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by Karen

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By Karen Andreola


All the many thousands of ordinary parents (even those who lack confidence) will succeed in homeschooling. How? It is with a high resolve and an enduring perseverance. Very few have a college degree in education. Many, like myself, may not be particularly clever at any one thing. But this we do have; a love for our children, a desire, and a conviction to homeschool. And we can plod.
     Perseverance isn’t a fancy flamboyant character trait, but a plain one, upon which humble, ordinary people depend. William Carrey was a cobbler by trade, but later, as missionary to India, discovered he had a flair for languages and so worked on translation as well as evangelism. His work in India was not without its trials. When his nephew asked if he might write Carrey’s biography, his reply was this: “If the biographer gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
     Perseverance keeps us carrying on even when unwelcome winds of circumstances blow our way. Maybe it is a meddlesome set of grandparents who are embarrassed that their grandchildren are not in “real” school. Maybe Dad lost his job and the family must relocate out-of-state (in the middle of the school year) so he can start a new one. Maybe someone we love has cancer and consequently we juggle formal lessons times with the children that we may be present to comfort him. Life’s most valuable lessons are not found in a typical lesson plan, anyway.
     Just as a good sailor maneuvers his sails to the changing winds to propel his boat forward, a mother trusts God that He will make use of less than ideal circumstances. Full sails ahead, she holds a steady course until it is time to adjust the canvas once again.

“How long does getting thin take?” Winnie-the-Pooh asked anxiously.

Perseverance, no matter how staunch and dogged it must be, must be pursued with good will. In other words, we must be good-natured about it. And in order to be both firm and kind as a teacher, we need to rely on patience. Patience is a sister to perseverance. They share a close and abiding relationship. The grandest achievements come with waiting, with an anticipation that does not give up hope. Cherish patience, and always keep it handy, so you may persevere. You will find use for it more than you may wish to.
     Mothers have told me, “I asked God for patience and He gave me yet another reason for it.” Have you heard this, too? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. New reasons for being patient are not normally welcomed with open arms. Though patience and long-suffering may be uncomfortable or bitter experiences, their fruit is sweet - deliciously sweet - and you will never regret being patient. Patience is always crowned with success. This rule is without exception. It may not be a splendid or remarkable success, but patience never takes anything in hand that it does not succeed with to some degree. (James 1:4)
     Susanna Wesley home educated her large brood of children with the patient diligence needed to match her resolve. “I remember hearing,” says John Wesley, “my father say to my mother, ‘How could you have the patience to tell that blockhead the same thing twenty times over?’ ‘Why,’ said she, ‘If I had told him but nineteen times, I should have lost all my labor.’”

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” - Charles Spurgeon

Don’t give up, my fellow homeschoolers. On some days it might seem that little progress is being made or that interuptions are more numerous than you can count. Always pray for patience. Every day will bring something that will call for its exercise. Homeschooling cannot be hurried. It is accomplished faithfully bit by bit. “From little acorns do mighty oaks grow.” If you have a garden, you will know that you can go out day by day to check on the buds while you add compost or fertilizer but you cannot make your perenials flower or bear fruit before their time. Do any of your children seem to be lagging in a skill? Perhaps you are concerned with your student’s pace in learning how to read, perhaps it is spelling or a math skill that seem to be slow in coming. I have experienced that certain tinge of impatience during our years of homeschooling. Worry and anxiety will begin to take up residency in the homeschool if patience and perseverance do not maintain first place. But be of good cheer, as its been said of old, “one custom overcometh another.”

“Even if you’re on the right track – you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”—Anon.

home schoolingTwo homeschooling friends were conversing. “Changing curriculum hasn’t worked,” said the first, with a sigh and a hint of frustration in her voice.
     “Sorry to hear it. What are you going to do?” asked the sympathetic friend.
     “I know I’m not spending one more dime on another spelling book,” was the answer given with a tiny bit more emotion than she normally allowed herself in speaking with a friend.
     “Oh,” was the safe and quiet response of the sympathizer.
     Restoring her composure, the first continued, “I’ve decided to pray and wait.”
     Her friend nodded with a warm smile.
     The first went on, “Meanwhile we’ll keep going over the same fourth grade spelling words until he learns them—even if he is starting eighth grade.”
     This mother forbore with patience and learned that patience does more than push. By the end of eighth grade her son could spell at about a fourth grade level, which, she mused, was actually a strong foundation that could be built upon in future with the help of the computer’s “spell-check” and the continued habit of keeping a personal spelling list.
     There was a moment during that trying year when a strange phenomenon occurred to her. It had become evident when she had reintroduced dictation. Besides continuing with the fourth grade spelling words (as was her priority), once a week, to escape monotony, she would also dictate a short paragraph from a book of her son’s choice. Commonly used words that he misspelled from the paragraph were given attention. One day, however, feeling daring, she added some longer, less-commonly-used words. The strange and unexpected thing she discovered was that her son could more quickly learn to spell these words (from the books that interested him)–words such as “meteorite, volcano, spacesuit, gemstones, wavelengths, oxygen, etc.—yet, he still had trouble remembering short spellings, such as the words “few” and “shoe,” which sound as though they should be spelled alike. She wondered whether repeated attempts to spell a sea of shorter words was a blur in his mind–a mind that seemed to be relieved to have an occasional longer (more interesting—more distinguishable) word to picture in it. Therefore she had seen to it that each lesson had a longer word or two mixed in with the shorter ones. Often she asked him to pick out a word himself. Did this mean he was spelling above the fourth grade level, after all? It didn’t matter. What mattered to her was that he was making progress— even though it might be considered slow progress—and he was learning how to spell. For this she thanked God in her prayers. I know exactly what her prayers were, because they were my own.

