389 | Courage for the Year Ahead (Sean Allen)
Another school year is before us. This year, as with so many year's past, you probably have high hopes for how the school year will unfold, and that's wonderful; but have you counted the cost? In other words, are you prepared to not only start but finish strong? Let this episode serve as a pep talk or, if you like, a rally cry for all the potential and all the possibility that lies in the year ahead.
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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Well, hello everyone, and welcome again to the podcast. Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever time of day that you're listening to this, thank you for taking a little bit of time to share with us and hopefully we will be able to share something with you that will be useful and encouraging. I'm so excited to be able to share with you today because I'm looking back over the summer...I know it's not quite finished yet but it's going to be over soon, which is a little sad, and yet we have just spent in about a week or two now we just finished up our last convention...well, we have one more little one in September, but wow! what a convention season that we had. It was busy, it was hectic. We traveled thousands of miles. I was all over the country—coast to coast, East Coast, West Coast, I was down south. Didn't get too far up north, but my! we drove a lot of miles, we met thousands of people, spoke to thousands of people. It was just a blessing and a privilege and it was a whirlwind. It was exhausting, and yet I'm just so happy that we have this opportunity to actually meet some of you in person. We met a few listeners of the podcast and that was nice. That's always nice to know that there's people out there listening because as I think I mentioned to them, you know, I have no idea—I don't know who's out there listening, when you listen, how many...I really don't have much of an idea. I'm just talking to the air. There's nobody in this room right now. And so it makes it a little different experience. But, you know, having met some of you out on the convention circuit and seeing your face and hearing your voice, you know, that really helps me because I do feel like I'm talking to some of you all. I'm just here to encourage you. That's all that I could hope to do, and if I'm able to accomplish that, I'm happy. Because I think what you're doing is great, I know I've said this many times before. It's wonderful. Keep at it. Stick with it. Hang in there. And I know we're at the start of a new year, and that's kind of what I want to talk to you about today.
I want to in some way, through this microphone, I want to pass on to you some courage for the year that is ahead and some inspiration, because I want you to start this year off with as much energy and as much hope and as much vision as you possibly can, because you're going to need that to carry you through the year. You know, you're building a tower here, as the Scriptures say. And as you build this tower, you want to count the cost. You want to consider whether or not you have a sufficient degree or amount of energy and hope and vision and so on and so forth to be able to cross the finish line strong. And you've probably had years where you barely were able to crawl across the finish line, but you made it and, you know, you want this year to be different and that's wonderful. And you should. You should always look to set your sights higher than what they were the previous year. And with that being said, you know, I also met hundreds of you this past year who are in your first year of homeschooling or this will be your first year of homeschooling and you just came out of your first year, second year homeschooling. It's just some people were just considering whether or not they were going to homeschool. They were just perusing, walking through the convention hall and asking themselves, Can I do this? And if you're listening to me right now, and if you're one of those people, because again, I met many of you and had the privilege of speaking to you, let me just say, you can do this. You are capable of doing this. You're fully equipped to do this.
How do I know that? You know, that's kind of a lofty thing to say or to suggest not having met some of you, but it doesn't really matter if I've met you or not. I just know that you can, because God has called you to this work. You know what? And a lot of times when you say that people will say, Well point me to the chapter and to the verse. Show me where I'm called. Well, there are some verses that we can point to, but what I would really rather point to is the fact that you have an inherent love for your children that was placed there by your Heavenly Father. So he gave you these children and he also gave you the love that you need to be able to care for them and to search out what is best for them. Now, there's lots of different things that we could discuss about how sometimes that love is obscured or it's not as well refined as it could be. And that's true of every one of us, and the Lord wants to refine the love that we have for our children. We start out with love, but there's a process of refinement that we need to go through so that we can, in those actions that we take towards our children, that they're actually effective. That they are actually in effect, it is an action of lifting and not hindrance, if you follow me. Because we can do things out of respect for the love that we have for them that are actually a hindrance to them. Actually, in effect, we are standing in their way and we can use love to justify all kinds of incorrect actions. Ask me how I know because I've done it many times and I've said, Well, I'm doing what's best for you because I love you. And then you look back on it, you realize, oh my goodness, I misjudged them or that was too harsh or that was too stringent or it was not age appropriate or whatever it may be. And so you look at that and you learn. You learn from those mistakes, and that helps to refine your love. And as your love has refined it helps to better qualify your lifting. Do you see what I'm saying? It's a process—loving, lifting, learning. And it's a cycle that you go through. And so try to remember that in the coming year.
