369 | The Best Advice I Can Give to the Struggling Parent (Sean Allen)
We meet hundreds of parents every year at homeschool conventions across the country. We are often approached and asked what advice or counsel we might give regarding difficulties many of these parents may be facing with their children. Sometimes we feel like we have a very clear answer to give, but more often than not, the best advice we can offer them is also, perhaps, the most obvious. In this episode I'll discuss what this bit of advice is and, despite it being hidden in plain sight, why it is ultimately superior to any counsel I may be able to offer.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
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Sean Allen Hello. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Since you're listening to this, I'm guessing you already know that homeschooling is both incredibly challenging and incredibly beautiful. Every week we're here doing a little guidance, some helpful counsel, and a whole lot of encouragement your way as you navigate this busy, yet blessed journey of educating your children at home. Now, even though the show is called Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every homeschool related question. But if you come away with nothing else, our hope is that today's episode will point you to Jesus Christ and that you will seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Well, hello and good day to each and every one of you. Thank you for joining us on the podcast today. I'm a little stopped up, so my voice might sound a little different this time around, but we will make it through just fine. I really appreciate you taking your time out of your day to listen to the podcast. I know that, speaking for the other speakers, there's a lot of good information on here. Sometimes I'm a little surprised that anybody listens to me! But again, I'm a little different voice here on the show, and I hope that that's welcome. But thank you again and I hope you all are doing well. We have just gotten back from... Well, it's been a few days now that we've gotten back from our first convention of the season. And that was in Saint Charles, Missouri. And we had a wonderful time. It's always very busy and hectic, but we always enjoy going and we always especially enjoy meeting new families, new faces, and just getting to talk to people, and where they're at in life. And even hearing about the struggles because, look, we know all about those, and we know what that's like. So it's always encouraging to meet people and to see that they're there sticking with it. They're not giving up. They're not despairing. They genuinely want to do better. They might have a dilemma or some kind of a difficulty that they're experiencing at the time, and they just can't seem to figure it out. And we've been there, too. And, you know, sometimes it's just good to talk to somebody else. You may even have the answer somewhere rattling around in your head, but you need some confirmation. And so we're blessed to be able to talk and to share things that I really feel like we don't... We're not really necessarily sharing anything new, but we're just kind of a helpful voice, I hope. And sometimes people just need permission to do this or that. And it can get bleak, you know. It's a little lonely sometimes. You'll feel like you're the only parent in the world. And depending on what circles you frequent or, you know, are you surrounded by friends? Do you have any help or support? Or does anybody understand why you're doing what you're doing? You know, those kinds of things. So you're definitely surrounded by friends at homeschool conventions. There's a lot of like-minded people there. That's one of the reasons why we love them so much. But boy, it's always very hectic getting ready for the convention. And it's of course, busy at the convention, which is a blessing. We're so thankful for that. And then, of course, after the convention, it's maybe more hectic because we got to unload, we got to restock, and then we've got to get ready for the next convention, which is coming up in just a matter of days. And I'm not complaining; it's just a whirlwind. And so that's kind of where we're at right now.
But I'll tell you what I have in mind to share with you today, and it's not going to be anything earth-shattering. It really never is. But again, I think it's something that perhaps needs to be said, and that maybe for somebody out there or some few of you, this will be, I hope, an encouragement and maybe a little bit of a relief. But it's not anything that you don't already know. We encountered this at the last convention. This comes up quite frequently. And I always am sad that I don't have the very specific answers that people need. Sometimes I feel like I do. Sometimes I feel like I've been given something, or I've experienced that exact same thing that they're going through, and I'm able to maybe offer some insight or some counsel of some kind. But most of the time parents will come up to me after my sessions and they'll ask me very specific questions about their children and about some struggles that they're going through with their son or their daughter. And they always followed up with, "What would you do?" And I always cringe at that because I desperately want to be able to help them. I know how much it makes your heart ache to go through a period with your child in which you feel like, "I just don't know what to do. I have no idea. And I know something needs to change, but I don't know how to affect that change." So I've been there too. And as much as I would love to be able to say, "Well, do this and do that and do the other, and then it'll all be okay." I usually cannot say that. I always try to tell them like, "Look, your situation is so unique, and your children are so unique, and with what limited information that you've given me here today I really can't say one way or the other." Sometimes I have a sense. I feel like, "Well, it could be this or it could be that." But then there's other times when you say things that absolutely do not apply, because it's almost... I feel like it's oftentimes presumptuous of me to give advice or to give counsel in situations where I don't know the whole story. And there's no way for me to know the whole story unless I was in the home on a daily basis, just as a silent observer--I was just invisible in the corner or something like that. Because, look, folks, even with my own children who I am with every single day--I mean, I work at home and I'm around them all the time--I still feel like... I oftentimes feel like, "I don't know what's going on here. I don't know where this is coming from." Maybe it's some form of misbehavior, or it's an attitude, or maybe they're just down and they're mopey and you're trying to feel like, "Where is this coming from?" So that's with my own children that I'm with almost 24/7.
