My husband and I are expecting our sixth child in November. As we rejoice over this great blessing from God, we also find ourselves again doing the dance of adjusting our daily lives to accommodate the seasons of pregnancy. The dance is familiar, but the steps are a little different every time.
Morning sickness is tough on a homeschooling mom. Constant nausea and exhaustion kept me in survival mode from the middle of March through mid-May. In between much-needed naps and time spent sitting and moaning on the couch, I dragged us through our fourth quarter. (I wish I could pretend that was a joke…it was reality.) But now it is July, and I am sitting pretty in second trimester. I have energy, food tastes AMAZING, and nothing is too achy just yet. We are taking a summer break because it is good and necessary, but even in a season of rest my brain is active. I’m busy taking stock of what we accomplished this spring and trying to predict and prepare for the beautiful disruptions that are to come.
I assess the damages. We kept up with the academics we do with our Classical Conversations group well; our goals were met there. We kept up with piano. (Outside accountability is a powerful motivator!) We finished history and got far enough in science to call it “good.” The five-year-old is not as far in his reading lessons as I had hoped, but he has time. No one finished their math for the year, but I’ve been having them do a lesson here and there during the summer, and I know each new level will have enough review built into the beginning that they will be fine. We came >this close< to finishing their spelling books; we will start the new year in the old books and make our way into the new ones quickly enough. But do you know the one thing that I really let slide? We have completely lost the habit of morning devotion. For some reason, gathering the kids around the table to sing a hymn, read a chapter of the Bible, and pray Luther’s Morning Prayer was just too much for me each morning. So much easier just to tell them to get started on their math while I weakly rummaged in the kitchen for something—anything—that might make me feel better for a little while.
The point of this post is not to shame anyone who doesn’t do morning devotions or to establish a legalistic standard or baseline for how much Jesus is the “right” amount to have in a homeschool day. The point of this post, the thing that I keep thinking about, is the simple fact that when my days got hard, the ball that I dropped without a second thought was our devotional life.
The primary reason we homeschool is to raise our children in God’s Word. We say this, and we sincerely believe it. We know that this is their greatest need and our highest calling. And yet, how easy it is for me to lose that focus in the struggle of the day-to-day.
There’s a world out there that is concerned that I will fail my kids in this homeschooling endeavor. There’s a school district and a state that I answer to, and their subject requirements and standardized testing are meant to be my top concern. When I take my kids to the dentist, he casually asks them if they will have some school to do when we get home, and he helpfully reminds us that it is still a school day, right? If my kids do not play organized sports will they develop well physically and socially; will they have grit and life skills? Am I limiting their future possibilities if they don’t experience playing in a band or orchestra or acting in plays or musicals? Even my Christian friends and family are more likely to express concern about my kids missing extracurricular opportunities than they are to inquire about the catechesis in our home. These are all good, enriching things, and creating space for them is not wrong, but they are not the most important thing. The world around me does not care about my children’s spiritual welfare; it will push and pressure me in other areas, crowding out the one thing that I know is needful.
How easy it is for my own sinful heart also to focus on the academic checklist or the list of experiences that will produce a “well-rounded” child and inadvertently neglect the spiritual needs of my kids. We parents have the high privilege of being the greatest conduit delivering God’s Word to our kids; even so, we can also be the greatest impediment standing between them and their Savior. How sobering it is to consider the full weight of our responsibility! This is really the struggle of every Christian parent, not just the homeschooling ones: we have to confess with Paul that we often fail to do the good we want to do.
Praise Jesus that His grace is also for sinful parents who fail to be faithful in their vocation.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Living in this grace, we can move forward, eyes open to that fact that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh will continue their attempts to erode our spiritual nurture of our children. We will never achieve perfection or be the wholly faithful parents that we are called to be, but we can be assured that the Gospel we imperfectly deliver to our kids will not return empty. And so our desire to feed them with that Gospel is fervent!
There are strategies we can employ to help keep us consistent in our efforts:
- I can pray, asking God to empower me to carry out the devotional habits I have planned for us.
- Knowing that I have a weakness in this area, I can make an extra effort to be on my guard. When that little voice in my head says that I’m “too tired right now” or “too busy today,” I can recognize it for the temptation that it is and say, “Get behind me, Satan.”
- Spouses share the responsibility to train up their children, and they can lift each other up in times of weakness and spur each other on to greater faithfulness. I may have dropped the ball on our morning devotions, but my husband lead us through memorization of Luther’s explanation of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer this spring and summer, and he kept us in God’s Word each evening after supper. I can ask him to check in frequently this fall and winter to make sure that we maintain the habit of morning devotions while he is at work as well.
- I can ask my kids to remind me not to skip devotions. I don’t know about your kids, but mine love to hold me accountable for things that I have forgotten.
- Pastors, grandparents, and Christian friends and family, we parents need you to remind us again and again of the importance of family devotions and Bible study! Yes, we do know that it is important, but we also need to be encouraged regularly.
In this life, we are ever the church militant, and the fight doesn’t happen only, or even primarily, “out there.” The spiritual battle takes place in our homes and in our hearts. May God bless our efforts to arm ourselves and our children with His precious Word. May He keep us ever mindful of the eternal importance of this, our greatest task as parents.
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their five children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.