Developing a Vision for Homeschooling: My story
I began homeschooling twelve years ago. How did my first-born little gap-toothed guinea pig turn into a beautiful 17-year old rising senior?
As the saying goes, “Some days have been long, but the years have been short!” Throughout the years the Lord has blessed me with mentors and a vision that has carried me through many less-than-ideal homeschooling days. As I am planning and preparing for my oldest’s last year of homeschooling, I’ve been reflecting on God’s goodness over the years and thanking Him for calling us to homeschool.
Years ago, at the beginning of my homeschooling journey, a veteran homeschooling mom and friend, Muriel, graciously accepted an invitation to speak in my home. This dear lady prayed for us and then passed around pictures of her four grown children who all happen to be within ten years of my age. Muriel began homeschooling when it was still illegal in her state. As she shared her story, I was inspired. Back in those days, curriculum offerings were practically non-existant. Most companies refused to sell to homeschoolers. It’s easy to think, “They had so little support. How did they do it?” I’m convinced that while Muriel may not have had many homeschool-specific texts, co-ops or conventions to assist her, she, and so many other pioneer homeschooling parents had something much more valuable. They had something that carried them through the hard days and the stares and the questions and the difficulties of participating in a new counter-cultural educational movement.
Muriel had vision.
And as I listened to her speak more than a decade ago, I wanted vision. I wanted it desperately but the whole concept intimidated me. How was I to answer, “What is your homeschooling vision for your family?” Really, back in those days, with five children under seven years old, I could hardly think past “When is nap time?” Nonetheless, I began to pray for something that would get me through the hard days; something bigger than the curriculum I chose or the conflict-resolution strategy of the day.
While I was an elementary education major, I had never read extensively about home education. Terms like “Classical,” “unit study,” “Charlotte Mason,” and “un-schooling” seemed odd. Don’t all children learn in a desk and with a teacher using a textbook? I began to read every homeschool philosophy book I could get my hands on. I read The Well Trained Mind, and books by Raymond and Dorothy Moore who are credited with being the founders of the modern homeschooling movement. I read The Christian Home School by Gregg Harris and For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley. Teaching the Wholehearted Child by Sally Clarkson definitely inspired me. The Underground History of American Education and Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, a New York Teacher of the Year recipient, opened my eyes to the state of public education. Books by Ruth Beechick gave me an overall plan for language and math development in the early years while books by Douglas Wilson and Dorothy Sayers provided an understanding of classical education and teaching to developmental stages.
In addition to reading, I attended my state’s homeschool convention for many years in a row. Unlike many attendees, I didn’t really go to shop for books. I love curriculum and could spend hours pouring over grammar texts, but in those early years of homeschooling, I attended conferences to learn from veteran home educators. I attended sessions by speakers such as Michael and Vicky Farris, Gregg Harris, Sally Clarkson, Scott and Marcia Somerville, Hal and Melanie Young as well as many local teachers.
These authors and speakers certainly influenced me as did many dear friends ahead of me in their homeschooling journeys. I’ll never forget approaching a dear mom at church one day after a service and basically pleading with her to be my friend. She had six beautiful children who listened attentively to the sermon and exhibited the finest of manners while I stole their mommy’s attention for an unreasonable amount of time between services. This sweet mom invited me to her home. Years later, she is still a dear friend I know I can call. In the early years of my homeschooling, I just wanted her to share her wisdom with me. I’m so grateful for her as well as several other dear friends who were willing to encourage me.
So, did all this study help me to develop a plan? Could I map the course of our homeschooling for the next several years? Did I pinpoint my homeschool philosophy? Did I “get it all together?”
No. However, as my husband and I prayed and daily sought to disciple and educate our children, our desire to home-educate became a passion. It became a calling. It became a commitment. We decided that our precious children God gave us, who only would live with us a short while, deserved our whole-hearted efforts. Deuteronomy 6:7 states:
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.
Homeschooling became a tool to help us “teach them diligently.” Our desire became and continues to be to raise our children to love Jesus and follow hard after Christ. We want them to articulate well and think critically through a Biblical worldview. We pray that our children will teach their children and one day, when we are old, we will be blessed by great-grandchildren who love Jesus. This desire, over time, became our passion and our vision.
This fall, as oldest daughter enters her senior year, my youngest will begin kindergarten. Thus, I’m nearly at the half-way point of my homeschooling. As I reflect over the past twelve years of this journey, I’m reminded of another bit of advice from my friend Muriel. As she met with me and the new homeschooling mothers in my home, she encouraged us to give each homeschooling day to God. “Have a plan, but trust Him,” she said. “Sometimes your plans will be hijacked, but at the end of the day, assure yourself that while you many not have completed your list, you did exactly what God had for you.”
It’s easy to become discouraged when our plans fall through. No doubt, we will have good homeschooling days and difficult ones. There will even be some years that are more academic than others. As with life, there will be valleys and mountaintops; laughter and pain. We will make mistakes. We will likely find that as we strive to educate our children, God educates us. Our job is to put one foot in front of the other and look upward.
Are you new to homeschooling? Do you desire vision? What are your goals for your family 5 years, 10 years or 40 years from now? Have you been at homeschooling awhile and wonder if it’s worth the effort? Dear sister, may I encourage you to pray, read, seek mentors and look to Jesus? If God has called you to homeschool, he will equip you in every way.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9