One of the major decisions every parent must make is how to educate their children. What a blessing that there are so many options for education in today’s world, from homeschooling to homeschool with co-ops, to university models to private, public, and charter schools, parents these days have a plethora of choices! On the flip side, an abundance of options can cause parents to feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain what choice is best for their family. While there is not one “best fit” for every family, it is good to prayerfully seek information on the options God has provided and be open and obedient to whatever the Lord is calling your family to do.
I will be interviewing some seasoned moms over the next few months who have much experience in specific settings, while still raising their kids to know and follow the Lord. I would like to provide you information on how they encourage their kids in their walk with God through each of these settings.
My first interview is with my sister-in-law and mentor, Rachel. She has homeschooled her kids from the beginning, some of whom are now graduated, and she and her husband have raised children of integrity who love and serve the Lord and others. She has a lot of great wisdom to share with us…
How long have you been homeschooling?
We’ve been homeschooling for over 20 years now. Our oldest two have graduated, and our youngest is just starting!
What do you feel are the advantages in homeschooling?
Hands down, the greatest advantage I see to parent-directed education, at least the way we’ve done it, is simply the complete FREEDOM we have (the flexibility, the time, the choices, etc.) to grow our children ALL throughout the day, at every age, stage, and season, in the milieu of life — with the “curriculum” and “classroom” that is shaped by the Biblical principles that WE hold most vital.
What drawbacks do you see in homeschooling, if any?
The greatest disadvantages to homeschooling for me have been (especially in the early years) the occasional feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, and fear that “creep” in…that I might not be doing things the “right” way, that I might not be using the “latest” resources, that my children might be “missing out” on something important, that I could have a more “significant” ministry if I weren’t home all day, or that the kids might not “turn out right.”
As the Lord continues to faithfully direct and strengthen us in His Word, and with the encouragement of other like-minded parents, God has given us the desire and power we’ve needed to continue following His will already given to us in Deuteronomy 11. Therewith comes the confidence and resolve I’ve needed to overcome these (now less frequent) feelings. Every one of our children has expressed wholehearted gratefulness, rather than regret, for having been educated at home.
Do you feel that socialization is a concern in the homeschooling world, and if so, how do you work on socialization with your children?
I’m personally inspired by the example found in the second chapter of Luke — Jesus at home with Mary and Joseph, growing socially as a child (v. 40), as a teen (v. 52), and even as an adult, where “He continued in subjection to them (v.51)… And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (v. 52)
Let me just put this out there. It has NEVER been our goal for our children to “fit in” socially with the world. Being a true Christ-follower demands being counter-cultural. (I know this is hard to hear, but Jesus didn’t call us to socialize and make friends, but to make disciples.) We are actually warned in I John 2 that all this world has to offer is “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.”
No, we actually don’t want our boys to be cool, or our daughters to be sexy. We do want them to be sociable, but as influencers, world-changers, mighty in Spirit, and filled with the very character of Christ. We LOVE that our children aren’t hearing daily humanistic “be like me” messages from their peers that they need to think, dress, talk, and act like everyone else.
We have been so humbled and encouraged to hear our children described by others as “delightful,” “refreshing,” “mature,” “amazing,” “well-behaved,” “bright,” and “so full of love.” Please don’t believe the lie that children educated at home will suffer socially by not being with other people’s children all day!!!
How has homeschooling helped you to raise kids who know, love, and follow the Lord?
A parent-directed Biblical worldview approach to education, done in the everyday happenings of life (and without the constraints of traditional academic rules and schedules), affords us the opportunity to make EVERY circumstance a life classroom. It enables us to observe the heart of each individual child “real-time” as he responds to various challenges throughout his day. I get to see and address first-hand the struggles with math, the difficultly getting along with a sibling, the selfishness, the pride, the fears, the distractions, the bad attitudes, and the beautiful character qualities with which we desire to help develop in each and every child.