You're going to learn a lot this year. If your first year, if your ninth year, if your whatever year, you're going to learn a lot. And that's the whole point of this adventure that you're embarking on. And it's going to be an adventure this year, too. Isn't that exciting? As you're standing at the head of your school year. Some of you have already hit the ground running. Some of you are furiously planning, you're pulling all of your resources together. That's the stage that my wife is in and she's getting it seems like every day we get another UPS shipment of books. And so she wasn't able to come to as many conventions with me this year, I think it was just a couple. And so she wasn't able to get all of her shopping done so she's been online, she's getting used books, she's getting recommendations from people. She does this every year. She's done it for 20 years now almost. Well, not quite 20 years, more like 16 years or so. And she was homeschooled before that so you would think that she has this down pat, but she is still learning as she goes along. She's, most importantly, she's learning more about her children and their needs and their wants and their desires and their development. And that's something else that's so exciting as we school our children at home is I think that we have a very unique perspective on their development as they grow and mature and they flower into that person that the Lord intends for them to become, and that is so very exciting. I've said this too, is that, you know, what you thought you perceived when they were three has grown into something perhaps quite different when they're 13. And again, your vision at first was cloudy. You couldn't clearly discern everything that was in store for them or that you couldn't clearly even comprehend the will of God for your children, but as they get older, that becomes more clear and it's a very exciting thing. And in most, if not all instances, it far exceeds our expectations and our hopes for them. And that's also what makes it an adventure, folks. That's what makes it so exciting.
So out on the convention circuit this year, it happens every year, we meet so many people that we've never met before and get a chance to talk to them, and the situations are so unique. I always meet families who are in a season of life or in a particular situation that I've never come across before. And it just is so wonderful. Like we're all not the same, are we? We don't live in the same location, we don't have the same number of children, we don't have the same kind of children, and the situations that we find ourselves in are just innumerable. And I always meet new situations and I talk to Caroline. I said, I met this person and they're going through this or they come from here or this was their life experience and so on and so forth. Isn't that amazing? I met a woman this year, a mother, who came by our booth and I thought she was...a lot of times you will see mothers and grandmothers or I guess you would say daughters and mothers walking through the convention hall. So the mother who's homeschooling her children is walking through with her mother. And that's such a beautiful thing to see as they support each other. And I saw there was an older lady come into our booth and that's who I thought this woman was. I thought she was someone's mother. And that the homeschool mother hadn't yet caught up to her. And so she comes into our booth, we're talking a little bit, and I quickly realized that no this is a homeschooling mother. And she told me her experience and her life situation and she is, I think she was 82-years-old. 82-years-old. And she's homeschooling her last child, if you can believe that. You would think that would have been done a long time ago. But I believe her son was, yeah, I think it was 13-, 14-years-old, something like that. I can't remember the exact age. So she's got a few years left yet and she's 82. So she'll be, what, 85? 86? By the time that he's graduated. He is adopted. He was a foster child, if I remember correctly, and he's since been adopted. And I was just blown away. It was such a beautiful example. You know, this woman could have said a long time ago, you know what, I'm done. I've put in my time, I've put in the work. There's really nothing else that should be expected of me, but she continues to lay her life down for her children. And it was just a remarkable thing. And I said, Well, this is your last one. That must be tinged with some sadness. And she said, Well, it is. It is. And yet I'm ready to be done. And I thought, well, there's no shame in that, ma'am. There's absolutely no shame in that for just the sacrifice that you've made and the excellent example that you're setting before me and so many other people. And she was there looking for a curriculum. She was there trying to find the right history curriculum and the right math curriculum for her son for that year. And wow, it was just incredible.
I met another lady who she was in her early seventies, late sixties, early seventies, and she also had foster children and she had five, I want to say, in her home at that time, four or five. And her and her husband met later in life. She remained unmarried until like in her...she was in her late fifties, early sixties, and they met, got married. And, you know, they looked at each other one day and they said to each other, they said, you know, would it have been wonderful if we would have met each other earlier in life? And, oh, the children we could have had, the family we could have raised. And then that got the wheels to turning, and they realized, well, we could still have children, let's go adopt. So they started welcoming foster children into their home. And eventually they've adopted like 3 to 5 and she's homeschooling them. Now, these children were older when they received them or when they came into their home and so there's a lot of water under that bridge and they're dealing with a lot of untoward influences from their previous lives. And you could just see the concern on her face for her sons and for her daughters because she wanted to create an environment that appealed to them so that they might come to Christ. And it was just, again, I just about fell over. And it just makes you want to cry. It's so emotional to see the love that you all possess for your children. You know, I know that I have it for mine, but when you see it in action in other people, there's such a beauty and such a degree of inspiration that you can draw from that.
