Remember the day you brought your first child home from the hospital? I do.
My husband and I were so excited about bringing our daughter home that although we strapped her snugly into her brand new car seat, we forgot we were also supposed to strap the car seat into the car. When we arrived home after a ten-mile drive on the interstate and realized what we had done, we were horrified. I remember gazing into her sweet and trusting face and wondering, “How are we ever going to safely parent this child into adulthood?”
This mix of excitement and fear is not unlike the feelings many parents experience when they consider homeschooling as an educational option for their children. Conscientious parents realize that the choice of how to educate their children is paramount. They understand this decision not only sets the course for their child’s academic future, it also determines the direction their entire family will channel its time, energy, and resources.
Within the last thirty years, homeschooling has gone from a fringe movement with questionable credibility to a viable, successful educational option. Homeschooling students have consistently out-performed their public and private school counterparts on standardized tests. They have been admitted to and received full-tuition scholarships from elite Ivy League schools. They have matriculated successfully from the homeschool environment to the college and work world, and they have successfully taken their places in society as professionals, ministers, missionaries, stay-at-home moms, and educators.
Why then, does the decision to homeschool invoke such fear and anxiety in the hearts of otherwise confident and capable parents?
Because it matters so much.
When we choose to homeschool our children, we realize that if we fail, there will be no one to blame but ourselves. We can’t blame the teacher. We can’t blame the school. We can’t blame the district in which we live. We’re it.
This reality can become such a heavy weight of responsibility that homeschooling or potential homeschooling parents are often paralyzed by it. And this fear is not limited to newbies. There were times during our 17-year homeschooling journey when I wondered if I was single-handedly sabotaging my child’s entire academic future.
And so the question remains: Can you do this?
But you can’t do it alone.
While pioneer homeschoolers managed to educate their children on lonely farms in obscure places using bootleg curriculum harvested from public school trash bins, today’s homeschoolers enjoy a richer educational climate than ever before. We can successfully homeschool our children because of the three C’s – Calling, Community, and Curriculum.
Many couples begin homeschooling simply because it seems the best educational option for their children. They may have had a bad experience with a public school, can’t afford a private one, or live in an area with few other options. Maybe they know someone who homeschools or feels pressure from others at church to “try it.” It’s no surprise then, at the first sign of difficulty, they entertain thoughts of quitting.
While none of the above reasons are bad ones, they lack the element of God’s Will for the education of your children. There are times when homeschooling is joyous, satisfying, and successful. There are other times when it is challenging, frustrating, and seems to be failing. If we don’t have a clear calling from God to homeschool, we will not have anything to fall back on when times get tough.
My husband and I were led to homeschool so we could help our daughters more fully develop their gifts. We wanted them to have the flexibility to explore opportunities linked to their unique giftedness without being locked into a school day or calendar. The chance for focused, one-on-one instruction specifically tailored to their needs and abilities was very appealing. We also chose homeschooling so that we, their parents, could make the final decisions concerning what they learned.
Because God led us, we were able to homeschool with confidence. While any major decision requires you to step out in faith, if you take time to seek God’s Will through prayer, Bible reading, and the godly counsel of others, you too will have a strong basis for homeschooling.Your calling will be an anchor when the winds of circumstance blow against your commitment and cause you to want to quit.
Human beings are social creatures. Despite Adam’s perfect relationship with God in the garden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and He created Eve. While our primary relational needs should be met by the Lord and our families, we need others to challenge, encourage, and enrich our lives.
Many homeschooling moms quit because they become lonely and disconnected. They spend day after day at home with no adult interaction. They miss the companionship of other adults and put undue stress on their relationship with their husbands because they expect them to meet all their needs for conversation and companionship. Their children are lonely too, and seldom have the opportunity to play with other children.
As you begin your homeschooling journey, I encourage you to do everything you can to seek out a support network of other homeschooling moms. Go to the internet to search for homeschool support groups or organizations in your area. Attend a support group meeting, visit different groups, or frequent places where homeschoolers go. If you see a mom with children at the library, grocery store, park, or museum during the day, you can usually assume that they are homeschooling. Take the initiative to introduce yourself and your children. You can make lifelong friends by being the first to reach out. Don’t give up if your efforts don’t produce results immediately. Even if you are extremely isolated due to geography or other life circumstances, you can check out online homeschool forums that network homeschooling families from all over the world.
and ask God to direct you to other homeschooling families. Ask Him for a special friend for each of your children. Don’t homeschool alone.
I am often guilty of reaching for a butter knife to tighten a screw instead of searching in my husband’s tool box for the proper screwdriver. The results are usually ineffective and frustrating. The same can be said of homeschooling parents who attempt to educate their children with curriculum that is ill-suited or inappropriate.
During my years of homeschooling, I made some terrible curriculum decisions. Sometimes I used curriculum because it was free or cheap. Occasionally I would purchase the same curriculum as a friend, even though she and I had very different personalities. Once I saw an advertisement for a program that promised my child would be reading in 30 days or my money back. Thankfully, I got my money back.
Unlike the early days of my homeschooling journey when there were only four major curriculum companies from which to choose, today’s homeschooling families have many options, sometimes too many. To successfully navigate the choices, I recommend you take several factors into consideration.
The decision to homeschool your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. You can be successful if you start with a calling, develop a community, and choose appropriate curriculum.
You can do it.
Author of the devotional Joy in the Journey ~ Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms and the blog, Hungry for God. Represented by Literary Agent Les Stobbe.
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