That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27)
I wasn’t always a Christian. In fact, for a while I was very far from it…
Growing up, I had loving parents, a comfortable home, and I went to good schools, but church wasn’t a thing we did. In fact, our Christianity rarely went beyond Christmas and Easter. Even then, it was more about Santa and the Easter Bunny than it was about Jesus Christ.
In spite of such a thin spiritual foundation, I’ve always been one to look for a deeper meaning in things. It’s a trait that surely had a role in my decision to study art and creative writing in college for they are disciplines that prompt a fair amount of soul searching. My choices in electives often ventured into the philosophical realm, as well. But Art History was the place where I really began to examine both Eastern and Western tradition and thought.
The desire to find meaning stuck with me even when I was immersed in a defiant art and music scene. I lived selfishly and sinfully, believing that I was forging my own identity and that living life to the fullest meant excess. But really, my life was a bucket with holes, and everything I was pouring into it drained out. What I thought was important, even groundbreaking, wound up feeling trivial in the end. I went away from events and happenings thinking secretly, “So what? What was the point of that?” Even the paintings I created left me wondering, “Why should this matter to anyone?”
I continued on this course well into my twenties with the growing feeling that something needed to change. What that change should look like and how to make it happen was something I couldn’t fathom. I would have appreciated the intervention of a higher power, for sure. But unfortunately, God was a fairy tale to me and I was far too educated to believe in such things.
Still, the thought nagged at me: “What if you’re wrong? What a thing to be wrong about!”
I can’t recall what particular frustration with the world was one too many, but at some low point I called out to whatever power in the universe might be listening. I wanted the truth to be made clear. It was a question I’d posed before, but this time, there was a new level of sincerity and a more urgent desire to know behind it. And, out of the universe, only one God responded—the only God who could change a sometimes agnostic-sometimes atheist art student into a born again wife and mother of four!
That, however, was just the beginning of my story, not the end! The change I was seeking happened ever…so…slowly…and it came through a channel I never suspected: Education.
You see, education has been as much of a constant in my life as art and writing. In fact, I really can’t think of a time when I wasn’t either a student or a teacher in some capacity. I attended K-12 public schools before college and then worked with “at risk” youth at the Long Beach Children’s Museum. I was a K-8 art teacher at a secular private school and I conducted numerous multi-age, multi-subject workshops for kids in various communities. My current gig as a homeschooling parent began with the new millennium and, God-willing, it will continue until my youngest is all the way through.
I suppose you could say I’ve experienced the “training up” that children receive from all sides, and this wide-angle perspective has triggered an avalanche of questions. No matter the scenario—public or private, poor or affluent, unstructured or formal—a common pattern troubles me. With disturbing regularity, the joyful curiosity natural to young children disappears shortly after schooling begins. Delight dissolves and thoughts narrow at a time when minds are supposed to bloom. In the end, what was once a pleasure withers until learning becomes a chore, an obligation, and a duty. Where does the wonder go?
Degrees vary from child to child, of course, but the result is as certain as death and taxes. I even saw it in my own children despite efforts to appeal to their strengths and interests through homeschooling. As I prepared to begin this journey with my last child, I was determined to preserve the joy my young daughter still had. My need for meaning kicked in big time.
The search for answers sent me foraging through various resources on education and history. I found the books of John Taylor Gatto particularly insightful, and they pointed me toward significant primary sources. Among them were the General Education Board’s “Occasional Papers,” the NEA’s “Report of the Committee of Ten,” Ellwood P. Cubberley’s Public Education in the United States, and assorted writings by John Dewey (See Education in America in the Resource Library). The plans and sentiments expressed on these pages shed a lot of light on the causes of our problems but not as much on on the solution.
Last but not least, I went to God Himself to see what He had to say on the matter. And, when I say last, I mean last. Like so many others in the modern world, I allowed my attention and energy to be monopolized by the activities of daily life. This left very little time for growing a relationship with God, so He was an afterthought instead of my first thought. I had cut corners by relying on the advice of homeschool veterans, motivational conference speakers, and books. They were godly people who were strong in faith, but I had chosen godly solutions over God Himself. Because of this, our homeschool was riddled with holes and all the hope I poured into it at the start of each year quickly drained away.
When I finally did seek God’s counsel, everything changed! God began dropping little insights before me like a trail of breadcrumbs that led me through His word. When I held up my observations and experiences to what I found in the Bible and what was conveyed in prayer, I finally discovered what I hadn’t learned in 20+ years of calling myself a Christian! Why had I waited to ask? Why had I made God my last resort?
Now, I know exactly what it means to walk with the Lord and how transformative and sustaining that relationship can be! I’m able to discern His voice from among my own chattering thoughts, and I’ve realized just how present He is in the everyday. The truth is, nothing is really a burden when God is a welcome part of it—neither in life nor in education. Through Christ, we find strength, meaning, purpose, joy, and peace, and that makes all the difference in the world.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)