We are nearly three years in to our home school journey and I find myself truly enjoying the picture of what home school looks like for our family. I have been told that the third year is the “golden year” if you will, where you simultaneously throw out what hasn’t been working and grab hold of the things that do work for your home school. And this is precisely where I have found myself in these past months.
I was one of those moms who would never home school. I admired and believed in home schooling, but I didn’t think it would be a fit for me. However, in Isabella’s fourth grade year after much prayer, we decided we would home school her through the middle school years because – middle school. 😉 When I first started looking into this brave new world, I felt most comfortable with an online curriculum because it was all laid out for me, but being a person who turns over every rock (to near exhaustion), I messaged a home school friend from book club and she generously consented to answering my (hundreds of) questions. She sent me to a blog post that summarized several learning approaches. After exploring these and several other approaches, I kept circling back to Classical Education. As I learned more about it I was filled with an overwhelming peace and a strong sense that this was right for our family. I again messaged my friend and told her I was leaning towards a classical approach and she replied, “that’s what we do!” She recommended I read The Core by Leigh Bortins. I read the book over the next few sunny days, while Lincoln played in the yard. The thought that stood out to me was that a Classical Education isn’t about building up a person’s intellect in order to elevate them above others, but in order to have the tools to relate to all people, and bring others to the knowledge of the Father. It may sound silly, but I wept. It was one of the biggest paradigm shifts I had ever experienced. I realized that I had long thought I should keep what I know to myself because it was only to prove my own intelligence, and this perspective on education had never aligned in my heart and mind quite like this.
We enrolled our kids in a local Classical Conversations program and decided we are in for the long haul. In other wards, we are going all the way through the Challenge years for high school. I never would have dreamed this would be for me, but this education makes sense to us. Our hearts have always been for our kids to understand their theology down to it’s roots, and now with this method of learning, we can give our kids an education that will connect God to every aspect of knowledge. Classical learning fits our family like a glove.
It’s now been almost three years, Isabella has been a memory master for two years and Gracelyn one year. Lincoln soaks up facts and has a curiosity that keeps me on my toes, and Isabella has begun her first year of Challenge. Like many other callings, it hasn’t been easy. In fact, this has been our most difficult three years of child raising so far, but it has also been the most rewarding. We have many days filled with frustration over math, too much noise (Lincoln likes to talk:)), and tears and conversations through building character. But this I know, this is where God has called our family.
We hope you are celebrating our country’s birth with friends and family, unhealthy food and fireworks.
In hopes of adding a little extra patriotic richness to your day, we are sharing some of our founders’ words from the minutes and hours following the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. Despite all of its faults and black marks over two hundred and thirty nine years, this is truly a great country. May we live in such a way that upholds the grand dream of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, our founders and our fathers.
“Gentlemen, the price on my head has just been doubled.”
-John Hancock, just minutes after voting
“We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come.”
–Samuel Adams, just minutes after voting
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not…
It may be the will of Heaven that America will suffer calamities still more wasting, and distress yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in States as well as individuals…But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”
–John Adams, Letter to his wife Abigail
If you are looking for a way to add meaning to this day, here’s what we will be doing :
(from Prager University)
All of us walk around with a need pulling at our insides. Some of us are more aware of the need than others. Some of us allow it to draw our minds ever more inward, as if self obsessed thoughts could fill the void. Some of us try to pave it over with the busy production of our lives. Some of us carry the need away; abandon homes and families to search meandering roads and far off corners hoping to find, we don’t know what.
I spent the 19th year of my life schooling with YWAM in Tyler Texas. That year was a pivot point for my life in more ways than I could list. I highly recommend any young person to take a year post high school and serve with an organization like Youth with a Mission.
