giant would!
To God be the glory!