When I think back to the childhood days of my now young adult children, most of those memories are fond ones of good times spent learning together. Are there things I wish I had known or wish I had done differently? Most certainly! I wish I could have started with the knowledge, of both the material and curriculum, that I gained over the course of the years; I wish I had had the confidence to teach as my heart directed rather than mimic how the world directed; I wish I had spent more time in certain areas and wasted less time in other areas. The list could go on and on. However, when I look back on those early days of home schooling, it is not the things I wish I had known that fill me with regret, it is the things that I did know and forgot too often that I bemoan.
Because my children were placed in my home, under my care, I felt that the Lord granted me valuable insight into the ways in which they learned. Therefore, although I may not have always used that knowledge to its fullest advantage, I could cater to their learning styles and thus give them an academic advantage. Yet, I did not homeschool because I thought I could give my children a better academic education than they could gain in the public education system. I chose to homeschool my children because I had a strong conviction to raise a generation set apart from the world. I wanted my children to have a Christian education—to have what I would later learn was a Christian worldview. Despite my strong convictions, I so often forgot that home schooling was not about academics, and I frequently let ‘school’ overshadow ‘home’ in our home school.
Many times I allowed the minor trials and struggles of everyday life to push aside those things that I knew were important. I am a firm believer that structure is the foundation for self-discipline, so I liked curriculum that was very structured, complete with lesson plans, worksheets, and tests, and for many years I was insistent upon finishing every page and every worksheet. I frequently let curriculum, schedules, and goals push aside the more important lessons in character; I repeatedly allowed valuable opportunities to slip by because I chose to complete lessons rather than train character and build relationships. In my pride to prove that the choice was academically viable, I forgot that academics were secondary to character.
I am ashamed to say I also allowed insecurity and a prideful desire to have an outward appearance of academic excellence to cloud my judgment in regard to curriculum and the manner in which we conducted school. Both of my boys were hands-on, kinesthetic learners and spent much of their free time either building projects or disassembling and repairing electronic devices and computers. Jacob preferred working with wood, and Jerrod liked electronics. By the time they were middle-school age, I was amazed at their knowledge of the internal workings of computers and things electronic. They balanced this knowledge with outside building projects, so they also learned about framing, roofing, mitered cuts, cement mixing, plumbing, and—with the help of a friend who was an electrician—electrical wiring, all of which they applied to their outside building projects.
Although I knew they were probably learning more with their projects than they were from their textbooks, I did not capitalize on their interests or incorporate them into our daily lessons—we did not have time for such things if we were to get finished with all of the lessons and worksheets that came with our curriculum! We had algebra, advanced mathematics, chemistry, and Latin, foreign language, and speech textbooks from which to study. I knew their talents, interests, and abilities lay in a different direction from their school work and that there were many things that we studied in textbooks that they would probably never use, nor would they retain the knowledge I was trying to enforce with standardized curriculum. However, it took me many years to actually allow my children the freedom to pursue their interests. They were almost finished with school before I applied what I knew and incorporated self-directed learning into their lesson plans.
In the intricate design of man, God has granted each of us the ability to learn. We begin learning the moment we are born, and hopefully we continue to learn throughout our lives. My children were no different. I knew I could not possibly teach them everything there is to know, and there is not a scope and sequence in existence that can possibly accomplish such a feat, so I knew my job was to simply direct their education and impart to them a strong desire to learn.
I knew I wanted my children to desire those things that are worthy and noble. Philippians 4:8 directs us to think on those things that are true, pure, lovely, and things of virtue; these are the things I wanted my children to desire. I wanted them to “taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34: 7) This is why I chose to educate them at home, but of all the things I knew and too often forgot, the most important was why I homeschooled. Thankfully, God is gracious and has blessed me with young adult children who know Him, love Him, and desire to serve Him, despite my mistakes.
Sheila Campbell began homeschooling in 1991 and graduated the last of her four children in the spring of 2009. In 1994, she and her husband co-founded Integrity Educators, a local home school support group in Plainview. Sheila has continued in leadership for eleven of the last fourteen years.