Sunday, July 3, 2011

Uncondemned

(5-7-2013 Mostly unedited. I am letting these raw emotions stay in print. I have moved beyond many of these concerns now. This was written during a very difficult transformation! I appreciate my authenticity here, and I pray that it helps other get through their transition times. I am now on different hypothyroid medication as well as hormone replacement therapy for female hormones and adrenal issues. I am much more able to function than before. I physically sick, but I am getting better. I am also more spiritually well. This has been our best, most consistent year of homeschooling yet. I believe that each year we will all improve. Lastly, In this post I mention being angry. I am no longer angry.) 

Failed.

As a homeschool mom I think I have failed. I know, I know, “it is all a matter of perspective.”

But, I think I am uncovering another Christian lie…

I have homeschooled all of my children from the beginning. Rebecca was started very early with letter recognition, phonics, and writing. I began using Veritas Press curriculum with her at age 4. At that time I began Saxon 1, but she was not ready. No big deal… I would try again the next year.

I had years of happy homeschooling planned in my head. But, unbeknownst to me, each pregnancy, each birth, all the breast-feeding would take a huge toll on my body. When Becca was 5, I started showing signs of some kind of debilitating we-knew-not-what. We got my thyroid tested every few months and it was always, always out of whack. We just assumed that if I could ever get my thyroid medicine regulated I would be just fine.

Then, in winter of 2007 leading into Spring 2008, I started having extreme pains in my hands and joints. I could no longer cut my own steak. I could not pour Paul’s coffee. It was in the early Spring of 2008 that I was first diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency. I had a 15 week treatment that made me feel healed. I could walk, run, work, play, etc without any pain or fatigue.

… Then, we moved to MO. And, that winter I had my worst-ever (to date) bout with disability… real disability. Winter 2008 going into Spring 2009 I could not hardly even walk. I could not button my own shirts or tie my own shoes. All through this time, I kept on trying to homeschool the children. We have a conviction that children should be educated from a God-fearing world view. In MO, children are not mandated to education until they are 7, so even though I had started schooling Nelson at the Kindergarten level in 2007, I did not feel too concerned that the government would intervene if he was a little behind in some areas.

I read a lot of other bloggers who homeschool in a variety of manners, and I began to like the idea of “unschooling.” Don’t panic, Mom and Dad, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. It simply means that rather than follow a rigid curriculum you have more of a “strike while the iron is hot” mentality. In some ways this worked out great! The kids wanted to learn about stars, so we would get dozens of books at the library. The kids wanted to write letters to friends, so we would work on writing. And so on. The problem was that children are not by nature self-disciplined. So, unless you force them to study every subject – they won’t. And, as it turns out, my kids hate math. At least they HATED Saxon math. I stuck with it, because I know that even public school teachers have respect for Saxon math (a bad motivation by the way). Anyway, while we worked on reading and writing most every day (even during my disability) we rarely did math.
The following Spring I saw improvement. Then, the winter 2009 Josiah was born. All went well for a few weeks… but then the general fatigue of winter set in (along with post-partum fatigue and months of bleeding). I knew that we were terribly behind in math, but still had hopes of getting caught up.

ENTER THE LIE ---

Throughout my last few years of homeschooling, fighting this recurring winter disability, I have occasionally shared with a few people that I was “behind” in schooling the children. Almost all Christian homeschooling moms gave the same answer – “DON’T EVER SAY YOU ARE BEHIND!” They would go on to tell me that the very purpose of homeschooling is to do things my own way, and not feel pressured by the way “the World” does things. And, it usually comes across as a rebuke. If I admit to being behind (which I really, truly was) then I was in error for caring too much about the way the World does things, and comparing myself too much to government-run schools.

Fast forward to this summer (today, even) –
I am completely overwhelmed. My eldest is a few school grades behind in math. I think in all other areas she is fine (or even advanced). And, Nelson is half a grade behind in math. He also is not really reading well yet. The children are not the problem! They were just being kids! The problem was, I was too tired to force them to do work they did not want to do and teach lessons to kids who were scowling at me. I just could not do it. Judge me as you will. Say I am faking my sickness if you want. You can even rebuke me as one local Christian Super Mom did that “you could get up in the morning if you want to. You just have to do it.” I am still working through the scars left by this rebuke. But, it isn’t just her… it’s in a lot of our Christian books and blogs too. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on moms (especially homeschooling moms) to get the job done – and get it done well.

So, where are we at today?

Confused. Hurting. Angry.

