rusty axeby David M. Watkins

If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success (Ec. 10:10 NAS).

I heard a story about Abraham Lincoln that made me wonder if he knew Ecclesiastes 10:10.  He reportedly said that if he were given six hours to cut some trees, he would spend four of those hours sharpening his axe.  In other words, a properly sharpened instrument is invaluable for doing a good job; and it takes concentrated time and effort to make sure the instrument is sharp.

One thing to realize is that sharpening the axe does not all happen in one section of time.  Lincoln did not mean to imply that he spent the first four hours sharpening the axe and the last two chopping.  Rather, his schedule might look something like this: twenty minutes chopping, then forty minutes sharpening; or perhaps it could be ten minutes chopping, then twenty minutes sharpening, etc.

It would be foolish and unproductive to sharpen an axe and never use it.  It would also be foolish and unproductive to use an axe and never take the time to stop and re-sharpen it.  Home educators need to sharpen their axes periodically.  If the axe is used at all, it will become dull; and when it begins to get dull, it should immediately be sharpened.

There are many helps available to help you sharpen your axe–Scripture, prayer, and in the case of home education, your state homeschool organization. It is well worth your time to spend time in preparation for the work that is ahead of you. Don’t wait until you are in a situation where you need it desperately and find that your tools are not sharp enough to help you.

Copyright 2009. Used by permission of the author. Originally published in The Paper Mache, February/March 2009.

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David Watkins and his wife Linda began home educating their eight children in 1986. David served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators for seven years before becoming the Executive Director in 2011. The Watkins also serve on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Christian Home Education Leadership (NACHEL). David and Linda see the eternal benefits of Christian home education and the importance of encouraging and equipping younger home educating families. Their desire is to mentor a second generation of homeschoolers who are willing to take the baton and run well.