Unexpected Things About Homeschooled Teens

I was a great mom of teens before I had teens.

I read all of the homeschooling literature. I was sure that my teens and I would discuss interesting literature and history. We’d do science experiments together. They would work in their math books, reading lesson after lesson, and somehow, the intricacies of algebra, geometry, and trig would be grasped. They would help their siblings with school work and perform much of the housework for me.

That was before I had teens.

I’ve been surprised by many things in my life, but many of the biggest surprises have been the way real life goes down with homeschooled teens. I’m sure parents with their kids in conventional schools have many surprises, but because I’d read all the “right” books and because I was homeschooling, I was sure that my kids’ experiences as teens would be different.

Here are several of the biggest surprises that I encountered in homeschooling my teens.

  1. They often develop just like typical teens.

I was certain that teenagerhood was just something created by society to excuse bad behavior and poor parenting. All of the conservative Christian homeschooling literature talked about how helpful and cheerful their kids were. How motivated the young people were to do chores and help with siblings. I was shocked when my kids displayed moodiness and bad attitudes because “they’re homeschooled!”

The teen years are not an excuse to let your kids get by with bad attitudes, but don’t be surprised when these things crop up. Teens are trying to figure out their place in the world. They’re learning about love and friendship. They’re dealing with strange feelings toward the opposite sex and figuring out how to make their own way in the world. Some days they can’t wait to grow up and other days they wish parents had never been invented.  Teens are dealing with all of this conflict using very immature, inexperienced brains along with huge rushes of hormones.

Homeschooled teens have just as many bad days as traditionally schooled teens, so there’s nothing wrong with your family. Deal with the attitudes in a compassionate loving way and don’t smother your kids under the expectations that they will never have those rotten times.

2. Homeschooled teens teach themselves all their lessons.

I can’t believe I fell for this homeschooling myth. There are many smart homeschooled kids who do teach themselves chemistry, algebra, and calculus. However, there are just as many who need a little–or a LOT–of hand holding and direction in their lessons.

This concept scares many homeschooling parents (myself included) because their math skills may be a little shaky. I’ve seen these nervous parents dump the responsibility for learning these lessons into the laps of teens, saying that “People can teach themselves anything if they really want to.”

Of course, this is true. But most homeschooled teens don’t really WANT to learn these difficult subjects. If left to themselves, they’d rather do anything else than struggle alone through lesson after lesson of upper level math. These kids are aching for a teacher to come alongside them to teach them what they need to know.

I’ve dropped the ball far too many times in this department. It isn’t fair to my kids to just glibly tell them to figure it out. On my better days, my kid and I spend time together looking up website after website, lesson after lesson until the two of us figure out how it is done.

It IS hard. But it’s the right thing to do. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my kids when they ask me to do what I signed up to do when I decided to homeschool them. They’re asking for a teacher. I can either do it myself, or find one for them.

If I want them to have an excellent education. I am going to have to make that happen.

3. Homeschooled teens need friends.

I read all the books that said that homeschooled teens love hanging out with their families and siblings more than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, my family enjoys spending time together, but around the age of 12 or 13, my kids really longed to step away from the family a bit and make friends with their peers.

This was tricky for me because I read the books that said that my kids should be best friends with their siblings.

But, it’s developmentally normal. I had to step it up socially for my teens. And, yes, as an introvert, it was very, very challenging. But it was SO important.

My kids have the best group of friends. I love these teens so much, and I am so glad that my kids have this peer group. In fact, their concept of friendship is so much healthier than mine was as a teen.

I figured out that I saw teen friendships through the lens that I had developed as a teenager–teens that encouraged one another to develop poor attitudes and to do wrong things. In reality, teens can have healthy friendships that spur one another toward growth, spiritually and emotionally.  I’ve seen it happen in my kitchen every time their group gets together.

The energy that I expended making these relationships happen has been so worth it.

Teens do need friendships. I’ve learned to encourage the healthy ones, making them a priority, and talk, talk, talk to my kids so they know what healthy friendships look like. This helps them spot unhealthy relationships and manage the challenges relating to needy or unhealthy people.