I am angry that so many Christians caused me to feel that I would be in better standing with the Lord if I homeschooled my kids. And, I am angry at the types who say such things as “if the Lord gives you the conviction, He will supply the strength you need to follow through with it.” (Well, I don’t think that philosophy is a lie, but I think that forcing people in homeschooling – or having umpteen babies - when they might very well be too sick is unkind.) I formerly had the conviction to bear as many children as the Lord gives me. I LOVE my kids. And, I would not trade a single one of them. However, my body is completely depleted. I am always exhausted. I have a chronic vitamin D deficiency. My thyroid disease is always going crazy (up and down, up and down). Some mornings I cannot even get out of bed. No, I really can’t. I am not exaggerating… I really can’t. And, I finally admitted to Paul a few weeks ago that I can’t homeschool the kids anymore… at least not all of them.

So, we called the Christian school that is run by the church that we attend. It costs $5000 a year per child… well, there is a discount for members (if we were official church members)… and there is a multi-child discount… and they might be able to give us $1000 in tuition assistance. But, that still leaves a fee far greater than we can come up with every month. No, I cannot cut back the budget anywhere. We are already behind on several other bills.
What’s more – in talking to the principal of the school (who is also one of the pastors at our church), I was told that we would have to do a placement test. They told me that my eldest who is old enough to go into fourth grade would have to pass every subject at that level. We talked in depth, and I was honest that she was “behind” in math… but not because she is “slow,” but because of my health. Well, he said that she would have to be in a special learning lab for as long as it took to get caught up in that subject. Every day she would leave her class and go to the “independent learning center” for tutoring.

So, even if we could afford private school Becca would have a trying couple of years as she had to get caught up.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel so guilty if my kids were dumb. But, they aren’t. My kids are very bright. It is entirely my fault that they are behind.

Now, I am braced for all kinds of rebukes. I have already heard some from real-life people who tell me that it is not good for my kids’ self-esteem to be talked about as “being behind.” You might be right in that… but it IS the truth. Would you prefer that I lie to them, let them take the placement test and be told by the principal that they are “behind?” I think not.

Then today, Paul brought up sending the kids to public school. One of the pastors at church – who seems to care greatly about our family and my health limitations – has been encouraging Paul to send the kids to public school for my sake. And, honestly, I feel awful! I feel like a complete failure. I let my kids down. I let my husband down…

OR DID I? Who is it that is heaping this condemnation upon me? Is it from the Lord? I think not. There is no condemnation in Christ. So, who is causing me to feel condemned?

I admit it – I am angry with all the people (beginning years ago with a book by Douglas Wilson) who built a seemingly solid case for “all Christians should send their kids to Christian schools or home educate them.” These people have heaped years of difficulty on my life. Let me qualify – I love the idea of homeschooling! I even WANT to do it! But I can’t. As of today, it looks like our options are 1) move to the South, because maybe year-round sunshine would cure my winter disability; or 2) send a few kids to public school.

Oh, I am so confused! What would THE LORD have me to do? Not Doug Wilson, not Doug Phillips, not Voddie Bauchum – but the LORD. His opinion is the only one that matters. (His and my husband’s, of course ~ smiles)
Lord, what would you have me to do? I know that you see my health as it truly is, and I stand before you uncondemned. But, before my Christian, homeschooling friends I feel nothing but shame and condemnation. Before them, I see myself as a failure. Oh, please, Father, let me see myself only through Your eyes! Help me to block out all other opinions but Yours. Show me and Paul what to do. Show us where Your Word ends and legalism begins. Show us the difference between Your rules and man-made rules. And, show us the Truth where we have been believing lies.



Last but not least,
Friend, I can tell you for sure this one thing – IF you think that you are in better standing before the Lord because you homeschool your children you certainly are deceived. Your right standing before the Lord was purchased through the blood of Jesus Christ. All Christians are of equal standing before the Lord, because He sees His Son covering all of our sins (Praise be to GOD!). There is nothing you can do to gain a better place before Him… He has already done it all!

In this I find peace amidst the storm.

Whatever we do – it will all be okay. We cannot fail Him, because our mistakes will be covered by the blood. We will try our best to obey Him, knowing that we will sometimes fail. And, that’s okay. Because God LOVES us anyway! He loved us while we were yet sinners! He loved us while we were His enemies!

In this I find peace amidst the storm.

Praise be to God.

9 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

Bethany

I get what you are saying and I am not here to rebuke you or tell you that you are wrong. As I have watched over the last few years and especially as you have changed your position on a number of issues, the consistent theme is that you have been doing many things "right" but for the wrong reasons. I would encourage you to continue to look at where you hold strong positions and examine your motives. A good example of this in my own life is Reformed theology. I used to, if I am honest with myself, like Reformed theology because I felt smarter than other people and could bludgeon them in arguments. I am repenting of that, but that doesn't mean that Reformed theology as such is wrong, just that my motives were.

