Encouragement to Mothers from a Daughter
“O mothers of young children, I bow before you in reverence. Your work is most holy. You are fashioning the destinies of immortal souls” (Home-Making by J.C. Ryle, 1882; reprinted, The Vision Forum, 2003).
Summer of 2008, I met a dear friend of our family at the town pool. As we chatted, she congratulated me on recently finishing my bachelor’s degree. Upon learning that I had completed my degree in only two years, one of the other women with us inquired if I was going on to medical school.
To these dear women, my response was unexpected. “No, I want to be a wife and mother, the greatest job in the world,” I answered brightly. The women looked uncomfortable, although they were all mothers themselves. My friend agreed, though not as enthusiastically, that my statement was correct. At this I gave her a high-five, but the conversation soon turned to other topics, and I returned to my own spot by the pool.
Sola Deo Gloria
Ours is not a poster-family for homeschooling success. We don’t study Latin. None of my siblings has won a spelling bee. I graduated with my degree from a little-known New Jersey state college via distance learning, so no Ivy League diplomas will grace our walls. We aren’t even red-hot political activists.
As attractive as it may seem to view homeschooling as a method for unlocking the genius in your child, that idea fails to assess the true value of homeschooling. Homeschooling is not “taking school home.” In fact, to quote R.J. Rushdoony, “the purpose of Christian education is not academic: It is religious and practical” (The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum by Rousas John Rushdoony, 1981; reprinted, Ross House Books, 2001). Homeschooling is parenting; the father and mother disciple their children, under God’s authority, as they together glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
If your home is anything like ours, you will find yourself despairing from time to time. “My seven-year-old is still having trouble learning to read fluently!” “I can’t get my eleven-year-old to enjoy writing!” “My eighteen-year-old is behind in her higher-math studies!”
Perhaps some new book or curriculum catches your eye, and you gain new enthusiasm, thinking that is what you need. Perhaps that tool will help your children learn phonics or trigonometry or inspire them to love writing. That’s wonderful. However, it still misses the point. In God’s economy, your homeschool is not a success or failure because of how well your children perform academically. Are you training them to love God and obey Him?
R.C. Sproul Jr. explains, “We are not in favor of moral excellence because it makes you a more diligent student. Instead we are for academic excellence because we believe such is the fruit of character” (When You Rise Up by R.C. Sproul Jr., P&R Publishing, 2004).
Consider the humility of Sir Isaac Newton, who said this at the end of his life:
I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. (www.quotedb.com/quotes/3627)
I see in the lives of my parents that the glory and beauty of discipling their children through homeschooling are in the ordinary things.
Homeschooling is the home filled with the laughter of three sisters, who are such friends that they take too long to clean up the kitchen because they are so engrossed in conversation.
Homeschooling is the little boy who announces his first plans for growing up and taking dominion. “I’m going to go toHawaii, find a wife, and drive a train.” It is seeing him grow older and continually mature in his plans.
Homeschooling is brothers and sisters who love to talk about history with their father and mother, because it is the story of God’s providence.
Homeschooling is the little girl who, of her own volition, pulls out a pillow and blanket for her hardworking daddy, when he wearily lies down on the couch to take a nap.
Homeschooling is the young lady, who, after hesitating to pick up her banana-smeared baby sister because it might stain her own dress, considers the big picture and scoops up the delighted little girl. Then Baby lays her head on her sister’s shoulder, which delights the big girl.
Making it Plain
“And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” (Habakkuk 2:2)
We can get so weary as we run the race of life that it is easy to lose sight of the goal and become disheartened. Continually reading the Bible together as a family, discussing it, and learning from other believers is the fuel that keeps us going. I find myself continually having to repent of embracing false philosophies instead of biblical truth. I have to remind myself of Isaiah8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.”
Recounting family history has also been a help to us, as we see where we have grown and remember both happy and painful times. I began writing, with the encouragement of my father, anecdotes from the lives of my younger brothers and sisters. It is a delight to our hearts to laugh over the hilarious and sometimes wise ways of these little ones. My younger siblings are learning important lessons and applying Scripture at a much earlier age than I did. This early foundation will be a blessing to them when they establish families themselves. Perhaps your family will be encouraged by a similar practice. These are two of my favorite anecdotes:
Biblical Economics and Relative Value
Ever since he visited the WWII bombers during their stay at the local airport, Matthew (nine) had been saving his allowance to purchase a ride on the B-17 Boeing bomber—cost $425.
But one day in December, while sorting laundry with his big sister, Matthew made an unexpected announcement. “I want to buy a TBF [a Torpedo Bomber Fighter plane model] for Brendan for Christmas, because he would like one.”