4. Homeschooled teens need just as much prodding to get things done.

There are many tales of homeschooled teens who happily do their chores, their schoolwork, and start home businesses.

In my 15 years of homeschooling, I’ve never met one of these homeschooled kids. I am sure they exist somewhere, but most of the kids that I know…are just like mine. They’ll leave their shoes laying around, have to be told to do the chores that they do every single stupid day, and need external motivation to get their schoolwork done every day.

That’s normal teen behavior. They do grow out of it. At least, I’m told that they do. The jury is still out on my kids.

The teen years are hard but they’re not impossible. Just remember that kids are kids everywhere and don’t hold yours to an impossible standard just because they are homeschooled.

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Should You Put Them Back In School?

In many areas of the country, school has been ongoing for a few weeks. For homeschoolers and typical schoolers, life has settled down into a somewhat predictable routine. For those who have started homeschooling for the first time this year, generally one of two things have happened. Either the routine is working and you’re loving the homeschooling life or things are way harder than you expected and you’re having some doubts. If you’re in this second category, this post is for you.

You feel that you’re in over your head. Perhaps the toddler dropped an entire roll of toilet paper in the toilet during math yesterday and the baby just won’t stop crying. The laundry is piled so high you can’t even see the washer, and you ate the kids’ leftover pizza crusts off their plates for your supper last night. You’re wondering if you’re cut out for the homeschooling life and that big yellow school bus rolling down the street at 7 a.m. is extremely tempting.

Should you put the kids back in school before the rest of the class gets so far ahead they won’t catch up?

Are you going to damage their educational success by continuing to try this experiment?

Wouldn’t the whole family be better off if you could get a few things done each day instead of adding ‘educate the kids’ to your daily to-do list?

The answers to these questions are not simple. The decision to homeschool is an extremely complex one and individual to each family. Here are my thoughts.

First, regarding “being behind the rest of the class;” If your child is younger than the fifth grade, I wouldn’t worry too much about this one. A few weeks or months of slow but steady learning will not hurt your child.If you don’t get to history, science, or art for pretty much the whole year, your child will not be damaged in any way. The key is to keep trying and make a diligent effort every day to do *some* math, *some* English, and *some* reading, at least for the first month or two. If you don’t get to do a full lesson each day, just do what you can. Put in a reasonable amount of effort and let the rest go. The key is to start getting the whole family into a learning routine. As you go, you and the kids will get a bit better at time and family management.

Second, are you going to damage your kids learning like this? As long as your kids are learning and progressing, they’ll be fine. Slow for the first few weeks is okay. Just be diligent.

Third, the doubts about whether this is working are much more difficult to assess. I’m not one of those people who believe that homeschooling is for everyone. Each family is different. However, I would encourage you to give it three or four weeks of diligent effort before you throw in the towel. You can discern then whether or not it’s going to work out long term.

If you feel constantly overwhelmed with the chaos of juggling littles and teaching lessons, perhaps you should put this undertaking off for a year or two. It’s okay to admit that this is not the season for homeschooling for your family.

However, if you really want to make it work, figure out some strategies for making it doable.

If household chores are making you crazy, learn a solid housekeeping routine and get the whole family on board. Be realistic though and understand that your kids won’t like that very much and you will have to tell them again and again to do their chores. You could hire a maid or just do all of your cleaning and laundry on the weekends. After all, you are working when you are teaching your kids, so treat your household work like other working moms do.

If littles are an ongoing struggle, try to figure out a way to address it. Perhaps there’s a homeschooled teen living nearby who would love to earn some money playing with your toddler for a few hours each week. Maybe you could put your toddler tornado into mother’s day out once or twice a week. Use nap time as a good time to study. Or, just study with your kids while your little guy takes a bubble bath, plays in the sink (the floor needs mopping anyway), or sorts Fruit Loops. Your kids can also have a rotating assignment of entertaining the toddler as a part of their school.

If the kids are struggling to adjust to mom teaching them and taking their turns with her, brainstorm ways of making school work better for the family. Everyone should take turns and be fair. Maybe the kids can figure out better ways of juggling mom and the baby. I promise that they’ll be more invested in working a plan if they have a hand in creating a solution to the problem.