For my first months, as I had done back home in Oregon, I occupied my mind by trying to purge away everything that carried the tang of regret. Like many young believers I became obsessed with every imperfection, every immoral impulse, every memory of a bad choice. I walked through steps of confession, true repentance, promises of future goodness, everything I could think of. Still, I could not shake feelings of unworthiness and shame. They stayed with me. I hid them away like unwanted contraband. I was terrified that someone would notice my struggle, and realize that I didn’t belong; that I wasn’t as strong as I should have been.
The broken cycle that seized those days was hard to take. But when the brokenness would finally overwhelm me and I became too exhausted to keep up my efforts, the Father’s kindness would edge in. It surprised me every time. Only in those surrendered hours was I able to lean on the Father like I should have done all along.
This fighting, stubborn-standing, breaking and finally surrendering was an ugly process that I knew I needed to leave behind. I just had no idea how. And admitting I wasn’t strong enough always felt like a defeat. Admitting felt like quitting on a responsibility.
One night I took a walk alone on the acreage of the rural campus. I was in the middle of yet again trying to think my way out of the place I’d been. Suddenly I clearly heard the Father say to my spirit, “I love you.” My heart’s fleeting response might as well have said, “Love you too, now let me get back to work.” Walking on, I heard the persistent, “I love you,” two more times. The third finally halted my mind and I allowed the thread to pull. I felt Him say, “I love you, I have always loved you. There was never a moment of your life when my love for you was diminished and there never will be.”
Now I had long owned the fact of this statement. The math of it was filed away in my head right next to that story about the floating ax head and an out of context James 2:20. But the tenderness of this truth was gaining new ground. As His thoughts unwound inside of me, they wove through all my toilsome shame and regret.
A newly close, living knowledge of His kindness worked its way backwards into my memory. Every monument of failure that stood up out of my brief history was toppled by this declaration of His constancy. I surrendered to it. I gave up the lie of my own strength. I felt Him there with me, in the Texan air, His hands on my shoulders, speaking new life to the heart of a son.
The weeks and months that followed brought a lightness of heart that I could hardly remember ever having before. Joy was no longer something that surprised me; I carried it with me. Working towards excellence was no longer about trying to deserve something, it was a gift to the One who loves me without fail. That year I learned that my need for Him could never be answered by my own striving. I learned something else too, something just as important:
Repentance: quitting on sin and walking in the opposite direction, is an absolute requirement. Throughout our lives there will be times when the Holy Spirit will bring a pressure to bear on our hearts, drawing us aside for a serious talk. But that interaction is not the whole of our lives as sons and daughters. Not even close. It’s so easy especially for young Christians to think that their early encounters with the Father are all there is. I believe that some of us get stuck in a rut where we only know how to interact with the Father on the grounds of brokenness and repentance.
I don’t think He wants us to just come to him out of desperation. He wants us to come to Him out of joy.
What if we stopped putting our need for God only in the context of our moral failings? Might we need Him for a much deeper and older reason?
Try this on: if mankind had never sinned, we would still need Him. Not because we are wretched but because He is our Father; we are His sons and daughters.
It’s not our brokenness or even our depravity that first causes us to need Him. Need has to do with our smallness in comparison to Him, it mightn’t have a thing to do with sin.
I want to lean into Him every day. Like Joshua, I want to be the man who never left the tent. I want to be strong because He is strong, not because I’ve held up under the lonely pressure. That stubborn part of me needs to hear, again and again, that it’s ok to just lean on God.
It’s ok to need Him.
We have permission to admit that we’re not strong enough. We were never meant to be strong all by ourselves. It’s ok to lean on Him. It’s ok to sit and be with Him, no agenda, no work to be done. Just be with Him. It’s ok.
This photo was taken at Mount St. Helens and is our brother in law sitting near a 35 year old log mat left from the damage from the eruption of 1980.
