It wasn’t until I was an “older woman” that I fully grasped the idea of how much people enjoy talking about themselves, especially to an attentive audience. This “revelation” was made known to me during a “homeschooling camping week” which I had the privilege of attending this past summer. It was held at a small Christian Retreat Center in New York.
My original intent had been solely for academic purposes, to pursue a new avenue for teaching my second set of high school children. The guest speakers were excellent and an answer to prayer for me in my pursuit of a specific “alternative academic avenue”. It was something that I had been seeking The Lord on for a number of years. And at last He had brought the very people across my path, pioneers who had braved this specific path before me, to give me direction. We were even able to make it a combination family vacation and homeschool pursuit. While I attended the afternoon seminars with the older children, my husband spent “quality time” with the younger ones.
After one of the teaching sessions, I was very eager to “browse” the curriculum table of the guest speaker. I was a zealous, enthusiastic, committed homeschooling mom who had just been “fired-up” for a cause. I felt like a kid in a candy store, eager to digest what I had just learned.
As I approached the display of “goodies”, and wanting to hide my enthusiasm so as not to appear childish, I took on a casual gait as I strolled halfway down one side of the table. Viewing the videos, DVDs and books that coincided with the teaching session, I initially fought the urge to grab the newly published material, flip through the pages and delight in the smell of the fresh new ink.
Wanting to appear friendly in a new crowd of people, I said hello to one of the ladies standing near a book that I had been seeking out. Without thinking I quickly realized that I had transgressed the “code of curriculum browsing”; that is, unless a word is relevant to the curriculum being sought, it is best to keep silent to better accomplish the purpose of purchasing. My “hello” opened a whole new direction from that of my intended goal of “the book”. Unfortunately, my path diverged to one of answering her questions of “Where are you from? How long have you been homeschooling? How many children do you have? Where are you camped?”
I glanced at my watch, realizing that in just 15 minutes the room needed to be locked up, and all present would have to leave. I longingly glanced at “the book”, easily visible just over my new acquaintance’s shoulder. Suddenly she asked the question, “So what curriculum do you use?” Before I could answer, she quickly proceeded to describe to me her own course of study, particularly focusing on its faults, and the difficulties and struggles that she was encountering. I took this as a cry for help and her need for a listening ear. My dilemma: should I give in to self, excuse myself, risk being rude and “go for the book” or, do I give heed to the Holy Spirit—that still, small voice within me saying, “be swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19) and “he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (Prov. 10:19) With God’s grace, I chose the latter. The Spirit won.
My homeschool counterpart continued speaking and I gave her my undivided attention, coming to the conclusion that she only needed to talk. As we exited the room together, I continued to politely listen. Realizing that she was not seeking advice, I kept my curriculum preferences to myself. “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life.” (Prov. 13:3)
“There’s another teaching session tomorrow,” I told myself, “And if The Lord wants me to have ‘the book’, it will be there waiting for me.” It was better to have the Lord’s peace in my heart than the coveted book in my hand.
Epilogue: “The Book” was indeed still on the curriculum table the next day following the afternoon teaching session. Not only that, but other wonderful, new curriculum had also been added for viewing. Had I not given in to the Spirit’s leading, and had purchased “the book” the preceding day, I would probably not have browsed the table again. Not only would I have missed the new curriculum possibilities, but I would have thrown away the opportunity to have made a new friend and to have been used of The Lord to be a blessing to another.
Maribeth Spangenberg is a homeschool mother of nine, whom she and her husband, Steve, have always educated at home. Her three oldest children have graduated from homeschool highschool. She continues to teach her remaining children at home.