Welcome to Part III of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of Homeschool. Today’s focus? The Ugly—and Homeschooling in a Fallen World. I confess that I would rather lecture on the Collapse of the Soviet Union than talk about this side of my life. But, without the ugly, you would never know the good or appreciate God’s redemptive plan. So, I’m going to wade into these muddy waters hoping that you see Him in His glory and light rather than me in the muck and the mire. (If you missed The Good or The Bad, they’re archived here.)
Part III – The Ugly- Homeschooling in a Fallen World
The truth about the ugly side of homeschool is that it probably has very little to do with educating your children. I know that the ugly of my life when I was homeschooling, revolved around my own depravity, the serious sin of others, and the awful circumstances that are a part of living in a fallen world.
So, our subtitle for Part III? Homeschooling in a fallen world. It looks like this: you’re in the middle of an average homeschool day that is mixed with some good and some bad, as are most days, when all of a sudden, you get that one phone call. The one where you are sucker punched and the air in your lungs escapes from your body by bad news. Here are a few examples (not that I’ve lived these all, but these are all true stories from homeschool moms I know and love.)
Homeschooling in a Fallen World
The shattering call might be a collection agency, lab results, or news that you’re being transferred again.
Or, the call may be news that someone had a heart attack, someone is getting a divorce, or someone was in a serious car accident.
If it’s not a phone call that hurts, it could be that you uncovered a load of debt a spouse kept secret, you received an inappropriate Facebook message, or you stumbled on “soft” porn on the family computer (meaning you don’t know who accessed it!)
The sucker punch might be that you discover a lump, you find beer bottles and pot in your teenager’s car, or you catch your daughter “sexting” a boy.
Now, as bad as all this sounds, and it is, most of us have some clue how to deal with these problems. They’re all serious, but not particularly uncommon in our modern, hurting world. (Christians aren’t so squeaky clean!)
Unfortunately, there is worse in many of our lives. Few are talking about the “worse” because it is less common; we’re less comfortable sharing it, and we are far less equipped to handle it. I’m describing scenarios like:
- affairs, addictions, and abuse
- the police at your door for reports of violence
- deviant sexual behaviors (far worse than I want to describe here)
- or murder and suicide that take away loved ones.
To add to this awful list, the deep-seated ugly stuff may spring from within you, as in an eating disorder that’s harming you, a prescription drug you’re hooked on, or an emotional affair.
We are a society that medicates pain with a wide variety of tangible and intangible substances. In my observation, and from personal experience, homeschool parents are not exempt! We are deluded into thinking the ugly is not among us. It is! There is no denying it, we are homeschooling in a fallen world! What further complicates this for homeschool parents is the historical fact that we are part of a very conservative family-friendly community—which I’m a part of. I love this community, but because of the high standards that come with it, few can find the genuine support they need when life is “that” hard. (By the way, some of us talk on Facebook, we have reason to fear backlash and judgment when we’re honest!)
Now – what to do with all this? If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably experienced some trauma somewhere in your life and may need the words of encouragement that I have for you! Stay with me! There is hope for when we are homeschooling in a fallen world and have a crisis alongside!
First, I recommend you do a self-inventory to determine where you are in your life journey. You see, we all have “stuff” to deal with, but putting it on paper (for your eyes only) may help you assess the severity of a situation or two (or three.) So, in a private place, list all your serious crises in chronological order. When I put myself through this exercise, I recounted 18 serious crises in the last 30 years of my life.
If you do the math, my numbers imply that about every two to three years, something happened in my life that was very painful and cost me many tears. I’m not talking about a few stray tears, I’m talking about full-blown, cry-face, swollen-eyes kinds of tears.
After you list your crises, and maybe cry again, ask yourself if these events were public or private and divide them as such on paper. If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions:
Did you share the problem with your church family? Did you tell a family member? Did you post it on social media?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, the crisis was probably public. (Some can’t help but be public.) If the answer is “no” that crisis was probably private and appropriately stayed in a small circle of people in your life. (BTW, I’m not promoting falsehood in public, but discretion! There is a difference.)
Back to the inventory, now of these two lists (public vs private), subdivide them again into short term or long term.
Short term: Was the crisis a painful experience that led to deep emotional pain for days or weeks?
Long term: Was it (or is it) a tragedy evoking years or decades of grief?
Make a Crisis Cube
Once you’ve pondered these categories, make a “crisis cube” by transferring this information into a simple chart. The crisis cube is merely a tool to provide you with direction and to help you with vision for your homeschool plans. Your crisis cube should look like this with numbers to show the divisions of your list.
For example, in my own life, out of my 18 serious crises, I would say nine were short term and public. Were they serious? Yes. (I’ve had skin cancer twice; some painful out-of-state moves, and I lost my Dad suddenly.) But these short-term public problems were resolved with time and I was able to receive support easily since most people knew what I was going through.
Ironically, I had zero in the long term public category. (God has been gracious in that box.)
