By Shari McMinn
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5 ESV)
I hope this month’s blog post will encourage you! But first … the backstory.
I love baseball! Fall means the end of the annual baseball season with the World Series coming up. My favorite movies list includes “Field of Dreams,” “42,” “Moneyball,” and “The Sandlot.” I grew up in the 1960s when girls could not play baseball on an organized team, so I played in the backyards of my neighborhood friends. Often, I was the first girl picked for a team since I could hit a home run! I followed the Cincinnati Reds, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Pittsburgh Pirates throughout my high school years. My longtime classmate played in the baseball catcher position, and I closely followed his career through high school, college, the minors, then in the big leagues when he played for the New York Mets, among others.
For me, the rare but most exciting play in baseball is the bases-loaded home run, called a “Grand Slam.” It is especially thrilling when the game is tied in the final inning, with one team out and the other team up. The final team at bat somehow loads the bases with hits or walks, then the slugger comes to home plate with his warm-up swings. The pitcher gets two strikes past the batter, who might then hit several foul balls before he belts one out of the park, bringing in himself and three others for a total of four runs on the scoreboard! I am getting goosebumps just thinking about the few times in my life when I have witnessed such an unforgettable moment in-person. What a thrill! The character, dedication, endurance, hard work, endless hours of working on skills, and hoping for victory together as a team, can sometimes create such a once-in-a-lifetime memory.
Using that analogy, last week our family’s team hit a grand slam home run in life! The bases were loaded with two outs in the ninth and our batter had to hit a homer to bring the win. He did! The youngest of my five sons, the 10th of my 11 children, had held a dream since childhood to become part of the US military’s special forces. Adopted with many learning labels and delays, standing fully grown at 5’0” and 135 pounds, he was an unlikely candidate to qualify for such a daunting career. Dealing with reading and processing challenges, he was not a good test taker. He had failed multiple attempts during and after high school to obtain a passing score on the ASVAB, which is the military entrance exam. He worked a factory job for a while, then was a line cook at a local sports bar, but he longed for an elite military career. It seemed hopeless … yet I steadfastly prayed for him to grow in Christian faith and to reach his God-given dream.
Thankfully, our local Army recruiter saw something in him: my son had true character forged through extreme trials in his life. His recruitment center Staff Sergeant believed in him so much that he got my son into one of only three spots in our state’s allocation for a start-up pre-basic training tutoring program to pass the ASVAB. After months of waiting for the program to be officially up and running, my son went to live at an Army base in South Carolina for three months. He would be tutored, have to study hard, then have three chances to test for a minimum ASVAB score of 31 for U.S. Army entrance. He tested twice, resulting in a 16 then a 25. He hates reading but read like there was no tomorrow as he studied harder than ever before. God made him wait, work, and draw nearer to Him through his desperate situation. He sought the Lord, renewed his faith, prayed with his study group, even received counseling and prayer support with the base chaplain after chapel each Sunday. God had my son right where He wanted him — crying out to Him at the 11th hour, 59th minute, and 59th second. He had to pass his third attempt or be out of the program, and the day finally came for his last possible chance to get into the military.
Proverbially speaking, my son was up to hit, last inning, two outs, three runners on base (his closest siblings), the stands loaded with prayer warriors who were all watching and crying out to God on my son’s behalf. Not only did his swing make contact for a hit, but God blessed him with a homer! He achieved a 62 ASVAB score, qualifying him for 90% of all Army jobs, including his chosen job of combat engineer (front line shooting and blowing things up!). His IQ score came out higher than he thought possible, one point above the qualifying minimum for special forces. He even got a huge signing bonus! It was a grand slam and our team won, big time! The stadium went wild: my Facebook fans with whom I shared this victory! Thank you, Lord!
Why am I telling you this? Because you are perhaps in a similar situation and have no idea how and when God is going to bring the win for your family, let alone a hit for your struggling student. Let me encourage you that we were just common homeschooling parents, yet somehow because we sought the Lord together and never gave up on our son, our uncommon God brought the increase needed for a win. And the victory was greater than we ever could have imagined, or hoped, or even prayed for!
How did we help get my son from home plate past all the bases in his 18 years with us? Determination, persistence, and seeking the Lord faithfully while we worked a basic training homeschool plan like this:
1. No matter where your student is at this point in his or her school work, document their current abilities as the baseline from which to move up from this homeschool year.
2. Do school work with your student every day, M–F, 4 hours minimum daily; if you have to leave your house for appointments or errands, take schoolwork with you.
3. Get struggling students tested by homeschool-friendly evaluators to understand your son’s or daughter’s strengths and weaknesses, along with any learning delay or disability labels.
4. Understand your child’s challenges and abilities, their learning style by having them take this BJUPress online quiz), and your preferred homeschool teaching methodology that works for your family.
5. Each morning, work on the foundations of reading, writing, and arithmetic in 15-minute segments at your student’s level. Serve water and snacks in between with a short exercise break. It will likely take years of repetition to achieve mastery in these essential skills but will be worth the diligent work.
6. Use your student’s interests (animals, art, military, music, sports, etc.) to learn subjects they “hate.”
7. After lunch and physical exercise inside or out; do hands-on learning for the remaining subjects.
8. Build positive relationships by doing household chores, vehicle maintenance, and other physical and technical tasks together as a family. (My son achieved a near perfect score of 99/100 on his electricity subtest thanks to his working with his dad in our shop, with his older brother doing home remodeling work, and his multiple years of 4-H electricity projects.)
9. Review progress monthly, adjusting as necessary; evaluate at the end of the year to plan for the next.
10. Focus on biblical discipleship, homeschooling, and family relationship fun over other life distractions.
11. Encourage your unique student with lots of verbal praise (more than nagging and correction) and occasional tangible rewards. Got a tight budget? Time spent one-on-one as parent and child by taking walks or cooking together — these are often the most valuable rewards for any of your children.
12. Never give up on your student; do not let him/her give up on what they can do and need to learn.
13. Enjoy the time together more than experiencing conflict over the struggles.
Above all, seek the Lord and lead your son or daughter to Him for their every need. Model for them repentance, forgiveness, and thankfulness in all things, seeking His help for their struggles (and yours), and praising Him in the good and bad of life.
On a final note, yes, I can still hit a home run in a pick-up baseball game. I just need a designated runner! 🙂
My next blog, “Trauma and the Need to Redeem October 31st” will be posted on October 26, 2023 (the 4th Wednesday).
P.S. If you have a topic I should write about, please email me with your suggestion(s). This blog is for you!
Shari McMinn, your trusted homeschooling friend