Strength for the High School Years

“God is our refuge and strength, a very
present help in trouble.
Therefore, we shall not fear, though the
earth should change,
Though the mountains fall into the heart
of the sea,
Though my children’s hormones rage
and storm,
Though SATs, college entrance,
chemistry, and algebra loom over me,
Yet, I will not fear!”
Psalm 46:1-3 (according to Sally)

Just like the hurricanes that threaten thousands of people on the eastern coast with devastation and disruption every year, the high school years of home school life can often seem like a dangerous storm looming on the educational horizon of life. They suddenly appear, ready to blow into our lives, forcing us to question whether or not we have done enough to prepare for them, or whether we should just drop out and head for shelter.

As an older, more tired, less idealistic parent, I was much more keenly aware of the myriad of educational details I had left uncovered as the high school storm approached our home. As Sarah enters her last year of formal schooling in our home, I still ask myself, “What have I left out? Will it be enough to get her into college? Have I prepared her for the challenge of college studies? How do I ever think I can keep going with three more children on her heels?”

Yet as I have pondered these questions before the Lord, I have become more convinced than ever that these are the best years of home schooling. In spite of the fears and insecurities that taunt me, I am going to stay put. This is the best season for home school for a variety of reasons that have become clearer to me over time.

As my children have turned the corner from childhood to adulthood, their capacities have suddenly multiplied–for working, for understanding, for being more responsible, for taking initiative, for developing their individual gifts. My older children, Sarah and Joel, have risen to each challenge as we have expanded their borders with real work experience. They answer phones, do secretarial work, organize and sell books at conferences, do computer data entry, and take care of many administrative tasks. They have gained experience serving and relating to a wide variety of people, even in stressful situations.

Educationally, they also have a much larger capacity for learning. It is always thrilling to watch each child blossom into a self-motivated reader who spends hours at a time with a broad and deep selection of thoughtful writers. At the same time, I watch as their character develops and as they become self-governing in areas of disciplined studies such as math.

To my great delight, they have become responsible citizens of my household–washing clothes, cooking, organizing the home, and being creative in their abilities to help with younger children. These duties, among other things, help to draw them away from the self-absorption that inflicts so many young adults. Learning to serve others now will make them better marriage partners, better parents, and better employees or employers.

Because they are at home during these responsible years, I have the time and opportunity to help my children develop in areas of strength at a critical time in their lives. Sarah is an excellent writer and finds great joy in communicating through the written word, so her senior-year project is to write a book and attempt to have it published. Whether she finds a publisher or we publish the book through our ministry, the practice of learning the publishing ropes while pursuing her interests under our encouraging direction will do more for her than any classroom time. Joel, Nathan, and Joy, in the same way, will each get to explore their own talents as we ask God for creativity in leading them.

Having my older children at home in their high school years has personal benefits too. Most mornings, Sarah and I meet the sunrise together on a two-mile hike. Through these hours and hours of personal time together, we are developing an even more cherished friendship, as we discuss every subject from European politics, to courtship versus dating, to the tediousness of having to play doggie with a four-year-old day after day!

Daily discussions over meals are as varied as the foods set on the table. Everyone at the table participates, because everyone is allowed to have an opinion. It is so exciting to see the lights of understanding turn on, a biblical worldview begin to form and take root, thoughts about ministry and life purpose find expression, and faith be sharpened and defined.

My personal tea times with the girls and the boys in our home give me hours of opportunity to share secrets, discuss emotions, and confront fears with each child. I cherish the opportunity to be the one who helps to influence their sense of morality and responsibility, shape their views of ministry and Christ, and affirm their wonderful personalities. In that atmosphere of relationship, I can also correct their flaws and teach them to live in the grace and freedom of Christ.

I cherish the treasured moments I had to spend with all my children this past summer. We painted, read fun books, had captivating talks, enjoyed our meals on the deck overlooking the city lights, and just lived each day. Those moments will pass all too quickly, especially as my older children approach adulthood. I want to use our time together to enjoy the journey and to enjoy them before they fly from my home to search out their own destinies.

One of my close friends put her kids into school for the first time. Her constant lament is, “I don’t have any time with my kids! They leave early in the morning, come home exhausted in the late afternoon, and work on homework in the few remaining hours left in the day. I have lost my personal relationship with them.”

One of the main reasons I started out on this journey of home schooling 12 years ago is that Clay and I wanted to be the ones who shaped our children’s personal and spiritual heritages. When asked, “Who was the greatest influence in your life?” we want them to say without hesitation, “My parents.” The seeds we have planted in their hearts and minds over the years are now maturing, and I want to enjoy watching the fully grown plant emerge. This is the best time for me to be by their sides, guiding them as they develop convictions that will last a lifetime, helping them to think clearly and deeply about what is most important in life. Even the promise of a perfect score on the SAT could not persuade me to give up even a minute of this time with them.

Regardless of the doubts and fears that taunt me from time to time, I am confident that I will have no regrets from keeping them at home with me during the high school years. An institutional classroom cannot provide the personal encouragement, affirmation, and individual training that only I can give them.

What I thought would be a terrible storm has almost passed. I am glad God enabled me to stop focusing on what might happen and to live the life He has given us. The Lord will indeed be our refuge and strength and will faithfully and strongly get us through.