Thursday, August 16, 2012

Homeschooling- Banishing Doubts

 I spoke to a long time homeschooling friend last night.  For years our kids were in the same co-op, taking classes together, playing with one another.  She and I taught many hours of lessons, enjoyed the camaraderie of discussions with other homeschooling mothers and, in general, strengthened our resolves through it all.  I look back fondly at the days that seemed to stretch before us, our little children playing in the trees or with stick 'swords' as we spent long afternoons chatting and comparing educational methods.

Life has changed us both in many ways and raising young adults has kept us so busy, we don't see each other very often.  When we get to visit, we fall right back into our great discussions and in talking about our upcoming school year, we both realized that we still have so much in common.  
 We've graduated children and have a sense of accomplishment in the fact that they've successfully made that transition into adulthood.  We both have highschoolers who have opted to take classes at the local public school.  (Which, I might add, feels like such a derailment from everything you believe as a homeschooler the first time you even contemplate such a thing!)
We both have plenty of younger children still in the wings at home and lots of teaching/mentoring still ahead.
And....we're both tired.  

Not just because home education requires quite a lot of vision and energy, but because so many other things in life want to sap that energy!

I've had to re- ponder and pray about what I believe in as far as education goes. 

As I enrolled my son in high school classes for the first time, and stepped into a public school, it felt surreal.   Schools, to me, are their own microcosm and unlike anything I can relate to in real life.  It has always bothered me that parents I talk to feel at times that the schools practically own their children.  This, I think, is more rampant in the elementary years.  From what I've seen, in high school, the kids' choices are more respected.
I'm not against public schools.  I actually don't think there is a perfect system for education and that every parent must carefully choose what's best for their own family.   My biggest reason for homeschooling has always been to instill values and morals and to protect childhood innocence as long as possible.
My decision to allow him to take classes was based, foremost, on the fact that our small school district has caring teachers for the most part- who know their students well, and that the majority of students are really good kids from strong families.   The kids don't get away with much before parents hear and, for the most part, do something about it.

In any case, I know that:
 I still I have strong opinions about family and parental influence being far and above any institution. 
 I believe that God entrusted these children to my husband and I, knowing our imperfections, knowing that by and large we would step up and become better people, better examples because we had the responsibility to teach them well.  No one else on earth cares more about their upbringing than we do.
I believe that no matter where or how children are educated, the responsibility for it rests on the parents.  Until children are mature enough to be handed over that responsibility, parents need to counsel with them, oversee and carefully choose wisely what will benefit each child most.
I believe that having some time to ponder and think and even get bored is more important than having every hour of the day structured in activities.
I believe that service and work and being out in nature are equally as important as book studies.

After pondering what rings true to me at this stage of life and learning, I had to look at why I'm so tired and how to avoid that constant feeling of slight or severe burn-out.  

In reading my own post from a few days ago, I realized that what I had learned not only applied to life trials, but also to my attitude of late about homeschooling.  The Six Destructive Ds of doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief  had taken their toll.
You'd think that after homeschooling for 15 years and graduating two young adults, I'd have gained great confidence in myself and my abilities.   But you see, I've been plagued with self-doubt for so many years, I'd constantly question and tear down my own confidence.  

I can see clearly the pattern of doubting myself, then getting discouraged, becoming unfocused as the weight of responsibility began to seem too great,  and then lacking diligence in following through with a perfectly good plan.  My children began to see my wavering and lack of confidence and it started to lead to a disbelief in the goodness of home education.   A belief I have felt strongly about for many years.
I have prayed much over my educational choices for these precious kids of mine- and many times I've felt deep inspiration that family-based education was best for us.  So how could I possibly begin to doubt?  

From Kevin D. Pearson's talk:
"We get what we focus on consistently. Because there is an opposition in all things, there are forces that erode our faith. Some are the result of Satan’s direct influence. But for others, we have no one but ourselves to blame. These stem from personal tendencies, attitudes, and habits we can learn to change."

I can see clearly that my own tendencies brought the majority of this upon myself.  My own habits, along with discouragement and I began to doubt even the answers I had prayed for and received! 

 Answers received through prayer should not be doubted.  Circumstances can change and new inspiration can come, but I should never have allowed doubt to creep in, leading to the other 5 'Ds' of discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief.

When I am striving to do my best in raising and choosing good for my family, I can follow these scriptures and know how to choose wisely:

Moroni 7
  13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God......
 15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
 16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

If I receive inspiration and feelings of peace and light around my choices, then I cannot doubt.   Doubt, discouragement and lack of diligence (inactivity) are the antithesis of faith, hope and diligence....the very things upon which families are built!

I know this- and have known this.  For some reason, it has taken until now to really grasp it in this area of my life.  I'm so grateful for the power of this lesson learned and to begin a new school year protected from that horrible plague of 'Ds.' 

 Content copyright © 2012 by Jessa at Graceful Landing

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Faith Versus Worry

I've always been a worrier, a 'people pleaser' and have suffered from many self-doubts.

It's not uncommon for me to agonize over every major decision,  whether I should have said something or not in conversations, or worry if I've done something to make someone else unhappy.
Truly, it stems from my desire to do the right thing, to teach my children good principles, to see everyone around me content, and for life to be peaceful.

The problem is, that over the past few years, life has heaped a number of unexpected difficulties upon us.  No matter how hard I tried to set it right again, to bring back the peace and contentment in the form we once knew, I couldn't.   This caused a plague of worries and doubts to descend upon me-I think because I felt it was up to me to bring back the happiness that we knew single-handedly.