But look at my private life. I would say 6 of my 18 crises were short term and private. And 3 were (are) long term and private. My crisis cube suggests that unless you are a very close friend of mine, or a counselor, you probably don’t know what I’ve been through. Half my “stuff” has been under the radar and not fitting or appropriate to share publicly. (I suspect that most people have some “private” matters to deal with in life, but who would know? They’re private!)
Crisis Cube Categories
Now, for easy reference, I’ll talk about these categories using the letters A, B, C, D to expand on what they mean and what you may expect as we discuss it in relation to homeschooling in a fallen world. (After all, homeschooling is the common bond that probably led you to this blog!)
“A” (Short-term, public)
Life in the “A” box may be things like:
- an out of state move
- acute illness
- sudden job loss
- surgery and hospitalization
- or a call from the IRS.
When thrown in this box, you have permission to take a break from school. Difficult circumstances in this box can usually be resolved in a few weeks. You may need to take a few days off of school for mommy and daddy to deal with some grown-up problems – and you have a legitimate reason to do so. While you put the pieces back together, you may:
- assign the children just reading
- play some history audiobooks or movies (of course I would suggest that!)
- give all independent work
- hire a babysitter
We all need help with the hard parts of life that are more than everyday stress. Hopefully, friends, family, and church members will offer general support. (If they don’t, you may need to ask! And if meals are offered, take them.)
“B” (Long-term, public)
The “B” box may be things like:
- taking care of an aging parent
- a child with special needs
- a life-altering accident
- recurring unemployment
- or a debilitating disease.
Because these problems are public, Lord willing you can and will find specialized support for whatever that ongoing issue might be. I hope and pray you get the help you need from others who have been in the same journey. Because you are in this for the long haul, you may not get “the meals and helps” that someone in the “A” box receives. (Much is assumed by others and strangely, you may be admired in the “B” box, if you like it or not!)
Regardless of the attention from others, or lack of attention, my best advice for you in the “B” box is to “school differently.” Find ways to modify your homeschool to fit the unique lifestyle you’re in. We are homeschooling in a fallen world and crises happen. You, more than others, should not compare your school load and schedule to that of anyone else! You may school at night, on the weekends, in the car, or with the help of tutors and co-ops. Let’s keep going.
“C” (Short-term, private)
Life in the “C” box is serious and may be R-rated in nature, such as:
- the discovery of heavy porn use or immorality
- a family shouting match
- a slip in substance abuse
- self-harm (ie. cutting)
- or an arrest (not incarceration, that’s for the “D” box).
In the “C” box, you should excuse yourself from school temporarily. (You’re not quitting; you’re pausing.) During that open-ended pause,
- You might not cook.
- You might not shower.
- You might not exercise.
- You might not serve others.
- You might not sleep well.
Those things can take a back seat. You need a full-blown break from school to:
- spend more time in God’s word
- journal and seek the Lord
- pray for His mercy
- and lay your burdens at the cross with a plea for forgiveness.
You may in addition choose to fast for a day or a week. (I’m a very big fan of fasting for spiritual clarity when life is hard.) Furthermore, setting school aside temporarily allows you time to meet with safe friends for prayer, take long walks, read books on the problem, or see a qualified counselor that understands the issue. Wise, knowledgeable counsel is helpful, empowering, and biblical. (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, James 5:16)
“D” (Long-term, private)
Now, let’s talk about the dreaded “D” box, which may include:
- life-threatening eating disorders
- severe gambling problems
- full-blown sexual addiction, abuse, or incest
- life-threatening substance abuse
- emotional and physical abuse
- sexually transmitted diseases
- and prison.
(I know this list is uncomfortable, but this stuff is among us!)
Some of the things you did for a “C” issue, you will repeat for a “D” issue, like:
- getting in God’s Word
- journaling through tears
- seeking the Lord with all your heart
- praying for mercy and clarity
- repenting and clinging to God’s forgiveness
- and fasting if the Lord leads.
These are things we can do to help with great pain, suffering, and grief throughout our lives.
But some of the things I described about taking a break, you can’t do for years and decades! For example,
- You can’t stop cooking for years.
- You can’t stop showering for years.
- You shouldn’t quit exercising for years.
- You shouldn’t stop serving for years.
- And, you can’t stop sleeping for years (though some of you have tried!).
Build a Healthy Lifestyle
You, my sweet friend in the “D” box, need to learn how to function within the dysfunction. How do you do that? Well, not to oversimplify, but as long as you’re safe from harm, you can start or continue to build a healthy lifestyle for yourself and your children. (If you’re not safe, get the help and protection you need! Call 630-617-0088 or click here.) What are examples of a healthy lifestyle?
- You get dressed in the morning to face the day.
- You eat well for nourishment.
- You take care of your body and blood pressure with some exercise.
- You reset your mind (knowing that “it” is not going away).
- You set healthy boundaries with the opposite sex.
- You find safe outlets for stress with hobbies, friends, and uplifting fellowship.
- You find a small group of trusting people to journey with you through your trials.
- You open yourself up to growth, learning, and service to others.
