Homeschool or Otherwise

Christian Homeschool WInter Nature Walk

I’ve been homeschooling for over 15 years (20, actually, if you start with the birth of my first child which is honestly when homeschool begins) and I’ve never yet perfected the art. Every year is a little different from the last, every child a little different than the next. I don’t have a favorite curriculum or a sure-fire way to easily teach every child to read. Our homeschool schedule is more like a flexible routine and pretty much every day it feels like it isn’t enough.

My oldest child didn’t learn to read until he was 7. My second-born is severely dyslexic and learning to read at all was a huge victory. The third-born threw his first lamp over in a fit of rage at the age of two, and that set the stage for many tears in the home over the years. Some of those tears even came from the kids.

And that only covers the first 3 of our 8 children.

Here’s what I’ve learned…I’m not a natural homeschooling teacher. I’m not even a little bit good at it. I lack the confidence, creativity, and excitement for it. I was a terrible student myself and book learning never came easily to me which seems like it would disqualify me as a teacher of any kind.

And yet here I am.

My oldest child, the one who didn’t learn to read until he was 7, just started his second semester of college. He earned a 4.0 during his first and it was at a real university with real books and real desks and real grades and real teachers. But you know what he learned above all else during that semester?

He learned homeschooling was real, too.

All my inadequacies as a mother, all my insufficiencies as a teacher, all my unworthiness as a proprietor of knowledge…it all culminated to create the perfect storm for learning. Which makes absolutely no sense until you consider that His strength is most evident when contrasted by our weakness and collaborated by our willingness.

I’m a willing vessel, albeit a reluctant and uncertain one.

What my child discovered during those first weeks away at college was that he had been armed with the ability to self-teach. He had learned to dig for answers without ever expecting them to be spoon-fed to him. He’d acquired the understanding of how to manage his time, arrange his priorities and keep the big picture before him without being overwhelmed.

There were many students on campus that were not so well equipped.

I’ve never been a spokesperson for homeschooling. Ever. Parents are absolutely the first teachers, simply by design. But whether those parents choose to continue with primary and secondary education in the home or secure it elsewhere, is a very individual decision. For some families it works great. For others it’s disaster.

I have only two friends in my immediate area that currently homeschool. Two. Now they both have many other homeschooling friends as they’re involved with a large homeschool group. We’ve never been in any such group. And the remainder of my friends school their children in other ways. Most utilize small Christian schools but I even have a few who have chosen public school, despite the criticism.

But here’s the thing. The success of a child’s schooling is dependent on far more than whether it’s done inside or outside the home.

Gasp.

The very idea rubs some homeschoolers wrong. Because it’s hard to argue that there’s a lot of yuck out there in the world, in both private school and public. The influences our children are under when outside the walls of our home is intense. But homeschooling isn’t a magic cure.

Most homes today are equipped with the internet and what we may be protecting them from out there, can easily march right into our home with incredible force and deadly impact. Some parents are wise enough to install barriers to ensure the sludge doesn’t get through and that’s a beautiful thing. But that also isn’t all there is to homeschooling.

Because to effectively homeschool we have to build healthy relationships.

Our children need to trust us. They need to know we care about them and are invested in their growth and that we’re not just being trendy or trying to defy society. If they feel like a lab sample in a petri dish, they ARE going to rebel.

I’ve seen it happen in our own home.

I love walking but I have a strange fear of being in the woods. My kids and husband enjoy walking with me, but they’re much more drawn to paths that’s aren’t graveled or paved. I recently realized I needed to suck it up and be willing to get off the trail. And so we went for a winter nature walk the other day. It was cold and wet and soggy and I didn’t wear the right shoes (Ugg boots were NOT made for offroading!). I was skeptical that we’d find anything in nature that was even worth looking at. After all, everything is so dead right now!

I was wrong, as I often am.

God is abundantly creative and there was no shortage of things to explore. It was a fun way to spend time with my husband and I was rewarded with lots of little boy hugs. And they were such gentleman worrying over me as we made our way back down a slick slope from where we had crested.

They learned a few things about trees, and moss, and mushrooms, and animal tracks. But I (once again!) learned the most important lesson of all…

…the choice to homeschool or otherwise is very personal and it should be Spirit-led. The times we’re living in are terrifying in many ways, and caution is wise. However, the most important element–no matter how we school–is relationship. And relationship requires sacrifice.

Because death to self, in every circumstance, means imparting life to those under our care.

 

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