Many of us are gearing up for the upcoming school year. We’re buying school supplies, hitting the back-to-school sales, registering our kids, and planning curricula. It looks a bit different for each family and for each route of education.
One friend of mine is a single mom whose son is getting ready to enter kindergarten at a local, public school, but only after she researched every possible education option available. Then there’s my friend who’s married and would love to homeschool her three boys, but has been told by God that He has a plan for them in public school. I also have a friend who wants to homeschool, but her hubby isn’t on board and she’s choosing to honor him by going the public school route, all the while supplementing her children’s education at home as needed. Then there’s another who was adamantly opposed to homeschooling who, in one year’s time, has turned a definitive 180 and now embraces her call from God to educate her kids at home.
Easily half of my friends home educate their children; the other half utilize public and private schools. But one thing I know without a doubt is this: each and every one of them loves their children and wants the absolute best for them. Most of these friends have taken great pains to research every option they have in order to determine what is the best route for their family. Those who are married have talked it through with their spouses. Those who aren’t have talked with loved ones. I’ve been a sounding board for many of them, just as many friends were sounding boards to me so many times as I figured it all out.
Here’s what I love about those who have diligently researched, regardless of their ultimate decision: They didn’t assume that one way or the other was the default. They didn’t just go with one option because, “That’s what you do.” They thought deeply, asked probing questions, considered the implications, and prayed!
When our kids were still toddling around, the route for their education was an ongoing conversation between Steve and me. I had a gut feeling (really more of a God-feeling) that homeschooling was the call on our family, but honestly, I just didn’t want to. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t want to budge on his stance that this was the best path for us. The arguments rolled in my mind: “Sure, Steve, but you aren’t the one who will have to execute this day in and day out”…”I’m an introvert and I might self-implode if I don’t have that time to myself”…”What about all the lost opportunities for extracurricular activities which are my only truly happy memories from my public school career?”…and so on.
So, I began to pray. I prayed most of all for God to give me a vision about our children’s education. What did it look like to Him? What truly mattered? And He answered…in a clear and beautiful way. He gave me a heart for home education, vision and mission statements to guide our school, and core values to underscore our teaching. Here’s what it looks like for our family:
He gave me this. I simply wrote it out and framed it. These words now hang in our homeschool room, a daily reminder of what our focus is and, more importantly, why. You see, education is so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education, as the Bible lays it out, is discipleship. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Education doesn’t end with the basic subjects; and truthfully, it shouldn’t even start there. Education done God’s way should start with God, regardless of whether your child sits at a desk surrounded by other kids or at the dining room table at home. It isn’t a task to shirk off on school-teachers, thinking that is enough.
My diligent, public school mama-friends get to know their kids’ teachers, volunteer in the classroom, supplement education at home, intentionally disciple their children at home and church, and give support with homework and tutoring. My home-educating mama-friends carefully select curriculum, rearrange schedules to prioritize homeschool time, get involved in homeschool groups and other activities to keep their kids engaged with others, stand their ground in the face of opposition from well-intentioned loved ones, and balance educating multiple age groups at once. Each way has its own challenges to overcome.
My challenge to you today is, first, to stop partaking in attacks on those whose path may be different from yours; and, also, to remember that regardless of the path you take, ask God for His vision for your family and your children’s education. Put out encouraging words to those friends of yours who are trying to figure it out. Put up a vision statement where you can see it every day and remember the why behind your what.
Your children do not belong to your parents, or the government, or the local school, or your outspoken friends. Your children are just that: your children…gifts from God for you to guide and steward according to His plan rather than your agenda.
Today, will you take this challenge? Will you choose to encourage rather than join in on attacks? Will you ask God for His vision for your family, ready to receive whatever it is He has to say? Will you choose to start with Him?
For those of you who need some help and inspiration as an educating parent, I highly recommend Educating The Whole-Hearted Child by Clay & Sally Clarkson. This has been an inexhaustible resource for me, touching on every aspect of education, giving insight on learning styles and various curricula, inspiring an environment for life-long learning, and so much more. I received it as a gift and when anyone asks me about how to start homeschooling, reading this book comes second only to getting a vision from God.