Leaves floating in the pool always signal the end of summer for me and the beginning of autumn. With fall comes my assignment of homeschooling Joy. While some days it’s a pleasure and other days a chore, I recently thought about curriculum in an unusual way. It reminded me of something funny years ago when I homeschooled Manisha.
In the fourth grade, she was given an assignment to set up a study schedule for the week—what subjects and how much time she should devote to each one. I chuckle as I remember her daily homeschooling curriculum: Reading, five minutes; English, five minutes; science, five minutes; history, three minutes; math, thirty seconds; lunch, one hour; and recess, the rest of the day. While that may have seemed like a great curriculum to Manisha at ten, I would hate to imagine where she would be today in her second year of college if I had allowed her to “go her own way.”
Last spring over Memorial Day weekend, Joy and I went to the Florida Homeschooling Convention in Orlando. It was a time of refreshment as I reflected on what we had accomplished over the past year and what I hoped to do for this next year. Upon arriving Joy and I quickly ate and hurried down to the exhibit hall, where I spent hours pouring over the books, curriculum, games, and “ideas” on display. Most of the venders return every year and there are always new ones to check out. This annual tradition encourages me to keep on keeping on for another year until God shows me it’s time to enroll Joy in traditional school. We just take homeschooling one year at a time.
Each year I assess Joy’s strengths and weaknesses and which curriculum (or non-curriculum) would work best for the following year. I have not used with Joy the same materials that I used for Manisha. Each of my daughters is unique, and as a homeschooling mom, it’s been a joy to tailor the curriculum to meet each of their specific needs. I have to admit, I have made mistakes. A couple of times I tried math programs which caused far too many tears. It required the unexpected expense and time of switching to something else. But I have never doubted God’s calling to homeschool, even as a single parent. I have been brought to my knees at times by the sheer burden and feeling of inadequacy. I could not do it without the Lord’s help.
But my heart’s desire to give my daughters the best that I can goes a long way in God’s provision. He makes up for what I lack. As I recall what Manisha wanted for a curriculum many years ago, in my finite wisdom, of course, I knew one minute of math a day would not prepare her for Algebra, and twenty-five minutes of English a week would not be sufficient to write a ten-page term paper on International Relations as a sophomore in college. We can chuckle at the absurdity, laughing because we know ourselves. Are we really any different?
In the broader context of life, reflecting on God’s great plan for each of us, do I know what His perfect curriculum is for me? Do I know what I need in His economy to become the person He created me to be? If God way back at the beginning of time had asked me to design my own curriculum, what would I have asked for? The human side of me would have said, “God, how about a little place on the beach with a pool, lots of books, and a Starbucks latte twice a day. I don’t want to cook, wash clothes, worry about car repairs, computers that crash, or anyone I love getting sick. In fact, give me a life where I never have to worry about anything.”
I know it’s not very “spiritual,” but if the truth be told, I don’t think anyone would ask for heartache. After all, we don’t have the mind of God. Our little thoughts are not like His. We long selfishly for a fulfilling life, to have our needs met, and to be accepted by others. The Bible is full of all the perils that accompany that mindset, beginning with Adam and Eve.
One of the courses in my life curriculum (which I never would have asked for) was working for twenty years as a court reporter. I never liked court reporting—the adversarial nature of it, the long, unpredictable hours, the fact that most of what I wrote was meaningless in God’s great scheme (who cares that someone found a cricket in a can of beans). Plus it was something I never wanted to do but circumstances willed it.
Sometimes life takes away our freedom to choose. Things happen. In those moments of doubting God’s best for us, we should cast our eyes on Jesus, who did the will of His Father and not His own. I “begrudged” those years until very recently, feeling like much of my working life was wasted. How many books could I have written during that time? I can’t say I was filled with discontent, but certainly upon occasion I have questioned, why didn’t God allow me to pursue writing at a much younger age? Why did “this” have to happen? You can fill in the blank with your own “this” and ask your own “why.” I have said to myself more than once, things would have been so much better if I had chosen “this” but couldn’t.
What better choices could there be than what my heavenly Father chose for me? Do I not trust Him completely? Does He not know the best curriculum to mold me into His image? Cannot my sorrows and loss be counted as gain for the kingdom of heaven?
Jesus tells us in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Jesus gave this command to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. Little did His followers know what was about to happen. But Jesus knew if His words “abided” within their hearts, it would be sufficient to bring them through the dark days that lay ahead.
God has given us everything we need to equip us for His heavenly kingdom. Our curriculum has been chosen by the King of the universe. He molded each one of us from clay. He breathed life into us. He gifts us with talents and blesses us with hope and so much more than we deserve. He loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for us. No doubt His curriculum is vastly different from and better for my soul than anything I could possibly envision.
When I took my novel course in my Masters studies, I learned that one of the greatest novelists of all time, Charles Dickens, began his career as a court reporter. So I am in great company. Who knows how God will use those years down the road. After all, He is the great designer, craftsman, artist, and author.
God knows exactly what curriculum we all need to complete a doctorate in life and graduate Summa Cum Laude. And for each one of us, God lovingly designs the classes. I think a doctorate would fittingly describe the many difficult courses we must take to become everything He longs for us to be. And it will probably require—at least for me—more than thirty seconds of suffering, two minutes of patience, five minutes of sacrifice, and five minutes of prayer.
If we can cease our striving, our complaining, and slow down, God might just exempt us from a life class we would rather not take. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” according to I Timothy 6:6; and that Starbucks latte, well, I do enjoy one upon occasion. Now, by God’s grace, I just need a teaspoon of patience and a tablespoon of love to enjoy another successful year of homeschooling.