Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gardening and the Home School

Home educating my children has been a lot like gardening. The first year I tried to "landscape," I was determined to match Martha Stewart's skill. I tried to plant at least thirty different varieties of plants, many that require experience and skill to grow. Can you guess what happened? Within a month, I had a yard full of brown, dried-up, bloom-less stems. I have taken this approach to my home schooling too... trying to cover too many subjects too quickly, stretching the boys and me to our limits. When I get caught in this mode, we always end up frazzled. I feel sucked dry, and the boys feel wilted.

In later years, my vision for my planters became more realistic. I filled them with easier-to-grow varieties and learned to pay attention to the best practices for growing them. I would carefully plant in the right spots in the yard, careful to give them just the right amount of sunlight. However, over the course of a few weeks, my interest would wain, and I would begin to neglect my poor plants. They would go days without water, and once again, my yard looked like the Addams family's. Likewise with home schooling, I can get bored, distracted, or over-committed to other activities and neglect my responsibilities. Once I get behind in my planner, I begin to feel like I will never catch up. Feelings of failure and guilt can overtake me.

At times I have felt so frustrated with my inability to garden that I have nearly given up on the idea altogether. I have seen other people's pristine, landscaped yards and wondered why I don't just give in and let a professional handle the job. What home schooler hasn't had this thought, "What was I thinking? I can't do this. Why don't I just send these kids to school?" I have a degree in education and three years professional teaching experience, and yet my thinking goes there from time to time.

This year I took a different approach to my flower garden. I kept it simple, planted impatiens (easy to grow), paid attention to my gardening methods, and committed to a watering schedule. All of the techniques I used to plant and to care for my flowers were learned over time, through my mistakes. Also, due to my new-found love of bird watching, I had a purpose for gardening, something I had not had in previous years. I wanted flowers to grow so that they would attract birds to our backyard. It is mid-August, and my planters are in full-bloom. For once, I have had success! Today, a hummingbird even visited, hovering over the pink blooms and diving in occasionally for a sip of nectar.

Isn't that what we long for in our homeschooling... our children growing and blooming, covered in the sweetness of Christ so that others would be drawn to Him like the hummingbird that visited us was to the nectar? This doesn't happen in the shadow of misguided goals or over-extended schedules. It doesn't happen when I beat myself up over mistakes or doubt my God-given abilities. Instead, I pray for grace and strive to "continue to live in Him. Keeping my roots deep in Him and having my life (and school) built on Him. Be strong in the faith, just as I was taught. And always be thankful." Col. 2:6-7

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