As we enter a new school year and attempt to address the public/private-schoolers, the teachers of these organizations, and the homeschoolers, I want to speak specifically to those who are new to homeschooling this year. Whether your child is entering into the precious world of Kindergarten or are coming home after a time in the public/private arena, I hope these words put your anxious heart at ease. Each piece of advice is not only what I tell you newcomers, but what I am telling myself every day.
We homeschool, because God called us to homeschool.
We homeschool not because we’re super-Christians more in-tune with God’s calling than our non-homeschooling peers. We homeschool because God has called us to homeschool. If God has called us to homeschool than will He not equip us for our mission? In times of great inadequacies on our part or we are overwhelmed by curriculum choices or we’re at our wits end on how to handle a situation with a certain child… in everything… make your requests known to God for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7) He does not give us a job without giving us the necessary tools. Also, if He has equipped you to teach your children at home than He is the only one worthy of praise when things go right. (Phil. 4:6)
Seek wise counsel.
I don’t have time to read many homeschooling books. However, I do have time to ask advice from experienced homeschooling moms whom I love and trust. Most of these remarkable women make it a priority to point my eyes away from the Earthly struggle and towards the Father. Our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities. (Eph. 6:12) Sometimes we need that older and wiser woman to remind us of that. Keep calm and keep on keepin’ on!
Not only should your arsenal have a few older and wiser women (Titus 2:3-5), but you should have at least two good homeschooling families to live life with. (Ecc. 4:9-10) I’m being careful not to say surround yourself with only Christian homeschoolers. My goal is not to protect you from the World. My goal is to protect you from discouragement and weariness. Have a few good girlfriends who are on this journey with you and will say, “I know. I feel the same way you do. Let’s pray about it.”
Keep your eyes on your own paper.
Be aware that just as all families are different their homeschooling styles will be different too. The list of differences are endless – how many children, working/non-working parents, textbooks vs living books, early rises or late starts – we’re all different. It’s going to be hard to do, but try your best not to “keep up with the Joneses.” We most certainly can learn new techniques and learn from other families, but before you try what your best friend is doing, pray about your motives. Is this really what would suit your child best or are your motives based on fear and jealousy? I know it sounds harsh, but I speak from much experience in this area. Comparing who you are to other families will only steal your joy. Know who you are as a family and be thankful right where you are. (Heb. 12:1-2, Ex. 20:17)
Be Prepared to Experiment.
I am entering my fifth year homeschooling. I myself was homeschooled for four years. I am surrounded by a wealth of information from other homeschoolers. You would think I knew what I was doing! I don’t. It seems every six months my routine/goals/methods change due to new seasons or challenges. Sometimes it’s a curriculum that is no longer working for the student. It could be transitioning from teaching one student to two students. Whatever it is, you will experiment as you find out what works for your family and what is merely giving you heart palpitations. And if you have a baby in the mix? Forget it! You’ll be changing things around every couple of months as that baby goes from sleeping all day to crawling to walking to yelling so loud you can’t hear your self think.
Know that if something isn’t working it doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out to homeschool. It might just mean you need to try something better suited to your stage of life.
Keep a Kingdom Perspective
My husband will probably laugh out loud if he knew I was writing this, because I struggle with this one constantly. I have a particular child who struggles horribly with math. On a bad day it’s enough for me to burst into tears and register the child for public school immediately. It takes a few deep breaths (and maybe some time away from the situation and perhaps a cup of strong coffee) for me to calm down. The fact that she’s behind can’t be ignored, but it shouldn’t be panicked about either. I know a few of her weaknesses, but I force myself to remember her strengths. She is remarkable with younger children and is strong in her faith. So what’s my goal? To have a genius or to have a child after the very heartbeat of God?
The adventure of a homeschooler is beautiful, messy, organized chaos, a future unknown. But it is, for some of us (please don’t take me to mean all “good” Christians) a “good work, which God prepared beforehand” for us to do. (Eph. 4:10) “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut. 31:8) And have a blessed and God-filled year!