When we decided to homeschool, a friend loaned me the curriculum she had used with her only child. I felt sorry for this poor boy. He went to the neighborhood public school during the school years, and his mother also homeschooled him in the summers. For example, first he did third grade with his mother in the summer and then he did third grade in the public school. On and on this went year after year. His parents made this decision for him because they wanted to help him get into the university school when he got into junior high.
We didn’t make our decision to homeschool until August of 1990, so I had to hustle to get ready for the fall semester. My friend loaned me her whole collection of six years’ worth of textbooks though we only had three children. It was quite a stack!
Even though I was trying to recreate public school at home back then, I quickly saw the need to switch things around. One of my first feeble attempts at thinking outside the box was to rearrange the chapters in the three science books I was using because they taught the same topics at various times of the year for the various grades. It seemed to me that we might as well all study the same topic at the same time.
In time I learned to combine subjects, as well. The idea of separating school subjects into distinct classes is an old idea but it is an idea that doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems to me that many subject areas overlap and that it’s more interesting to combine subjects—and probably more effective, too.
It occurred to me years ago that schools may have strict schedules with so many minutes for English, so many for history, and so many for science, etc., but that the rest of our lives is not that way. Life is fluid and filled with work and responsibilities, joys and sorrows, good news and bad news, housework and yard work, relationships and chores. We often experience all of those things on the same day.
This really came home to me on an October Saturday in 2009. I was sitting up late working on a special gift for our daughter Bethany whose wedding tea was the next day. The phone rang. It was a doctor at a hospital in Nashville telling me that my mother had had a heart attack, and he had just performed emergency surgery on her. We drove to Nashville to the hospital, arriving about 2:00 a.m. The next morning Mother assured us that she wanted us to go to the tea, so we got permission to take showers in an empty hospital room, drove back home, and went to the tea.
Our precious friend Lorraine Maddux was still living then and she hosted a fancy, old-fashioned party for Bethany at her beautiful home. She was always the perfect Southern hostess. She hosted us for three weeks when we first moved to Cookeville in 1993 while we looked for, purchased, and moved into a house of our own.
I realized that day that I could be very sad and very happy all at the same time.
I had expected those two days to revolve around our daughter’s tea. Little did I know that an emergency, deep concern, and three hours on the road would be added into the mix.
You homeschooling mamas don’t get to divide your time into neat time slots every day with only one responsibility per slot. Sometimes great joys and great sorrows are mixed in with the responsibilities.
I don’t know what all of your joys and sorrows might be today, but since that October weekend in 2009, I have known that you can have both joys and sorrows in the same time slot. I also know that Jesus understands all of the human things we enjoy and the ones that we suffer.
Our song leader recently led this wonderful old hymn, written by Jeremiah Rankin (1828-1904). Here are the first verse and the chorus:
Are you weary, are you heavyhearted?
Tell it to Jesus,
Tell it to Jesus;
Are you grieving over joys departed?
Tell it to Jesus alone.
Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a friend that’s well known;
You’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.
The song goes on to ask other questions:
Do the tears flow down your cheeks unbidden?
Do you fear the gath’ring clouds of sorrow?
Are you anxious what shall be tomorrow?
The answer, according to the hymn, is to tell it to Jesus alone. Hebrews 4:14-16 teaches us that Jesus is not a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses. No, He is One who has been tempted in all things just as we are and yet He did not sin. We can go to Him for mercy and grace for help when we need them.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus the Son of God,
let’s hold firmly to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but One who has been tempted
in all things just as we are, yet without sin.
Therefore let’s approach
the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace for help at the time of our need.