In the end if you do decide to put the kids back in school, know that it’s okay. You didn’t fail. You tried something and it didn’t work out the way that you planned. Maybe next year. Let go of the guilt and enjoy your kids while they are home in the afternoons and evenings.

 

 

What makes a good Mommy?

It is interesting to see how people define what makes a good mom.

A good mom cooks three meals from scratch each day.

A good mom breastfeeds each infant until they self-wean.

A good mom co-sleeps with her babies and never lets them cry.

A good mom homeschools all of her kids all the way through high school and gives them ALL a stellar education.

A good mom does crafts with her children, creating lovely works of art with them.

A good mom stays slim, exercises an hour a day, (with baby in a backpack) and does it cheerfully.

A good mom…..

Fill in the blank.

We all have these ideas in our heads about what it takes to be a good mom. We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform at ridiculous levels.

We worry that our children will be overweight if we don’t cook them a tasty, nutritious dinner each night and have them in 2 sports every season.

We worry that our kids will flunk out of college and live in our basements for the rest of their lives if we don’t kill ourselves teaching them algebra in the fifth grade.

We worry that our colicky babies will grow up damaged if we gently set them in a crib alone for 5 minutes so we can go to the bathroom and get a grip on our emotions.

Where do these expectations come from?

It seems that moms are really hard on themselves these days. Perhaps it’s the Pinterest/Facebook generation. But for whatever reason, we feel that we have to prove to ourselves, to our kids, to the world that we are good moms.

Here’s the truth of it. Here’s how to be a good mom.

Do the best you can.

Love your kids.

Listen to them.

Don’t let idealogy and parenting experts run your home.

Do what’s best for your kids and your family.

And most of all.

Pray. Read the Word. And trust Him “who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude 24)

Don’t let unrealistic expectations rob you of the joy of motherhood. Parenting is easier than you think.

 

How Do You Do It All?

I stay busy. I like to. We farm. I homeschool. I love to cook. I write as a freelancer and work at my church. I teach a weekly drama class and we put on two productions per year.

People ask me how I do it all.

Honestly, I don’t do it all.

I don’t create my own homeschool curriculum. I buy premade stuff and we do the next thing.

My high schoolers use the virtual school.

I don’t get caught up in “growing everything we eat, making 100% of our food from scratch with all organic ingredients.” I do the best I can to fill empty tummies with good wholesome food, but I don’t stress about it.

Our yard’s not pristine and weeds grow in my flowerbeds.

My house is livably clean but quite disorganized and sometimes messy.

I sew but only specialty items that are expensive and hard to find…which means a prom dress or two per year. Maybe a baby quilt for a gift.

So how do I do it all?

Well, I don’t do it all.

Nobody does.

No one can homeschool with nothing but a library card, raise all their own food, teach their kids three languages, sew their own clothing, teach at the local co-op, run a homeschooling group, cook from scratch, and run a part time business from home while keeping a sparkling clean, Martha Stewart home.

It’s impossible.

As an experienced homeschool mom, I’d advise anyone who feels inadequate to evaluate their own family and their own priorities. Focus on the two or three things that are most important to you and your kids, and let the rest go. Take into account the ages of your kids and don’t stress about it.

You don’t have to do it all, and neither do I.

Forget about Pinterest-perfect, and Facebook-flawless and just live your life to the best of your ability.

It’ll be okay.

 

 

Rude Kids? Grumpy Kids? It’s Okay!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten so down because of my kids’ behavior. Despite my best efforts, I look at my kids and they don’t look anything like the kids that I’d imagined I’d have.

They’re bickering and fussing.

They’re rude. They call each other hateful, ugly names.

Even though I’ve nagged and griped, their socks are still in the floor, they burp at the table, and they hate to share their stuff.

I think, “What kind of a mom am I? Why can’t I do something about these kids?”

After all, I’ve been in this job for years. And even though I’ve been consistent, bordering on rigid in trying to instill basic decency in my kids, sometimes, I look at them in exasperation.

My exasperation turns inward, and I wonder how badly I am ruining my kids.

