When I shared on my Instagram last week about my son’s first day of public school, I got a few concerned messages from fellow homeschoolers and public-schoolers alike. Now before you go picturing my son as a little boy with a book bag that is bigger than he is and his first day of school consisting of paste and crayons… He has facial hair and a drivers license. He stands several inches above me and will be 17 in a few short months. He is entering public school as a junior.
Still, the concern came from followers of mine who knew all those facts. I DO understand their side of the the debate, to some extent. As I shared what was on my heart regarding these concerns, more poured out than I thought I even had to share. Releasing those thoughts with my followers on Instagram gave me even a deeper clarity of what is happening in this phase of our lives.
I thought I’d share some of those thoughts here.
Keep in mind most comments, I believe, were made from a place of love. Also, 99.98% of y’all supported my decision completely. I was met with joyful enthusiasm and optimistic prayer from the vast majority. Either way (whether I felt supported or not), the decision was made to appease my God, my husband, myself and my son – and that is it.
Here is the summary of a few comments made:
- Be cautious of the public school system; children can be cruel.
- My child transitioned to public school and made some very unwise choices.
- Aren’t you afraid that he will come into contact with and possibly adapt points of view that aren’t in line with your beliefs?
My short, cliff notes answers read like this:
- The whole world can be cruel – homeschooling communities, friends, people at places of business, co-workers, doctors, even siblings.
- Public school, private school, no school or homeschool – your child may make bad decisions. Worldly, ungodly decisions that you hate. They have free will, whether you’re a perfect parent and choose the perfect education for them or not.
- Yes, they WILL come into contact with opinions that don’t line up with ours, and I welcome that. An untested faith is a weak faith. I can’t protect them from someone or something leading them astray forever, and I can’t keep them inside an insulated bubble forever, nor do I want to.
The longer and more heartfelt explanation looks like this.
I am excited for my son.
I have completed the large majority of my job. I am confident that I have done the best I could have with the resources given to me and I will continue to do so. Have I executed my job flawlessly? NO, MA’AM! But I am proud that I have raised a son that, when the time came, felt confident enough to walk the path he felt he was called to, even if it diverged from mine.
Because isn’t that our “end game” as parents?
…to give them roots so they feel loved enough that they can grow wings to carry them into their own lives?
I never want my adult (or near adult) children to feel they must stay grounded or play it small or play it safe because of me or my fear.
The next two years will be the stage of releasing and trusting. It may be shaky and messy, but I am going to try to love the tar out of him while he figures out where God wants to use him.
God is bigger.
God is WAY bigger than any of the little choices I (or my son, or YOU) make. In the bigger picture of our world and our God, how we school our kids is NOT a big deal. It is NOT a salvation issue. Just the fact we have so many wonderful options is amazing.
Even if trouble comes. God is bigger. God never promises an easy road. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I don’t expect my children to escape hardships. I am also not so naive or prideful to think that controlling their school environment until they are 18 produces sin-immune kids. My kids are sinners. I am a sinner. The local public school teachers, peers and faculty are sinners. Their church leaders are sinners. We all share that title.
None of us can “perfectly parent” our way to sinless children. It is just not the truth.
Keep in mind, that doesn’t mean these fears or concern aren’t founded. I know they stem from a place of love and, for some, even a place of pain due to the hard paths those mothers have walked with their own children. BUT I try hard to intentionally NOT make decisions based on fear. Because faith over fear leads to life, even if we don’t understand how the glory will come from it in this earthly world.
Untested faith is weak faith.
And when trouble does come, it is easy to play the blame game. As if *this* transition or *this* choice is to blame for any and all struggles he encounters. I am not omnipotent, nor is he. I believe in a BIG God. A God who is much bigger than my choices and my son’s. I also know that my son has been brought to this place for a reason. I know, no matter what happens or how it unfolds, that he will have learned valuable lessons. He will have impacted lives, and others will have impacted his. All for the glory of God, even if it is messy.
He is human.
While I understand most of you see my son’s highlight reel through my photos and videos, he is human. He is sin wrapped in skin, covered with the blood of Jesus because he needs it just like we all do. And if you need any more clarification, he HAS already made his fair share of poor decisions *GASP*, even as a homeschooled child. Some minor, some harder to swallow. Some that have twisted my ugly pride into a knot. Homeschooling him didn’t keep him from this humanness, and that wasn’t my intention. It’s a weird place to be as a somewhat public figure. I am treading on borrowed ground when I share about any of this because my son’s struggles and stories aren’t mine to tell. But just because I don’t showcase it all in full unfiltered detail doesn’t mean struggles aren’t there from time to time.
He, also, will more than likely make other poor decisions. He is a boy trying on his manhood, stumbling over what is too small and struggling to fill out what he hasn’t yet grown into.
I am aware that every struggle, public or private, he goes through will be an opportunity for others to judge him and my parenting endeavors. Most judgements coming anonymously from behind the digital camouflage of a keyboard by women who I’ve never met.
Yet I have grace for them because, if we are being honest, it is a temptation we all carry – to judge without the backdrop of an authentic relationship to color our compassion. I’m guilty. Stone me, too.
If I could plant any parenting wisdom in your heart today it would be this:
Faithful parenting is different from successful parenting.
My job is to be a faithful parent. My job is to be a godly mom. My job is NOT to have well behaved or godly children. That responsibility is on them. My work remains rooted in truth and faith, not results. Results are not something we cannot control when dealing with another human soul. My child might become the next Mother Theresa. My child may, like a lost sheep, wander far from truth. While each situation may require different responses and cause different feelings, my job remains the same: to be a godly parent… regardless. A faithful parent. Faithful in times of great joy and in great sorrow.
Successful parenting has its roots deep in the dark soil of pride. Faithful parenting has origins in steady, light-filled truth. It is easy for successful parents to pat themselves on the back at every good decision their child makes like it is THEIR success. Yet when their child messes up, it bites back bitterly. They will start to shoulder the blame even when it isn’t a load they are meant to carry.
Maybe that is why I have always been leery of Christian parenting books, blogs, or podcasts that come across as a results-based. “Do this and you’ll get this,” is not true Gospel parenting. Our faith and godliness now may not produce results in this broken world.
A fellow blogger and successful parenting coach, Mike Smart, once gave me a wise piece of advise. He told me to continue to do what I knew was right, even if it didn’t seem to be working. That even when/if my child chooses poorly, I should continue be steady. I should continue to be a FAITHFUL parent. He reminded me, while the majority of the time this will be enough to turn a child around, we have to find peace in it not resolving quickly or, in some sad cases, in this earthly life.
My big hope is that my children will follow me into eternity even if they have to arrive with some scars. Would I like them to be able to walk a safe, unhindered, trial-less path to get there? Sure. In theory, any parent would. Although that wasn’t my path as a teen, and I assume my child will have their own stories to tell about sin-spurred redemption and the refining flames as he carves his own way. Maybe one of those trials I DID NOT save him from will be what causes him to hang on so tightly and truly FEEL the need for and the love from the one who breathes life and love and hope into us all.