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A Foundation that Handles the Hard Times: Part 1

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By Tammy M. Cardwell

I've spent some time, lately, thinking back over our homeschooling years and comparing how we fared with the stories of other homeschoolers I've known and worked with. Inevitably, these thoughts led me to one basic question. What did we do, and what have others done, that made the difference? Why is it that we were able to homeschool through graduation, through the very same hardships that drive many away from homeschooling and back into the system? I can't say we've experienced it all, but we have dealt with poverty, watching close family members die, a highly destructive midlife crisis, an extra family living in our home for over a year, our oldest son almost losing the use of one eye, a home-based business, and more. We made our share of mistakes, and in many cases it was those mistakes that caused the terrible events we had to live through, but we obviously did much right as well or we'd have given up years ago. I knew I had to find the answer to this question, to determine at last where the difference lies, and share it with the Eclectic Homeschool Online's readers in hopes of making others lives easier. In the end, the answer was as close as a Wednesday night sermon.

In Matthew 7:24-25 Jesus compares one who follows His instructions to one who builds his house on a rock. So many sermons have focused on this passage that we should all understand the importance of building our spiritual lives on the right foundation. What I have now realized is that we must build our homeschools on the proper foundation as well if they are to weather the storms of life. And, truly, after all of my studying and meditating on the issue, the answer really did come to me in a Wednesday night sermon. The answer, at least on the surface, is astoundingly simple. Priorities.

The priorities message is not a new one. My pastor has been preaching it as long as I can remember, and I've seen for myself that when I keep my priorities in line with God's priorities I make progress. Likewise, I can track most of the truly damaging events in my life to specific points at which I, or someone close to me, let those priorities shift. Yes, most of the hard times I've faced, even the times that might well have resulted in me giving up and putting our sons back into the system, were brought on by yours truly.

Quick Test: Where do you spend most of your time and money? Your answer gives a strong clue to your priorities. The question is, are they the right ones? Are they the ones that result in a strong foundation?

What are these right priorities? What is this magic formula that guarantees a successful homeschool? Well, forget the words magic and guarantee, because there is no magic involved and the only guarantees are in God's Word, not mine. However, I can assure you that I have seen, in our family and many others, that the one who follows this basic principle lays a foundation that can enable his or her homeschool to withstand any storm, and the one who fails to hold godly priorities weakens their homeschool's foundation. I also admit freely that it is much easier to list the priorities than it is to live them. They are:

  1. God
  2. Spouse
  3. Children
  4. Church
  5. Homeschool/job/home business

Wage earners and homeschooling parents who feel that putting their jobs or homeschooling first best serves their spouses and children are usually shocked by this list. Through the years, however, I have realized that only in keeping to this order do I see consistent victory. (Side Note: Victories only come when we have battles and testimonies result from tests. We will inevitably face both battles and tests in this life.)

When considering the order of these priorities, think about permanence. We were created by God for God and our relationship with Him is eternal; He is first. We promised our spouses "until death do us part." They will be with us long after our children are grown and gone; we must continually nurture this relationship. Our children are precious gifts from God and our responsibility until they reach that age when they are prepared to move out on their own. Too, every parent of adult children knows that the ties and relationships remain no matter how old our children are.

Have you noticed how many times I've used the word relationship? In this world, everything is built on relationship—from buying a car to dealing with a sixteen-year-old daughter, it is your relationship with the other that determines the outcome of any situation. So these priorities are more than just priorities; they are the order in which we must concentrate on relationships. First come God, our spouse and our children, then church, jobs, homeschool, etc.

God places us in the church as He wills. (1Corinthians 12:18) Being an active part of the specific church God has called us to is an essential part of the God priority. Our relationship with our church is also an important priority. The Word makes it clear that forgoing church attendance is unacceptable (Hebrews 10:24-26) and that each one of us is a vitally important part of the church we are called to, a part that must be working actively if the body of Christ is to grow. (Ephesians 4:16)

Finally, at the very end of the list, come homeschooling, jobs, and the family business. These must never come before God. In Exodus 20 we see what we know as the Ten Commandments, and in the very first one God makes it clear that He must be number one in our lives, that there can be no other gods before Him. If it comes between us and God—even if it's our spouse, children, church, or job—it's become a god (little g) to us and, no matter how good or important it is, its position in the priority list is unacceptable. Likewise, if we shift any of the lower priorities into higher positions, we are out of line and asking for trouble. Put your children before your spouse and your relationship with your spouse will suffer; you may even end up spouse-less. Put homeschooling ahead of your relationship with your children and you will suffer as individuals and put your relationship with your children at risk. Relationship really is that important.

This is too large a topic to be dealt with in a single article, so I've scheduled a series. In the next few months I will address each of these priorities, sharing some stories from my family's experiences, explaining how our mistakes caused certain problems and, thankfully, telling about how things finally worked out when I got my priorities back in line with God's. Like many others, our family took the tests and came through with some awesome testimonies. It is my hope that, in reading about our homeschooling adventure, you will learn the importance of having the right foundation and avoid a few mistakes of your own.

Remember, decisions determine destinies. Decide today to lay the right foundation, to hold to God's priorities, and you affect your tomorrow.

Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4

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