Every summer I have the opportunity to speak at book fairs and home school retreats in different parts of the country. Besides providing a unique opportunity for my family to travel, among the best things about speaking at these conferences are the wonderful people we get to meet and the interesting conversations we have. The most fascinating conversations include the stories of why families have decided to homeschool.
Whether I am in Texas or New Hampshire, everyone who shares the story of his decision to homeschool speaks with such passion and clarity. You can hear the excitement and awe in their voices as they recall how God orchestrated their circumstances, softened their hearts, and opened their minds to the whole idea of home schooling. Some of the most dramatic stories are the ones that begin with, “I was one of those people who said they would never, never homeschool, but then God showed me ______.” Of course the blank changes with each story, but every time I hear how God led a family to homeschool, it reminds me just how compassionate, powerful, and creative our God truly is. After discussing for quite some time why we homeschool, the conversation invariably turns to how we homeschool. It is in this stage of the conversation that we discuss curricula, academic goals for the upcoming school year, extracurricular activities, support groups, etc. While I find this part of the conversation helpful, the how of home schooling never sends chills down my spine like it does when someone shares the why of their home schooling experience.
As we begin this new school year, why you chose to homeschool is probably fresh on your mind. Therefore I suggest that you get out a sheet of paper and write down all the reasons why you have decided to homeschool this year. Post your reasons on the refrigerator or someplace else where you will look at it every day. As the year progresses, you will need to remind yourself of the why, because the day-to-day realities of how to homeschool can really wear you down. This is particularly true when things on which you were not planning come up during the school year.
This tip came from a good friend of mine early in my family’s home schooling journey. She pointed out to me that every year in September I seemed so excited and convicted about home schooling. However, by January I quit talking about why we homeschooled and started focusing on lots of how questions. Things like, how could I help my husband with his business, take care of my father who had recently had a stroke, take care of a sick child, and teach my youngest to read? I got so bogged down in how that I forgot why.
God used my friend to show me that even though several things had been added into my life that were certainly not in my lesson plans, He was still in control. The reasons He had called our family to homeschool had not changed, even though my circumstances had. As I wrote down my reasons for home schooling, I suddenly saw a much bigger picture than my momentary problems. I realized that when God calls you to a difficult task, He makes the why clear to you and He provides for the how as well. Interestingly enough, though, how and when He accomplishes things never fit the schedule that I so neatly developed at the beginning of the year.
A case in point occurred about five years ago when I selected a reading curriculum that I was sure would have my second grader reading fluently by the end of the year. Each lesson plan was laid out for the whole year, and we were progressing just fine until my dad had a stroke. My days suddenly became filled with making hospital visits, relocating Daddy to a physical rehab center, talking with doctors and administrators regarding his care, and the like. Needless to say, my goal of having a fluent reader by the end of second grade vaporized. All I could focus on was how I was not a very good home schooling mom–that is, until my friend reminded me to write down all the reasons why I felt God had called my family to homeschool.
As I wrote, I quickly saw that while academic achievement was a part of my list, it was not really the reason I felt led to homeschool in the first place. Weighing more heavily on my list were things related to character development, a chance to develop genuine closeness between family members, opportunities for my children to experience God through daily life and real struggles, and so on. It finally occurred to me that these were exactly what God was providing.
Once my dad was stabilized, God provided the how part of our home schooling as well. By third grade my youngest caught on to reading and ran with it. She is now starting seventh grade and easily reads on a college level. While I am thrilled with her academic achievement, it does not compare with what our family learned through my dad’s illness. To my sadness, my dad passed away two years ago, but I feel blessed that my children were able to be involved in the latter stages of his life. They witnessed his courage and the way he was still trying to make people laugh even when he could no longer speak. In addition, we experienced the struggle of illness and death as a whole family.
There is no doubt that my dad’s illness changed my plans for how we would homeschool that year. Very few things went according to schedule, and we temporarily fell behind on our reading goals. In the midst of it all, I had to remind myself that God never led me to believe that a year without interruptions or disappointments was the goal of home schooling. You, too, will probably have some unexpected things interfere with your home schooling plans this year. But along the way, please do not lose sight of why you felt called to homeschool. Remember what God revealed to you when you so clearly heard His voice.