This is pretty common. It’s too easy to believe the lie that good kids are made by good parents. You see polite well-mannered kids in public and think that the other moms know something that you don’t. Their kids don’t whine and cry. Their kids don’t call each other names like “booger lips” and “poop face.”

Let me tell you a secret.

Even the very best families have their moments. The moments when their kids are mean, hateful, unkind, selfish, and rude.

Some kids take correction better than others. Others can be a bit defensive and argue with you about everything.

Some kids are naturally more compliant than others. Other kids have more defiant natures.

Some kids are more empathetic and others are more naturally self-centered.

Some kids are better at picking up social cues and others have to be explicitly told things like “For the fifth time today, will you PLEASE get your hand out of your pants!”

Just like some kids are neater and others are sloppy, personalities are a huge part of how your kids behave and how they treat one another. None of them are born automatically knowing how to resolve conflict, treat one another fairly, and be polite.

It’s all too easy to look to the future and imagine your son calling his children hateful names and your daughter screaming and slamming doors when angry. And then you jump to, “It’s all my fault!”

Take heart, dear mama. Your kids don’t misbehave because of you. They don’t say horrible things, shove their siblings, tease, pass gas at the table, mess up the house, and argue because you can’t get through to them.

They do these things because they are kids. And this is how most kids act from time to time. Had Jesus himself raised children, he would have dealt with many of these same behaviors.

I have a few pieces of advice for you if you’re feeling like an utter failure in training your children.

First, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t out to get you and their behavior is most likely not a reflection of your parenting skills. It’s just kid stuff. And so often the bad behavior is just a reflection of their sin nature combined with immaturity.

Second, do your best. I’m not telling you to quit trying or to ignore bad behavior. Just hang in there, be consistent, firm and kind, and keep going.

Third, don’t draw conclusions about the future based upon today’s misbehavior. This will suck you into a weird place that you don’t want to be. You will panic, thinking that everything has to be fixed right NOW!

Fourth, read a few parenting books if there are particular behaviors that are troubling. But don’t get all caught up into one parenting philosophy that says “You have to parent this way.” or “Your children will only serve the Lord if you parent like this.” Remember that there are no guarantees in parenting. Better yet, talk to parents who have well behaved children, especially if they are older than yours. Ask them what they did about fighting, drama, undone chores, or tantrums. Always be flexible and go into these conversations looking for ideas rather than a magic bullet to “fix” your children.

Sometimes parenting is discouraging. But stay the course and remember that you can do this!

Getting It Done

Over the past few years, my part time work has gradually ratcheted up. I’ve also taken on some duties at our church and began a drama class that consumes at least six hours a week. Despite my other interests, we still have to tackle schoolwork and take care of our farm animals. All that to say, we’re pretty busy people and I have to be quite intentional about getting important stuff done.

So how do I do it? Well, here are a few tips that I’ve used through the years to stay on top of things. Of course, I frequently get behind, but when things are working well, these are the things that I do.

Make a list. I usually make a couple lists. I make a weekly list and a daily list. Sometimes, if I don’t have a pile of stuff on my weekly list, I just check things off of it and don’t do a daily list. But, if there’s a ton going on, I tend to get overwhelmed with a huge list of my whole week’s chores, so I need it broken down into daily tasks. Furthermore, I will break down my daily list into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks to keep myself on track. Everyone know that “If mom doesn’t write it down, it doesn’t happen!” so, my family makes sure that things get jotted down on mom’s notepad. These lists aren’t complicated, but I usually make them on a steno pad or other notebook that lives on my counter. Otherwise, the lists get misplaced.

Delegate. First thing in the morning, I decide which chores will go to which kid. If I don’t consciously make these decisions when I am planning my day, I tend to try to do too much while the kids sit around and do nothing.

Use Pre-Planned curricula. As much as I love the idea of curricula that combine library books, art projects, printouts, and lots of informal learning, I’ve figure out that they are not for me. I need things that are open and go. If things get crazy, those planning-intensive programs will not happen. So, I’ve chosen things that don’t require lots of prep work from me.