- You stand confident in God’s precious, unending love for you.
- You read inspiring biographies of believers who endured long-suffering (Who are my faves? Jeanne d’Albret, Isaac Watts, Blaise Pascal, Hudson Taylor, Corrie ten Boom, and Sabina Wormbrand to name a few.)
- You choose to live to the fullest that you can.
- And you make the best choices that you can in a difficult circumstance.
Homeschooling as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle!
As for homeschooling, though some of you may in fact be knocked out of the race, don’t assume you have to quit homeschooling because of long-term private problems! On the contrary, if you’re able, I hope you choose to homeschool through it because homeschooling is part of a healthy lifestyle! In all honestly, the decision to homeschool in the midst of hard times may be your North Star and your guiding light. It may be the one positive investment you can make in the wake of whatever threw you in the “D” box. And it may influence the next generation for the better as you seek to break the cycle of sin and dysfunction that threatens you!
Now I realize that this is all easier said than done. If you’re in any of these boxes, your world is not ok, and I’m sad for you. (I know the pain of these boxes!) And if you’re in the “C” or “D” box, you’re in a hard place that’s not going away with three self-help books or an extra-long quiet time.
- But, don’t let your difficult circumstances define you.
- Don’t become co-dependent. (Learn what that means.)
- Don’t remain trapped in excessive caretaking without boundaries.
- Don’t be an enabler to whatever it is that hurts your family. (Research the meaning of that, too!)
- By God’s grace, pray to be an overcomer and send the devil packing. (He is out to kill, steal, and destroy our families! John 10:10)
Strangely, I have made these observations about the ugly. As much as I don’t like it, the ugly brings me face to face with God; makes me more passionate about God’s grace; and drives me to the Lord and to His Word. To elaborate on that last one, I have clung to God’s Word in some peculiar ways during my darkest times.
How I’ve Clung to God’s Word
- I’ve prayed with a Bible over my head—holding it like a weapon or a shield.
- I’ve written out Bible verses on little pieces of paper to tuck into my clothes—where they stay close to my heart.
- I’ve circled the word refuge a hundred times in my Bible—because He IS that!
- I’ve added the date in the margin of the Psalms when they have spoken to me.
- I’ve handwritten the armor of God in Sharpie all over my body with “faith” on my hands, “truth” at my waist, “righteousness” across my chest, and “peace” on my feet. (The Bible says that we battle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, the powers, and the rulers of darkness. Gird up my friends!)
- I have deeply examined how Job, King David, and Jesus dealt with their pain. (Job remained steadfast; David journaled and cried out, and Jesus spent time alone with the Father in prayer.)
Another observation about the ugly, as we talk about homeschooling in a fallen world is that although I don’t like it, it forces growth and demands accountability and attention. You see, “the bad” might stay bad, but “the ugly” can’t be ignored. I discovered this was true in 2008 when I was strung out in three of these four boxes with multiple crises. It was a do or die year for me (I “did!”) It was sink or swim (I “swam!”) It was either proceed in the victory won for me on the cross, or pack it up and live in defeat. (I proceeded in victory!)
One thing I did that year was to pray for a very special group of women to surround me. God answered and gave me three gals to pray with me, intercede for me, and hold me accountable. When I moved out of state the next year, I prayed for more of those kinds of friends. God answered again and sent me Beth and Diane. We still meet when the bad and the ugly come knocking. They come with Bibles; they come with coffee; they come with prayers; they come with wisdom; and they come with empathy. They even came once with flowers to brighten my world when it was dark. (Naturally, I do my best to reciprocate when they too slip into hard times.)
The High Calling of Homeschooling in a Fallen World
It’s time to wrap this up. But I want to end on a positive note. You see, God in His mercy may allow ugly in our lives to purge us of our sin and self-righteousness! Is it hard? Yes. I don’t like it all. But in the grand scheme of life, we may learn through the scars and the ashes to be thankful. That may only be possible through tears. But friends, give thanks that there is a God who loves you enough that He might push you out there to get to know Him. Sincere gratefulness for pain may take a long time. But realize your pain might mean that He is at work, cleansing your life of something that is not of Him. Embrace it with the grace that He provides!
Will homeschool suffer? Yes, on some days. But not all of them. I’m living proof. You can homeschool in a fallen world. Let the “D” box become your finest hour, your high calling, and choose to school passionately with special support. You may have heard that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. That’s a crock and bad theology. He gives us all more than we can handle . . . because otherwise, we’re not in need of a Savior. Who did Jesus scold the most? The Pharisees who believed they could handle their own sin and deprivation by following man-made rules. They couldn’t. I can’t. I doubt you can either.
If right now you are in a serious crisis, I’m sorry! I do care. My favorite Psalm for times like that is Psalm 19. Read it; meditate on it; and think about the “Great Reward” He promises for those that overcome. (Psssst – according to Genesis 15:1, He is the Great Reward!)
Thank you for joining me and may the Lord bless you and keep you through “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of homeschooling.
For the Sake of the Mystery,
Linda Lacour Hobar