Sean Allen And so when there are those moments where I feel like I'm blessed and I'm able to maybe lend some insight or some counsel to it, I just am so thankful for that. That does not come from me. It comes from the experiences that the Lord has allowed me to endure, that sometimes they're just a little bit of light there that you can share. And you hope that it's helpful in some way. But like I said, most of the time it's... I feel like--and I tell people this, too--I said, "I feel like this is a cop-out and I hope that you're not disappointed. But I would just say, pray. You know, pray about it." And I want to speak about that just for a little bit. I say this many... I've said this many times on this show, "I'm not going to go on very long," and then it ends up I look at the timer, it's like, "Oh, it's 45 minutes later!" So I'm going to try real hard to keep this short because it's a very simple concept, and I don't think there's a whole lot that needs to be said. But here's the thing... And I say this in a lot of my sessions. This is a very simple but powerful truth, is that God is a parent too. And it's good for us to be reminded of that. I would say too for us to be reminded of that on a daily basis, or as often as possible. We forget this. I think that it is easy for us to fall into this idea, or this notion, that God has created our children and He has turned them over to us, and handed us the keys, and has said, "Do what needs to be done." And then he's going to walk away and leave us to ourselves until graduation time, and then He steps back in and says, "You know, how'd it go." It's obviously not anything like that at all. And actually, it's quite the opposite.
Sean Allen So there are a number of things here to be said. And I don't want to go too deep into this, but I talk about this quite a bit in my sessions. So God is a parent, too. And He made you just like He made your children. And oh, by the way, while He is asking you to assist Him in the rearing of that child that He made, He is refining you. So He's asking you to help raise His children. (By the way, they are His.) And he's also raising you right alongside them. And this is important to remember. And so because He is a parent. All we need do is look into our own hearts and see how anxiously we desire the best for our children. And then you take that and you compound it by some number that is probably not humanly countable, and then you apply that to God's heart and you have something of the sense of how much He loves your children. And how much He loves you. And so when you see something in your child that you want to tend to, you want to help, you want to cull, you want to correct, you want to encourage even... When you see those things, please know that God sees them more clearly than you do. But again, this is not lightning bolt news. This is not like a revelation. You know this, but I'm just reminding you of this. And so His eyes are always on your children. I've heard someone say this once, and it just gave me goose bumps: "God never takes his eyes off your children." All the things that you are seeing, He sees them too, and He sees them more clearly, and He sees more things. And furthermore, He can interpret those things correctly. And He is primarily responsible for--or he should be--primarily responsible for the raising of your children. So that being so: Why do you not turn to Him more and ask Him for help? Ask Him for counsel and for guidance.
Sean Allen I usually put it to people like this: At your job--and this is not necessarily a job, but there are some similarities--at your job, there are normally... There's a manager and there's a boss and there's a chairperson. There's people in authority over you. They've established this business and they produce some kind of ware or some kind of service or whatever it may be, and you're assisting them to produce that thing. And so they know the ins and outs, or the best practices to produce that thing most efficiently and in such a way that there's a profit left over, and everybody can get paid, and the company can prosper, and so on and so forth. So if you are doing anything at all that is hindering that process, they are most likely going to let you know about it. They're going to pull you aside and say, "Well, we see that you're doing it like this. And we ask that you do it like this, because it's better. This is why." Or from time to time you probably have performance reviews, where they bring you into their office and they say, "You know what? You're doing a great job and we really appreciate this, and keep up the good work. And oh, here's a bonus or here's whatever." Or maybe they'd say, "You know what? You're kind of lagging in this area, and we ask you that you..." You know what I'm getting at here. You know what I'm driving at. Now, how much more intensely interested is God in the upbringing of your children, than any CEO or boss or manager ever could, or would be, concerning the success of his or her company? It can even be breathed in the same breath. And so that being the case, He's asked you to assist him in that work, which is, unspeakably... The privilege contained in that asking, or in that permission, or in that allowance for you and I to assist in this work is... There really aren't words to describe that. And it's a great mystery. But nevertheless, He has permitted us to do this. And it's a great privilege. And so as we go along, when we find that there are times in which we don't have answers, well, there's someone that does. And this is probably also part and parcel to the refining process that He's putting you through, because He wants you to turn to Him. Now, that does not mean that you cannot go and ask other people. Maybe you've found someone that's in a similar station or position of life, or state of life, that you are in. Someone that has a large family, someone that's also homeschooling, someone that's been-there-done-that kind of a person. And you go to them. There's nothing wrong with that at all. And I'm flattered that people would come up to me and ask me questions about, "What would I do?" Quite frankly, I would do, and have done, and will continue to do the same thing. Because it's good to receive counsel from other people.