Simplify where at all possible. My meals are tasty and nutritious for the most part. But they are not extravagant. Most of our meals are 30 minutes or less of prep. On days that I have to leave the house in the afternoon and won’t get back until late, I plan a quick and simple or crock pot meal. Also, my kids eat (gasp) cereal for most breakfasts. I like to cook, but I don’t have time for extravagant at this time in our life. At least not on school days.

Use little chunks of time. Many tasks can be broken down into 10-15 minute increments. Don’t have a huge block of time to clean the living room? Tackle it ten minutes at a time. You can clean out the couch, dust, or wipe the baseboards in ten minutes at a time. If you do this a couple times per day, your living room will be clean by evening. Don’t waste those tiny fragments of time that come your way. If I pay attention, I can use them to get things knocked out quickly. I timed myself once. It takes me less than 5 minutes to unload the dishwasher!

Don’t get behind on dishes or laundry. If I do nothing else with housekeeping during the day, I always do dishes before bed and a full load of laundry, including folding and putting it away.

Don’t get more than a week behind on grading papers. I hate grading papers, but it’s worse when it’s a huge mound that takes an hour and a half to plow through.

Just one more thing. I know, at the end of the day, you’re tired and so am I. But sometimes, I need to push through and finish that one more thing before I quit for the night. Clear that counter. Fold that laundry. Straighten up the living room. Just do that one more thing before you quit and that’s one less that will be staring at you in the morning.

I still get woefully behind on certain tasks. However, by using the above tips, I generally can avoid my work becoming overwhelming. Remember, if everyone has clean socks and undies, and a full belly, you can live to fight another day.

 

 

 

 

Challenging Kids and Schoolwork Meltdowns Part 2

Learning to accept mistakes and failure has been a LONG process for my dd. I mean YEARS of work. There’s nothing that I’ve done that was an automatic home run. It’s taken many many years to come as far as we have.

One thing I’ve had to model was my acceptance of my own mistakes. “Rats. I burnt our supper. That is so annoying. Ugh. (sigh) Okay. I guess we will have grilled cheese tonight. It’s okay!”

You see, my kid was constantly comparing herself to an adult who (in her eyes) always does everything right. However, she can’t see the years of practice it takes to get good at stuff. So verbalizing my own mistakes, and failures and modeling how to gracefully accept mistakes helps.

With regard to school, I had to change from the mindset of “doing it over and over” to “We’re a team. Let’s (me and you) work through this together and find the problem” I had to come alongside her and help her. Markerboards are great because if you mess up, the mistake is wiped away. However, I have to approach helping this daughter differently. Any expression of frustration, any irritability on my part, and emotion other than cheerful helpfulness (and it has to be genuine! She can spot my faking it!) just multiplies her emotional response to failure.

So, when we work together, I stop and check my mindset. Am I stressed? Am I annoyed that she’s whining or frustrated yet again? I’ve got to get that under control before I can be an effective teacher. It’s okay to say, “Sweetie, I am having a hard time today. I would love to help you but you deserve a teacher who can be patient with you and I’m just not there right now. Is there any way we can come back to this in an hour?”

Next, I try to reassure her. “Hey, this is hard. It’ll be okay. We can get through it.” Gentle hug on the shoulders. Help her take deep breaths. Remember it’s just ONE lesson on ONE day. “If we don’t get it today, we’ll try again tomorrow. No big deal.”

I often hand her a few chocolate chips or a peppermint to suck on as I look it over. Sometimes, especially if I am working with my other kids I say gently, “Hey, I know you don’t want to be interrupted, and I want to give you my full attention. Is there any way that you can move on to something else for a bit and we will tackle this with fresh eyes in an hour?”

So we sat down with a marker board. I tried to explain as best I could. I definitely tried to avoid “talking down” to her. Things went best when I could keep it on a peer-to-peer type tone to the explanation.(I know I am still the mom, I’m just explaining how things work best.)

For us, things went best when I could break stuff down into microbits and make sure she got one step down pat before we moved on to the next.

Also, in math, for very tricky concepts (especially word problems with fractions!) I tried to demonstrate it with small manageable whole numbers and then once the understanding was there, we tried to apply that to the complexity of fractions.

Remember, I’m a mess too. So often, I forgot to do all of the above and we had a huge breakdown that was partially caused by my being in a hurry or my own frustration.