And so, oh my goodness, there were so many others I met—grandparents homeschooling their grandchildren. I met mothers who are homeschooling their sister's children or their friend's children. I met so many mothers who are considering homeschooling for the first time and you could just tell they're just so overwhelmed because, you know, as wonderful as homeschool conventions are, they are absolutely overwhelming, certainly for the first time homeschooler. And they would come into the hall and they're like, please help me. Where do I start? And you just want to take them aside and say, it's going to be alright, it's going to be all right because the Lord's going to lead you where you need to go. And it's not going to be necessarily easy, but he will lead you if you trust him and you will find exactly what you need.
There was another mother who came up and, again, first time home...had never done this before. This would be her first year. And she said, I've got a three-year-old and he's really behind in reading. And I thought, Oh my, oh my goodness, who's talking to you? Who's causing you this level of concern over your three-year-old not able to read just yet?And we hear this from time to time, like, Oh, my son or my daughter, they're five or six and they're just not reading at the level that their peers are. And, Oh, I'm so, so concerned and worried. And we say it's going to be alright. And we had the privilege of talking to this young lady and we said you've got plenty of time. We said, you know, our children are voracious readers and they're addicted and they just gobble up just about anything that they could find, but it took them a while. Most of them...we have late readers. Most of our children didn't read until around eight. And some of them a little later than that. But once the switch flipped, it was off to the races. And so we tried to share our experience with her and she could just see the relief wash over her face, like, Oh, it's going to be okay. And it is going to be okay because there's a God in heaven who is presiding over the rearing of your children. If you'll just place your hand in his, he's going to lead you every step of the way and it's going to be okay. So many people. I could go on and on and on with the different individuals that we met. And again, I just count it all joy and such a privilege to be able to meet you all, to speak to you all, and I'm so inspired by your stories and your testimonies and the things that you're going through and the struggles and the successes and the wins and yes, even the tears that fall at times as a result of mistakes that we've made or difficulties that we're going through. And you'll have those this year, too. Let me just say that up front. You're going to have those this year. If your first year, 10th year, you're going to have them again.
That was kind of the main thrust of this episode is that I wanted to say to you, you've got things in your heart that you want to accomplish this year. You have a vision that has been, I believe, placed there by your Heavenly Father. And if he hasn't placed it there, then go to him and ask him to qualify the things that reside in your heart. Lay all that before him. Like, here are my plans, here are my hopes and my dreams. Is any of this in accordance with your will? Does this please you? And he'll show you the things that do and that don't. The things that you need to keep a hold of and the things that you need to cut out. And there are probably things in there that are going to bog you down and get in the way of what's most needful. And I want you to consider that at the head of this year is what is most needful for you and your brood this year for your sons and your daughters. What's most needful? Now they need the education, they need the book learning, they need to progress in those various areas. It's absolutely true, but do not forget the character. Don't forget the spiritual growth. Don't forget the opportunities to draw closer to one another as a family. And you have that in spades as a homeschooling family. You've got a greater opportunity in the way in which you're going about this than anybody else out there, bar none, it's not even close. So make the most of those opportunities. And I don't...you misunderstand me, learning is important. It's important to me for my children. But don't let learning get in the way of the things that are most needful, all right. And do not forget the character. Do not forget the spiritual growth. Do not forget the togetherness and the spontaneity, the opportunities for spontaneity that you have just to kind of step outside one day and say, you know what, we're going a nature walk or you know what, we're going to read the rest of the afternoon or you know what, we're going to go to an orchard or we're going to pick fruit or we're going to...I don't know, there's a hundred million different things that you can do and the opportunities that are available to you are unique. And you know what they are.
