The book of Exodus has been showing up a lot for me recently. Between my personal Bible study, sermons I’ve heard, books I’m reading, and discussions with my husband, I can’t seem to get Exodus and the children of Israel off of my mind.
All of my time in Exodus has lead me to wonder what’s in Exodus for the homeschool heart. In other words, what wisdom can we homeschool parents glean from the Israelites as they journey to the Promised Land?
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When homeschooling is hard, (which is fairly often) we’ve got to remember that what we’re doing is bigger than us. It’s about our kids, the time God has given us to pour into their lives, and generations to come.
As they journeyed to the Promised Land, the children of Israel were reminded of that “it’s bigger than me” message time and time again. If they needed nonstop reminders, maybe we need them, too.
Exodus for the Homeschool Heart
If you haven’t spent time in Exodus lately, here’s a quick summary for you. Exodus is the second book of the Old Testament and chronicles the departing of the Israelites from Egypt. And, let me tell you, the Israelites didn’t sneak out the back door. God delivered them from Egypt when Egypt was a powerhouse and He did it in a bold, unmistakable way.
Exodus comes from the Greek word exodos and refers to the way out. The first third of the book focuses on the Israelites and their way out of Egypt, but the rest of the book shows us how the Israelites needed a way out of sin. They needed a way out of the bondage of sin and a way into relationship with God. Ultimately, Exodus is all about God’s power, provision, and promises on display for all of us through the rescue of the children of Israel.
You can’t look back
“As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said to leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'” – Exodus 14:10-12
I like the footnotes from my Illustrated Study Bible for this passage: “This complaint is the first occurrence of what was to become a sad refrain over the next forty years … The cry of the unsurrendered heart is always, ‘Give me the security of slavery rather than the risk of faith.‘”
Let us be slaves? It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness? We see the Israelites looking back rather longingly at their time as slaves on and off throughout the accounts in Exodus. Isn’t it crazy what hardship will drive us to do?
Longing for yesterday
Whether you’ve always homeschooled or your kids were once enrolled in public or private schools, you can’t look back. It’s not healthy or productive to play the “what if” game every time life gets hard. When we allow ourselves to look back and wish for oppression over freedom, we let the enemy of our hearts win.
It may seem a little dramatic to refer to public or private school as oppression, — I realize there are greater issues in terms of slavery around the world — but hear me out. If you’re homeschooling because God called you to it, choosing a non-homeschool option will feel like oppression.
When you long for yesterday, or life before homeschool, because it seemed easier than the unknown, you allow bitterness to take root in your life. You also invite further challenges and potential discipline in your life (see Numbers 14).
Don’t look back. Let God be God. He knows our situations and He cares. He rescues His people time and time again, but He also calls us to a personal relationship with Him. You can’t have that relationship without trusting Him in all areas of life, including your family’s homeschool journey.
Trust God to provide
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.'” – Exodus 16:4
“‘Strike the rock and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.’ So, Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.” – Exodus 17:6b
The Israelites saw God come through for them in ways we can’t imagine. Plagues, Passover, and the parting of the Red Sea weren’t just old campfire stories for them. They lived these things.
They had no reason to think they were on their own, yet they were quick to panic when they didn’t have the answers. Despite the miracles that defined their relationship with God, trusting Him wasn’t any easier for them than it is for us.
Here’s the thing: provision may not look how we imagined it. It may mean that our homeschool wishlist and our homeschool shelves don’t bear much resemblance. It may mean that we learn the difference between what we want for our homeschool and what we need.
God’s provision may not appear in the form of a check in the mail. It may not be a significant raise or refinancing of mortgage rates. Instead, His provision may show itself through smaller grocery bills, consignment shops, and the selling of used curriculum.
We can’t pretend to know exactly how God will provide, but He will. And when He does, we better recognize it. We need to be ready to receive it and give thanks when it comes.
It’s okay to ask for help
“‘This is not good!’ Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. ‘You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself …
Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes…
They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.'” – Exodus 18:17, 20, 22b
Day in and day out, I’ve taught both of my kids. I’ve worked four or five hours each day, cooked dinner and washed dishes. I’ve rarely asked for help with laundry. I’ve let housework go undone. I’ve said yes at church when I should have said not right now. I’ve been doing it all.
At what expense, though? If doing it all means neglecting myself and never having quality time for my family, then what good is it? If doing it all means operating as a machine and forgetting to live, why bother?
The danger of martyr mode
As a homeschool mom, I’m often tempted to go into full-blown martyr mode. That wasn’t good for Moses and it’s not good for my homeschool heart. It’s also not good for yours.
Yet again, my Illustrated Study Bible footnotes nail it. These are great points on Moses and his “I’ll do it all” mindset:
- “a leader-centered approach is not good for either the leader or the people.”
- Albeit unintentional, Moses set himself up to be indispensable to the people he led.
- He needed to separate his teaching from his administration in order to stay focused on what matters most.
These points all ring true for homeschool parents. Families have to work together. Parents will rightfully have more responsibilities than children or teens, but no one person should carry the load for the entire family.
Martyr no more
Letting go of the martyr life was good for Moses and the children of Israel. They needed to function without him in some areas. That’s how other leaders find their stride.
It’s good for me, my husband, and my children as well. Despite my ISTJ personality, I can honestly say that asking for help is better for everyone. Learning that I don’t have to be everything to everyone has been incredibly freeing.
When I’m overwhelmed in other areas, my ten year-old handles his schoolwork independently. I’ve even taught my kids to do their own laundry (the four year-old hasn’t mastered it, but she can help!). I’ve learned to talk openly about the work I’m doing so my family is aware of projects or deadlines. I let hubby handle most of the housework. I balance homeschool and church by saying yes only when I feel called to serve.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a look and see where you can lighten your load. You might be surprised by how helpful it is just to pass one thing off to someone else!
There’s more there, but these are the three primary themes I’ve found while following the children of Israel through Exodus. For me, Exodus for the Homeschool Heart comes down to looking ahead, trusting God to provide, and seeking and accepting help on our homeschool journey.
What about you? What have you found that speaks to your homeschool journey while studying Exodus?
Looking for more encouragement for the Homeschool Heart? Check out these posts: