About this time, the school year can become dreary. We have passed through the excitement of a new school year, the winter months, and the holidays. The kids have had time to grow tired of school, and we are beginning to wonder (some days with panic) if we will complete all we hoped to before the late spring or early summer days are upon us.
Why do the doldrums set in? Why do we question our decision to homeschool or think we just cannot do the job well enough? Ironically, I believe that it is home school’s greatest asset that is our greatest obstacle—our freedom.
Freedom is rather frightening. We naturally want rules, regulations, and boundaries to make us feel safe—so we know (or think we do) exactly what to do, when to do it, and how we compare to others doing the same thing. We rely on external measurements because we want to do things “right,” and organized school (institutional school, whether public or private) seems to have the method perfected.
Why would we who have chosen the purest form of education want to emulate a method full of busywork, confined schedules, junk educational materials, and worse, a godless philosophy? We have the freedom to choose, but we often choose less than the best. We choose the “safest.”
We gravitate toward imitation because it feels secure—a system that someone else has figured out for us and that we think we can count on. We who have dared to step out into unknown territory to be different are often afraid to be too different.
Does that mean there is no value in things we think of as school? No. It is not wrong to choose some of those things when they suit our children’s needs. There is nothing inherently wrong with grade levels, tests, lesson plans, and the like; but for what reasons do we choose them? Is it because they aid us in reaching our goals, or because they keep us from having to decide for ourselves what is best for our children?
Home schooling is hard and frightening and full of unknowns. We are criticized by some and rewarded by none (for the short term). It is different from anything we have associated with school and especially with education in our experience. We often feel insecure about our ability to educate our children, and we wonder if we are crazy for attempting such a monumental task. It is a huge leap of faith to keep on keeping on as we run the race.
Yet that leap of faith is exactly what we need. We have the freedom to run, to choose the best regardless of what others are doing, to live an amazing life of faith in the Lord, Who gives us strength to run and Who picks us up when we fall. In fact, we can only accomplish it while trusting in Him to provide the wisdom, faith, strength, and courage that we need.
As I have grown as a Christian, I realize that the only safe way to run the race, to live, and to homeschool is by faith in the Lord and by letting go of my safe assumptions. I am reminded of the portion of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia) when Lucy asks about Aslan.
“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan . . . “Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe:” said Mr. Beaver. “… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (C. S. Lewis, 1950, Collier Books, 1970)
We can run the race in faith and in freedom. But we must keep our eyes on the Lord rather than on man to do so. We must not buy into the lie that we must follow the norm, the “safe” way, to succeed.
You are homeschooling because the Lord has planted the desire in your heart. You have the freedom to choose. You must discover what the best choice is for you and how to make that choice; then learn how to achieve freedom to do what you have discovered. It is the only race worth running.