“Trying times are no time to quit trying.” — Anon.

You can do almost anything if you will only have patience; water may even be carried in a spaghetti strainer if you can only wait till it freezes.
     Persevere, my fellow homeschool mother. Onward, Christian soldiers. Don’t turn back. Every moment has a three-fold duty–one to God, one to others, and one to you.

“I’m a slow walker but I never walk backwards.” — Abraham Lincoln

Recently I read this true story in a book printed in 1880:
     A gentleman travelling in the northern part of Ireland heard the voices of children and paused to listen. Finding the sounds coming from a small building used as a schoolhouse, he drew near. As the door happened to be open, he entered, and listened to the words the boys were spelling. One little fellow stood apart sad and dispirited.
     “Why does that boy stand there?” asked the gentleman.
     “Oh, he is good for nothing,” replied the teacher. “There’s nothing in him. I can make nothing of him. He is the most stupid boy in school.”
     The gentleman was surprised at this answer. He saw that the teacher was so stern and rough that the younger and more timid boys were nearly crushed. He said a few kind words to the class. Then placing his hands upon the noble brow of the little fellow who stood apart, he said, “One of these days you may be a fine scholar. Don’t give up, but try, my boy, try.”
     The soul of the boy was roused. His dormant intellect awoke. A new purpose was formed. From that hour he became studious and ambitious to excel. And he did become a fine scholar, and the author of a commentary of the Bible—a good man, beloved and honored. The man was Dr. Adam Clarke. The secret of his successes is worth knowing: “Don’t give up, but try, and try again.” No person fully knows what is in him until he tries, and tries again, and again.

“Slow and steady wins the race.” — Æsop

Many a child who gets A’s in school, who learns quickly and readily, who can cram for tests, will often forget quite as readily. He finds no need to rely on perseverance which the slower student is compelled to exercise, and which proves so valuable an element in the formation of every character. With perseverance, a common mind, though it may lag behind for a season, will finally march on, gaining speed with time, while the student who is in the habit of cramming at the last minute, will end up worn out and dissatisfied later in life.

The New Way Things Work The New Way Things Work
David Macaulay / Houghton-mifflin / 1998
     Several years ago, my son Nigel and I read together a stack of biographies on the lives of scientists and inventors. This goodly stack of biographies as well as the thick book, The New Way Things Work, by David Macaulay, took the place of a typical science textbook course. Nigel’s interest held fast and he learned a lot. His black and white composition book was gradually filled with cut and paste portraits of the scientists, as well as written narrations on what impressed him most about them. Near the end of the school year, he looked slyly at me, and with a tone of suspicion in his voice said, “Mom, so many of these guys hated school or had moms who let them learn at home. Is that why you picked out these books for me?” He wanted me to confess.
     So I did. “No, I didn’t even think about that when I decided on this course—honestly! But they certainly are persons of achievement, aren’t they?” I added brightly.
     What did many of these scientists and inventors have in common? One or more of the following was true for each of them: 1) they had little formal schooling; 2) they quit the “grammar school grind” (because they were learning little) and were set free to become self-educated; 3) they were educated in part by their mothers at home.
     I went on to tell my son that I thought that their lives were crowned with success because they had a strong will and cultivated the habit of self-education. They diligently pursued their interests and continued to work out their ideas with perseverance until the ideas became realities. They didn’t give up. Any failure or error did not entirely discourage them, but were used to their advantage, bringing them closer to their goal. They adjusted their sails to the differing winds. Steady she goes!
     Isaac Newton, one of the Christian scientists whose life story we read about, said, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.”
     Louis Pasteur, another of the scientists we studied, asserted, “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
“The saints are sinners who keep on going.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Parents need not be in too great haste to see their children’s talents forced into bloom. Let us watch and wait patiently, letting good example and quiet day by day training do their work, and leave the rest to Providence. With the sustaining power of our Loving Father, we and our children will not grow weary of well-doing. Under His care we need never give up. We have not because we ask not. Be resolute, cry out to God for patience as often as you need to, and you will persevere. Of this I am certain.
(Romans 2:7)

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Homeschool Highlights provides homeschooling resources for home schooling parents and students. This site is hosted by Dean and Karen Andreola, noted authors who brought to light the works of Charlotte Mason. They also review "living books" and homeschool curriculum materials for Rainbow Resource Center.

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