Monday, November 05, 2007

Be Not Afraid!

Suzanne at Blessed Among Men recently posted a question in which the reader wonders about "what ifs." The reader asked Suzanne if she ever worries about her children having to go to school (if Suzanne were to meet a premature demise.) The reader goes on to say that she (as a homeschooling wanna-be) gets hung up on the idea that her children's education would be dependent solely on her if she homeschooled them.

Suzanne gave a wonderful answer, and pointed out that no matter how our children are schooled, we parents are still ultimately responsible for their education. She also addressed the practical question of how to delegate various parts of a homeschooled child's education, thus relieving the parent of that sole responsibility.

But I keep going back to that "What If?" We've homeschooled for seven years now and it's a question that has crossed our minds. I'm sure most homeschoolers can say the same.

But, it seems to me that the question ultimately springs from fear.

Sometimes, people avoid homeschooling purely out of the fear that they will not always be able to homeschool, as if it's a course that, once embarked upon, cannot be recharted.

Homeschooling, like all choices, is subject to change. Don't fear it for its lack of permanent assurance. There's no assurance that the school of your choice will always be there, either ... or that it will always be safe or appropriate or properly staffed (or ... well, you get the idea.)

As for fearing that something could happen to me that would force my children into school: yes, it's quite possible. It could happen to any of us, at any time. If I should die tomorrow, my children will have to forge on -- no matter what kind of education they've had up to that point. Obviously -- and I know that the questioner understands this -- adjusting to life without Mom would be the real struggle and tragedy, and that would be enormous, no matter what. (On a practical note: if it's affordable, one might consider having enough life insurance on each parent so that in the event of the death of either, the other could continue to stay home.)

But, while adjusting to life in school would be a huge shift for my kids, I can't imagine deciding that they should adjust to life in school now, just in case they have to adjust to life in school later. God will help us handle "later" ... He wants us to make our current decisions through prayer and prudent discernment, not out of fear.

Decisions based on fear leave our souls trembling. There's no sense of peace. I don't think we can imagine applying this standard (of fearful "what ifs") to other life decisions: "I could marry him now, but what if he dies? Should I stay single, just in case, so that I'll never have to adjust to life as a widow?" I hope that doesn't sound mocking -- I assuredly don't mean it to. Suzanne's reader has a sincere, legitimate and very good question. She truly wants to know how homeschoolers answer it ... she wants to know how we deal with that fear.

The bottom line is that if I approach God in prayer and His answer calls me down a new and challenging path, I have to trust that He will help me through all the "what ifs" (which are very real and sometimes scary.) It's possible I could die tomorrow (as could Atticus, or my children, or a family member or friend.) Whatever happens, I have to trust that if I've reached my decisions with God's help then, when circumstances change, He'll keep on helping.

That's the long answer.

The short answer is the subject line: Be not afraid!


  1. Thank You Karen! You made some great points.

    As you know I have 2 in parochial school and 2 (plus a toddler) at home. That situation was not in my master plan. It has taken a lot of years for me to realize that it is okay to make changes ... a decision doesn't have to be a permanent one.

  2. Karen,
    A few years back, when discussing my mom's (temporary) skepticism about my homeschooling her grandchildren, her biggest concern was "What would happen if I died?" I think she was more worried that she would feel obligated to continue schooling the children for me!

    Honestly, if it were God's plan to call me home "early," I trust that in His Providence he would have a greater plan for the education of our children. Romans 8:28 comes to mind - We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

    Blessings, kristina

  3. Two days before we were to begin our homeschool year, our son died from epilepsy. My daughter and I have been seriously struggling day by day to continue in a classroom that seems too quiet. Please pray for us that we can hear God's wishes for us whether to continue homeschooling or to send her to the local school. I am not sure if she needs time away from the house to "escape" the sorrow for a while.

    Thanks for this post. It is a good reminder to assess the situation and to know that changes should not be feared.

  4. wonderful... I needed this today. Death is such a biggie to ponder. There are so many what-ifs that could happen short of death too (enough income?, enough health insurance?, enough learning?, etc etc), and I need strength not to drive myself mad dwelling on them!

