Greetings, from the busy (and somewhat messy) Berens household. My name is Faith Berens, one of the Special Needs Consultants and home school mom of Hailey (soon to be 10) and Hayden (2 ½). Welcome to my world-- I hope you don’t mind the Duplo blocks and Cheerios that you may find on the kitchen floor, in addition to the various craft materials that my daughter has strewn all over the “dining room” (or shall I say multi-purpose room) table. Life at home, schooling is full of surprises, but way better than I ever could have imagined or planned!
If you would have told me 15-20 years ago that I would be home schooling I would have chuckled and said, “No, I’m sorry, but that can’t be because I am a classroom teacher!” See, I’m a planner…I like to have my plans, write down the plans, and make sure that everyone else understands the plans. So, “my” plan was to teach school. I had known from the time I was 5 years old that I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, as I young child, on mostly any day you could have found me with my little chalkboard and workbooks teaching my dolls, my sisters, and my friends—or really anyone who would venture into my classroom! So, in 1994, I graduated from West Virginia University with an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education (as planned).
I returned home to Loudoun County, Virginia were I began my teaching career in the public school system, serving as a Pre-K, Head Start teacher and later a Title I reading teacher. It was during those “rookie” teaching years in the 1990’s, I attended church with a lady, Mrs. Betty Statnick, who was a member of our church care and prayer team. Betty was a real prayer warrior and I admired her gentle yet bold spirit and wisdom. Betty also worked as an educational diagnostician and consultant. One particular Sunday, in a brief conversation, she encouraged me that should I ever decide to pursue my Master’s degree I may want to investigate the field of reading specialist (it was to become one of the fastest growing and in-demand specialization areas in the field of education). Little did I know what God was planting and planning ….but the Lord knew!
“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me….you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways….you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, to lofty for me to attain.”
Then, in 1998 I married my husband, Matthew, who was in the Army, and we ended up on the other side of the world serving in Seoul, Korea, where I taught 2nd grade for the Department of Defense Schools (definitely not in my plans, but it was an exciting adventure and God taught me so much there!)
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?...if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me and your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139: 7-10
After our 2 year tour in Seoul, we ended up in Florida, where I served as a reading teacher and learned how to be an educational therapist (through NILD) providing cognitive therapy for children with moderate to severe learning disabilities, at a private, Christian school. The year 2002 brought the birth of our first child, Hailey Elizabeth (after a very hard pregnancy, emergency C-section, and recovery from HELLP Syndrome). We desired to return home to Virginia to be closer to family as to have a better support network. God fulfilled that desire and provided my husband with a good job as a contractor back in Virginia.
From 2003-2007, I taught in Frederick County, Virginia, as a Reading Recovery teacher and completed my Master’s Degree in Reading. It was during this season, that God began to change my heart and plant new desires and dreams there. I was working long hours at one of the local elementary schools, serving a case load of nearly 30 reading students and attending child study meetings, going to graduate school, and spending minimal time with my own child. Additionally, my grandmother had fallen and my mother needed assistance caring for her at home. I was pouring out much time and attention to other’s families, but my heart ached to be home ministering to my own family. I knew God wanted me to raise my child and disciple her, as well as be more available for my family, so I began praying that I could be released from serving in the public schools and asked God to open a door for me to be used for His Kingdom plans and purposes in the realm of education—I surrendered my plans for His plans—I asked Him to provide a way for me to be home with my child, yet still use my background and training to assist children and families and glorify Him in the process. Then one day in the early spring of 2007, while researching homeschooling, I bumped into my former mentor, Betty Statnick, on HSLDA’s website. I had lost touch with her over the years and called her that same day—just to say hello! She immediately told me that she (and others at HSLDA) had been praying for another special needs consultant—specifically she was interested in someone with a reading background and knowledge of the special education process would be helpful, as well. I shared with her about my background/experience and what I had been seeking the Lord regarding a new ministry position. Don’t we serve a wonderful and merciful God? He worked out all the details—and in May 2008, I was honored to join the HSLDA team of special consultants and have the joy and privilege of raising and educating my child at home, all the while utilizing my background, training, and experiences. God is so faithful! He does not waste any of our experiences, joys and sorrows, or trials and tribulations; when we surrender our plans into His strong and mighty hands he does work all things together for good!
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”
These days, you will find me at home, consulting part-time for HSLDA, serving on the worship team at our church, reading, or just enjoying time outside with family and friends. During these last days of summer, we are enjoyng being a little relaxed with our plans and routines. The kids and I just came in from running through the sprinkler in the backyard. It wasn’t really on my list of plans today, but the weather was too gorgeous to pass up—
I am learning to trust the Master Planner more and more each day! God frequently has to remind me to be moldable, pliable, and flexible (in His hands), as well as to enjoy the beautiful, simple daily moments—moments like today when He shows up in my son’s laughter and rainbows shining through the sprinkler water’s mist.
My hope for this blog is that you will be encouraged as we share this amazing, albeit challenging, journey together and I will seek to equip you along the way by offering teaching tips, resources, and strategies for success for struggling learners.
For today, remember the Master Planner holds all our days in His hands.