He wanted to play football in the worst way.  None of his older 5 siblings ever wanted to play a team sport, so this was a new direction for our family.   It’s part of the adventure that is called homeschooling.  You spend a lot of time exploring and examining each child’s interests and letting them try things out and no matter how many kids you have, there’s always something new to tackle! (No pun intended.)

Sam is 15.  He is very tender hearted with a solid streak of stubborn.  He’s watched his older siblings excel at many things and he chose something different.

He came to us early spring and asked if he could play football at the local public high school.  We have homeschooled all of our kids (eight of them) from the beginning.  They have lots of friends and pretty much all of them homeschool.  It’s not that we are afraid of public schoolers, just leary of sending a lone homeschooler into a large group of them.

As a mom, all the possible scenarios came rushing through my heart and mind:  Would he give into the temptation to do some of the stupid things these kids may think of as normal?   Guy’s locker room shenanigans, derogatory talk about girls, swearing like a sailor, looking at pornography and probably several things I’ve never heard of.

Was he ready to deal with being made fun of and feeling like an outsider?  Would his coach be an ally or not give a rip about this kid’s heart?  Would Sam be able to earn his way and feel like “part of the team” without compromising his values?  Would he be hurt mentally, physically or emotionally and if he was, could I trust God to work it out for Sam’s good?

But this is the very reason we homeschooled in the first place.  We wanted to have our kids with us day in and day out to disciple, correct, train and encourage them to own their walk with the Lord.  We wanted to prepare them for life.  At some point…and it’s different for each kid, it’s time to put their faith and values to the test.

Again, that’s the beauty of homeschooling…as parents, WE get to discern when that time has arrived and, honestly, it needs to. It’s part of the process.  We prepare our kids and while they are still under our guidance we walk through the testing ground with them so we can provide love, support and help them filter those trials in a way that strengthens them for the future.

Sam did several days of day camp at the high school.  No one really talked to him much less said a kind word, they flipped him off, they mocked him for opening the door for them.  We had talked about some of these possibilities and how he should respond, but mostly he had to make those decisions as things played out.  We prayed for him regularly and de briefed after each practice to check on his heart.  He had a grace to walk through these experiences without feeling inferior.  He made the decision to arrive 15 minutes early for every practice so he could dress in the locker room before everyone else because he didn’t want to hear their crude talk about girls.

He still wanted to go to a 3 day weekend football camp where he would live life with these guys away from home.  I think this is where his stubborn streak was becoming a benefit to him.  He would not be discouraged or intimidated by the potential uncomfortable scenarios.

As I dropped him off, I knew it would be best if I didn’t hug him in front of the guys.  Even though our family typically would help someone out who had a lot of luggage to carry, he needed to carry all of it himself.  As he walked up to the group he called “his people”, not one of them even looked at him or acknowledged his presence.  I felt a sting in my heart and whispered a prayer as I drove away.

He had a great weekend.  He learned a lot about football.  He learned that it really wasn’t that hard to say “no” to things he didn’t want to do and, surprisingly, the guys respected his decisions.  His team mates have thrown out occasional compliments and he’s feeling a little more a part of the team.  He’s being who God made him to be and finding that he can still have a good relationship with these kids.  His teammates aren’t perfect and neither is Sam, but they have an opportunity to work together for a common cause.

We still have long journey ahead of us.  I say “us” because when we have kids, there is a part of our hearts walking around in our children…for the rest of our lives.  When they hurt, we hurt.  When they experience victory, so do we. It can be tempting to want to shelter them FOREVER.

But at some point it’s time to start letting go.  It’s time to trust God for the investment we have made into our children’s hearts.  But even if we know it’s time, it’s easy to doubt that what we did will be enough.  It’s that gap between our doing and our kids’ “owning”.  It’s a place of faith.  It’s a place where God’s grace can meet us and our kids.  It’s where we learn that God is a good God and He can make it ENOUGH.

For more encouragement, Durenda has written a book called The Unhurried Homeschooler  (aff)…a simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling. 🙂