Today begins the first in a series I'm calling Homeschooling Moms Who Have Influenced Me. I hope you'll glean good things from them, too. At the end of each interview, post a comment about something you felt was applicable to your own homeschool and you will be entered into a drawing to win something wonderful from each of the women I interview! How's that for encouragement?
Ann Voskamp is a mom and writer who has given her gifts in the form of books our family has delighted in. You can read her blog, Holy Experience, and be encouraged to seek Jesus anew each day.
1. Tell us about your family.
~Darryl and I are high school sweethearts; it's always been just us. We laugh
that I am his Rebekah: He was my Dad's hired farmhand for nearly five years
before we were married. Darryl is the youngest of nine in a family whose
spiritual heritage goes back as far as is known. I am the oldest of four, a
first generation Christian, saved at fourteen. Mercy and grace is fresh and
dazzling in my life; I remember life B.C., the time in my life before
God has bestowed 13 years of a marriage I could only have dreamed of, 6
exuberant children (Caleb 12, Joshua 10, Hope 8, Levi 6, Malakai 4, and
Shalom 2), and a good, quiet life in the country working His land. It is a
gloriously crazy life where sometimes I feel like it's all whirling a tad
off kilter--but we are all together, three meals a day, and our exquisite
God is in the center, so it is all so very good.
2. How did Holy Experience come about?
~I simply wanted a quiet place to scratch down His story on the pages of our
lives, a listening place to hear what He wondrously speaks into our very
common days, making these days hallowed and holy, because He is here....
3. How do you think moms can grasp the idea of living a spiritual life as
opposed to having a "Bible Time" as part of school?
~This, for me, is at the heart of what kind of life I am praying to live. I
don't want to box up God into a "quiet time," as if that is the only place I
can meet Him. I want Him to flood all of the messiness and craziness and
beauty of every moment of my day. I think everyone wants that. But what does
that look like? What does that really mean? For me, the notion is
encapsulated in the thought of a One-piece life. A one piece fabric. No
fragmenting. No tearing. No seams. My existence yearns to be just that: a
life of one piece, God woven through the laundry, and the cooking, the walk
down the lane, the changing of diapers, the learning gathering times, the
times when I feel engulfed by it all.
“Now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. They said therefore to one
another, ‘Let us not tear it…’ (Jn 19:23).
Too long, the fabric of this life of mine was torn up into secular and
sacred, "Bible time" and "to-do list" time. Yet such a dichotomy is mere
"The Bible makes no room for the idea of the secular. In biblical worldview,
there is only the sacred and the profane, and the profane is just the sacred
abused, unkempt, trampled down, trivialized, turned inside out. It is just
the holy treated in an unholy way.” ~ Mark Buchanan
I have profaned the sacred, treated the holy in an unholy way. There are
times, I still do. But I am prayerfully purposing to walk towards all of
life as sacred ground, all of life as hallowed--because God is here,
For me, it is about holistic living. We know that our health is not limited
to just what we eat, or just if we exercise, or just where we live, or only
what medications or vitamins we take, but it is about being a whole
person--all of those elements factor into our being healthy. To live a
spiritually holistic life, one can't simply have "Bible time" and expect to
nourish an intimate relationship with Jesus. It is about keeping company
with Jesus for the other 23 hours of the day, speaking with Him, singing to
Him, praying to Him, calling out to Him, resting in Him--living in Him.
There is no divide between holy and sacred. God wove life to be seamless, a
tunic like Jesus’: one piece. For all is in Him. “In God…we live and move
and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where
can I flee from Thy presence” (Ps. 139:7).
Some may think of this as "Practicing the Presence of God"--but to do
that we have to practice being *aware* of the presence of God. He *is*
already here--we just need to wake up. We do not have to practice *making*
Him present--He walks this moment with us.
His word is not confined only to a quiet time for “they are not just idle
words for you—they are your LIFE”( Deuteronomy 32:47).
Life is our liturgy. *All* of Life is our time with God.
4. How do you bring the littlest ones into the spiritual ebb and flow of
~ For us, we simply bring these little children with us, to Him whom we
love. We worship Jesus around each meal gathering, closing the meal with
the reading of Scripture, singing hymns, praying together--feasting on
Living Bread. From the time little ones join the table gathering, they
learn to feast from His table: always God's Word, a hymn, prayer. We learn
to hunger after Jesus too, to have an appetite for Jesus.
