I found myself in a few conversations throughout the course of the last couple of weeks concerning the topic of homeschool. A friend posted on her Facebook wall that she is thinking about homeschooling her children and wanted words of advice, drawbacks and benefits. As I read the many answers that her question invoked, I was struck with the same but different answers. I know I tend to be wordy, so I told her I would email her. I figured my response would make a good blog post, so this is my response to my friend Jenny's question.
Words of wisdom
Pray- I cannot stress this enough. Prayer is going to connect you with the Father's will for your life and the lives of your children more than any good "Biblical" advice of 500 well intentioned Christian moms. At the end of the day, you are going to find yourself teaching your kids, alone, and the advice of other mom's will fly out the window when you find your child is not blending sounds to read simple words, not remembering the grammar lesson from the day before, or not staying on task when you have a lot to get done. All you will have...on those very trying days....is the Father to cry out to, Jesus to lean on and the Holy Spirit to guide you. You might as well get used to praying because you will do it often.....many times a day.....sometimes...many times an hour.
After much prayer, if you feel that God has called you/convicted you to home school your children, then just do it. I know, easier said than done...which leads me to the next point.
Trust and Don't Fear - Before I started schooling my daughter, I knew God convicted me way before I actually had the courage to pull my then second grader out of public school. I was afraid of ruining her life. I was afraid that I was going to be a horrible teacher. I was afraid that I was not going to stick with it. Even though I knew God was calling me to school my children, I was afraid of so many things. I wrote about some of those fears in another blog post that you can read HERE.
I had to learn the hard way that I was not trusting Him to provide the means and the wisdom to actually do what He was calling me to do. If you feel convicted to school your children at home, trust that God will provide all you need to teach them well. Along with daily prayer, trust that He will give you an overabundance of patience so that you will not immediately default towards lots of outward frustration. Trust that He will give you the right words to use to explain difficult concepts.
God is faithful. I know, as Christians, we like to say we believe this...but....this simple yet powerful statement will be challenged once you start schooling your children at home, along with meal prep, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and anything else that pops up on any given day. You will be challenged beyond what you can think you can handle. Trust me....I was.
You will not fully understand the depth of His faithfulness until you are knee deep in the trenches of homeschooling your children. You may not see it in the middle of a hard day or hard week...but you will see it. You will close out a finished workbook, textbook or whole curriculum and wonder how in the world you got it all done.
You will thank God for His faithfulness. The realization will come quietly...but oh, so very sweetly!
Get structured but be flexible -
Structure...or the intention of structure helps me get more done. However, I will drive myself crazy if I try to stay wholly committed to what ever structure I have created. Sounds crazy...right....?
Basically, figure out how structured you would like to be and then aim for that. However, don't beat yourself up if you don't meet your daily goals.
The beauty of homeschool is that you can decide what curriculum and teaching style works best for you and your children. What works for one kid, will not necessarily work for your other kid. Be flexible and pray for wisdom and discernment on what schooling looks like for each one of your children.
When I started schooling my son along with my daughter, I felt overwhelmed. Two different levels. Two different teaching styles. I had to figure out what it looked like to individually teach 4th grade and pre-kindergarten. At the end of the day, my brain felt like it was going to explode from going back and forth between the two different levels and two different curriculum. My daughter who is now 7th-ish grade does much more independent work, much to my relief, so that has allowed me to spend considerably more time teaching 1st/2grade stuff to my son.
Dont forget the kisses-
When I was in the throes of teaching my son to read, I would often find myself exasperated. My patience would wear thin when trying to get him to blend sounds and letters. He would get frustrated. I would get frustrated. To break up our frustration, I would have him do things that were a little less challenging and he would delve into it with such fierce concentration. Seeing his determination, my heart would melt. As I sat next to him, guiding him, reading the directions on his worksheet, I would kiss him gently on his head from time to time. He would look up and smile at me and our mutual frustration would be long gone...at least until our next attempt to blend sounds.
