Back before we even had kids, we had a friend who told us that she and her husband made a commitment to homeschool their children for one year when each child reached the 6th grade. She told us about the advantages of having your pre-teen so bonded and connected to you as parents before they entered the teenage years, and of the creativity and fun you can have because the curriculum never really fills a whole day of work. She warned us that it would be quite an investment of time and resources, but assured us that it would be worth it.
Beth and I decided then and there that when we had a family, we would do the same. Later as our kids got closer to the sixth grade we also decided that during the year, each of our two kids would go on a mission trip with one of us, as well as take another educational trip with the other parent. It has been an investment indeed.
Beth put her career as marriage and family therapist on hold to be able to teach them. We rearranged our lives and saved our pennies for the trips we would take (especially this year with the economy such as it is.)
But the connection and time and experiences we have had with our kids are already demonstrating the immeasurable value of this commitment.
When our son Brooks was in the 6th grade (he is now a sophomore), he saw the American historical sites of the east coast with his mother and then went to Malawi with me on the "set-up" trip for the whole Y-Malawi ministry. Those who have followed this blog for awhile might remember the series of posts that I wrote about the experience and how it changed both my and my son's life. When he returned to public school the following year, he arranged the first student-led Bible study at the Junior High and has been a leader in our youth group. Tuesday he joined a bunch of our church members and kids to feed Thanksgiving dinner to a Marine Regiment. If you see his Facebook page, you'll know that he loves Jesus, he is a "friend" of the Senior VP of World Vision, and has a passion for seeing the world "put to rights" as only God can do.
Now our daughter, Ali is in the 6th grade and recently returned from a trip to South Africa to visit Acres of Love (a ministry that provides homes for children orphaned by AIDS), with a stop in Paris on the way to see some art and history. And once again, we have witnessed an amazing burst of growth in compassion, perspective and sensitivity in our child. She was guided and mentored by a young woman who grew up in our church and now works with Acres of Love in Johannesburg. Ali spent so much time with children whose lives have been tragically altered only to experience the grace of being truly "saved" by Christian people who love them dearly. She and her mom spent a day touring Soweto and learning of the massacre in a church and the uprisings that took place because of Apartheid. She saw the boyhood homes of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and she hugged a lot of children.
Ali returned from South Africa, made a PowerPoint presentation and was offered the opportunity to speak at our church for two different groups. When a World Vision gift catalog appeared at our house telling of how $200 could buy a goat and ten chickens for a family in Africa, Ali decided that she had the time to do so as a homeschooler, so she committed to doing a yard sale at our house and running/walking the Turkey Trot 10K.
She sent out word to our family and friends, I put some information up on Facebook and she held the yard sale. And then yesterday, in the pouring rain trudged the 6.2 miles to make a small difference in the world. Beth told me that she and Ali spent the whole walk/run talking about how many eggs could be produced for families because they were out in the rain.
Yesterday Ali added up the total she had raised just from some give away items and generous friends and today she'll "go shopping" on the Y-Malawi and World Vision website so that animals that will sustain people will be sent to Africa, including the Nkhoma Area Development Project that her big brother had helped establish four years earlier.
As I said, she hoped to be able to raise $200 to buy a goat and ten chickens, as of last night, she had raised $1000.
Now the list looks like this:
20 fruit trees
It sounds like one of those commercials doesn't it?
Traveling to Africa, rearranging your family life, the time to teach your kids at home, putting career aspirations on hold: Pretty darn expensive.
Seeing your kids become leaders in making a difference in the world: So priceless that you can't type the words without tears in your eyes.
(Here is something you and your family can watch and here is something you can do this Advent, if you'd like to take a small step now. And if you'd like to follow further adventures of my daughter's year and what she is learning and seeing, click here.)