My wife, Ana, is the best mother in the world (and the best wife in the world). I know some of you men may disagree with me, because you think your wife is the best wife and mother in the world. That's a good thing. You should think that way. But I know I'm right.
In these days of throwaway children whose parents ignore them, or worse, abuse them, it increasingly uncommon to find mothers who love and care for their children the way the Bible tells them they should. When we find such mothers, it is appropriate to honor them (especially, but not only, on Mother's Day).
Many of you could write about your wives or mothers (and you should - send me an email about them that we may publish in the future). Our daughter Sarah wrote a sweet Mother's Day letter to her Mami. Today my purpose is not to write about mothers in general, but to share with you the devoted mother to whom I am married. Perhaps through this she will be an inspiration to young mothers or future mothers. She certainly has inspired other women who know her personally.
Ana was a great mother from the day we knew she was pregnant. She didn't have to give up bad habits like smoking and drinking to protect her unborn child, because she didn't have those habits. (Amazingly, many women who consider themselves good mothers continue to smoke and drink during pregnancy, even though the grave risks to the child are well known.)
Ana prayed for Sarah every day during her pregnancy. She read and sang to her in the womb. To this day Sarah has a love for reading and music that is unusual in a child her age. Ana understood that Sarah was a living human being who could be taught and influenced, not a lump of tissue who became a human only when she drew her first breath (as some would have us believe).
She protected Sarah before she was born. Because Ana was in her late thirties when Sarah was conceived, her doctor suggested an amniocentesis. Ana asked why. "In case there are complications or birth defects." "What would you suggest if there were?" She knew what the answer would be, and she rejected that answer. She had faith to believe that God would give us a healthy child, but if He did not, she was not willing to kill it in her womb. So the test (and the risk of the test to her child) was unnecessary.
While Ana was pregnant, we took a great course called "Growing Kids God's Way," which we highly recommend. The course was written by a Christian Psychologist and his Registered Nurse wife (see LINK below). They stressed the fact that all children, including newborns, need structure in their lives in order to feel secure. One of the most important elements of this for infants is keeping to a schedule for feeding and sleep.
This was not easy for Ana, because others tried to pressure her to do what is commonly done: let the baby run the home. She loved our baby enough to do what was right for her, and I will always appreciate her for that. As a result of Ana's self-discipline, our child has grown up into a very secure young lady who understands boundaries.
As Sarah grew into a beautiful toddler, Ana gave her the gift of discipline. We both learned a valuable lesson after a church service one Sunday. Sarah was running around in the auditorium. She knew she was not allowed to do this, first because it is not respectful of others, and also because we had many older people in the church who could have been knocked over by children running.
I called to Sarah to come to me. She looked at me, but didn't move. As I had seen dozens of parents do, I said, "One." She ignored me. "Two." She shifted her stance a bit in preparation for eventual obedience. "Three!" She finally came to me. A schoolteacher friend who had observed this said to Ana and me, "Do you realize what you just taught your child?" No, what? "You taught her that it was OK to disobey you three times before she had to obey you."
It was as if we had received a revelation from Heaven. From that day forward we determined that Sarah would obey right away, the first time, or suffer immediate consequences. I did my part, but since Ana spent so much more time with our daughter, the brunt of the discipline fell to her. She did a wonderful job, and within a short time Sarah adapted to the new regime. Today she is a much better child for it.
Sarah is now almost ten. When she turned five, Ana started home schooling her. Of course, like all parents (whether they realize it or not), we had been home schooling Sarah since birth. All parents teach their children both practical things (eating, dressing, talking) and spiritual things. Even those parents who teach their children nothing about spirituality are teaching their children about spirituality; they are teaching them that God is not important.
So when Sarah was five, we just continued what we had already been doing for five years, just as most parents did in the early years of our nation: we taught Sarah at home. Most parents feel equipped to teach their children for the first few years of their lives, but feel inadequate to teach anything academic. Ana and I tell them not to worry: they know more than their kids do! And no teacher, whether in a public, private or parochial school, will ever care more about your child's education that you do.
Ana's decision to school Sarah was not an easy one. She struggled with it for quite some time. Ana is a degreed electrical engineer, and she had a good career with the power company when we married. When I first mentioned the possibility of home schooling to her, her reaction was not positive!
But Ana is very fair. She decided to research home schooling, and did so in her usual resourceful and methodical way. She talked to many parents who home schooled, and went to a home schooling convention to learn more. She also spent much time in prayer over whether this would be something the Lord would want her to do.
I really wanted Sarah to be home schooled, but I realized that this was a decision Ana had to make for herself, so I didn't push her. Home schooling requires a tremendous commitment, and unless a person feels called to it they will not succeed. Ana eventually came to realize that home schooling was God's plan for our family, and was the best type of education for our daughter.
From that time on she began to prepare. She studied, read, and attended seminars. She compared curricula and began building a library for Sarah's schooling. I am sure there was never a mother better prepared to school their child than Ana was!
Today she schools Sarah every school day. She takes off a week at Christmas and two weeks during the summer. Sometimes when we travel she gives Sarah the time off, since we school most of the summer. Sometimes she will school a few hours a day even when we're away from home.
Ana does lesson plans and class preparation just like a teacher with twenty-five or thirty students would. Although she has an audience of one, she prepares as diligently as if she were teaching a full classroom. I am always so proud of her when I see her preparing for the next day's classes, often after Sarah is fast asleep.
We joke that I am the principal of our home school, and Ana is the teacher, but she really does almost all the work. I often take Sarah with me to Board meetings of ministries on which I sit, as well as to business or doctor's appointments. Sarah calls these our "adventures." During these times, I drill her on material that Ana has taught her, and it always makes me conscious of Ana's great patience as a teacher.
Home schooling is a high calling that requires great perseverance and dedication. I know that one day Sarah will look back on these days and bless her Mami for the many hours she has invested in her daughter.
I am equally certain that one day in Heaven the Lord will review Ana's parenting of Sarah and say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
"Why We Home School - My Journey to Understanding" by Ana Barrett
Website for Growing Kids God's Way course
Page for Beginner Home Schoolers
Excellent Book About Home Schooling:
Home Schooling Resources