real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

embracing the seasons of life ~ grace in parenting, part seven


Ben and Julie, April, 2009

Moms tend to forget things. Taking the jeans out of the dryer to avoid wrinkles. Defrosting meat for dinner. Sending the check out the door for piano lessons. Mia culpa. So I write myself notes, hoping this exercise prepares me for the days ahead when I will need to be reminded to change my underwear or take my pills!

There is one thing I will never forget, however, and that is the birth of my children. Just like it was yesterday, I remember each one’s introduction into the world, their big round eyes looking into my face for the first time, days spent cuddling them, milk trickling down their chubby chins as they drifted off into full-tummy slumber. And as silly as it might seem now, I always used to look at their tiny fingers wrapped around mine and thought “One day there will be a wedding band on that little hand.”

I have already experienced “one day” three times and this week our family has enjoyed the announcement that another “one day” will be coming soon. As Ben and Julie announced their engagement, we again marveled at God’s goodness and grace to us in the ever-changing seasons of our lives, His going before us and preparing a way.

I love the Scripture’s promise to us in Isaiah 58:11” “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Imagine that the Lord God, Creator of the Universe, Sovereign of all time, past, present, and future, cares enough for me that He orchestrates these very changes in our lives. In fact, they are a gift to us from His loving and merciful hand.

But even as I realize the importance and purpose for change in my life, it is even more crucial for me, as a mom, to welcome the changing seasons in the lives of my children.. As God extends His grace to me, so I must extend it to them.

It is a difficult truth to accept let alone embrace, but from the time a child comes into the family, a mom’s job is to prepare that child to leave. It is to be a slow and steady process with the ultimate goal of children learning both autonomy and interdependence with others outside of his family and how to discern which is required in any given situation.

In his research on successful families, George Barna lists four qualities that are present in families who have successfully traveled through the various seasons of parenting and I believe they are really important lessons for homeschooling families to learn.

1. Great parents are highly engaged with their children. They are there for their kids, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Deuteronomy 6, the proverbial homeschooler verse, tells us both what we are to share with our children and how to do it: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” In other words, we are to be engaged 24/7 and are to seize every opportunity to make an impact in their lives for eternity.

2. Great parents spend lots and lots of time with their children.
Sometimes I am amazed at how busy families are and at how divided family members are from each other. Between church activities, sports, enrichment groups, co-ops, and lessons of all kinds, sadly, homeschooling families often spend little time with each other outside of schoolwork.

But it is in the simple, quiet moments, the “downtime” when the real discipleship takes place. Have you ever noticed how much time Jesus spent with his disciples, sharing spiritual truths, speaking into their very hearts and souls? There was no “tyranny of the urgent” in His relationships with His children.

3. Great parents are those who are willing to listen.
This begins when little children point at everything, wanting to know what it is. It continues with answering infinite numbers of questions during the day, questions there are sometime no answers for. And as they grow older and the questions become more complex, many times children process and think out loud, not really expecting an answer but wanting to see your reaction.

Perhaps the best thing I have learned in the years I have been involved in my Toastmasters club has been the importance of the art of listening attentively and purposing to understand what the speaker is really saying. Less than half of communication is speaking and by listening well you allow your child to communicate his needs and thoughts.

Children will not talk to us, though, if we multi-task while they do and that includes sharing your attention with siblings. They need to see our eyes focused on them, our heads nodding in affirmation, our body language open, and our words gentle and exhortive.

4. Great parents are ones who can balance their ability to be vulnerable and soft with the need to be the proper authority in their lives, ones who can deliver the hard messages of life without crushing the spirit.
One of the things I have so appreciated about our pastor is his ability to present the hard truth of the Word of God in such a manner that at the end of his sermon, you find yourself desiring to do the right thing, to submit to the Lord because you love Him, rather than feeling beaten into compliance. It has served as a lesson to me with my own children.

As parents, this balancing act is acquired through trial and error and probably looks different with each child, depending on needs and personalities, and certainly changes throughout all the seasons of parenting. Seeking God’s grace and applying His measure of that same grace to our children is the secret to saying the hard things.

One of the best ways to speak difficult truth to others is through the use of storytelling. Jesus spoke in parables to his disciples and was able to present vital truth by beginning with the “natural” and leading his listeners into the “supernatural,” helping them draw the correct conclusions so they would make the right choices. Not long ago I read an article about the trend in large corporations to instruct top executives in the art of analogy, showing them how personal stories shared to teach key principles is the most effective means of teaching and training. And when those stories are told about our own lives, especially when we were the same age as the child we are discipling, how valuable that can be!

Engaging, listening, exhorting and spending lots of time with our children is how we apply the one anothers and fulfill the calling given to us as parents, through all the seasons of life.

“Exhort one another lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin…and so much more as you see the day approaching.” from Hebrews 3:13 and 10:25.



  Heather1028 wrote @

Thanks so much for this encouraging post. I needed it today. I am thinking of only being on the computer when my kids are sleeping or out of the house since the Internet is such a time and attention stealer in our house. My kiddos are 13, 11, 9, and 7.


  thatmom wrote @

Hi Heather.

There were many years where I can’t remember being on the computer much but I do remember being on the telephone too much! I find now that if I wait to be online when the kids are doing something else, I can be on and off more quickly anyway!

I had an older woman who shared with a bunch of us younger moms once that she spent her summers making daisy chains with her kids, meaning that she wasn’t going to plan anything but to sit outside and enjoy her children. I like that!

  thatmom wrote @

Oh, I thought I should mention that Ben is our son, in case someone didn’t know that. 🙂

  Kim wrote @

We are glad to hear the news Karen! Do they have a date yet?

One thing we have really appreciated about our move is the lack of activities we are involved in here. So we always have supper together, and Brad has time to read Scripture and we talk. And then the boys….all of them…go out and play catch and frisbee and four square and the neighbor boys come flocking to our yard. I love the time we have together…it flies past so quickly!

  Susan Pollitt wrote @

One vision I remember so clearly of Ben is when I saw him standing in the church foyer at around, say 4yrs of age. He was all decked out in a white tuxedo, as I suppose he had been a ringbearer at a wedding the day before. His blond hair combed just so…then he said, “I look sharp!” cute.

I don’t know when the blond curls faded away, but I’m sure he’ll look quite sharp on his wedding day, too.


  thatmom wrote @

Hi Kim,

No date yet as far as I know. Ben wanted to give Julie’s family plenty of time for planning since this is going to be a really busy year for Julie as she finishes up school, head to Europe to study for a couple months, etc. And Clayton is already starting to plan the big history field trip we will all want to take when we go to Virginia! Doesn’t that sound like fun?

  thatmom wrote @

Susie, I had forgotten all about Ben being a ring bearer in our friend, Ron’s wedding until you reminded me about it. Clay took Ben to the barbershop without telling me or Mollie and we both sobbed when they came home. Those curls were glorious and I was horrified that Clay left them ALL on the floor at the barber shop! I think that explains why Mollie’s boys still have the long ringlets!

  Trish wrote @

Wonderful news! Beautiful post, Karen.

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