The past three years have brought a range of encouragements, challenges, experiences and adventures. God has answered prayers and directed us step by step. And as a family, I believe we have grown and continue to grow. Here are a few examples:
1) Embarking on home education. Three years ago, our eldest was nearly three years old and our youngest two months old. In the UK, all three year olds are offered 15 hours of free nursery education – many people accept this happily as the default position, and even consider that it must be beneficial because it is pushed by the government. I was under pressure from some directions to put my eldest two into nursery, and yet we were convinced as a family this was not the route we felt was right. There was a certain amount of misunderstanding and at times well-meaning friends and relatives would try and ‘reason’ with us; the main reason why people seemed to suggest it was to allow me some ‘me time’, a concept which I find contradicts our God-given roles as parents. Others would feel criticised by the fact our decisions were different to theirs. But over time, people have come to accept that home education is something we do. It becomes easier with time, as people become used to the idea, and also as we start to see fruit in the boys lives from the choices we have made.
2) Three years ago, we did not know where God was leading us as a family. We had spent four wonderful (I need to beware of rose coloured spectacles here, as there were also hardships) years in sub-Saharan Africa, but were now back in the UK without a specific leading or calling. When the baby was three weeks old, an opportunity arose to spend 10 weeks as a missionary doctor family in rural West Africa. This was an amazing blessing – we were inspired particularly to see how God could use a young family and an open home for His glory. Since then, we have lived in two UK cities, and also spent a month in East Africa; now the doors have opened for us to move there for three or four years in several months time. Our testimony has been that ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’ Psalm 119:105. God has given us enough clarity to take the next step. We often have not known what would lie beyond that, but little by little He leads and guides us. And never ever fails to provide abundantly.
3) When we first decided to home educate, I was concerned about which curriculum or materials to use, making sure we were covering the full range of topics, working out what the learning styles of my children were and ensuring there were no gaps. I still spend a lot of time considering these things, and reflecting on whether changes are needed at any point. However I have increasingly seen that a lot of it (remember that my eldest is not yet six) is intuitive – children are born to learn, and to a certain extent we just need to provide them with the right resources and point them in the right directions. Rather than proactively setting out a timetable, I have come to realise that we have naturally formed a routine of Bible and reading first thing, leading onto drawing, writing, numbers, colouring and sometimes craft, painting and baking later on before going out to a nearby park for a run around (and sometimes more focussed nature study). The afternoons tend to be more variable, perhaps more reading, going on an outing, meeting friends, doing group activities with a local home education co-op, swimming lessons, gymnastics etc. And when I consider all that we do each day, I realise that for now, we are covering a fairly broad range of disciplines (having said that I am also aware we need to make a specific effort to include a language and things like coding). We also have been impressed by the ethos and range of materials provided by Sonlight, and plan to start using their resources in a more structured way come September.
4) I had been ill – hyperemesis and eight admissions during my pregnancy, but then continued vomiting for two years afterwards. There was a lot of frustration because I knew what was wrong, but had to wait months for unnecessary tests before going to surgery. I had the surgery to my stomach just over a year ago now, and am back to better health than I had been for a while. This taught me lots of lessons about patience, about trusting God to give you enough strength for each day, and about valuing what you have (I still have aches and pains here and there, but am thankful I have the health and strength to do everything I feel God is calling me to).
5) Generally just three years of boys growing, developing unique personalities, different strengths and interests, working through challenges and moving on to new ones, and often not quite having enough time to really take stock
These are just a few examples of how God has led and provided for our family over the past three years.
Challenge: When you look at your life and your family, do you feel overwhelmed by what you have ahead of you, or can you look back with thankfulness for God’s provision and guidance? Take time today to give thanks.