by Leslie Aune
When my husband and I realized that God was leading us into home schooling, we had a number of questions. One question that much of our family asked us was, “What about socialization?”
I naïvely approached a home schooler from church with this question. She answered, as patiently as she could, “There are so many activities available to home schoolers that if you did all the activities, you would not have time to do any schoolwork.”
At the time, I had no knowledge of the home schooling groups in our area, and pressed on with the questions until I had enough information to satisfy my curiosity and have answers for family and friends.
Once exposed to the full spectrum of resources available to home schoolers, I quickly realized that she was right. I love being with people and involved in life, so seeing the smorgasbord of activities, from park days and small groups to field trips and sports, I was challenged not to jump every time something interesting passed in front of us. I tend to be schedule oriented, so that helped. If it did not fit my schedule, it did not happen.
Still, I found it difficult to choose which activities should be included in our schedule. Since I had grown up in a 4-H community, I was excited to see a 4-H group available. I promptly enrolled us and soon discovered that I was the only one enjoying it. Our son was not that interested. Yet, when a home school Cub Scout den and pack began, our son’s interest was aroused, and we have enjoyed watching him flourish under the goal-setting and award system that encompasses his interests.
I soon began to realize the usefulness of these activities for reasons other than just socialization. Each activity has the potential to grow our children in a number of ways: fellowshipping; discovering and cultivating God-given talents and spiritual gifts; and learning to balance time with household chores, education, activities, play, and rest.
I also discovered that socialization was not the real issue. Our children go almost everywhere with me. They are growing up interacting with people of a wide variety of ages. They know how to behave in public. The real question was fellowship. Would our children have opportunities to develop lifelong friendships—with other children who are being raised in the Word—that would possibly become the “iron that sharpens iron” type of friendships? Would they have opportunities to develop the “one another” characteristics of Christian fellowship, such as serve one another, love one another, and encourage one another? Our children were not born knowing how to be a friend any more than I was. Teaching my children what the Bible says about being a friend and putting that into practice requires friends, beginning with our children learning how to be friends with each other. God has blessed us with many like-minded friends, and we benefit from those friendships.
As our children grow, their talents come to light. We put our son in soccer and softball through a home school group and enrolled him in physical education at a local private school, because we wanted to encourage coordination and a healthy lifestyle. We are discovering that he is quite athletic and loves to run.
Our daughter has one more year before she will be old enough for the sports teams, but her passion is clearly for horses. While we will still encourage her to try other sports, horseback riding is an activity that will take priority. Participation in activities can reveal where our children’s talents are, as well as where they are not. Then we can better choose activities that will cultivate those God-given talents.
With our children still at the early ages of eight and four, their spiritual gifts are not quite in the forefront. Someday they will be, and again, we will have events at church and in the home school community that God will use to reveal their spiritual gifts and will provide the resources to cultivate those gifts.
I have watched my home school friends who are farther along than we, and I see how exciting it is to watch these children grow into young adults who are mighty for the kingdom of God through fellowship and parent-involved activities. I have seen children getting involved in apprenticeship positions with family businesses, as well as other places of employment. I have watched parents teach their children to choose their activities wisely, so that they do not overextend themselves to the point that they are unable to keep commitments and find time for fun and rest. I am learning to do the same while teaching it to my children as well.
Fortunately, being a friend and finding our role in God’s kingdom is not something that has to be done all in one day. It is a process that includes times of misunderstanding in friendships and seasons of too much, or even too little, involvement. It is a process that involves stepping back, re-evaluating where we have been, and seeking God’s direction for our lives. As God grows us, we can also enjoy watching God grow our children and cause them to bloom, harvesting fruit in their lives.