I owe much to my mother but one of the most lasting lessons she taught me is how to appreciate hushed and subtle things. From time to time in my early childhood, my mother would pack us three kids into our yellow 1970-something Honda hatchback and drive us in the direction of tranquility. When we reached some well-wooded spot, she would turn off the engine, roll down the windows and say, “Let’s just listen to the quiet.” As we listened we became aware of the small, uncomplicated wonders that surrounded us. The wind in the leaves. The creaking of elderly branches. The chittering of a hidden bird. “I wonder what it’s saying,” my mother would whisper. And as our minds spun off to consider the language of wild things, the world grew bigger and more wonderful.
Now that I’m grown up, I find that it’s far too easy for me to forget about “listening to the quiet.” I get disoriented within my own crowded mental space. We literally have at our fingertips the most enthralling things our world can offer. All day long I carry a device in my pocket that can feed me an unending stream of breathtaking images from all over the world. I can call up and enjoy the best music ever recorded anytime I want. Literature, philosophy, theology, natural history, it’s all ready to be read, watched, listened to and commented on at my whim. There are so many competing things for me to feed my attention to that sometimes it becomes difficult for me to value any one part of the clamor. My sense of wonder gets stifled in the noise of endless options.
Over the last couple of years The Father has been reminding me to seek out the quiet. Particularly when I’m overwhelmed with life I hear Him calling me, compelling me, to get away to some lonely place. For me that means getting outdoors and into simple, pure nature. I have often found myself interrupting my commute home to park next to the river for five or ten minutes of peace. I have carved out occasional mornings or afternoons to hike a few solitary miles and not for the exercise. I never fully appreciate how much I need a respite until I’m alone with my Father in some hidden place. It’s there that the world regains its context and my heart gains enough space for wonder to dwell.
Wonder is that sense of awe that draws us not just toward beauty but into beauty. It’s one thing to drive past a forest, it’s another to enter the forest and discover its secrets. This is why I so love those sacred set-aside places we have called national parks, national monuments and wildernesses. They are sacred not just because they are pristine; it’s our experiences of wonder that imbue them with value and significance.
They are places, belonging to all of us, where we can go and listen to nature testify about God. They are places where our wonder can grow and compel us to press further up and further into the reality of God.
“What brings meaning is when you can combine a sense of wonder, undergirded by truth, experiencing the richness of love with the knowledge of security. Those four components bring genuine meaning to life. And the older you get the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder.”
The heart of the explorer is in all of us. I sometimes pine after those days when there was still a true frontier and a great unexplored expanse beyond it. I would like to think I could have been one of those companions of Lewis and Clark, pointing my canoe westward through the vast mysterious wild, hopeful to reach the certain shores of the Pacific Ocean. How easily they could have been swallowed up never to be heard from again. Wonder will eventually ask you to risk all.
But our world has been mapped. Every corner has been touched for good or ill by a human foot. Still as we explore these already tread-upon places for ourselves, we can discover windows that look into the untouched lands. The boundless secret countries of our Father, are open to the brave.
Just like those explorers of old who had to conquer their fears of unknown lands, we must conquer our fears of the mysteries of our Father’s lands. The questions we have asked that have not been answered can keep us from venturing beyond our own frontiers.
Wonder is the energy that pushes us forward. Wonder says now is the time, you won’t be disappointed. The answers aren’t on your frontier, the answers are out there in the mystery.
I have come to love those unanswered questions, and I have quite a few of them. Some people talk as if they love mystery just because it is mysterious. But that isn’t enough for the heart filled with wonder.
I love mysteries the way Lewis and Clark loved uncharted rivers. I love mysteries because they are promises of future discovery. It’s true that some things unknown will not be graspable within my 80 or 90 years. But that glory will have to lie in the promise of our good Father.
True wonder, the kind cultivated and breathed to life by God, pushes us past the quiet listening moments we make for it, past the days of discovery here on earth and past the quiet graves we leave behind. Our Father is preparing for us not just houses or estates but, if you will, entire mountain ranges and forests. They are already planted for you. They are growing now, watered with peace, colored in joy. Shading over and clefting in the mysteries that were placed for your discovering.
Quiet now and listen. The wonders of God will point you westward.
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