Once I realized that there were some lessons to be learned from the life changes we were going through, and that I was slowly sinking into a pattern of worry that was unhealthy, I began to research ways to heal and reverse this trend.

In pondering how to overcome worry and doubt, I was led to a wonderful article by Kevin W. Pearson.  

It opened my eyes to the struggle I was having within.  I thought I was firm in having faith- faith in God, faith in our future, faith that all would be well.   At the same time, however, I was plagued by major fear, doubts and anxiety.

In my own mind, I thought if I could simply work out any possible future problems before they happened, I would be doing my part to work toward my goals.  
Instead, I realize,  a battle was raging within me: a battle between fear and doubt and FAITH.   
When I read his words, "Faith and fear cannot coexist." It struck a chord in me and I realized how true that really is.  As he says in his talk, "One gives way to the other."  In my own heart, when I would realize that fear and doubt were winning, I'd strengthen my faith to even things out.   This battle raged on and was wearing me out physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Another powerful truth was when he said, "We get what we focus on consistently".
 How many negative thoughts do we think in a day- even though we feel we're pretty positive people?   
My husband and I ran some errands in town the other day and I was letting him in on some of the things I had been internalizing and worrying over.  He was giving me advice, diffusing some of the negative self talk and helping me look at the bigger picture.   He asked me, "Do you even realize how many times you've said the word 'worry' in the past 20 minutes?" 
He was right!  

Trying to work out possible scenarios of the future is ridiculous when there is really nothing I can do to change anything now.   I'm learning that I can't help everyone, I can't make people happy, I can let go of things I have no control over, things that are past and stop worrying about things that may never happen!

A favorite funny (and so true) quote by Mark Twain- 
"I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."

I had heard this quote before, but was reminded of it yet again when speaking to Mindy Heath, who is author of the blog Living the Joyful LifeShe mentors people and I was the grateful recipient of a 30 minute free mentoring session.  She helped me put my thoughts in perspective and gave me some great springboard articles to read- including Elder Pearson's talk.  I highly recommend reading articles on her blog- they are so inspiring!

As I heal myself from this plague of over-worrying, over-thinking everything and doubting myself, I know I'm learning valuable lessons that I can, in turn, teach to my own children and others who may need them. 
 Now for the true words of wisdom from Elder Pearson's talk.
Here are excerpts that really stood out to me.  You can read it in its entirety HERE.   (Bold type added by me.)

"There is a quality of faith which develops as we focus all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is seen and felt in the eyes of a great missionary, a valiant and virtuous young woman, and righteous mothers, fathers, and grandparents. It can be seen in the lives of individuals young and old, in every land and culture, speaking every language, in every circumstance and station in life."

He says this is the "eye of faith...,  the ability to focus and be steadfast, continually holding fast to true principles, nothing wavering, even when the mist of darkness confronting us is exceedingly great. This quality of faith is exceedingly powerful."

 However,  he reminds us that God gave us agency to act for ourselves even though there is opposition in all things.   " And so it is with faith. It can be enticing to choose doubt and disbelief over faith."

"Faith and fear cannot coexist.
 One gives way to the other. The simple fact is we all need to constantly build faith and overcome sources of destructive disbelief. The Savior’s teaching comparing faith to a grain of mustard seed recognizes this reality (see Mathew 13 31:32). Consider it this way: our net usable faith is what we have left to exercise after we subtract our sources of doubt and disbelief. You might ask yourself this question: “Is my own net faith positive or negative?” If your faith exceeds your doubt and disbelief, the answer is likely positive. If you allow doubt and disbelief to control you, the answer might be negative."

"We do have a choice.
 We get what we focus on consistently. Because there is an opposition in all things, there are forces that erode our faith. Some are the result of Satan’s direct influence. But for others, we have no one but ourselves to blame. These stem from personal tendencies, attitudes, and habits we can learn to change. I will refer to these influences as the “Six Destructive Ds.” As I do, consider their influence on you or your children.

First is doubt. Doubt is not a principle of the gospel. It does not come from the Light of Christ or the influence of the Holy Ghost. Doubt is a negative emotion related to fear. It comes from a lack of confidence in one’s self or abilities. It is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God.

Doubt leads to discouragement. Discouragement comes from missed expectations. Chronic discouragement leads to lower expectations, decreased effort, weakened desire, and greater difficulty feeling and following the Spirit (see Preach My Gospel [2004], 10). Discouragement and despair are the very antithesis of faith.

Discouragement leads to distraction, a lack of focus. Distraction eliminates the very focus the eye of faith requires. Discouragement and distraction are two of Satan’s most effective tools, but they are also bad habits.

Distraction leads to a lack of diligence, a reduced commitment to remain true and faithful and to carry on through despite hardship and disappointment. Disappointment is an inevitable part of life, but it need not lead to doubt, discouragement, distraction, or lack of diligence.
If not reversed, this path ultimately leads to disobedience, which undermines the very basis of faith. So often the result is disbelief, the conscious or unconscious refusal to believe.
The scriptures describe disbelief as the state of having chosen to harden one’s heart. It is to be past feeling.
These Six Destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief—all erode and destroy our faith. We can choose to avoid and overcome them.

Challenging times require greater spiritual power. Consider carefully the Savior’s promise: “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33)."

Content copyright © 2012 by Jessa at Graceful Landing

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