I know I may be judged for this (and, yes, I have counted the cost), but our educational goals have never been academics or extracurriculars. We’re not concerned with following the “experts,” their scope and sequence, getting through the material, passing the test, being the smartest, the fastest, the MVP, making the grade, finishing on top, getting into the best college, or “making it” in the REAL WORLD or striking it rich. We’ve known too many families who went there and did that.
How can I best raise kids who know, love, and follow the Lord? The goal has to be for ME, personally, to seek the person and character of Christ, as He’s revealed Himself in His Word and in the world He created. And everyday as I keep looking to Him, I’m able to see His hand and purpose in every subject we are studying and every situation He’s allowing into our family. And I either “react” or “respond.” And little eyes are watching. And I “teach.” And little ears are listening. And I “do.” And little hands copy me. And it’s contagious…sometimes like joy, …and, tragically, sometimes like the Corona virus! So, remember: YOU are the curriculum.
What have been some of your favorite curriculums that you have gone through with your children?
My favorite curriculum? Sounds wrong, but simply put: “the one that works for us.” (At the end of the day, that’s the only one that is actually going to get done.) And, please,… forget the Jones’! Run the race that God has set before YOU. Don’t worry about what everyone else is using, or if you like a curriculum no one else does. God has called YOU to raise your children. You need one that fits the specific needs of your family, your husband’s schedule, the ages of your children, your energy level and current living dynamics.
Remember, it’s not so much whether they’re learning by phonics or sight words, by textbook, workbook, or online. Sooo much more important, is just you keeping your vision always fixed before you. Knowing and fighting for your actual “end goal” in child-raising should dictate your choice and method of study. And then being intentional about keeping your priorities sacred by removing all the extra’s and unnecessaries. They are distractions. (Remember that good is often the enemy of best!) Learn to say, “No, thank you. That’s not going to work for us.”
Our family’s educational goal is for each child to be thoroughly equipped with a Biblical worldview and to personally possess the character qualities of Christ in growing measure, so he can best answer God’s call to advance His Kingdom — with his own unique gifting, talent, temperament, personality, and skill set. With that goal in mind, we actually use a variety of resources to individually steer each child to that end. Sometimes I override a tedious assignment and instead spend time talking about something more significant, and explain WHY. We’ve built a library of resources to develop their different interests. We observe each child to see what he does with his discretionary time, his spending money. We learn what motivates him internally. We know where he gravitates. We know where he excels. We seek creative ways to build him up in the Lord. And we look for how to discipline and correct him, as needed.
All that said, I’m personally a huge fan of curriculums that are Biblically wholistic. For example, instead of teaching the Bible as a separate subject (and then putting it in a “drawer”), I like to see God’s Word and hand taught all throughout the various disciplines (Where He is the “chest” which contains all the drawers of wisdom.)
What resources would you suggest for moms wanting to get more information on homeschooling and don’t know where to start?
First, be on the same page as hub and and wife, as “parents”. There are no “great kids” first. Pray together to form a unified educational goal. Next, talk with others who share and support your same heart and vision. Then, check out TCHSC, the Texas Homeschool Coalition. It’s a great organization and starting place, and they can direct you to so many resources. From there, you can begin to familiarize yourselves with different educational homeschool philosophies.
To a mom wanting to try homeschooling, what would be your biggest piece of advice?
Once you have decided to obey the call to teach your children at home to love and serve the Lord (however that ends up looking), remember that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. This is HIS work! YOU are called to be faithful, HE is responsible for the results. Stay the course. Swim upstream. Remember that every time you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to something else. You only have so much TIME. You can’t be or do or give everything to everybody, so be intentional about the ONE thing we ALL need, now and forever — Christ, and Christ alone. As Jesus said to busy Martha, “One thing is needful.” Or, as my (less famous) husband likes to say, “The main thing is that the main thing stays the main thing” Everything else falls in place. I promise.
Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your wisdom and resources on homeschooling with us! Your kids are truly the evidence and fruit of your labor- displaying Christ-like character and a desire to serve the Lord in all that they do.
Praying God will use these nuggets of truth to encourage and inspire hearts and give you a better understanding of what it can look like to teach your kids to know, love, and follow the Lord in a homeschool setting.