Last week we read a story about a little boy who loved flowers. It was part of Belle’s assigned readings for AO year 3, which means I’ve read it before when my older girls were going through year 3. And I remembered that that very story had inspired me to write a blog post a few years ago…a post I never did get around to polishing and publishing. So I looked it up, and reading it actually brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it was just an emotional day, but this is the kind of encouragement I could do with over and over again…and hearing it in the form of forgotten words from my younger self reminded me of that. I hope it encourages you today too to not forget what really matters in these stressful, taxing, gruelling, wonderful, amazing, irreplaceable years of homeschooling…

Sometimes I just need a good shake back into reality.  I love those moments when God reaches down with His beautiful megaphone to my deaf ear and blasts me with a reminder of His love and care.  These past few weeks I have felt overwhelmed.  The more I learn in this homeschool adventure, the more I realize I have to learn!  It can be overwhelming for a gal who likes to do things “by the book”…especially when that “book” seems too long and difficult to ever get through from cover to cover.  How can I juggle all of this?  How can I cram all of this amazing educational philosophy and methodology I have aspired to live up to into this tiny brain?  I know.  I know.  One step at a time.   But then I blink and my oldest is almost halfway through her school career already.  I don’t have eternity to catch on to this.  I have got to make my plan and then work my plan.  I have got to chart this course and stick to it…only to learn later that I’ve misunderstood or have been “doing it all wrong.”  And then, just as my mind is about to explode in frustration, this crosses my path last night as I snuggled in to read a bit before bed.  I grabbed the beautiful copy of Parables From Nature that was sitting on my night table, longing for a feel-good story to soothe my frazzled mind.  It did not disappoint.  God pretty near shot these words off the page straight to my heart…

“What makes you ever good?”

…he answered at once, “God’s grace.”

“Now that’s just it!” shouted the nursery gardener, in delight.  “That’s just what I meant.  And all the schooling, and teaching, and trying in the world won’t do without God’s grace, will they, Hans?”

Hans nodded his negative assent.

“No, they’re only manures and help,” pursued the nursery gardener, “and very good things, no doubt, the same as bones, and hair, and soap-suds for roses, and there’s nobody can dispute about them.  But all the helps in the world can do nothing without the main thing God chose them to thrive by, and that’s God’s grace for a man, and God’s light for a plant; and what one is for one, that the other is for the other, and it’s my opinion it’s the light of Heaven for both.”

from Parables of Nature by Margaret Gatty

Poor little Hans had been gifted a rose bush by his gardener friend and followed specific instructions on how to tend it and make it flourish. The gardener, not realizing how literal Hans would follow his advice, forgot to mention the rose bush needed sunlight; and Hans, in a desperate attempt to protect his bush, had erected boards all around it. He didn’t realize he was starving his beloved plant of what it needed most in order to grow. All the other “helps” the gardener had suggested, like dousing it in soapy water on wash days or burying bones and hair around its roots to help fertilize it, were useless without that main ingredient God intended for it — the light of life!

Me painstakingly getting every method of a lesson right is but manure at best — only a help to the real work of God’s grace that will make for a successful education for my children.  My efforts are important.  But the thing is, they actually become useless if I neglect the most important ingredient.  I am realizing my focus needs to shift from my feeble efforts to complete dependence on God’s grace as I inch my way along this journey!  

I don’t want to forget how overwhelming this homeschool gig was in the beginning. And I wrote the above after I had been at it for three years! I hope I can always relate to young moms and their fears and frustrations. I hope I can convince them I really do remember what it’s like just starting out when it feels like there is so much to learn and you want so badly to get it right from the get-go. And I hope they’ll believe me when I tell them to take a deep breath and a BIG step backwards and remember that their fussing and tweaking is not making the huge difference they imagine it is…that it’s when we stay focussed on God’s grace to us and to our children that growth happens.

We need to relax. We need to keep reading and growing and learning and stretching ourselves…but we need to remember that this can be an enjoyable process for us! We can trust God to enlighten us in the areas He wants us to focus on and follow His lead instead of giving in to the panic of all the things we don’t know yet. We can enjoy the journey. After a few years we might even find we’re slowly and naturally building confidence, but chances are we’ll continue to be overwhelmed in new and different ways. And I don’t believe that’s such a bad thing. It keeps us dependent on and open to God’s grace — our “light” of life!

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