The Home School Court Report
Vol. XXII
No. 6
Cover
November/December
2006

In This Issue

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ANDTHEREST

The Last Word
Thoughts From Mike Smith
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- disclaimer -
The Power of Thankfulness

As homeschoolers continue to battle for parental rights and anticipate future challenges, we may be tempted to lose sight of the blessings we already have, especially those that relate directly to our journey through homeschooling.

It is right to be outraged that German police arrested and jailed homeschooling mother Katharina Plett, simply because she was teaching her children at home.* When we hear about the German government’s unyielding stand against the legality of homeschooling, we should want to catch the first plane overseas to correct the situation ourselves.

J. Michael Smith
J Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, there is another response that should come shortly thereafter, and that is thankfulness for our freedom as homeschoolers in the United States. Only 20 years ago, a group of Nebraska fathers was jailed for nearly 90 days because of their commitment to teaching their children at home. And a mere 15 years ago, parents in North Dakota, Iowa, and Michigan were fleeing their states because homeschooling meant risking jail time and the removal of their children. But today, homeschooling is legal in every state!

I guess what I am saying is that for every negative in homeschooling there is a powerful positive, if we focus on being thankful for what we do have and the hope we have for the future.

Let’s look at a few of homeschooling’s challenges and see what positives we can find by being thankful.

Moms often find it is really stressful to face the same task with the same scenery day after day, week after week, and year after year, recognizing that it will not change until their youngest child graduates from homeschooling.

But I can think of several blessings that come through this investment. First, constant contact with our children—day after day, week after week, and year after year—helps us to slow down and truly enjoy these young lives God has placed in our care. They grow up fast enough anyway, but imagine if they spent a third to a half of their day away from you in school. You would feel like you turned around one day and they were gone. It’s through this long period of quantity time that the quality time develops. The old saying that “Quality time is better than quantity” is a myth.

And that leads to the second blessing: As we spend hour after hour with our children—teaching, nurturing, training, modeling, and loving—our children are prepared to be salt and light in a world that so desperately needs strong moral and spiritual role models.

Third, we can thank God for the blessing of having children, and fourth, the blessing of discovering home education, which enables us to build quality memories and strong relationships that will last a lifetime.

Another common challenge for homeschool families is the pressure of money. There just never seems to be enough. Generally speaking, one parent (usually good old Dad!) brings home the bacon for a homeschool family. Lack of money is very stressful for anyone, but especially for the families who have consciously chosen to limit themselves to one income in order to be able to homeschool.

How do we avoid a pity party when we can’t replace the old vehicle, or move into a bigger house, or take that family vacation?

This is the time to thank God for what He is providing for us. I remember talking to a young homeschool family of six in Long Beach, California, and they shared with me that they were living on less than $30,000 a year. I said, “How do you do that?”

And their response was, they didn't know, but it just happened.

When we look back at how God has provided over all the years, our response has to be thankfulness. When we can be grateful for God’s provision, even in the hard times when we are short of money, our attitudes will change for the better and our children will have an opportunity to see the hand of God in blessing, which will in turn give them the faith to trust God for provision in the future.

Finally, our decision to homeschool can result in strong criticism. I bet you just can’t wait to hear that question again: “What about socialization?” What hurts the most is when people you love and respect—maybe family, close friends, or church members—charge you with isolating your children or keeping your children from being evangelists in a public school.

In these times, we can be thankful that we are being persecuted for faithfully doing what we believe God has called us to do. We can know that we will be blessed despite the opposition, as Matthew 5:11 promises, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake“ (New King James Version).

We can also be thankful that some of our critics, in time, may end up homeschooling their own children, especially if we respond to them in love instead of defensively. With the right attitude, you may one day see many of the people who once criticized you in your support group!

Although there is still much to do to advance homeschooling, especially in the area of protecting our parental rights and freedoms, and although there never exists a “perfect day” in homeschooling, a spirit of gratefulness—a focus on the positives rather than the negatives—can go a long way.

This type of gratefulness can banish the homeschool blues, reduce sibling rivalries, keep marriages strong, transform the atmosphere of your home, and give you the freedom to think creatively about solutions to problems. A simple expression of thankfulness can make a lifelong impact on those within your household. Thankfulness is an indispensable part of home education. And ultimately, thankfulness is recognizing how great God is and how much He loves us.

*Alexandra Colen, “Germany Imprisons Mum. Dad and Kids Flee to Austria,” Brussels Journal, September 12, 2006.

J. Michael Smith, President of Home School Legal Defense Association.