I had slept late that morning. Handsome had awoken several times during the night to nurse, and I was more tired than usual. I had a late shower, and had just finished nursing again when I finally made my way downstairs. Some older children had already begun their schoolwork, some were doing their morning chores, and the littles were diligently working on making as much mess per square foot as they could muster. I wasn’t ready to deal with any of that yet, so I decided to make some breakfast and internally plan my next steps.
I put on the water for my instant cappuccino, started the bacon in the microwave, and began warming up some olive oil in the frying pan, in preparation for the eggs. Hmmm… a smell… the bacon must have gone bad, I thought. I threw it away and got a fresh pack out of the freezer. Uh oh… I forgot we had no running water in our kitchen for the time being. We were supposed to have new countertops installed a few days before, but the templater had measured incorrectly, so the plumber had been unable to reconnect our water. I had to take the frozen package of bacon to the basement laundry room sink to thaw in the hot water there.
As I approached the laundry room, I couldn’t possibly avoid the sight of the dirty clothing mountain before me. We had just returned from vacation a few days before, and there was a lot to catch up on. Better start that now, I thought as I began sorting by color.
A few minutes into my sorting, I heard the smoke alarm go off. Oh no… I had left the frying pan heating on the stove. Children came running down the basement stairs with dish towels acting as their gas masks. I ran upstairs to find my mother holding the frying pan outside on our patio. God, in his never-ending kindness, had sent her to stay with us for a few days to help while we jumped out of vacation-mode and back into school mode.
We ran the fans, waved the smoke towards the open windows, and started cleaning up. We made a little progress, and I briefly considered having another go at those eggs and bacon. As I was contemplating what to do next, Happy approached.
“Mom, I can’t find my piano book.” I started helping him search for the lost book, when Cowgirl joined us.
“Mom, I still need those school checklists printed out for my clipboard. Can you do them for me?” I gave Happy some ideas on where he could look for his music book, and headed to the school room to print some checklists for Cowgirl. On the way, I nearly bumped into Writer.
“Mom, we still need to load Rosetta Stone on the computer so we can do our French.” Our old hard drive had died a few days before our vacation, and I still hadn’t loaded all of our software onto our new PC.
“Hold on a second. I’ll do that after I finish printing Cowgirl’s list.”
Handyman entered the room. “Mom, there’s something wrong with the vacuum cleaner. It’s making this burning smell,” he informed me.
“Hmm,” I replied, “It’s probably the belt- “
Just then an ear-piercing scream came from the hallway. My mother and I collided as we followed the sound to Conductor, whose toe was stuck underneath the bathroom door. I frantically moved the door off of his foot and applied ice, bandaids and kisses. School charts, software, vacuum belts and music books were long forgotten. The hope of breakfast was now a distant memory, but somehow I remembered that I needed to get started on that mountain of laundry…
Believe it or not, it doesn’t end there. It was quite the morning, and I had to laugh several times and comment that it was a great day to try to practice the fruits of the spirit, especially long-suffering, self-control, and patience. Apparently God sees that I need some work in those areas!
Nine years ago when Iron Man and I made the commitment to homeschool our children, I didn’t really have this picture in my mind. My mental image of homeschooling was much more rosy. I pictured sitting in a rocking chair with some classic book in my hands, surrounded by angelic little children listening enraptured as I read aloud with a baby quietly playing at my feet. I pictured gently, always gently, sitting side by side with my kindergarteners, who never tried my patience during a phonics lesson, and who always picked up on reading quickly under my nurturing care. I pictured nature walks, field trips, music always filling the house, and top scores on all the achievement tests.
For the record, we do read aloud together daily, and it is a joy, but it’s rarely uninterrupted and as picturesque as my old mental image. Our phonics lessons sometimes go very smoothly and our children occasionally pick up quickly, but other times my child and I will both get frustrated during those lessons. We’ve had our share of fun nature walks and field trips, but not every day or every week. Our children do take music lessons, but some love it less than others. As to those achievement tests, our kids actually do perform pretty well, but no one’s graduated from high school by age ten yet.
Homeschooling is enjoyable, most of the time. It is a blessing for which I’m so thankful that the Lord led us to do. We are seeing some spiritual fruit from educating our children at home, but never overnight. The wait to see the fruit is typically much longer than my impatient spirit would like.
What’s my point in all this? My point is that homeschooling is sometimes hard work. Sometimes it can be a sacrifice. What is being sacrificed depends on who you are. Some may sacrifice a high-paying job to do one that pays nothing and requires more hours. Some may sacrifice the kind of work that receives the applause of our culture in place of the kind of work that seems to go unrecognized. Some may sacrifice sleep, me-time, lunch with the girls, or a beloved hobby that there’s no longer time for. Some neat-freak moms like myself may have to sacrifice a perfectly clean house and allow some chaos in sometimes, as I narrated above. Most families sacrifice at least some portion of their income when they choose to buy their own curriculum instead of using the public schools that they are already paying for.