Another thing that I wish I had done when my dd was younger was to be more in tune to age appropriate materials. See, she’s really really smart and just zipped through material in the first and second grade. By the time she was 8-9 years old she had the assumption that school was supposed to be easy. Then when the materials ramped up in complexity, she didn’t know how to handle it. Also, she probably sensed my own foolish pride at having a child who was working so far ahead of grade level.

I also didn’t take into account that materials written for the average 5-6 grader assume that the child has the maturity to sit down for  a longer, more strenuous lesson. The lessons had more problems with more complexity. When my 8 yo was given these same materials, she was frustrated because she didn’t have the EMOTIONAL maturity to sit down and concentrate that long on the subject. So I should have been more conscious of the fact that while she could understand the complexity of the topic, she was still very much 8 years old and she probably needed more than one day to tackle a typical lesson for an older kid.

Also, I’ve learned to very wisely choose my battles. As long as handwriting is legible and reasonably neat, I don’t say too much about it. As long as she’s doing her work well, she can work with classical music blaring. As long as she’s doing well, I don’t care if she’s slouched on the couch or sitting at the table.

These kids really need autonomy and respect. Giving her the freedom to choose how to learn certain things shows her that I respect that. And I try to phrase it in a way that says, “Hey, as long as it’s working, we’ll do it your way. If it stops working you and I will figure out a better way.” The key is to make sure that she’s in on the solution to finding that better way, rather than me dictating stuff to her.

Homeschooling an intense kid is not easy at all. However, it is possible. There are many ways to figure out how to make it work. These are just some suggestions that worked for us. If you’re a parent of an intense, easily frustrated child and you want to homeschool, it is possible.

Challenging Kids and Schoolwork Meltdowns!

One of the most difficult parts of homeschooling my intense child has been working around meltdowns related to schoolwork. It’s practically impossible to teach a child who is crying, screaming, or throwing things.

Intense kids have very low tolerances for frustration, and this means that the instant something is difficult, they may fall apart. Some kids may lash out in anger, while others melt into a puddle of tears. Either way, you can’t make progress on your lessons when the second that something is challenging, your child melts down.

For many years, I was unsure how to handle these events. I tried punishing her. I tried making her redo shredded or wadded up papers. I tried being slow, calm, and patient, which only seemed to infuriate her more.

Eventually, I had to start considering things from my daughter’s point of view and I began to understand some things about her.

I had to realize that my dd has insane expectations of herself.  She is totally a perfectionist and totally can’t accept failures and faults. She believes that she should instantly know everything that she doesn’t. She bristles at the idea that parents might know more than her.

You can call it arrogance or whatever, I think it’s mostly immaturity. Remember when as a teen you thought that your parents were ignorant? You didn’t understand about life and the real world. You didn’t respect that they had experiences that you didn’t.

All that to say this: I took the mouthy argumentativeness way too personally. Most of her problems with school stemmed from her immature inability to accept help and her own limitations. Of course, she WAS being rude, but by thinking about her mindset, her terrible expectations, I could see that she was expecting WAY more of herself academically than I EVER could. That’s why “being right” or being unable to gracefully accept correction became such an issue. She took those red Xs on the page completely  personally. She saw them as a personal attack on her intelligence.

My fussing and fuming over her rudeness and arrogance was missing the point. I had to find a way to help her see that failure isn’t the end of the world. That asking for help wasn’t a failure. That she was valuable and loved even with flaws.

Now stay with me here. I’m not into that parenting paradigm that says, “Nothing is a child’s fault. If they feel loved and accepted they will not behave badly. Bad parenting is the only reason that kids struggle.” I promise that is not what I am saying.

But the point that I am trying to make is that unless I could look deeper and get to the root of why she was so hard on herself and why she had such dreadful expectations, I could expect the melt-downs to continue. If I could help her understand more about the learning process, the struggle to get things right, and that naturally some things are going to be hard, she might eventually be able to not take failure and struggle so personally.

I can gripe at my dd for being rude and arrogant, but until she grows into the realization that her value is not related to her academic success, I’m fighting a losing battle. She will still react badly to failure until she gains the maturity and insight and the confidence that she’s going to be okay even if she screws up.

