Yesterday, I had the privilege of lectoring (proclaiming Scripture) at the Mass held for our regional youth ministry training day. The words from the beautiful (and lengthy) passage from Joshua seemed particularly appropriate for those youth ministers who had gathered with hearts ready to serve the Lord...but as I read them aloud, they spoke to me in another way, too. They spoke to me as a homeschooler.
The passage begins in this way:
"Joshua said to all the people, ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living."I think it can be easy for us to dismiss passages like this one. We read about these pagan idols, and we think, "Well, I don't have any Ashara poles in the backyard. No golden calf. Guess I'm good." [Wipes brow, returns to browsing Pinterest.] But it isn't that simple.
The unsettling truth of the matter is that anything can be an idol.
It can be my family. It can be my career. It can be Pinterest! (Say it ain't so!) And it can also be the priorities of my homeschool.
At this time of year, I am so frazzled drawing up lesson plans that I make Martha (in the Mary and Martha Gospel story) look like laid-back. I'm copying worksheets and flipping through activity manuals and rereading novels so I know what comprehension questions to ask. I'm gathering supplies for science experiments and typing up handwriting worksheets and checking the library shelves for supplemental reading, and all the while I'm going, "Okay, God! Check it out--I am getting ready to educate these children for YOU!"
But that's the world's way of doing things. Yes, I need to make lesson plans. Yes, I need to know if my library has this or that resource or whether I need to order it. Yes, it is good that I am carving out a special place in my home for academic adventures and artistic exploration. I have to send that check to my co-op if I want to participate this year. But those are merely the details. If one of them falls through--if all of them slip through the cracks--it will not be the death knell of my children's futures.
What might be is my attitude.
- Where am I putting my time and effort?
- What is triggering my enthusiasm?
- What am I emphasizing as being most important for our school in the coming year?
If it's anything other than God, I need to seriously revamp my efforts and start again from square one.
Joshua finishes his admonition of the Israelites with this quote, which happens to hang on a plaque outside my front door:
"As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
That's it. That's the whole kit-and-caboodle. If I do nothing else this school year but intentionally serve the Lord in my children's presence and actively shepherd them along the same path, then I will have succeeded. This is the crux of why I have been called to homeschool. Not because I'm better at teaching my children how to add. Not because we can read more and better quality literature together at home. Not because I want to "shelter" them. Not even because I want to spend more time with them than traditional schooling can afford.
The reason I homeschool--the thing that keeps me pushing through on the hard days and weeks and months--is because I have been called by God to serve: Him, firstly, and my family second. I serve by schooling my children. I serve their minds, hearts, bodies, and souls. But if I'm not serving God first, none of that matters.
The beautiful thing is that every parent has been called to the same vocation! Whether you homeschool or send your children to a public or private school, you are called to be your children's primary educator. How are you going about it? What are you stressing as most important for your child's future success?
Is it sports?
Art or ballet classes?
Where you put your time and where you encourage your children to spend their time will show them what's important to you. This is the education we give as parents. Are we teaching them by the world's standards for success? Or are we truly educating them for Christ?
Perhaps one day, one of my children will become an astrophysicist, a lawyer, a heart surgeon. But that does not mean they will be "successful." I know plenty of wealthy people with high-power careers who are impoverished in the greatest riches of life: joy, peace, wisdom, understanding, compassion, and sacrificial love.
This is what I want for my children, and no curriculum or lesson plan is going to give that to me. And it won't give it to them. There's only one thing that will.
(And here's the secret, it's a Who, not a what.)