Sean Allen But when the answers do not come, or maybe the answer that does come is not all-sufficient. Maybe there's just a little bit of the puzzle that is added to the dilemma, but you need more pieces. And so you continue to search. And God can speak through other people. He can certainly do that! But when parents come to me and ask me these questions, oftentimes I've said, "You need to pray about it." And it sounds so... Oh! It sounds so cliched. It sounds kind of trite, you know. And I feel sorry about that. I feel like I've short-changed them. And yet at the same time, what I really think about, it's probably the best thing that I could say. The last thing that I want to do is sit up there and act like I have the answers for everything, because that's absolutely not the case. And it's doing you a disservice by saying, "Well, this is what I would do. And that's what..." Because that's not... No one could ever be like that. No one could have a sufficient degree of experience to be able to speak to every situation. I could try, and I could pretend like I know everything, but I feel like oftentimes that would do nothing but discourage parents because when they try to apply the advice, they realize, "You know what, this doesn't exactly fit. This doesn't necessarily apply to me. His children aren't like my children. And my children are like his children." I think that there are universal truths and insights that sometimes the Lord allows us to acquire. But a lot of this is experience. And without me actually being there, no one could actually... No one could say for sure. There are times when parents will come up to me and they will state the situation in such a way that it's presented in a very black-and-white way. As in, "I understand what's going on here, and this is what I'm doing to fix it. And I want you to confirm what I'm doing." And I almost always feel in those instances, it would be inappropriate for me to confirm. Because sometimes you discern that that's, "Well, that's actually part of the problem, is that, you think you know and you don't. You think you've properly discerned the situation, and you haven't. Or maybe you haven't," I should say. And often what I will say to those parents is, "Have you considered this? Have you thought about that? Did you ever wonder if maybe this other thing is the possibility?" And sometimes a light bulb goes off and sometimes it doesn't. But that's also something that can be very helpful.
Sean Allen And I would just encourage you, that if you see fit to go and ask anyone for advice, that you just open your ears and listen. And sometimes you will hear stuff that just rings absolutely true. And it dawns on you, you should have known all along maybe. I've been like this many times, like, "Why in the world did I not think of that?" But if you don't humble yourself and open your ears, the Lord can't bequeath these truths to you because you're not able or ready to receive them. Maybe you're not capable of receiving them. Sometimes the answers that come... And again, often I don't feel as if I'm invested enough in the situation with the family to be able to chide or to chastise, but sometimes you feel as if that's what needs to happen. "Like you've... You're actually making this worse by going on in this way that you feel is the only way that you can tend to this situation." And that's a lot of what I share in my sessions is that I've made a huge error in my past with my children being so dead set on a particular method or a philosophy that was actually making things way worse than if I didn't employ at all. And a lot of people will step forward and say, "Well, this is... You know, there's this formulaic equation that if you apply it properly to your child, will always produce the same results." And that's just absolutely not the case. If you want to call it this, you may--but I don't know that it necessarily qualifies--but the only formulaic equation that I can think of that you could apply to your children and it produced the same kinds of desirable results every single time is the love of God. And even that's not a failsafe, folks, because I'm a firm believer in the agency of man and in our children to be able to choose what they will and will not accept, what they will and will not do, ultimately.
