I watched you on the road.
You began badly, but improved.
— Mark Twain, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
It is easy to think that a broad and generous education only requires generosity on the part of the curriculum. While it’s true that without a broad course of study, an education can hardly be deemed “generous,” it’s not true that generosity only flows from curriculum to student. No. Generosity starts with the teacher.
In other words, it starts with us.
Listen to this post as a podcast:
A post like this is a difficult one to write because it’s hard to maintain the delicate balance required. By generous, we don’t mean that some days don’t go badly and few things get done. We don’t mean that we should be able to give the same as a bubbling, healthy young mom when we are weighed down by medical issues and entering perimenopause. We don’t mean an over-the-top doing All. The. Things, and never managing our energy.
We don’t mean perfect, nor do we mean ideal.
Here’s the deal.
Some of you, in one of my surveys, confessed to me that the biggest barrier to your successful homeschooling was your own laziness. And I don’t mean one or two of you. I mean a whole big bunch of you said this.
Now, on the one hand, some of you are probably way too hard on yourselves. But, on the other hand, some of you are probably being brutally honest. And I know exactly what you mean.
Haven’t we all done it before? Remember the day math was skipped because we would rather talk on the phone with a friend? Or the week that grammar didn’t happen — twice — because we just didn’t feel like it?
Quite honestly, there is a difference between the day we didn’t sing the songs because I had laryngitis — or even the day we didn’t sing the songs because I had planned something else I thought was important — and the day we didn’t sing the songs because I was too lazy to make it happen.
This is, by the way, a universal struggle of teaching. When I was in school, I had the teacher who turned to coloring pages, extra (super boring) copywork, and frivolous movies because she was too lazy to teach, and I bet you did, too. Being in a classroom doesn’t make a person any less exempt from this temptation.
The truth is that in teaching, the gift we give is us, and far too often we’re inclined to be stingy.
We Are Insufficient
In many ways, we can think of homeschooling — or any other difficult job for which we sign up — as another opportunity for sanctification. This big, huge thing we’re doing can reveal all the ways we fall short. Homeschooling shows us our short tempers and bad attitudes. It shows us our lack of organization or follow through. It shows us our ignorance and incompetence.
Ultimately, it shows us our selfishness and lack of generosity.
“I feel insufficient!” we scream at the end of the day.
Good news: it’s true.
I will never be enough, and neither will you.
There are a few ways to deal with this fact, first and foremost being that we must cling to the idea that while we are not enough, God is. So we trust that His grace will cover all the bumbling mistakes — both willful and accidental — along the way.
To quote Doug Wilson (slightly altered) in his wonderful little book My Life for Yours:
The task of [homeschooling] is impossible. Any sane look at what is required … is completely and utterly overwhelming. This is why the task must be undertaken in grace, by grace, through grace, and because of grace. The grace of God in this provides two things all [homeschool moms] need. The first is forgiveness for this morning, and the second is strength for this afternoon.”
Education is Repentance
Mystie reminded us of this fact in her fantastic post over at CiRCE. When I first heard this phrase — education is repentance — from Dr. Grant, I considered it from the perspective of the student. What is education, if not a constant realizing that I am not correct, nor am I wise, and then turning toward the truth? A student who is learning is in a state of constant repentance.
But in education there is also the repentance of the teacher, and that is what Mystie was getting at. In the case of a generous education, it takes an honest sort of wisdom to discern if we are being stingy or not. I think the central question to ask ourselves is why something that really ought to be happening is not happening. If the answer is, ultimately, that we are not willing, then we’ve got a case of stinginess on our hands.
This means it’s time to repent.
The proper response to sin is always repentance. Repentance is different from guilt. While it acknowledges guilt, it certainly doesn’t wallow in it. Repentance chooses to rely on grace as we turn and walk another way — a way that isn’t easy. We need nothing less than the wisdom and strength that God can give.
I love the title of Wilson’s book: My Life for Yours. This is the rallying cry of the Christian home, he says, and it is no less the mantra of the Christian homeschool.
We encounter a thousand ways a day to die to ourselves for the sake of those who are under our care. Do we get out of bed on time? Do we respond to an annoying child with love? Do we study up in order to be prepared? Do we seek out help?
Do we teach [enter subject that keeps getting dropped here], or do we skip it (again) today?
It’s not that there isn’t ever a good reason to get some extra sleep or even skip a subject, but all too often these things happen because we’ve chosen self over what is best for the children we are teaching. We’re ignoring the necessity of giving “my life for yours.”
Following our Savior and making that exchange — my life — my conveniences and desires — for the sake of those I am teaching — is not the easy road.
But it is the road of generosity.
A generous education? It starts with us.
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.