Henry David Thoreau once penned, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I was reminded of this quotation one night as I lay on the trampoline with my teenage children, gazing up into the night sky. I wanted to raise my children deliberately. I wanted to “live deep and suck the marrow out of life” (Thoreau). I wanted to enjoy every moment of their childhood and not watch them grow to adulthood and suddenly realize my opportunity to teach them, to spend time with them, to enjoy learning with them was over and I did not even know them.
As I lay there dozing on the trampoline for the third time in a week, knowing I would rest better in bed, I had no regrets. These days will soon be gone, my teenage children will soon be grown, but I have enjoyed these days of childhood pleasures, and we have many happy memories of hours spent together. My children may not remember all the nature walks we took in our early days of home schooling (when they were preschoolers and toddlers), but we all remember backyard science experiments when they were grade-school children. (Some of them were quite memorable!) They may not remember every book we have read, but they remember hundreds of days spent reading together. Over the years we have biked together, camped and cooked in the yard together, slept outside together, worked together, laughed together, cried together, and learned together. We have enjoyed long walks, rainy mornings, and winter nights spent in front of a crackling fire, and there is nothing money can buy that is worth more than that. I chose to homeschool my children before they were even school aged because I wanted to give them a Christian education, but I soon discovered there were both great joy as well as great advantages to spending lots of time with them. As they have grown, I have watched the unique person God created each one of them to be unfold and develop. What a privilege to know their individual strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and dreams, their fears and struggles. It makes the command to train each one in the way he should go a little easier.
As I look back over the years, life has certainly not been easy. Money has always been tight, and I have not always had all the things I desired. Many times I did not even have the entire curriculum I wanted. We have had triumphs and failures, great joy and great sorrow, but the difficulties we faced only made the attempts to enjoy life a little more deliberate and the time spent together a little sweeter, and there is nothing I would trade for the time I have had to spend with my children. As they grew in independence and increasing maturity, I did not merely watch from the sidelines. We have spent both quantity time and quality time together gleaning the most from every opportunity.
Now my sons are sixteen and seventeen, and they are becoming young men. They shave, drive, work summer jobs, and grow in independence every year. Their struggles and their victories are the footholds that will bring them into manhood. Their desire to become young men of godly integrity is challenged almost daily. At the same time, my thirteen-year-old daughter is quickly becoming a young woman, and the seemingly petty issues of youth are the very things that will define the young woman she will become. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with their ever-changing wants and desires, and homeschooling teenagers is not always easy.
When I made the decision to continue to homeschool them through high school, I had to face many of my own fears and feelings of inadequacy, but God is faithful when I trust Him. When algebra became difficult, there was extra money to purchase videos. When I was concerned about science labs, Wayland Baptist University offered chemistry and biology labs for local home school students. Each challenge we have met has been faced, and each need has been provided one year at a time. Now as my oldest son enters his last year of high school, I face the new year with mingled feelings of sorrow and triumph. My home schooling days are short and will soon be over, and there are still many things that I want to teach my children, but I am blessed to know my struggles have not been in vain. I am reminded of Philippians 1:6, “…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” I live in a home full of teenagers, and I love it. I am proud of my children, and I am blessed by their presence.