In his conscientious saving for the desired plane ride, Matthew had resisted even the alluring commodities of the Apple Festival the past September. But he chose to be generous and sought to give pleasure to another, stating, “What’s a plane ride compared to my brother?”
God Give Us Adventurous Boys
My little brother Brendan has a set of garden tools and a wheelbarrow just his size But he loves to do a man’s work, whether it is transporting dirt for a landscaping project at our home or, in his words, “making a garden for Genevieve,” his three-year-old sister.
One Christmas Eve morning, with the outside temperature at forty-three degrees, five-year-old Brendan announced to Sarah that he was planning to dig a tunnel outside. “In the dirt?” questioned Sarah, for the weather had been very warm and not a single snowflake had fallen for Christmas. Snow would definitely not be the digging medium.
“Yes, out in the woods,” affirmed our little engineer in his footie pajamas.
Our home is inConnecticut, where the ground is more clay than loam and chock full of rocks. Digging is hard work on our homestead.
Sarah objected, “But the ground might be frozen.”
“That’s all right,” Brendan responded, “If it is, I’ll just chop it with my hoe.”
Brendan’s plans so charmed Sarah that she had to tell them to someone else. She called me and attempted to relate Brendan’s tunnel scheme quietly, as not to embarrass him. I, too, loved this precious anecdote.
While I questioned Sarah for more particulars, Brendan followed us into my room and guessed what we were saying.
Hoping not to discourage Brendan in his excavating endeavors, I caught our little explorer in my arms and kissed him. “I hope you make a nice tunnel,” I said.
“I’ll fill the dirt in before it rains,” responded Brendan.
Work is Good
These relationships between brothers and sisters do not happen overnight or even just in play. Hard work, which forces people to cooperate and solve problems, forges brotherly friendships in our family. About two years ago, we began a mammoth job of ripping up hundreds of square feet of dying lawn with a rotor tiller, weeding the grass clumps and rocks out by hand, and crushing grubs. We added more topsoil and then lime to correct the PH, raked it smooth, seeded new grass seed, and watered the new lawn every day.
We were overjoyed when the young blades began to emerge from the dirt. But after allowing the lawn to grow and establish itself some more, we had to return repeatedly to weed the lawn by hand. Chemicals would have killed our new lawn.
We did not labor because of aspirations to become soil scientists. This lawn was my father’s vision, and he led us in the charge to renew that little bit of earth we call home. Because we were willing to work hard together in this common goal, it eased my father’s burden, because he did not have to employ a landscaping firm. Oh, we tried to obtain one, but our friend the landscaper said he knew our family could do the job. But more important than the economic benefits of our labor is that my siblings and I had hearts to obey our father and serve our family. That’s what God saw.
Don’t Lose Heart
Homeschooling mothers, your unseen work is precious. I encourage you to thank God every day for your husband. Embrace his protection and leadership, as together you disciple the little souls that God has entrusted to your care. Love your children, and thank God for every day you have with them.
There will be both easy and extremely difficult days ahead. The easy days are few. On those days your family will accomplish everything on the to-do list. The children will be sweetly obedient, and your loving brood will converse seriously on cultural reformation while enjoying your gourmet, organically grown, low-cost dinner. It is on days like these that you will smile to yourself and think you have arrived.
Nevertheless, between those delightfully easy days are hard, difficult weeks. You seem to get nothing done. You feel exhausted and inadequate, continually humbled and empty before God. At those times, you have nowhere to turn except to Him, and you whisper hoarsely, “Lord, I can’t do it. Please lead me.”
Both types of days are profitable days, because God is greater than our feeble limitations. The difficult days are blessings in disguise, because they teach you and your children that God’s mercies are new every morning. God is sovereign, His grace is limitless, and He displays His glory in our weakness. I have seen my mother, a homeschool mommy like you, cry out to God for help. Confessing to God our weakness and inability, thanking Him for His past faithfulnesses, and asking for mercy in the present distress is the answer to every problem. Period.
Your children may not grow up to do great things in the eyes of the world. In fact, I pray they would be great in the sight of God. I pray they would continue to keep covenant with the God of their fathers. I pray they would be able to say with the prophet Micah,
Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, [and] bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, [or] with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn [for] my transgression, the fruit of my body [for] the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:6-8)
Mothers, your labor is not in vain; it has eternal rewards. Don’t give up. I want to be just like you.
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
By Erin Mallon
Erin Elizabeth Mallon is a daughter and homemaker who lives with her family in Western Connecticut. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Small Business Management/Entrepreneurship from Thomas Edison State College in 2008 so she could better help her family and also her future husband. She is preparing to start a small family craft business with her sister, Sarah, who makes lovely jewelry. Erin highly recommends both of the books she quoted in this article, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Originally published in the “God’s Word Does Not Return Void” issue (May/June 2009) of Homeschooling Today magazine