I have always worked by setting a basic schedule to accomplish what I know I need to have done. But there are times in life when all the best intentions just don’t cut it, and life “interrupts” the best laid plans. I have found though, that God is the master; in my experience, there have been several times that God has planned for my family a “curriculum” we would not have chosen for ourselves. In retrospect, however, it was during those stressful times that we grew together as a family and learned some lessons of the true meaning of life.
Having had 14 children, I figured out I have been pregnant for over 11 years! I always got sick for the first three months and often found it difficult to get up, press on with the schedule and get it done. I did discover that I didn’t feel any better lying down than when I was up and around. The nausea was with me all the time, so for me I felt better if I knew I was trying to stay on schedule. If I just felt too lousy to be up and around, we’d just sit and read. After the new baby was born, it seemed like it was impossible to get anything done other than the basics for the next 6 months. I never had help after a new baby arrived, so the kids would have to chip in and help me out. It was during those times that my kids had practice in developing a servant’s spirit. I remember after my 10th child was born, my two oldest sons would fix me cream of wheat for breakfast for the first few weeks.
Sickness was another biggie. If my kids were sick, we’d kick back and read together instead of doing the math, science, etc. But, guess what- the kids were still learning!
Life really threw us a curve ball though when my 17 yr. old son, Josh, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996. I was due with baby # 13 in 3 weeks and suddenly our whole life was transformed into hospital stays, talks with doctors, caring for Josh. At first, I tried to continue homeschooling in the mornings, but in just a couple of days, I realized that just wasn’t going to work. Josh needed me with him, and there just were not enough hours in the day for school to be an option! Life was basically survival during those 7 months of Josh’s illness. I felt like a rubber band stretched to the max in many directions. My 13th child was born three weeks later and I would carry her pack and play, diaper bag, a suitcase for her and myself, activities for Josh, and so on, in the bottom of her stroller as we would go to the hospital for a few days at a time. It’s hard to describe the ups and downs of those months. I felt that I was not meeting the needs of my kids at home very well; but Josh needed me most and Kelley had to go where mom went. So, I would take 9 year old Carrie or 7 yearr old Christa to help watch baby sister while mom and dad were busy with doctors. We all tried to spend whatever time we could with Josh, and school took a back seat. Seven months later Josh went to be with Jesus, his Lord and Savior. As I reflect back on that experience, I don’t regret ANY of the time we took from “doing school”. (We caught up the next year, by the way!) God had a much more life- changing curriculum in store for us, and we are all different people for having gone through that experience. We all realize that only God knows the number of our days and sense in a deeper way that we must be intentional in how we spend the time we do have together.
Stay-in-the-home-company was another one of life’s details that played havoc with homeschooling. We found when relatives would visit, it was almost impossible to “do school” with the distraction of having our schedule changed. I would try to do a little extra of the type of school that needed my attention before company arrived and then have some quiet time while company was there when the kids could keep up with their reading. Beyond that, I would use the opportunity to teach the kids to have a servant’s heart and learn to make company feel welcomed. We also found that it was a great time to do some family field trips, including our company in our excursions. That way I knew the kids were learning and having fun at the same time, and I would feel better about it as well.
Another trying time was when my dad got sick and the older boys and I would take turns traveling from VA to MA to help my sister care for him. Again, that old stretched rubber band feeling!! It was incredibly difficult to keep things going at home and be gone for a couple weeks at a time, but I would do it all over again. My dad knew we loved him and cared enough to be with him, helping where we could. Again, this experience added a new dimension to our understanding of God and of our mission to serve Him here on earth!
Then, there’s the stress of finances. It hasn’t been easy through the years to raise such a large family on a limited income. Sometimes, it’s been downright frightening if you lose your focus on God. I would have to remind myself that God is the one who gave me my children and my focus needs to be on Him, not the circumstances. God wants us to recognize our need for Him. When life is going well, and all our needs are met, it is a temptation to not sense our deep need to rely on Him in all of life’s little details. Sometimes we just need a clear reminder that we aren’t in control. It’s hard to do when in the midst of it, but we need to learn to see God in control of the tough spots we find ourselves in and remember to pray to Him about all the details of our lives.
I could list lots more we’ve experienced over the past 31 years of homeschooling, but suffice it to say, whatever rough spot life has you in, look for the hand of God, pray a lot, ask God to teach you from it and become a better Christian rather than a bitter Christian! When we cooperate with God’s hand in our life, God will make a way for us through it all.
One of my favorite verses is: Psalm 138:8 “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”