“Why am I doing this homeschooling, exactly?”
“What if the educational course I set for Jake and Caleb this year is completely wrong?”
“What if this nearly eight-year homeschooling journey has been one big mistake?”
These are three of the disheartening questions that have swirled in my mind recently.
Honestly, I haven’t been in a very good space these past two weeks.
I have fallen prey to discouragement, uncertainty, and fear. I wish I could say otherwise. However, my confidence is shaken. I am burdened with worry. I feel anxious and vulnerable. Self-doubt paralyzes me. Two weeks ago, an autism expert observed and interacted with my children for a mere 20-minute autism evaluation. Afterwards, the expert negated and dis-valued our homeschooling choice. The expert encouraged us to provide more life-skill instruction for our boys since they couldn’t be expected to learn the high school subjects that they were currently studying such as Algebra I, English I, health, physical science, US history, and a Microsoft Office elective.
When the expert observed my children, evaluated the boys’ learning, and proceeded to share their verbal evaluation, our South African school year had just begun. After only five days of instruction, Jake and Caleb were transitioning to high school and learning a number of new things – all at once. Instead of taking note of Jake and Caleb’s strengths or affirming the boys’ present school reality, the autism expert focused solely upon the boys’ weaknesses, inabilities, and lack of understanding.
The expert didn’t necessarily say it, but the implication was clear:
Why are you doing this coursework with the boys, exactly?
Like I said, it’s been two weeks since this painfully difficult encounter and I’m still struggling because of it.
I wish I wasn’t.
Granted, I’ve processed, prayed, blogged, and tried to regain my confidence and my resolve. However, to be honest, I have had a pretty difficult time.
Part of the reason for this is that there is truth in the expert’s words. Some of the new subjects the boys are learning this year are difficult for them. There is a ton of abstract information. My boys are literal and concrete thinkers. Helping them understand complex and abstract concepts has stretched me and honestly, after a full day of this kind of work, I’m exhausted. The boys are too. They are working so hard to understand, but with all of this work, they become overwhelmed at times. And they forget. So, we take a break and then must start all over.
So, why am I doing this work with the boys, exactly?
What’s the point?
Shouldn’t we just give it a rest?
Shouldn’t I do as the expert says and focus on cooking, cleaning, first aid skills, hygiene, money management, and other life skills and give up on their academic learning?
Please don’t get me wrong. I support life skills instruction. My boys are learning these necessary skills. Micah, Jake and Caleb are developing their housekeeping abilities, hygiene care, emotional awareness, communication skills, exercise and nutrition, self-care, and beginning financial skills. We incorporate these important life lessons throughout the week – inside and outside the homeschooling day. However, being that we are a missionary family and have lived outside of the United States for the majority of our children’s lives, John and I believe it is also important for the boys to learn about the world in which they live and travel. Learning US history, while living in South Africa, is helpful for Jake and Caleb as they expand their knowledge of the nation of their birth. This is where academic instruction plays its part in their schooling.
So, what’s my problem?
If I believe in what I am doing, and have the resolve to continue with the boys’ homeschooling, why am I still feeling anxious about it all?
Isn’t that crazy?
So, this morning, I decided to address my anxiousness.
Each year, I select a verse to pray over my husband, John, and our sons. For Jake, the verse I chose for him this year is from 1 Peter.
Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.
New International Version, 1 Peter 5:7
Jake’s verse is my verse today.
The Hebrew transliterated word for anxiety is merimna. Merimna means care and anxiety. However, if we delve further into the root of this word, merimna, we discover the Hebrew transliterated word, merizo. Merizo means to divide, to separate into parts, and to cut into pieces.
Isn’t this what anxiety does to us? At least to me?
Anxiety divides up our decisions, separates our confidence, and cuts into our resolve. Anxiety leaves us in pieces. My heart, mind and soul are fraught with fragmented despair.
This is no way to live.
I recognize that.
However, just because I see this truth and understand its harmful effects in my life, doesn’t mean I am able to repair and restore my broken heart. I need help.
This is why I choose to turn to 1 Peter to find encouragement.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
New International Version, 1 Peter 5: 6-7
I can’t do this parenting, homeschooling, and life deal without the care, guidance and assistance of my God.
I just can’t.
How grateful I am that my God cares – He cares about my concerns, my worries, my troubles, and my fears and He wants them all. He asks me to throw every challenge and difficulty I face upon His able shoulders:
Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
topple into ruin.
The Message Psalm 55:22
I love this promise!
This verse addresses one of my fears with a very needed assurance. My God will not let my children topple into ruin and neglect. He will continue to care for and provide for my children – no matter what anyone says about them or does with them.
Here is another incredible promise I discovered today as my God demonstrates His involvement in my children’s lives:
Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
You have been my God from the moment I was born.
New Living Translation Psalm 22: 9 – 10
My God is concerned for and interested in the welfare of my children. And me, too. Whatever my concerns, whether they be spiritual or temporal, my God is aware and concerned about them. He is ready to comfort, encourage, bless, and love us through each trial, challenge, or crazy, harsh circumstance we encounter and must endure.
And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?
In this current situation, I must focus my sights on perseverance and endurance.
Jake and Caleb’s autism is not going away. It’s an integral part of who they are. Their literal and concrete thinking is a reality, too. We are going to have good days at Jubilant Academy, our home school. And we’ll have challenging days, too.
I think what we need is momentum.
Polar Explorer Ernest Shackleton said, “The very act of doing something concrete creates a sense of momentum, and a series of small victories will lay the foundation for eventual success.” His words followed a perilous 634-day trek across the Antarctic ice-scape after his ship, The Endurance, had been trapped and then crushed in the ice. Through his incredible foresight and leadership, Shackleton led his men to safety – one step at a time – in some of the most difficult and dangerous terrain imaginable.
This story strengthens my resolve to keep going – one step at a time – with both concrete and literal actions and even more importantly, with the understanding that my cares and burdens must be cast upon the shoulders of my strong, caring and capable God.
I don’t want to keep trudging along with these fears, anxieties, and worries that encumber me and disable me from moving forward.
My children need me to do better.
This is why I need to:
Open up before God, keep nothing back;
he’ll do whatever needs to be done:
He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day
and stamp you with approval at high noon.
The Message Psalm 37: 5-6
Ultimately, this is what I need most. I need to know I am on the right track with my kids – and that my God approves and is supportive of our homeschooling choice. He’s shown me this before. I need this affirmation again. Now.
I need to be steadied in the midst of this time of growth, change, questioning, and upheaval. How grateful I am that my God can handle every single burden and concern – guiding me onwards – not only for my children’s sake but gratefully for mine as well.
Friends, have you ever allowed anxiety to cut you up, shake you up, and unsettle you in such a way that you questioned yourself and asked, “Why am I doing this exactly?”
Your Lord cares for you. He knows when you are having a hard time. And He offers His care and assistance – we just need to open ourselves up and offer it all to Him – trusting in His care, strength, and reliability to see us through our challenging situation in His time and in His way.
I’ve begun this journey with my kids as I entrust them and their future to my God.
Will you open up to God about your own concern?
What literal and concrete step do you need to take?