Just a thought and observation, again not intended as a rebuke or condemnation.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Arthur, You raise a good point and I do not feel condemned.

Honestly, I am still very much in favor of homeschooling. I just don't think that I can do it. If I knew for sure that moving south would heal me- we would do it in a heartbeat. we have talked about it for years.

But, this I know- no matter what we do, God is not looking at me angrily, waiting to judge all my mistakes. Nope. He'll be waiting with open arms to pick me up every time I mess up. Praise God for His love and mercy!

Simple said...

Oh I just want to hug you dear friend...

We have been blessed once again this yr. that our tuition needs were meet and all three boys will attend the small Christian School again. We're very thankful!! The school is trying to offer to the 8th grade, but doesn't yet have the attendance to do so. We hope and pray it's the Lord's will for them to attend as long as they can.

Once they can not we won't return to homeschooling full time or at least all subjects. Here in IA we can do joint enrollment and have the children take what and which ever subjects we choose for them to at the public school and homeschool the ones we want to. We've prayed a lot about it, and right now this works for "our family."

Like you I'm so tired of Christians saying...Oh, your ruin your children by putting them in public school even for a short amount of time a day...Really, last I checked God was on the throne, not them, and God knows what's best for my family, not them. I seek God's will in "our lives", not what His will is in theirs.

Blessings,
KA in IA

NYLass said...

I am so happy you wrote this post... because this is a lie that I believe many believe (you must homeschool to please God). Many need to know and feel the freedom that Christ offers in this - as well in grading the kids that are home-schooled. The standards we put on ourselves that are awful.

Our beautiful, sweet 19yo graduated last year, but because her graduation wasn't "sanctioned" in some way she has spent a year fighting depression. FINALLY, she has walked into the freedom (not dissimilar to that you and Paul have written about) and begun to embrace a life IN Christ!! You see, she has never wanted to go to college or 'look' like other grads, but that 'unwritten rule' of the better educated home-schooled student weighed around her neck (the home-schooled kids we know were the ones with Hebrew and Greek as second languages, on debating teams, etc.). Her dad and I have tried to encourage her in every way we could think of - but until she gave up the lie... it really didn't matter. I wish I could do a before and after of my dear first born, because to see her joy now really is something to praise God for!! She really has begun to 'apprehend that for which also... [she] was apprehended'!!! Phil 3:12b (I love this verse!!) May we all be so blessed! :O)

Bethany in mid-MO said...

KA,
It is wonderful that you all got the tuition help! I thank God for that! I am so glad that your family has also found freedom from these Christian mandates.

We can all breathe easier.

Bethany

Bethany in mid-MO said...

NYlass,
My heart aches for what your oldest has gone through. I am SO glad that she has now found a new joy and peace! I pray that this will help her decide what to do next. I know that she will not be happy sitting idle until prince charming shows up on the scene. We will pray about that too! How wonderful that she has had this breakthrough before meeting God's man for her!

Much joy to you, My Northeastern friend!

Bethany

PS- If you had not noticed Paul is a little slow on his replies. He hates the android keyboard.

NYLass said...

Dear Beth,
The amazing thing is that God uses ALL things for our good (for those who love Him and are in Christ Jesus); I praise Him for all that she's been through - for He alone gets the glory!
She was never waiting for P.C. - can you believe that she didn't even dream there would be one for her? Now she believes to do what God puts before her waiting on the Lord for all things - allowing him to give and to take away... future spouse included. The future has hope and promise, again.
Praising you alone, lord!
Annie
P.S. - really like Paul's new picture! - Great suggestion!! :O)

Holly said...

Hello! I read here occasionally and have witnessed your transformation from slavery to legalistic influences to freedom in Christ. I've appreciated your humility and honesty. I wanted to mention that one thing I've noticed about Saxon is that you only need to do about half or less of the lessons to get the "gist" of things. So, in the workbooks, we ONLY do the fronts and of those we ONLY do the last half of the school year. I've found that there is so much review in the incremental approach that there is no point in repeating it. So that might help you feel a bit more free.

Bethany in mid-MO said...

Holly,
Thanks for your comment and suggestions. We also do only the front sides of the worksheets. But, I had not thought of doing only the second half of the book. I will think on that. I still hope to order A Beka math, as it looks like something the kids will enjoy more.

Bethany