During the course of any given homeschool day, I love that I can show my children random acts of love and affection. Because we are in close proximity most of our day, I find that my children work better when I am nearby. This creates in their minds, a connection with learning and love from their parent. What a great combination. So...don't forget the kisses.
Areas of Concern...Just To Be Aware Of
There are so many different types of curriculum on the market today. LOTS. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one is best. I would say that for 6 months to a year, don't commit to any of them. Take that time to see where your child is academically. You don't want to spend oodles of money on a certain one, only to find out that your child is more advanced or less advanced than what the curriculum covers...or you hate using it. For the first 6 months of schooling my daughter after pulling her out of second grade, I went to several used bookstores and checked out their homeschool section. The selection in these stores was amazing and pretty much covered all subjects and levels. I settled on books and workbooks from a wide range of curriculum just to get an idea of the different approaches that are available.
That first 6 months of no set curriculum helped me figure out how much structure I needed to teach effectively. It helped me see where my daughter was in reading and math. It helped me see that I don't like writing my own lesson plans.
The curriculum we finally settled on is the best fit for OUR family. I love the ready made lesson plans, overall approach and worldview. Even though I have been pretty loyal to our curriculum, I have not been afraid to incorporate others into our day.
For example, I don't really like the Bible approach to our favored curriculum so I have come up with my own using several devotional books on both the Westminster and Heidelberg catechism.
If I see my child needs supplemental help on any given subject or topic, I buy it. It may take up extra time in our day, but it's perfectly o.k with me.
Remember....don't be a slave to your curriculum. Let your schedule, your structure and your curriculum work for you and your family. Not the other way around or else you will definitely go crazy and feel unnecessarily stressed and overwhelmed.
Only Christ does kingdom work.
The fact of the matter is, homeschooling our children does not guarantee that our children will be saved, anymore than making our children go to church with us every Sunday will make our children saved. God and God alone saves our children and moves their hearts toward Him. We can teach our children who Christ is, teach them Bible every day, and convince ourselves that all our hard work will be rewarded by producing saved Jesus loving kids. You will often hear homeschool advocates quote Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it". It is used to prove as some sort of guarantee that raising up our children to know Christ will inevitably produce Christian adults. As much as we want this for our children, and as good as this advice is, it is not a direct promise from God. We cannot use this verse as a guarantee that our children will be bold and courageous Christ followers because we chose to teach them at home instead of sending them to public school.
Wanting our children to grow up to be Christ loving adults is what every Christian parent wants, regardless of sending them to public school, private school or homeschool.
My caution for homeschool parents...especially homeschool moms, is to believe and attribute OUR hard work of schooling our children....the emotionally exhausting work of addressing daily heart issues...our "on purpose" approach to mold and shape our children's hearts toward Christ.....we want....almost need to believe that our reward will be children who love Christ with all their hearts, minds and souls.
We will tend to rely on our good work of teaching our children at home and that it somehow puts us in a better position with God.
We will tend to think we are "better" mom's overall.
Our natural sin nature will corrupt our good intentions, our hard work and make us prideful for making a "better choice" than the mom that sends her kids to public school.
If we are not aware of that self righteous danger, then we will fall into it. We need to keep constant in our prayers to ask...no beg God to keep us from that mindset, to keep us aware of our own sinfulness, to keep us discerning of our own hearts as well as the hearts of our children.
Unfortunately, the consequence of believing the lie that homeschooling makes us better parents and/or worse...better Christians.... is that it will inevitably produce children that believe that good work equates to salvation. Our children will believe that being homeschooled will make them "better" Christian teens or adults.
Remember...remember....remember.....only Christ makes us Christian, not being homeschooled.
Only Christ makes us better...not homeschooling our children or being homeschooled.
Only Christ's work on the cross makes us righteous, not all the hard work we do pouring into our children's lives.
Only Christ will save our children....so pray....fervently!!