I’ve had to try to stop punishing and isolating her for poor reactions due to this. Instead, I try to be proactive and change the way that we do school to help her gently accept correction. I’ve learned that traditional school methods (marking things wrong and expecting the child to correct them or redo them until it’s right) will just lead to her feeling more down on herself. She interprets them as a personal attack. I’ve had better success changing the way that I approach schoolwork and corrections and asking for help.

Even when an intense kids seems old enough to be able to tackle lessons on their own, I learned that things went better when I sat with my daughter as she worked on difficult lessons. I could keep an eye on her progress and her mental state. If she seemed to be getting worked up, we could tackle the problem together before the meltdown hit.

I also had to be super careful not to get frustrated or act bothered by her requests for assistance. If I could keep it together, we stood a better chance of getting through the snag without falling apart.

I’ll go on to part 2 with some concrete examples and more practical advice on school work meltdowns in a day or two.

 

Grumbling, Complaining, Thankfulness, and Joy

I hate snow. I hate winter. I hate illness.

We’ve had plenty of the above over the last few weeks, and I’ve noticed my attitude souring greatly. I grew up in Florida, and I guess I still have the tropics in my blood. In winter, it’s hard for me to keep my attitude cheerful.

This morning I was reading my Bible, and I’ve been reading in Exodus about the nation of Israel in the wilderness. God had done many mighty, wondrous works for them. He rescued them from Egyptian slavery and kept them safe as Pharaoh’s army pursued them to the desert. He did an amazing miracle as he parted the Red Sea for millions of people to cross on dry ground.

A beautiful song of praise is recorded in chapter 15. Two of my favorite verses are Exodus 15:2, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. This is my God and I will praise him. My father’s God and I will exalt him.” And in Exodus 15:13, “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed. You have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

And yet, in the very next chapter, we see an ugly episode. The people began grumbling and complaining about the food. They forgot that God had taken them that far and would continue to sustain them. They took their frustrations out on their leaders, Moses and Aaron. Moses answered them in Exodus 16:8, “Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

And this is so true. Any time I begin complaining about my lot in life, I am shaking my finger in the face of the Lord and saying, “This is not good enough for me. I don’t like what you are doing here, Lord. All of your blessings are not enough for me.”

I’ve learned something lately. My grumbling and complaining only hurts myself. It sucks the joy right out of my life. However, when I cultivate a thankful heart, the joy just flows right through me.

Yes, life is hard. It sWinter 2015-2016 010nows. I’m trapped in the house for days at a time with children who also are not always so pleasant. My outside work is made more difficult and time consuming by the weather. However, I have a lovely home that keeps us warm on cold days. We have enough to eat, and other than some colds, coughs, and sore throats, overall, we are a pretty healthy bunch. I can choose to focus on the negative and make myself and my family miserable. Or, I can be thankful, joyful, and cheerful and bring a whole lot of happy to my family. The choice is all mine.

God’s Will and Me

I have a graduating Senior this year. There are some huge decisions that must be made by her in the next few months. We’re already deep into the world of ACT scores, college applications, and scholarship essays. She often feels overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions that she has to make right now.

I understand.

I remember vividly my own anxiety at this time period in my life. I went to a small Christian school and I remember preachers and teachers talking about “the Will of God” and how important it was for young people to figure out what THE WILL OF GOD was for their life and to do it.

Then, there was this thing called “The Perfect Will of God” and “The Permissive Will of God.” The Perfect Will of God was God’s ideal plan for your life. The Permissive Will of God was the second-rate plan for your life. It was okay, but if you fell into God’s permissive will, then you were doomed to a life of mediocrity.

I remember stressing out so much trying to figure out God’s Perfect Will for my life. I didn’t want to settle for second best. But there were so many huge decisions to be made. How could I be sure I was in God’s Perfect Will? It seemed so nebulous, and it felt that without meaning to, I’d be stuck in the Permissive Will with one wrong misstep. *

It was confusing.

