Funny thing, my son is much happier as a home schooled high school student than my daughter ever was. That's because there is so much less religion in our lives than she grew up with. Oh this is a Christian home, so it stands to reason it will never be religion free. But less religion? Definitely. There is conversely a lot more of a sense of the presence of God, but isn't that like God? When we stop going about to establish our own righteousness, we find He was here beside us all along.
When my daughter was in her elementary years, there was religion everywhere in our lives! Morning, noon and night- religion. I used a major religious home school publisher for the background of our academics. I bought the Victorian era collections of moral stories for sale at the home school conventions, and we read them! I bought the Anabaptist moral stories too, and we read those. I also spent a ton of money at the local Christian book store, buying up all those evening devotional guides for children.
We studied the history of the peoples of the Bible first, before we looked at any other ideas about early man and early civilizations. That was our first set of morning devotions. As if that and the Christian readers and the evening devotions was not enough religion, I also sent my children to AWANA every week, in addition to Sunday school and church services. Of course television was very limited, but Christian videos and story tapes were encouraged! And yes, the radio was set only to the Christian station, naturally.
After AWANA Bible memory, we would have our own times of scripture memory. We would pantomime whole chapters of the Bible together as a family. I remember Luke 15, Proverbs 3 and 1 John 1 as favorites. Those family times were actually a lot of fun, and those words will no doubt be a light to my children's paths as long as they walk this earth. I wish I had limited scripture memory to those family times alone. Memorizing with laughter, fun and family connection was way more productive than memorizing scripture for stickers, patches and public honor.
Some of this religious activity honored God and drew us closer to home. Some of it would have been salt in the flavor of our lives, enhancing our relationships with God, each other and the world around us. But just like one can overdose on salt and ruin a dish, we overdosed on religion and it became very unpleasant.
I never thought I would ever come to say that I regretted cramming religion into every facet of my children's lives (especially my daughter's early years) but I do. Do I love the Lord Jesus less? Not at all! Jesus is my life! He is the friend who sticks closer than a brother, my Savior, my Counselor, the Lover of my soul. I love Jesus more than ever.
But what I thought was life to my children, was not life at all. It was the letter of the law that kills, not the life giving Spirit. (2 Corinthians 2:6)
As I commented on Quivering Daughters:
Hillary, I love your writing style. It's so poetic and comforting. It helps to soften the blow I often take to my heart when I read your work.
You openly explain so much my daughter wanted to say to me, but feared my defensive reaction too much to speak. Instead she retreated into depression and despair, and I spent years trying to coax her out again. Slowly she opened up, and as she did, she became defiant, deliberately challenging us parents, "You love me, huh? Well how about if I do this? Do you still love me, huh?"
Painfully, shamefully, repeatedly - my pride broken, all my dreams of creating the perfect Christian child dashed- I would affirm- "yes, even still I love you".
I am crying as I type this. What was life to me- the wonderful Word of God- became death to my daughter. I think of Saul insisting David wear his armor to face Goliath.
That's what all the devotions and character training and constant quoting of Bible verses was to my child. I put an adult's armor on her tiny frame, and expected her to march around in it. I expected her to grow into it, and one day be a Giant slayer because of the godly training in righteousness she received.
Instead, the visor kept her world dark and constrained her ability to see the beauty around her. The weight of the armor limited her range of motion and wearied her constantly. Defeated, despondent, she simply stopped moving and collapsed, numb with failure.
Ashamedly I confess that I first saw this as rebellion. I would yell at her- get up! get moving! why are you so resistant?! Finally a friend mentioned depression, and I looked it up on the internet and BINGO. My precious daughter was depressed.
Well, it was the beginning of a road to healing, one in which I had to (and still have to) chunk out all my expectations of the "godly girl of virtue" I held dear. I had to (and still have to) remember our frame, that we BOTH are but dust, and that Christ came for sinners, not the righteous. This includes me, as I knew all along.
But it also includes my daughter, which by my training I had sought to make righteous. Imagine had I succeeded, how would she ever come to know grace?
Grace is not something we can train or teach. It is experienced, and it is only experienced by those who need it.
Well, I've gone on long enough. Thanks for writing, Hillary. Keep it up!
September 17, 2010 8:25 AM
My hope in writing this is that other Christian mothers starting down the path of home schooling will not make the mistakes I made. My hope is that they will not isolate themselves into "Christian" home school support groups, choosing only "Christian" curriculum, "Christian" activities, "Christian" television and movies and sports teams and museums and (as Steven Taylor wrote in the 80's) becoming so relgious that we'll "only drink milk from a Christian cow".
There really is such a thing as overkill in the attempt to share your faith with your children. I urge you all to think of your overt teachings about the faith as salt. You need it in your home. It is a must have. But it must not be overdone.
The covert sharing of your faith, the life-giving Spirit, is what you can't overdo. You can't be too gentle, too kind, too loving, too joyful. When your children see you joyfully singing songs of praise while you wash the dishes, that is the life-giving Spirit. In other words, be a living epistle known and read by all in your family (2 Corinthians 3:3). Let them memorize the feel of your hug, the way you delight in their play, the sight of you serving the Lord and your family with peaceful satisfaction. Above all, as Hillary wrote, remember that both we and our children are but dust: delicate, temporary, yet very precious to God.
A final thought to consider for all the Christian home school moms zealous for God who might be reading here, not yet convinced that my life experiences are in any way inevitable for all who choose religious overkill. Do you consider yourself totally committed to the Lord?
Did you get there by a steady, continual diet of religious instruction as a child, or by experiencing the love of God in your moments of weakness in life? Who influenced you most, a Christian who showed you mercy or a master theologian? Even if that person had a lot of Bible knowledge, was it their knowledge or their love that drew you to the faith?
If you, then, became a committed Christian because of the mercy of God to you in your time of need, then does it not stand to reason that massive amounts of religious instruction are not necessary for a person to come to love Christ? Take heed from Jesus' warnings to beware the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees, those professional believers who studied God's Word all day, every day. Their continual study of scripture blinded them to the reality of God in their midst: they didn't recognize the Messiah in front of them because they were blinded by their love of scripture. They loved their scripture/religion more than they loved Life itself.