by Heather Bock
A few weeks ago, I shelled out $35 for my nine-year-old son to take a standardized test. It turned out to be a test given to mostly elite private schools, but I didn’t really care which test, as long as it was at his grade level–I just wanted him to have the experience of taking a test like that for his future.
You see, I homeschool my kids. I don’t spend any time giving my kids test-taking skills. I don’t teach to the test. In fact, as a classical educator, I teach completely outside what a normal standardized test in our country would test. My kids memorize copious amounts of facts while they’re especially good at memorization, most of which they won’t use until much later in their schooling.
Therefore, I knew when my son took this test that he would probably do pretty badly. We do work on grade-level math, grammar, and writing, though, so even though I know he sometimes struggles with it at home, I hoped he might at least do well there.
Well, let me give him some credit. He DID do super well on fractions and decimals–funny since he hasn’t been that great with fractions at home. He did well on data analysis and statistics, writing style and craft, and in some other subjects, as well.
However, his scores on the rest of math and writing mechanics, areas on which we focus a lot of attention, were pretty low.
What was really surprising, in light of what I expressed in the first three paragraphs, was how devastated I felt by the low scores. I knew Mr. C probably wouldn’t do well for many reasons that don’t even have to do with how much he knows, but there I was, feeling like a total failure as a teacher. I couldn’t even celebrate the high scores I saw–I could only think about the low ones.
Why did this hit me so hard?
The education of my children rests on my shoulders. If they don’t do well, it feels like I didn’t do well. I’m putting A LOT into this, and I felt like a failure.
You might not be a homeschooling parent, but if you have kids, you might have felt like this, too. You pick your son up from daycare/preschool/childcare, and you find out he’s done something deplorable: he bit a kid, spoke unkind words, wouldn’t participate in the activities, or bossed around the other kids. Do you feel like a failure as a mom?
Maybe you don’t have kids. Maybe you’ve felt like this in a relationship. You realize you forgot a birthday, said something in anger that you really wish you hadn’t said, didn’t call when you should have, or showed up late once again (maybe that one’s just me?).
Maybe you failed yourself–binged on that candy that somehow ended up in your pantry. I know it always ends up filling mine!
We will fail.
But, as Oswald Chambers said, “Am I quite sure that God will do what I cannot do?” When I’ve tried my best, and I mess up, do I trust that God will fill in the gaps? For my children, my husband, and my mother? Will He really do what I can’t do for myself?
I can’t help but think of a story from II Chronicles 20 that I just read to my kids tonight. In it, Jehoshaphat learned the Moabites, Ammonites, and some Meunites had come together to make war on him (that’s a lot of mighty -ites headed his way). His people described them as a “huge army.”
Jehoshaphat knew he couldn’t handle this one on his own with the army he had, so he did what we all need to do when (and before) we realize we’re over our heads. He went to the Lord for help, he fasted, and he led all his people to do the same. Among other words, he said, “Suppose trouble comes on us. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a punishing sword, plague or hunger. We’ll serve You. We’ll stand in front of this temple where Your Name is. We’ll cry out to You when we’re in trouble. Then You will hear us. You will save us” (II Chr. 20:9, NIrV).
It doesn’t matter whether the trouble comes from without or within ourselves. Can you say you’ll still serve God and trust Him to do what you cannot do?
God’s response? He promised, “Do not be afraid. Do not lose hope because of this huge army. The battle is not yours. It is mine…You will not have to fight this battle. Take your positions. Stand firm. You will see how I will save you” (II Chr. 20:15, 17, NIrV). When I asked Mr. C what he thought God was going to do after we read this, he said he thought God would have the angels fight the battle for him. Yes, He could have done that. However, in this case, God just turned the enemies against each other until all were killed before Jehoshaphat’s army even reached them.
So much application can be taken from this passage, but the main point I want to make here is that Jehoshaphat knew he was going to fail without God’s help. He called out to Him, and God just did it for him.
“Am I quite sure that God will do what I cannot do?” Will He meet Mr. C in the places where I fail him as a homeschool teacher, as a mother? Mr. C might never know every point on a standardized test, but I have to trust God will be enough for his needs. After all, if I were enough, my children wouldn’t need God.