christmas bonus

Out in the traditional work force it is a common practice for employers to give out Christmas bonuses for a successful year or appreciation of hard work. During my “professional” years as a teacher, most of the bonuses I received were not of monetary value. I might get a nice thank you card, mug full of candy or some baked goods from a grateful parent or student on occasion, but largely, the work of teachers isn’t rewarded with a big extra paycheck or cash.

This year, in my work as a home schooling mother/teacher/professional I decided that I would give myself the gift of a Christmas bonus. That bonus came in the form of a package from Sticky9 shipped clear across The Pond.

For the past three and a half years, I have kept a hashtag on Instagram of many of our fun home school adventures. I have used #homeschoolhappy as a way to document our days and keep a record of some of our best memories. Several weeks ago, I envisioned a fun gallery wall in our home school room using many of those pictures.

IMG_1097

I am not here to share the benefits of home schooling or convince anyone that it is a better/worse choice than some other method of school. We each have our own opinions and situations for what will work for our family. What I am here to say is I did NOT see this one coming. I did not think that getting these pictures up on the wall would cause me tears and so much reflection upon the goodness of God.

IMG_1109

It’s no secret that I began our home school journey with my heels dug in, reluctant as all get out and basically shaking my head “no” when I heard the Still, Small Voice speaking to my heart. I had a million reasons NOT to home school our children and would have gladly shared those with anyone who would listen.

IMG_1108

Back in 2011 I just couldn’t imagine that God would ask me to take on an undertaking of this magnitude. I just knew there was no way that I had it in me to take on the responsibility of educating Thomas, Mae and Kate at home. We were school people. We were fans of the traditional way. We just didn’t expect that the Lord would call us to such an extreme (at the time) change.

IMG_1111Today as I began flipping through my prints and placing them up on the walls of our home school room, I was reminded of many moments over the past three school years. There have been so many moments of doubt and uncertainty. There have even been moments of discontent and unfulfilled dreams. There have been days of questioning why this endeavor was put on my plate. There have been weeks where I felt unqualified, lacking in wisdom and patience. I have been reluctant, apprehensive and have wavered in the confidence of mine and Ryan’s prayers and decisions about how we have chosen to educate our children.

IMG_1112

From the outset, there was a distinct connection between our decision to Ryan’s military service. Our first year was a ONE-YEAR-ONLY commitment on my part. We were in a new life, new town and new environment. I agreed to a second year because Ryan would be deploying to Afghanistan and we wanted to continue to have the freedoms and flexibility of our schedule. By the third year, I figured, “why not” round out our final school year in El Paso?

IMG_1113

When we received orders to Georgia, I was thrilled because this surely meant that my season of home schooling was finished. We found our current home in the “right” school district with some of the state’s top rated schools. Right up until almost the week school started, I was still on the fence about the decision to put the kids back into public school or continue home schooling. Seeing my sleeplessness and agony, Ryan (who is super supportive no matter the decision), mentioned that because I couldn’t seem to find peace about the school down the street, that, perhaps I had my answer.

IMG_1114

Ryan then began to give me the pep talk of a lifetime and made me feel like we would be okay to continue home schooling. We prayed and articulated our views and reasoning behind staying the course and both came to the conclusion that we were doing what we felt the Lord continuing to call us to do. I could go on and on about spiritual, academic and social development and achievement. I could rave and rave over how we have the three best kids on the planet (don’t we all think so about our own children, after all?). But the peace that overwhelmed my heart back at the end of summer still fills it today. And it is this message:

IMG_1115

Our family is in a situation that is unique. Ryan does not have a traditional, 9-5 job. We are constantly traveling and having irregular nights, days and even weeks. And for our family, home schooling is working. The kids are thriving. We have no complaints or see no deficits or particular reasons (for our situation) to put the kids back in a public or private school setting at this moment. That’s not to say that won’t change over time or in another city or at different ages or grade levels for them, but for now we are here and we are content.

IMG_1116

I think about that word contentment a lot. It is evasive and illusive. Contentment, it can be difficult to come by. Looking back at the memories these photos represent, I don’t just see contentment…I see gladness, joy and fulfillment. I see it in Kate’s snuggles, in Thomas’s smile and in Mae’s eyes. I see it in myself too. It’s stored away in my mind and memories. We have shared so much these three kids and me. We have shared so much that I would have missed if they were gone for eight hours a day. And I can not imagine that.

IMG_1118

We have been outside and the park and in our yard. We have taken dozens of field trips. We have spent hours at museums, plays and traveling to nearby excursions. We have been on retreats with Ryan, to San Diego, the Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, and Hilton Head. We have checked out probably THOUSANDS of books and read them. We have undertaken some cool science projects like making blood, studying nutrition, the Solar System and the Civil War. We have done volunteer work, hosted a Lego camp, read the classics in our pajamas, done co-ops, PE classes and played more golf than Arnold Palmer.

IMG_1119

We have driven all over this country, flown on airplanes, survived a deployment without Ryan/Dad. We have painted more works of art, studied famous presidents, artists, scientists and authors. We have worked in the kitchen, at the counter, at the table, in the floor, at multiple libraries, at the park and in the car. We have waded in the creek, climbed mountains and dipped our toes in the Pacific, the Gulf and the Atlantic oceans.

IMG_1121

Yes, I have been their teacher. But they have taught me so much more than I ever dreamed. This job I’m doing now as mother/teacher is one of the most difficult and demanding I’ve ever done. I am daily challenged to walk in God’s grace toward my family and to live out in my own home what I say I believe. That isn’t always easy or convenient. It’s hard to fake it in front of your own people. But I have no where to run and no where to hide. For better or worse (and believe me, many days, it’s worse) it’s just me and these three precious students the Lord has placed in my school room. He is calling me to submission to him; his desires of me, his plans for me, his methods of growing my faith and deepening my trust in him. In my life, this has come to me through the vehicle of home schooling Thomas, Kate and Mae.

IMG_1122

If given the chance, would I choose this again? Absolutely. These 4×4 squares tell a tale of goodness, faithfulness, joy and gratification that I never saw coming. These squares tell a tale of cautious obedience and the reward that comes in the doing and being. When I look at them all together it seems like a lot. It seems like a huge enterprise and like we are making a habit out of this thing called home education. However, each little square is just one memory, one activity, one day and often one more step in obeying and trusting.

IMG_1123This reminder has been a huge gift to me. I’m grateful for my Christmas bonus.

*****

“Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” {I John 3:24}

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s