It is early in the morning, Mother’s Day. I woke up this morning with the burden on my heart to put down some thoughts for mothers who are new to this whole idea of homeschooling and who perhaps could benefit from a word of encouragement from someone who has walked this road a long while. This is after all what Scripture says. The older women must teach the younger women. Of course I am still learning myself from those who are older and wiser than me. We are all on a journey together, and though our eyes should be focused ahead and our vision must be cast forward, we must not forget to reach back our hands to help those sisters who come behind.
When we first begin home educating, we begin by doing what we know. A disciple is not greater than his master. As we were taught, so will we teach. If we sat in desks in rows and raised our hands to speak and did five independent subjects a day and had recess every two hours…we are likely to try to set up a system that mirrors that in our home. Why? Because we think that is what school is. We want our children to have a good education, so we set about to mirror what we believe gave us a good education. After all, we can read, and write, and communicate, or we wouldn’t be attempting this.
But something happens once you begin homeschooling. You begin to question why your son must learn sitting at a desk and struggling to read to himself if he learns better sprawled on the floor listening to you read to him. You begin to wonder why your daughter must complete so many textbooks…one for every subject every year…when they all seem to say the same thing. And you notice that much of the same material can be found in living books that don’t look like textbooks at all, and are much more interesting to read. You begin to question why your ten-year-old should take a standardized test to see if his knowledge “equates” to the ten-year-olds in the local elementary school…when you can see any time you’re around other ten-year-olds that he’s not even learning the same things. And then you begin to wonder who needs tests and grades anyway? After all, a mother lives with her children, hears them talking and asking questions and narrating material all the time – there’s very little question in a mother’s mind as to what they know or don’t know and as to where each one’s strengths and weaknesses and gifts and interests lie.
So you find that things in your little homeschool begin to change. You don’t understand what’s happening until you hear someone who’s been there speak on it, or you come across it in a good homeschooling book. But your little homeschool is slowly turning from the Greek model of education – the only thing you had ever known — to the Hebraic model of education, the model spoken of in the Scriptures where you instruct your children when you rise up, when you lie down, when you walk together in the way. Whereas before you saw yourself having at least two distinct jobs in the home – one as mother, one as teacher – now you begin to see that mother and teacher are one in the same. All day, every day is a learning opportunity. You walk with your children outside and you show them the glory of the Creator. You read the Scriptures to your children in the morning and you teach them to apply the principles to their lives so that they do not become “whited sepulchres” like the Pharisees. You learn new things together in history, science, and literature – not in distinct “classes” with seven children reading twenty-one different books and completing twenty-one assignments on them separately, but one family enjoying and discussing and evaluating a few wonderful books together. You are with them in the evening and Daddy is home and hears all they have learned and can open the Scriptures to them again, and the whole family can enjoy a sit-down meal and conversation and then work on something together – maybe just getting the dishes done and the floors swept up to be ready for a new day, or perhaps gardening, or extending hospitality, or checking in on a widow, or singing , or visiting someone in the hospital, or working on a family enterprise together – whatever it is God has given your family to do at a particular season.
But just when you begin to enjoy your freedom with this “new” way of education, you can be sure the tempter will be there to bring you doubts and fears and questions. After all, God said to educate this way. God wants parents investing their lives in their children and teaching them His precepts and His commandments, and protecting them and sheltering them, yet at the same time teaching them about his wide and wonderful world and the amazing gifts he has bestowed upon it – such as light, electricity, oxygen, photosynthesis, the cardiovascular system, and the water cycle. And we all know Satan is the arch-enemy of God and His Truth. So late at night, when the children are asleep and your husband is asleep and you have finally collapsed in bed … and most likely on a day when things have not gone so well in your little homeschool … or maybe after several days have not gone so well, and you are weary and disheartened… then he will whisper in your ear: “You are going to ruin your children.”
“They are not going to know the same things everybody else knows. They will be misfits. They will be persecuted. You are wasting your life and you’re setting them up to fail.” Friends, do not listen. He will be persistent. He will come to you again and again. But do not hearken to the voice of the tempter. Listen instead to the voice of the Shepherd. He promises gently to lead and guide mothers and their little lambs. Never mind if your children are misfits. Pray that they are! Deep down inside do you really want your children to look like the rest of society? We are a people who have forgotten how to think for ourselves. We have forgotten how to evaluate life in the light of Scripture. We have forgotten to be grateful to God for our liberties and we have lost most of them. We have forgotten what is right and good and instead have embraced all that is wicked. Is this the kind of children we want to raise? Of course not. We want our children to be wise, fearing the Lord, departing from evil. We want them to walk with God and be called his friend as Abraham was. We want them to know true liberty and appreciate it.
So when you hear that voice, do not be swayed. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Remember how He taught. He walked with His disciples, day in and day out. He talked with His disciples. He gave them the Word that they would know how to evaluate the world around them. He broke bread with His disciples. He gave them hope. And, ultimately, He loved them. Enough to lay down His very life. Are we willing to do the same for these little lives entrusted to our care?
It is not enough just to be home with our children. We must intentionally lay aside every distraction that the world will offer and focus on what it is God wants us to accomplish. He says the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Do not make academics the focus of your lives. Make loving your children and imparting to them the fear of the Lord the ultimate goals of your home education program and in doing this – in seeking first the Kingdom of God – He will add those things unto you that He desires. And, if you can persevere, you will look around you and find that even in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation, you have been greatly blessed. For “the Lord is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him”.
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