People begin homeschooling for different reasons. Some of us do it to give our kids a customized education. Some of us do it so that we can give them a religious education. And some of us do it to protect our kids from some of the negative influences that they would encounter in a public school. But have you considered the negative influences that your kids will be subjected to at home?
I recently had a humbling experience at our house when I realized this very thing. My oldest son is preparing to go on a missions trip to Brazil with his youth group. Over the past week, he has been working on writing the letter that he’ll be sending to our friends and family to ask for their financial support.
His trip to Brazil is very expensive. In fact, it’s about the same amount of money that we would spend to take a vacation for our entire family! Because of this, I felt that I had a vested interest in how his support letter turned out. Whatever support he isn’t able to raise will be our responsibility to come up with.
This is the first time my son has ever had to write a letter like this so I tried to help him as much as I could without hijacking the process and making it MY letter. And there were a few times when my son got stuck.
One of those times was when he was trying to think of why he was going on the trip in the first place.
That one sort of surprised me. He has been thinking about this trip and preparing for it for several months. So when he struggled to put his reasons for going into words, I became a bit frustrated. I offered him suggestions about why people usually go on mission’s trips but he insisted that wasn’t why he was going.
As the days passed and he continued to struggle with his reasons for going, I started to get a little bit pushier. I began pressing him to write down some reasons that he SHOULD want to go on the trip. I even told him something like, “That’s the kind of thing people are going to WANT TO READ when they receive your letter.”
To my surprise, my 15-year-old son replied with, “Mom, I’m not going to write something down just to get people to give me more money.”
Playing the game
Was I so concerned about him raising money that I was trying to get my son to just write something down that would loosen people’s purse strings? Not consciously. But I do know that rather than trusting God to bring in the financial support that my son needs for his trip, I was trying to take matters into my own hands.
I was pushing him to say something I thought someone else would want to hear.
And unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that I’ve tried to do this with my sons.
A few years back, my other son was going through a program at our church which was extremely stressful for him. His class was reading through the book of John and each week they had several questions he had to answer about the passage they had read. These questions were things such as, “What was your favorite verse?” “What did you learn?” “How is your life going to be different after what you have read?”
These questions were very frustrating for my son. Week after week, he struggled to come up with anything to write down. He would be close to tears as he told me things like, “I don’t have a favorite verse” or “I didn’t learn anything this time.”
I agreed with him that these questions were difficult. Especially because they were the exact same questions week after week. But in my effort to help him complete his homework, I remember telling him, “It isn’t anything to get that upset about. It doesn’t have to be that momentous of a thing. Just write something down.”
He was working on a Bible study and I wanted him to stop taking it so seriously and write something down?
A hard realization
As I realized what I had been trying to get my boys to do, I knew that I needed to apologize to them both. I was trying to get them to write down what other people wanted to hear regardless of whether or not it was the absolute truth.
Here I was putting in all of the effort to homeschool my boys, trying to make sure they weren’t in negative situations that would pressure them to compromise their integrity, and then I was turning around and pressing them to do that very thing myself.
Do my boys have more integrity than I do?
A happy conclusion
As soon as I realized what I had been doing, I made a point to apologize to both of my sons individually. I explained to them what I felt I had been doing and I commended them for their desire to be truthful even when it was hard.
Fortunately, both of my boys were more than willing to accept my apology.
I’ve had to apologize to my boys MANY times in the past and I’ve found that they have always been very gracious about it. I’ve also found that my willingness to humble myself before them usually leads to a closer relationship between us.
That same thing is true when we admit our failures to God and ask for His forgiveness. Just like our kids, He knows when we’ve handled something in a way that we shouldn’t. And just like our kids, He is always more than ready to forgive us when we ask.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
And James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
Back to the mission’s support letter
So… I had apologized. My son had forgiven me. But what about that mission’s support letter? My son still needed to come up with his reasons for going to Brazil – and they needed to be more substantial than just being excited about visiting a different country or going on his first major ride in an airplane.
But it also needed to be an honest answer.
After some thought and prayer, and after having a discussion with my husband, my son was able discern why he wanted to go to Brazil. In his own words, this is his reason:
“In my life, I have gone to a lot of church camps. At these camps, I have always learned a lot about God and have been drawn closer to him. My goal is to help the kids at Camp Paradise to have the same experience.”
He did have a good reason for going! I’m proud that my son wasn’t willing to settle for the easy answer. He was determined to do the work to come up with the most honest and heartfelt answer that he could. And that’s good enough for me!
Have you ever had a situation where you looked back and realized that you hadn’t given your kids the best advice? Or where you were pushing them to spit out the easy answer just to get it done? Or to tell people what you knew they wanted to hear? Please leave a comment below.