“We say Christ is Lord, and He can interrupt our plans anytime He wants. We just don’t expect Him to do it. We assume He will affirm everything we are doing and never ask us to change anything we have planned.”
Henry & Richard Blackaby, “Experiencing God”
Alice went to a kindergarten for four-year-olds for a few months in Wisconsin before we moved. I loathed most of it: twenty boisterous kids, a teacher and a part-time aide, and a classroom the size of a two-car garage. Alice, at four (and today, at six-and-a-half), was so shy, so quiet. The boisterous kids would be, you know, acting four years old, chaos to our introverted souls, and Alice would be in the corner with the boy with autism. She’d accepted him; liked him, even, because he was quiet and never grabbed her arm to play dress-up. This is a better thing than I gave attention to at the time.
I’ve not been quiet about the tempest in my soul lately; about how I see new monasticism (sharing life with the poor) and homeschooling (soaking in each other and good books) as pieces of the same beautiful puzzle (being followers of Christ) — but just not pieces that interlock for us without some fudging or nicking bits off their parts. I’ve got passions at war within me, James would say.
I’ve not moved into the inner city to commit to a lifetime of loving my neighbor — I’m not sure I can even claim to be a new monastic. In so many ways, we’re a family of poseurs who each day take the tiniest steps toward this sort of life of faith. God only knows how close our souls come. The marks of new monasticism are as coordinates in a GPS unit, and we’re somewhere after hitting “Start.” We’ve got a long way to go.
But, we’re making a turn. We’re putting down homeschooling after this spring. Because God gave me a book contract; because God’s been working on our hearts. God’s got another plan for us.
In discernment, I kept repeating “But homeschooling isn’t the problem,” and that’s mostly true. We chose a method that reshaped the way we spend free time, the books we read, the rhythms of our days. It’s beautiful, rich, intentional; God’s all over all of it. Charlotte Mason is right: children learn through stories, and the richness of music, art, and nature reveal more than we can even take in about God and the way the world works.
But because it all points us back to Jesus (which is, of course, evidence Charlotte Mason’s method is solid), His God incarnate, moved-into-the-neighborhood example is just not playing out in our living room. It’s in part because we live in a rural area; maybe we’ll move someday. But for now, to step toward abundant life, toward community, we need to be with more people — lots of people who aren’t like us: salt and light and all that holy business. This is God at work in our hearts, for our family. It’s not prescriptive of what I think all families must do: But this is God asking us, “Hey, Wasingers, wanna joining what I’m doing over here?” We’re saying yes.
And, on a personal level, for smaller reasons, it’s me. I’m sure some people can do everything at once, homeschool and write; homeschool and do radical hospitality; homeschool and write and make complete grocery lists. I cannot. I am finite, following an infinite, relentless, merciful God. I tried to find a way to do it all, shortchanging everything. I just cannot teach them all, read it all, write it all; cook, vacuum, run. I can’t do all these things and still watch the birds, and talk nicely to my children after 6 p.m., when Dave’s still not home.
And really, I need the birds. Oh, and to talk nicely.
As I’m writing this, heavy snow is falling; it’s a Sunday; I’ve written this in advance to give us time to talk to my people and pray, but I knew that what I was feeling was more than February. And today, from my desk in my room, I see the girls struggle to glide down the snowy hill on their saucers. They get up, walk to the top of the hill, and try again. Alice drags herself down the fluffy snow with both arms at work, gravity not helping at all. These kids: they’re going to be OK. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, and He loves them fiercely. Even more than I do. I hope school’ll make their hearts bigger than I can imagine. I hope it’s hard in ways that’ll make them grow, too.
What a gift homeschooling’s been; it’s a jubilee of time for this mom who used to work fulltime; what a gift it is to know God better through it. How amazing to follow this bend in the trail. How generous to know God well enough to trust He’s going to accomplish all the things that I’m not sure about yet. And, yes: a hundred little things will annoy me about school. I’m a snob about quality books, free time, spending time outside, answering to no one, and avoiding themed birthday parties. I am the worst introvert. And, so, Matthew put this in his 16th chapter, right under my fingertip last week: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” School isn’t a cross by any stretch, none at all, but it IS denying my snobbish impulses. That comes first.
What a silly American-privilege thing to even have to write about this, choosing between two good schooling options when others’ choices are life and death, or worse. Lord, have mercy for the ways we talk and talk and go into our warm living rooms and think too much. Change that in me, please.
But, because this is a big deal to five people in a home in Michigan, I know God cares, too, and I sense how wild this ride gets when we just obey. We’re jumping.