Sean Allen Now, obviously, when they're under your roof, they need to abide by your authority. But in the end, they have to choose whether or not they will walk in the way of the Lord. But if you want the best and the most reliable and most durable results that you can possibly think of, you apply the love of God to the situation. And see what comes of that. It might not come as a surprise to you, but it is far, far better than anything that we could do in our own strength. And so often that is what, sadly, is not the case in our relationships with our children, is that the love of God is not there to the degree that it should be. And if we could just apply that love, something would break free. Something would shake loose. You've got a situation where you're just butting heads, butting heads, butting heads, you not seeing eye to eye, and the relationship is raw, and you're beginning to resent one another. And you're thinking, "I don't know what else to do. What else could I do?" But once you humble yourself like a little child and go before the foot of your Parent, go before the foot of your Father in heaven and ask Him, "What do I do? I need You to direct me in this. What is it that I need to see that I'm not seeing?" And so many times Caroline and I have been enlightened to have eyes to see something that we were previously blind to. And you're just like, "Oh my goodness! Why did I not know this?!" And then it's almost a chastisement against me. Because here I am thinking I'm the father. I'm the ultimate authority in this child's life right now. And what I say goes. And in all of these various misunderstandings, I guess I should say, regarding my role. It's true that I am authority in my household, and so on and so forth, but I'm not the ultimate authority. The ultimate authority should be God. And if I could just get out of the way, then my son or my daughter would be better off. And I don't mean leave the house. I don't mean give your children free rein. I don't mean let them do whatever they want to do. I mean, replace more of yourself with the love and the actions and the discernment and the intense interest that is possessed by our Heavenly Father towards our children. Less of me and more of Thee, would be a better way to put it. And if we could just have more of that in our homes, oftentimes we'll find that something just appears, that was probably there all along, but we previously did not see, and it just frees up the situation. And it's almost as if it never was. And in a few weeks or a few months time or maybe a years, you'll almost forget that it ever was a thing. Because our children go through seasons, don't they?
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Sean Allen I'm going to wrap this up because I'm looking at the time and I see a two and a three. And so that was really all that I really wanted to say, because this happens at every convention. And I want to be absolutely clear: This in no way should discourage you--any of you that may be listening to this, who may be coming to a homeschool convention in the future--this in no way should discourage you from coming up to me and talking to me. I don't set myself out there as some great parenting guru that, again, has all the answers. But I'm happy to talk. I'm happy to listen. And I'm always happy to hear or to learn about the love that you have for your children. It's always so inspiring and encouraging. And even though there's a problem, even though there's sorrow or heartache in the home and... There's so many hard situations, and they're very difficult hear, and yet to see that there are still men and women out there who care enough to weep over the lives of their children. That in and of itself is encouraging to me, and it is beautiful in a way. It's also very painful to witness, but it also has its own beauty to it. And at a lot of conventions you're just surrounded by hundreds of people like that. And when you're willing to open up and to share some of these things, there's such a beauty to it. And oftentimes it's sad, but so many other times... I just... We heard so many... There was a number of things over this past weekend that I heard testimonies that were shared with me, and it was just... Oh, my goodness! It was heart-achingly beautiful to hear the trajectory of some people's lives and where they started, like what their home life was like. And then how they came out of that. And how the Lord showed them certain things, and they clung to those truths, and they allowed them to shape and mold and alter their life for the better. And then here they are now doing the best that they can to raise their children in the way that they should go, in a manner and in a way that is pleasing to their Heavenly Father. It's just so encouraging and so wonderful.
Sean Allen So by all means, please continue to talk to us. We'll do the very best we can. If the Lord has anything at all that He might say through us to you. We feel very blessed and privileged, and if not, please do not be offended or disappointed when the answer that comes back sounds something like, "You need to pray. Or I would just encourage you to pray." So that's what I had for today. I'm proud of myself. I've actually gone a little shorter than normal. And there's a whole lot more things that I could say, but we will save that perhaps for another episode. So our next convention will be in South Carolina. We'll be leaving in just a few days. Actually, by the time this airs will probably be traveling there. If you live in that area and you will be attending the GHC convention in South Carolina, we would love, love, love, love to meet you and to talk with you. Our booths will be... I don't know exactly will where they'll be located yet, but we will be with The Well Ordered Homeschool and Chalk Full of Design, and we'll have lots of products there that we would love to sell you. If you have the interest or the money, we would be happy to sell you some things. But we're excited because our planner--the fourth edition of our planner--2022-2024 Well Ordered Homeschool planner is almost at our doorstep. It should be here Monday. And it has taken a long time and a long journey to get to our door. And we're so grateful, so happy and excited, that it's here. We would love for you to check it out. We have poured our heart and soul into this thing. We are homeschoolers, too, and my wife's a second-generation homeschooler. And so we sat down and put together the best homeschool planner that we can think of, and we're always trying to make it better. This year it's even more beautiful, it's even more durable. It has tabs, which everybody's excited about. It's kind of humorous to see how excited ladies can get about tabs, but nevertheless, the tabs are a big hit, so we were happy to be able to add those this year. And we would love for you to... Again, if you're going to be in the South Carolina area, come by and see it for yourself. But otherwise, thank you again for listening to us today. And as always, we pray God's richest blessings upon you as you continue to rear your children at home and educate them at home. They were so thankful for the work that you do. So have a good day. Bye bye.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschooling.mom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the Homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topic, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I'll be there. I hope to see you there too.