After ten years of homeschooling, I have slowly but finally found the solution to all of my homeschooling problems, and probably yours, too. This solution is so powerful that it can transform your homeschool into something far greater than you ever dreamed, and yet it is exquisitely simple.
But before I tell you what it is, I want to recall the story of Naaman, from 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a mighty warrior and a commander for the army of the King of Aram. However, he was sick with leprosy. An Israelite slave girl told Naaman’s wife that a prophet in Samaria could cure him. So, with rich gifts from the King of Aram, Naaman set out to Israel, where the king of Israel sent him to the Prophet Elisha. Here is what transpired:
Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. (2 Kings 5: 9-14)
Now perhaps you are wondering, “What on earth does Naaman, an army commander, have to do with me?” Like Naaman, we can think that the solutions to our problems have to be complicated or expensive. When we are stressed because we have too much to do, when our children misbehave or struggle with their school work, when we lose our patience time and again, we begin to look around for solutions. We think about joining or quitting a co-op, we shop for new curricula, we search cyber-space, read blogs, and look at Pinterest. At times, we even think of giving up on homeschooling altogether.
But here is where the real solutions lie: in prayer and mercy.
Prayer. It is so simple that you might want to disregard it, perhaps with the disbelief of Naaman when Elisha told him to wash himself in the Jordan River. And yet prayer is where we will find God’s solutions to all our problems, frustrations, and anxieties. For through prayer, God grants us wisdom and understanding, the knowledge of His will, and the grace to do it.
‘We meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: “I will pray, and then I will understand.” This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work. In meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in others.’ – St. Charles Borromeo
‘Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness.’ -St. John Chrysostom
Just as Naaman immersed himself in the waters of the Jordan, we need to immerse ourselves in prayer. This means we pray throughout the day, offering up our work and making short aspirations, such as “Jesus, I trust in You” or “Jesus, help me! Show me the way.” It also means we set aside a time for prayer and only prayer. Perhaps we meditate on the life of Christ or spend the time speaking to Jesus about our worries and hopes, listening for His guidance. Real immersion in prayer happens when we spend an extended period of time alone with Jesus.
Naaman immersed himself in the water seven times. He did not give up after the fourth or fifth immersion. Even though Elisha’s instructions seemed ridiculous, Naaman persevered. We, too, need to persevere in our daily mental prayer, even if we do not seem to see any results. While mental prayer is simple, it certainly is not easy, especially for us busy-body Marthas. Sitting still and directing our thoughts towards God for even fifteen minutes a day can be incredibly difficult, especially when you have a house full of kids and endless responsibilities. Our Lord knows this. He understands how heavy our workload is. And He wants to refresh our souls and restore peace to our hearts. This is why He gives us the loving invitation,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
And it is why, when Martha complains that her sister Mary should be helping with the chores instead of sitting at His feet, Jesus tells Martha,
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
Many of us know this and have experienced the wonderful fruits of immersing ourselves in prayer. And still we struggle to set time apart for prayer and be faithful to it. Even when we are faithful, we struggle with distractions or drowsiness. How many times have I sat through my time of prayer with my mind running over my to-do list?
Thankfully, Our Lord is incredibly patient and merciful. So when we fail to be faithful in our prayers or when we say our prayers poorly, we can always immerse ourselves in His mercy. First, like St. Therese of Lisieux, we can accept our littleness and feebleness, humbly placing our trust in God’s mercy. Oh, how happy I am to see myself imperfect and to have such need of God’s mercy! Second, we should go to confession frequently, for in this sacrament, Our Lord Himself washes away the spiritual leprosy which is often the cause of our difficulties in prayer and, indeed, the root of many of our homeschooling problems. There He heals us and gives us the strength to persevere through our struggles.
So, Martha-Mama, I present to you the solution to your homeschooling challenges, Christ’s solution: immersing ourselves in prayer and mercy. Simple? Yes. Easy? Far from it! But God will give us all the graces we need if only we ask for them and persevere in love.