I was to pray about the Will of God with regards to my future spouse. But, I wondered, what if that one perfect spouse marries someone else? How is it right that someone else can mess up the Perfect Will of God for me?

I was to pray about God’s Perfect Will for my future. But, what if I didn’t choose the correct major? What if I attended the wrong college? I could lose years of my life at the wrong school or in the wrong major.

Looking back, I can now see how messed up my thinking was. I’ve thought about this considerably in the past few years, studied the Word, and I think I’ve figured out some interesting things about God’s Will and Me.

First of all, there was only one person who perfectly worked out God’s Will in His life. That was Jesus. It’s not God’s Will that people do anything wrong, so every time we sin, we are stepping out of God’s Perfect Plan for our lives. But the amazing thing about Grace is that we don’t ruin our lives with these missteps. He will still use someone with all sorts of problems and mistakes in their lives. Think about it! The Scripture is full of examples of common people with dumb mistakes and poor choices who were mightily used of the Lord.

Second, God does want us to listen to his guidance for our lives. I feel strongly that God does work personally in the lives of those who love him. He does communicate with us. It is vitally important that we regularly pray for His direction. However, sometimes when we don’t feel that we have direction in one way or another, it’s okay to just make a logical, wise decision. For instance, one can pray about the choice of a college major. It’s perfectly fine, after a time of intense prayer and seeking God’s heart on the matter, to choose what makes the most sense to you, provided you feel that all choices are equal. Many times, I’ve prayed “God, I’ve asked you about this many times. I don’t feel a particular direction is more pleasing to you over the other. I plan on doing x. If you don’t want me to do x, please make it plain to me.” God has never let me down. If I’ve asked him to interrupt my plans to show me a better way, he always has done it. However, there have been times when I’ve gone ahead with what I’ve considered, and things have worked out perfectly fine anyway. The key is to keep an open heart that is willing to listen for His voice and obey.

Third, God’s will is broken down into daily increments. We can’t get so wrapped up in seeking the “Big Picture” Will of God that we neglect the little things. The little daily things are important too. Scripture is plain that God rewards faithfulness in the small things. So if you are looking for the “Big Picture,” start small. Be faithful today where you are. Develop your personal Christian life: read the Word, study it, be faithful to church, pray all the time, grow as a Christian. And develop your outward-focused Christian life: be kind to others, love your neighbor, help those in need, work hard at your job in an ethical manner. God will work out his Grand Plan for your life through your daily faithfulness.

Fourth, don’t be afraid. God’s will is bigger than our mistakes. If you mess up, repent and do your best to move forward. Don’t give up because you’ve fumbled around and lost time. Don’t feel that God won’t use you because of your past problems. God is in the business of taking our messes and turning them around to bring Him glory.

If yesterday, you made one of the biggest mistakes of your life, wake up this morning determined to do right from this point forward. Of course, sin has consequences. Make amends with those you’ve hurt; accept the consequences with a grim determination that you will never go there again. And then move on. You can find God’s will again after making some royal blunders. Just look at the lives of Jacob, Rahab, David, and so many others in the Scripture.

Don’t allow your fear of “missing God’s Will” to paralyze you. Don’t allow Satan to tell you that it’s too late for you because you’ve already missed out on God’s “Perfect Will.” The Will of God is a Big Thing, but it’s not a fearful thing. God loves us so very much, and he wants what’s best because he knows what will make us happy and holy.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

Last, I’ve learned that God’s will isn’t so complicated. Each day, surrender your heart and life to Him. Stay as far from sin as you can. Listen for his voice, and read the Word. Cultivate a Godly worldview and examine yourself for wrong attitudes and motives. That’s it. Doing those things will put you in the position of knowing what God wants for you each day. When God says, “Follow me,” just obey.

There’s no reason to get overwhelmed and scared about God’s will. He is faithful to let us know what we need to do and when we should do it.

 

*I understand what my well-meaning leaders were attempting to do. They were trying to stress the importance of seeking God first above our own personal ambitions. They were trying to get us students to take our life plans seriously and not think that options like “sowing wild oats” were okay. Perhaps in my youth, I misunderstood the points that were trying to be made. I do not fault these people for their attempts to guide us. I know they meant well.

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