Well, there goes my dog. I don't know if you could hear that or not, but anyway. Do not forget about those things because they're so precious, they're so rare. And the season of life that you're in, you will not pass this way again. Let me say that again. You will not pass this way again. You've got a three-year-old, a five-year-old, a six-year-old that you're homeschooling this year. You have a two-year-old and a 16-year-old. I don't know what your situation...I don't know what the ages are, how many, what age is so on and so forth. I don't know, but I can guarantee you that this particular age range that you have in your home this year, you will not pass this way again. And so all of the unique situations that can come out of this unique situation is something that you will not be able to discover again. And don't let that pass you by either. And go to the Lord every morning and ask him and say, Lord, help me to uncover the beauty of this time, of this very peculiar season that we're in, this unique season of life that we're in. And he will bless you. And then at the end of the year, you'll be able to turn around and look back and see how his hand has been in all of it, every step of the way and the blessings that were strewn all along the way. So you have things in your heart, there are probably many, many things that the Lord has placed there himself and you have imagined to yourself what this year could be like. Maybe last year was rough and you're regrouping and you're going to go at it again and make a better effort. That's wonderful. Or again, maybe this is your first year and you don't know the first thing that you're doing and you're just going to fly by the seat of your pants. That's okay. That's wonderful. You're going to be amazed. And if you allow the Lord to qualify the hopes and the dreams that are in your heart, I can guarantee you that what will result from your journey this year will far exceed your wildest expectations. You're going to have more joy. You're going to have more spontaneity. You're going to have more growth. You're going to have more beauty than you know what to do with if you'll just place your hand in his and allow him to guide you through the year.
So let adventure be the buzz word for the year. Let that be one of your words. Let it be adventurous. Let it be exciting. Let it be unpredictable. Now I know there needs to be a certain level of predictability and you've got to order your homeschool and you've got to stay on task, and all of those things are very, very important but keep an eye out for the unexpected. And I don't mean that in a negative sense, but unexpected opportunities that perhaps you just didn't see coming. And when they fall in your family's lap, try to make the most of them because this year is so full of potential. I don't care who you are or where you are, I don't care what year it is, I don't care how many children you have or how few children you have, this year is pregnant with potential. And there's so much that can happen. And all those things that are in your heart, you know, go for it. I'm just here to tell you, go for it. Go after it. And don't let this be a year that you look back on and you think, oh, man, I missed so much. There were so many things that I let slip through my fingers. Now there are going to be those things. It's unavoidable and there are going to be regrets. But let there be as few as possible. Let this be the year that you look back and you say, Thank you, Lord. Thank you for the privilege of being able to do this is, as difficult and as challenging as it is, I'm so thankful to you. And there's sometimes at these conventions when I just look around and I see all these people, these wonderful people walking by and some of the conversations that we have, I just want to hop up on the table and say, Aren't we privileged? Isn't this just amazing that we can do this? There are the majority of the people out there.... the opportunity that we have here just passes them by. They do not give it a second thought.
When I was growing up and I was in school, I didn't give this a second thought. I never even dreamed that you could school your children in this way or that you could be with them so much of the day. And I know that that presents its own challenges, but on the whole, it's a net positive. On the whole, it is a truly wonderful and beautiful thing. Perhaps one of the, if not the, most beautiful thing that you will do over the course of your life and certainly later in life when you look back over this time, that will be very clear that this is a time of beauty. So when you feel yourself getting bogged down and you're getting discouraged and you're at a fork in the road and you don't know which way to turn, just try to step outside of that fog, step back as far back as you can and I bet what you'll see is some light, You'll see just this beautiful scene up here before you. You'll be able to see your children gathered there in your living room and the knowledge that they are there with you and you are with them will present just a beautiful portrait to your heart and it will encourage you. And that's when you know you're doing the right thing. And step back in with that strength that you receive from that portrait and put your hand to the plow and don't look back. Don't look back. So you can do this. You will do this. And Lord willing, you will remain strong and sure throughout this year, and this very well may be your best year ever. Your best year ever. And that's the goal. That's the vision. Let the Lord placed that in your heart—every year better than the next. And so I'm so excited for you. I know that this is just a pep talk. I haven't given you a lot of practical advice or anything like that. I just feel like this is what I needed to do. I needed to try to wing some encouragement your way through this microphone because I'm excited for you. I'm excited for our year and my wife's excited, my children are excited, and I hope that you are too. So with all that said, may God bless you. May he richly bless you and your home this year. May he give you the strength and the hope and the vision to accomplish all that he has placed in your heart to do. And may this truly be your best year ever is my prayer. So I will look forward to talking to you again very soon. And I will just say goodbye for now.