|| A WORD FROM MIKE SMITH
Not in vain
Several years ago, I received a telephone call from members who were in tears because their teenage son had announced that he didn't want to be homeschooled anymore. They were devastated. They had followed God's direction; they had trained their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and they felt as if they had failed completely.
|J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association|
I assured this family that just because their son wanted to go to public school did not mean that he was rejecting all of their efforts to impact him for the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is not uncommon for homeschooled young people to be curious about what it would be like to attend public school. The parents on the phone seemed surprised by this news.
So I shared our experience with Home School Legal Defense Association's intern program. From 1995 to 2000, 43 exceptional homeschool graduates spent six months working and learning at HSLDA. One of the attorneys in our office took a special interest in trying to find out why these young homeschool graduates had turned out so well.
One of the questions that he would ask these interns was whether any of them had ever wanted to attend public school. Almost every one of these 43 exemplary graduates had either asked their parents for permission to attend a school outside their home or wished that they could at one time or another. But in retrospect, each of these young people agreed that their parents had done the right thing by encouraging their children to finish their education through homeschooling.
As homeschooling parents, it's easy to get discouraged when our children don't want to do their school work, don't want to obey, don't adopt our beliefs, aren't scoring at the 99th percentile on standardized achievement tests, and don't seem to grasp the benefits they are deriving from all the individualized attention of homeschooling.
How can we know that our labor is not in vain? The Bible gives us an answer in I Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV): "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
The first question we need to ask ourselves is whether our decision to teach our children at home is of the Lord. Is homeschooling the way God has called our family to fulfill the biblical mandate to teach our children his ways—when we rise up, when we go to bed, and all the times in between? If so, I Corinthians 15:58 assures us that our work of homeschooling is not in vain and encourages us in three key areas.
First, we're to be steadfast. The idea being expressed is loyalty and constancy to our goal (raising our children to know God). Another aspect of being steadfast is the idea of excellence. In other words, we do the best we can and refuse to be lazy. This does not mean that we won't get tired and need to rest, but it does mean that we'll be intentional. We'll make plans, set goals and objectives, and measure those goals and objectives.
Psalm 127 says, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (KJV). We are in partnership with the Lord as we do his work. Our part is to diligently do the best we can. Then the Lord will fulfill his promise to build the house.
Second, I Corinthians 15:58 says that we're to be immovable. One of the main reasons the homeschool movement has been so successful is that so many parents have been resolutely committed to training their children at home. The early pioneers of homeschooling were threatened with jail and removal of their children, but they refused to give in. They were immovable. They understood the depth of commitment and sacrifice that their choice might require. As a result, we have a testimony of what it takes to be strong and of good courage.
Finally, we're to be abounding in our work. This may be the toughest prerequisite because it implies we're to be filled with joy. I picture a child bounding down the stairway on his way outside to play. He's excited and joyful, filled with hope and anticipation for what lies ahead.
As homeschooling parents, we have moments of joy, but we also have moments that are not joyful. Sometimes homeschooling is so difficult—so time consuming and energy draining. But think of all the positive things that are happening in your family as a result of your commitment to teach your children at home. Focus on the blessings, not the burdens.
One way that we can do this is to concentrate on God's blessings in our prayer time. If we make this a habit, it will change our attitude and give us excitement and joy about the calling of home education.
What should really get us excited is the promise that our labor will not be in vain. We may not see the results in our children at the time—just as some trees and plants take longer to produce fruit than others. But that doesn't mean that there isn't fruit.
The fruit will sometimes be obvious and other times we'll never know about it. But the sacrifice we're making to teach our children at home will not be in vain.
That is God's promise, and that alone should give us joy so we can be steadfast and immovable in training our children in the Lord.