  5. I actually hear this all the time about being a homemaker, since I'm making myself vulnerable in the event of my husband's death - and it's such a STRANGE line of reasoning, like me working would make things better? Like putting your children in school now would make the possible transition easier in the horrible and unlikely event?

  6. In reading through this post something came to mind I think fits here. I was listening to Father Mark Mary on EWTN's Life on the Rock talking and though I can't quote word for word what he said this is close and it hit me, "Doing something while knowing the outcome is security. Doing something and not knowing the outcome is faith." We don't know the outcome, none of us, all we can do is put our faith in the One who does and seek His will.

  7. I have several friends who in different circumstances (some due to divorce and some due to the death of the husband) ended up as single moms after homeschooling their kids for a long time. Each of them made choices that seemed right to them. One continued to homeschool and went into debt which she is still struggling to get out of now that the kids are grown, a couple homeschooled some of their kids for awhile, but put others in school for awhile. Their choices actually have not turned out to be a whole lot different than the choices of people who didn't end up single. A mom in my former homeschool group died last year. Her oldest was already in college, but her youngest was still at home. She's still at home, although she's taking a number of college courses at this point. I would agree with Karen, however, that you don't make your decisions based on what ifs. I would say, however, that with rare exceptions the homeschooled kids I've known have not only adjusted to life at school when that was necessary, but in fact have proven to be academically advanced relative to the kids in school and well able to make the various social adjustments needed. After all most of us will eventually send our kids to college somewhere, so the adjustment will ultimately have to be made. If they've learned to be independent learners they will be able to manage in any educational setting. Trust me, no one who didn't know my kids had been homeschooled would have guessed it when they hit college. They might have thought they went to some swanky private school that explained their being so academically advanced, but the greatest compliment they ever got was, "You were homeschooled? But you seem so normal." Then there were the people who thought that homeschoooing had given them an unfair academic advantage... Trust me I've had homeschooled kids in a parochial school classroom. The only way that they stood out was being more polite and smarter than the run of the mill kid.

  8. I had similar thoughts when I read that reader's question, but you phrased them so much better than I could. Thanks, Karen!

  9. This is great Karen, and thank you for being so respectful to my reader. She really is a very sincere questioner. I've thought about it myself and we have made insurance plans to provide if either of us goes home early. That's not to say, though, that the surviving parent might not want to put the kids in school at that point for other reasons. It's hard to say without being there.

  10. Great post Karen. I agree with what you wrote. But may I also add a different perspective on top of that?

    I think it is important to consider the options for your children's education should you no longer be available to teach them at home (ie, should you die). I am in a particular situation myself where it has been necessary to do this. I have gone so far as to ensure other people in my family will take over the homeschooling reins, or else will put my child into the school of my choice.

    I personally think it's responsible to consider this with just as much heart and rational thought as we use to choose our children's guardians should we die.

    For me, a lot of worry lifted from my shoulders when I knew my wishes for my daughter, and my expert knowledge of her needs, would continue on without me. Choosing the right school for her, incase other people's agreement to homeschool her should fall through, means that I know she would be getting the education I want her to have. Also, having talked with my family about what I want for her upbringing, I know she will be in good hands, and that my mothering spirit will continue on through others.

    So while I would never let the fear of "what if?" stop me from homeschooling, I have stopped and seriously considered "what if?" as part of my parental responsibilities.

  11. Thanks, everyone! Patience, your comments are so pertinent because right after I posted this, I started to think about a follow-up post. Ever one to present both sides of an issue I began to mentally compose a post on the times when "What if?" is the prudent question to ask! :-)

    From the practical standpoint, when we asked ourselves, "What if?" we answered it partially with the insurance that I mentioned and that Suzanne mentioned, too ... if something happens to either Atticus or me, the other should be able to afford to stay home. But, there are other situations in life, too, wherein we need to ask "what if", as you pointed out.

    Great discussion!

  12. Jenny,
    I keep going back to this, trying to decide what would be the right thing to say to you ... and I don't know the right thing to say. You're in my prayers. I can't imagine your sorrow. I wish I could deliver an enormous hug. I can't ... but I can pray ....