Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A recent message to a mom considering homeschooling

The following is an email I sent to a mother that is considering homeschooling. I wanted to share it here in case anyone else could be encouraged if they are considering educating their children at home.


Hello,

Thanks for your message. As far as home schooling goes, first: don’t be scared. There that was easy! No, I don’t want it to sound like it’s a piece of cake, but remember where fear comes from and also remember where we are to turn when we are scared or worried or confused or whatever. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”(II Tim.1:7) I could give you countless verses about what we should do when we are unsure of the future, but you probably know many of them, so I won’t type them out. I need them myself though, because I often forget to place my cares at His feet or if I do “cast my cares on Him”, I tend to take them back as if I know better than He.

Secondly, think about who is responsible to teach and lead your children. Is it the state? Is it a school? Is it even that sweet Sunday school teacher that loves children? No, it’s the responsibility of Dad,(the head of the home), and Mom,(his help meet). God gave your children for you to raise, nurture and to teach, not for anyone else. Deuteronomy 6 talks about how the parents were to talk to their children when they sat at home, when they walked along the road, when they went to bed, when they got up. It’s pretty hard to do that when they spend a large chunk of time away from us. I remember as a kid, I would spend hours away at public school and then, come home where Mom & Dad basically had to unteach all of the things I had heard for that day. Thank the Lord, I had parents that cared and loved God. I do believe if they had known about home schooling then, they would have kept me home, but it was still so new and there wasn’t much support. Now, there are support groups everywhere, not to mention great organizations like Home School Legal Defense. I’m hopping down a rabbit trail. I’m just trying to say, that we have to rethink who is responsible for our children and not just for feeding them food and giving them a place to stay, but to train them in the Word of God and give them what they really need in this life.

Third, what do you think is really important to teach? We have to get away from the public or even the private school standards. Christian schools may have good intentions, but I don’t believe they are placing the emphasis where it belongs and how can they with so many children to teach? Public schools definitely do not have the interest of the child in mind. Yes, there are some great teachers, even some Christian ones, but they still don’t replace what a child needs from his/her God fearing parents. And, let’s face it, they are teaching kids to get by, to pass those tests that are meaningless, or to strive for things that don’t really last. I’m not against education nor am I against excelling in academics, but I believe the first things that should be taught are to fear the Lord, to love Him with all of their hearts, souls and minds and to have a Godly character. We can attempt to do those things a little, but when we send them off to school, they just aren’t ready to stand firm in their faith yet. I have heard Christian parents claim that by sending them to school, their child can be a witness. Hmmm, that’s a nice thought, but it’s not reality. They have to be trained before they can be sent amongst the wolves.

When you begin to start home schooling, I would encourage you to not worry about measuring up to the school system with academics, grades, social life, extra-curricular activities, or whatever. Their standards are actually quite low. They may offer a variety of subjects or opportunities, but they are trying to teach many different students with many different learning styles, using only a single method and failing miserably. They teach half as much as a home school child learns using ten times the effort.

I forgot how many children you have or their ages, but from my experience, every one of my children is unique. They learn in different ways. They have strengths and weaknesses. You may be able to use the same curriculum for all of them or you may have to experiment and cater to each child’s learning styles. This takes some time, but it’s worth it, not to mention, it is a joy to learn about your children and what makes them tick. I’ve had frustrating times with this, but usually, it has brought me closer to each one and has helped me to appreciate their uniqueness. Also, I can learn what really interests them and can help them to learn more about the things that are important to them. Rachel, our 10 yr. old daughter loves horses. So, I picked up a curriculum on horse history a few years back. Granted, we’ve not been able to finish it all in a year. We’ve taken our time, but that’s okay. We’re not on a time limit. She’s learned a lot from it, but she also studies about horses on her own. That’s one of the things that she absolutely loves. My son, Jonathan who has had some developmental delays loves to learn how things work. So, I bought a book about how things work in a house. He and his dad build things together. We take him on field trips to a Science center or even to Lowe’s when it’s time to fix something at home. Hannah, our precocious 6 yr. old, would probably be labeled ADD or something else. She’s a bundle of energy and has a hard time being still, but she learns. She is doing kindergarten work this year and loves it. I just know when it’s time not to push her anymore and we take breaks. I actually need to do that with all of them.

As far as choosing what curriculum, I would encourage you not to start with a program like Abecka. I know people who have used it and I’ve heard mixed things about it. It may not be ideal for a beginning home schooler. It is pretty labor intensive. My husband had a negative experience with it when he home schooled for a short time. It may even take the fun out of learning. It sounds like you need to take some time to unschool them first. Find out how each of them learn. Find out what they are interested in. Let them relax and take a break. Let them have fun just being kids. Get to know them again. Work on character training. There are many resources for that topic alone, but the best you can start with is the Bible. Set goals with your husband as to what you want to accomplish and why. Why do you want your children to know how to read? Well, of course, they need to read, but why? Just to get a job one day? Or is it because they need to be able to read God’s Word, which is eternal. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. But, even reading isn’t required to learn the Word of God, although it helps. Our three oldest are in the middle of learning the 8th chapter of Romans and Hannah, who isn’t reading at this level yet, knows her verses. I’m not saying all of this to brag on my kids. I’m simply trying to say, this is not as hard or expensive as you may think. Kids learn so much just by living. They learn about life when they observe your marriage. They learn by watching you manage a household. Yeah, I know, that’s a hard one, but they are watching everything at home and they are learning. They learn just by being outside or reading a good book that isn’t even a part of some curriculum. We do a lot of reading around here. We read the Bible morning and night. We read fun books like Dr.Seuss and Little Critter. We read Laura Ingalls’ books. We read missionary stories and stories of hymn writers. All of this is school. You really don’t have to spend a bundle to teach your kids. I have the problem of wanting to buy too much because I get excited about all of the things I could teach my kids. Home school conferences are my downfall.

After taking a break, I would focus on the basics like reading, writing, math and slowly add the other things. You said something about not being sure you could give them all they need. The truth is, you will never be able to give them all they need. Only God can do that. You can trust that God will provide your needs in the areas of finances, teaching, decisions about curriculum and just wisdom in general. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God”. Those children ultimately belong to Him. He has a purpose for each of them and for you and your husband. Do not feel scared to take on home schooling. Embrace it or rather embrace God and let Him take you for the ride of a lifetime. It is so fun, so hard at times, so exhausting, but soooo worth it!

I literally could go on and on, but it’s late and I feel like I’ve given you enough to digest for one email. If you have any questions about curriculum, home school laws, support groups or anything else, you can ask. Don’t feel that you’ve made a huge mistake by sending your kids to school. God is working in the lives of your family and He will continue to do so. Just keep praying for wisdom and pray that you can trust Him more. He will always give you what you need. Also, don’t feel as if you have to do things exactly like another family. Every family is different and God will show you what He wants you to do. We’re still learning. We fail and we do other things well, but God uses it all to bring glory to Him. I hope this helps you. We may come across a bit strong, but training our children is one of our passions, so we love to share what’s on our hearts.
May God bless you and your family and we’ll continue to pray for you.

In Christ,

Dawne