We began homeschooling in 1984. Before I started, I read the two books that were on the market, picked the brains of some veterans (people who had been teaching their children for about a year), and made up my mind about what curriculum I was going to use. I thought I knew what I was doing. It took me less than three months to realize how wrong I had been.
Over the next sixteen years of home educating, I experienced plenty of times of insecurity. Were we doing the right thing? Was I doing it the right way? Were we going to ruin our children? Were they going to hate us?
I wished for someone to whom I could go and ask these questions. I needed an older woman who could encourage and advise me and tell me that we were headed in the right direction. The problem was that in those early years there were no older women. I promised God that if I lived to be an older woman, I would be that one mentioned in Titus 2.
Well, here I am. I made it! So, in that spirit, I would like to share some of the things that God taught me through our homeschooling experience. Maybe my mistakes and what God taught me through them can help make your way a bit smoother.
The following was a real conversation held at a book fair this year:
“Could you please help me? I’m trying to decide what program to use with my child this next year. I’m concerned about him falling behind.”
“I’ll do what I can. How old is your child?”
One time when my dad was visiting, he discovered that my oldest child did not know the days of the week, so he challenged me about it. I simply explained that I had not taught that to him yet. My dad went home, and I taught my son the days of the week. End of story.
At what age are children supposed to know that? Does it really matter? Who makes the rules anyway about what a child should know at a certain age? Second Corinthians 10:12 says that “we dare not . . . compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Is that not what we are doing when we strive to keep our child at his “grade level”?
If you have a young child, do not push him. The best thing you can do is to spend time with him, read books to him while he sits in your lap, and enjoy him. If he does not “get” something, back off. Give him a little time to mature and try again in a couple of months. You will both be much happier, and he will enjoy learning much more.
For those of you with older children, read on.
You cannot teach your child everything that he needs to know.
One of my sons was interested in computers. I could not teach him one thing about computers, not even how to turn them on! In fact, before long it was obvious that he would be the one teaching me in this area.
When graduation time was approaching and I was expressing my concern that I had not taught whichever child all he/she needed to know, the response more than once was, “It’s okay, Mom; if I need to know it, I can learn it.” Bingo! Is not that what we are after?
I came to believe that if you give a child the tools of learning (reading, writing, working with numbers), train him in godly character, and give him a love of learning, he can educate himself. If a child does not have godly character, he might be too lazy or proud to want to learn more. If he does not have the tools, he cannot teach himself. And if he does not love to learn, he will not be motivated.
Home schooling is not a panacea.
I think many of us in those early days thought that if we homeschooled, we would have perfect children. I even had a friend once who said out loud, while bemoaning the fact that she had a wayward son, that she had done everything right; she had homeschooled!
God has already told us what to expect from our children; in Romans 3:23, it says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I do believe that God wants us to be good parents and to teach our children well, but there comes a time when they become responsible for their own decisions and are held accountable by God. They do not always continue to hold the same opinions that their parents do or accept everything that their parents taught them. Some of them just have to learn from the School of Hard Knocks and are not able to learn from others’ mistakes.
For those of you who are dealing with older children who have gone their own way and are making bad choices, hear this encouragement: This is halftime. The game is not over.
You will have to let your children go.
I believe that this truth is harder for home school moms than for most simply because we spend so much time with our children. We have not sent them every day to the school around the corner to spend their time away from us. We have known where they were, whom they were with, and what they were doing twenty-four/seven.
Then it seems that all of a sudden, they want to get an apartment. They start a job, or they plan to be married. But wait! They are not ready! I am not through yet!
Letting go is a process. Keep in mind that the time will come, and ease into it by letting your children have freedom in small bites, as they can handle it. There will come a time when you will need to step out from between each child and God. After all, your children belong to Him, and they were just on loan to you for a time. Besides, He can handle it. You can trust Him with that child. He is a good God, He is in control, and He loves that child even more than you do.
Supermom does not exist.
I know. I tried really hard, but I never became her. I have known many home schooling moms, and still I have not found her.
However, that is okay. I do not think that Supermom would ever come to the place where she realized she needed God to make it through the day, to help her decide what curriculum would be the best for her children, or to know how to reach the heart of a stubborn child.
God used my children and my home school to humble me and to teach me so much! I have finally come to understand that God led us into home schooling, not just for the sake of our children, but also for what He wanted to do in the hearts of my husband and myself.
I found this article harder to write than I expected, mostly because I learned so many things while homeschooling my children that it was hard to pick out just a few to share. Perhaps there will be a sequel in the future. In the meantime, I pray that the Lord will go before you and make you aware of His presence day by day, that you will draw upon His strength, and that you will pray for your children, remembering that “neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, NKJV)