by Mike McHugh
In the year 1746, a young boy by the name of James Watt sat in his mother’s kitchen in Greenock, Scotland examining the movements of a tea kettle. Hour after hour, this little lad asked his parents questions as he experimented with the tea kettle from time to time. He began by removing the top of the kettle at various intervals to determine how quickly the steam would dissipate. A short time later, this youngster held a cup and spoon over the spout and noted how the steam would quickly turn into water droplets. His most fascinating discovery during this time, however, was that steam held the power to move things; such as when it moved the cover that stood over the spout. Even at a young age, this home educated youth liked to tinker with objects, and study the reasons why things moved and worked.
As James Watt reflected upon what he had learned in his mother’s kitchen, he asked his parents to help him understand why steam had the power to move things. Although his parents tried their best to give him the answers he was looking for, young James was unable to comprehend the meaning and significance of much of what his mom and dad were trying to teach. It would in fact take many years before James Watt would finally discover the secrets of steam power, and in the process, become one of the greatest inventors in the history of the world.
I share this story because most home school parents have come to the end of a teaching session with their children and wondered, “Did anything I taught my students today really sink in?” The simple truth is that the facts and information that home educators teach their children are often not fully or immediately comprehended. In many cases, information that is transmitted to students must be “watered” multiple times in order that it may gradually bring forth a harvest of understanding. In other instances, truths that parents teach may in fact lay dormant in the minds of students for years before some other teacher comes along and builds upon the foundation that was previously laid and enables them to finally grasp the significance of what was initially taught.
Too often as a home school parent, I must confess that I have become anxious for my children to demonstrate complete mastery of the things that I have taught them. This sinful tendency for instant gratification commonly flares up as I succumb to the desire to achieve a sense of assurance and satisfaction that my time spent in teaching has been worth the effort. Instead of being patient until Almighty God is pleased to grant my children understanding, I have chosen to strive in my spirit and have placed inappropriate pressure upon my children to demonstrate how gifted an instructor I really am! How easy it is to forget that it is one thing for students to take in new information, and quite another thing for them to be able to articulate fully and precisely what it all means. As a home educator, I am learning to take tremendous comfort in the knowledge that my students may remember a lesson long after it has been taught, and one day comprehend the full meaning of a lesson that they at first could not understand.
Christ, the master teacher, knew what too many parent educators fail to understand; namely, that the seeds of knowledge and truth that are sown in the minds of students often need time to fully germinate. Home school parents can, and should, demand the attention of their students, but only the Lord can grant individuals the ability to comprehend subject matter at a given point in time. As the old saying goes, “Duty is ours, but the results belong to God.” How exciting it is to realize that in the providence of God the lessons and lectures that parents teach can still bear fruit in spite of the dullness of students at a particular point in time. As Ecclesiastes 11:1 so aptly states: “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”
What a blessing it is for Christian home educators to know that the hours they spend instructing their children are not in vain in the Lord, even when it appears from the outward perspective to be so. In this day and age when adults are so accustomed to demanding immediate results from people and things, it behooves those who are involved with Christian education to remember the importance of exercising patience as they sow vital information into the minds of children. After all, without faith in the effectual working of God to enable students to comprehend what is truly essential to their calling in life, it is impossible for any teacher to please the Lord. Christian educators must never fail to rest in the faithfulness of God to bless and increase the works of their hands. Let home school parents, therefore, continue to train their children in the way they should go with faith and patience, knowing that the harvest will surely come in the fullness of God’s perfect timing.
Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh
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