So why do it at all, then? I would encourage every homeschooler reading this to ask yourself that question. The answer will have a lot to do with whether or not you stay the course.
There are many different reasons that families will give for homeschooling. Some reasons are proactive, such as strong family relationships, positive socialization, academic excellence, instilling good values, or even to give the family freedom to travel at will. Other reasons are reactive, such as a “bad” school district, negative peer pressure, problems with bullies, character problems emerging, learning difficulties, or health issues.
Iron Man and I have, in some ways, changed our reasons for homeschooling over the years. We first began with some fear and trepidation. Iron Man was what you might call an “anti-homeschooler” at one time. We were not yet parents when we first heard of the concept, and it was an intriguing idea that he wanted nothing to do with. Nonetheless, a seed was planted.
When Writer was born, things began to change. Having a child of our own, we no longer felt confident that we knew it all. We’d just get one shot at parenting this child, and we wanted to get it right. All options now had to be put on the table and given thoughtful consideration to. We’d spent loads of time researching what car we wanted and what house we would buy; we weren’t about to made our decisions about our child’s education by simply going with the flow. We wanted the facts. In the years between Writer’s first and fifth birthdays, a lot of pondering went into the question of how our children would be educated. I prayed, I read, I researched. We hardly knew any homeschoolers personally, so in the rare moments when I came in contact with a real, live, homeschooler, I studied and scrutinized their families, absorbing every detail of what their life was like and what their children were like. I liked what I saw, but I still hadn’t heard a 100% clear answer from the Lord as to what He wanted us to do. Iron Man was largely silent about his thoughts on homeschooling at that time, and I didn’t know that he was doing some pondering of his own. He listened as I unfolded all my thoughts and revelations, and he was praying about it all too.
The Lord seemed not to be giving us a clear answer. Not knowing what we would do, we bought a house in a “good” school district, statistically one of the best in the country, “just in case.” As Writer’s fifth birthday came nearer, I prayed harder and harder for Him to make it neon sign clear to us, but still He seemed silent. One day as I prayed, He impressed His answer upon my heart, loud and clear.
“Child,” He asked me, “Are you asking my input as simply another opinion to consider, or are you determined to follow through with my answer?”
Ouch. I realized that while I really did want to know what God wanted of us, I had never resolved in my heart to do what He said. I pondered that for a few minutes, and I did what I needed to do.
I prayed, “Father God, if you tell me what you would have us do, homeschooling, public school, Christian school, or whatever it is, I promise that I will do it.”
I expected an answer right away, but instead I received another question.
“Are you willing to give me only your child’s education, or are you willing to give your life over to me? Am I the One you come to only when you desperately need My help, or am I Lord over your whole life?”
Oh, this one was harder! But somehow the baby step of handing my child’s education into His hands made the next step a bit easier. I knelt by my bed and I prayed.
“Lord, I want You to be in control of it all. You know everything, You are sovereign, You are in control. Outside of you, I can do nothing, but with You steering my life, I know that my family and I will be safe in Your hands. Whatever You want, not just with my daughter’s education, but everything… if You just reveal to me what it is You want me to do, I will do it.”
And I knew. He wanted us to homeschool.
As He would have it, Iron Man was completely on board. Shortly after, we met a few homeschooling families who made an impression on Iron Man as a vision he wanted for our family. Not long after that, we attended our first homeschooling convention, where we were overwhelmed by the wonderful families we met and the encouraging speakers we heard. We came away affirmed that God was indeed in this.
Over the years we’ve been affirmed again and again that the Lord has given us responsibility for our children’s education, through revelations, through Christian authors through encouraging friends, and more than anything, through scriptures. Here are some scriptures that I go to again and again whenever the storms come, reminding me why we homeschool, and that the Lord is in it.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Matthew 22:21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Proverbs 13:20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
There are many other scriptures God has comforted me with, and these are only a few. To read some more, read Biblical Reasons to Homeschool by Chris Klicka (HSLDA) and Seven Undeniable Truths of Homeschooling by Harvey Bluedorn (Trivium Pursuit).
Nine years ago I would have said we would take it “year by year.” I would say now that home education is a commitment that we have made to follow through to the end. This is not to say that we will never allow our children to be taught by another person; our children do have a music teacher and we are strongly considering using a classical homeschool tutoring center during the high school years. However, the mantle of responsibility for our children’s education, the decisions of who we entrust to teach anything to our children, and what they are taught, lie with us. The Lord has spoken, and we believe there is no other option for us. There are tremendous blessings and benefits to homeschooling, but even at those times when we’re not seeing the blessings and feeling the benefits, when the enemy whispers that we’re not qualified, that the children would be better off somewhere else, that it’s too hard, that we can’t do it, that we’re missing out on some great thing, we can quickly take our thoughts captive and dismiss those whispers as the lies they are. Having a firm grasp of why we homeschool, we are secure in the knowledge that we are fulfilling a calling from the Lord, that He is in control, and that it will all work out for the good He wills in the end.