As a family, we memorize chapters of Scripture together, Dad leading us in
review at the close of every meal. Darryl photocopies the 4 new verses we
are learning for the week,and the review sheet, and even gives little
non-readers their own sheet to put in their pockets for "review" throughout
the day--so they feel a part of our seeking to make His Word our life.
Throughout the day, we endeavor to keep company with Jesus: we pray for lost
toys, and sibling squabbles, and for Mama to have grace, and for diligent
hands and focused minds, and for forgiveness for blustery words...and for
Mama to have grace. We try to remember, and gently remind ourselves aloud
often, that "Christ is the head of this House, the unseen guest at every
meal, the silent listener to every conversation."
I don't pack my time in Scripture into an "away time", but an "in the midst
time," primarily because I want our children to see that we hold unto Jesus
in the midst, that His Word comes with us into the messiness of everyday
life. So little ones color pictures in their own "prayer journals" in the
morning, while the olders and I write in our own prayer journals and read
from His Word.
And come day's end, we tuck little ones in, pray together, bless each child
and offer a Little Pillow. We begin in Him, we live in Him, we end in Him.
We are a broken family, sin-marred. And yet we are, staggeringly, beloved of the Beloved One. We are learning and seeking to make the wonder of grace and mercy, His unmerited love, seep through
every fibre of our beings, and moment of our days, living out the hope of the Gospel: not that we are perfect, but that His Grace perfectly saves us.
5. What are the most important things new homeschooling moms should know?
~ I've botched much on this homeschooling journey, and He is abundantly
gracious to take my messes and use them for good. Two fundamental things I
wish I knew when I began:
~ Do not try to replicate the institution of school. Light yourself to the
wonder of each day, what *God* would have you discover, to a holistic life
of learning and curiosity, service and love. I am still very much in process
in this regard, but we are determined to infuse our days with the wonder of
God, and the fantastic creativity He's expressed in the world all around us,
to the purposes He made us for. Read living literature, listen to music,
dance, create, make, study art, go for long walks, explore, research,
discover, serve, give, sacrifice. Let God out of the box we make for Him,
and think out of the box. Listen to His Holy Spirit as You homeschool--not
scopes, sequences, or curriculum catalogues.
Don't escape the world when you homeschool, or live in a homeschooling "ghetto" where all of your
interactions are only with other homeschoolers. Christ called us to be in
the world but not of the world, to be a light of love. Make sure your
homeschooling mission includes answering Christ's Great Commission to go
into all the world, to be His hands and His feet to a hurting, wounded,
Formative books on our journey: ~John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down,
Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake, Andreola's Charlotte Mason
Companion, Bluedorn's Teaching the Trivium, this piece... And this absolute must-read article,
which I read again, and again, and so wish I had in the beginning.
~That homeschooling is not a formula for perfection, that homeschooling is
not a panacea for all the sin in this world. Your heart is flawed, broken,
cracked, and your children are born sinners. Homeschooling will not fix
that. Only Jesus and His *grace* can.
And He will use homeschooling as your crucible, to reveal your impurities
and your sinfulness, and the brokeness of your home. Homeschooling will
hurt. It will disappoint. You will cry and wonder if you are insane to try
to educate these children, to disciple these little hearts, while
laundering, cooking, cleaning, managing a household, and still being a wife,
a sister, a daughter, a missionary in your community, a servant to Christ
and in your faith community. And He will smile and say that He walks with
you, has grand and glorious purposes, and He understands radical and crazy!
Homeschooling *is* about going higher up and deeper in, for you will learn
to sacrifically love in ways you have never loved before. You will know
your own heart in ways you never imagined, the souls of your children in
intimate, very real ways. For you will *be* together, making memories
together, laughing together, crying together, praying together, and asking
forgiveness together. Throughout your day, you will worship God, together.
And you'll learn to die to self together. There will be no fragmented scraps
of learning, home-life, friends, work, God.
You will make a one-piece life--hallowed threads of parenting, love,
education, living, creativity, wonder, sacrifice, and God all woven
together. You'll wear it, and it will fit: Grace, Love, Gratitude.
With warm love...
Thank you, Ann, for being so generous with your time and answers. Ann is offering your choice of her excellent books for someone here, so go take a look and then be sure to comment below! We'll close the drawing at midnight on Sunday, October 7, 2007.
A Child's Geography
A Child's Geography- Explore the Holy Land
The Glorious Coming- A Jesse Tree Advent Celebration