Like most homeschooling parents, when I started homeschooling, back in 1998, I thought the grea
test benefit of homeschooling would be that I would be able to give my children a superior academic education than they would be able receive in a school institution.
I knew that homeschooling would enable me to use what I believe to be superior educational materials, which embodied sound Christian values, rather than secular humanism, evolution, hedonism and other philosophies of the world that have infiltrated the text books used in state schools.
I was also happy to know that one-to-one tuition that homeschooling allows would ensure that none of my children would 'fall through the cracks' if they had any special learning needs. They would be able to progress at their own pace and move ahead only after they had mastered whatever new concept they were learning.
I was glad to know that as we progressed in the years to come, that I would discover my children's passions and I would be able to tailor-make their education to facilitate their interests and career directions, making learning a fulfilling and purposeful experience for each one. This would be true 'outcomes based education' with our own Godly outcomes as the goal, instead of the state's outcomes!
I soon discovered that I would need to train my children to be helpers in the home, capable of completing chores that would contribute to the smooth-running of our home. I was glad that we could encourage a good work ethic in this way and raise capable, hard-working individuals.
I, too, would learn to become better organized in my home and I found that each year, as I matured in our homeschooling adventure, gained experience and confidence, that I got more and more organized and enjoyed the journey more and more.
So, with all these benefits, I had the mental picture of us becoming the ideal 'happy homeschooling family'.
..and then REALITY HIT!
It was a struggle to keep my home as immaculately clean as my husband would like, when I was busy with a school-going child, toddlers at my feet all day and pregnant most of the time too!
My friends thought I was a bit odd, to stay home, occupied with my children all day instead of putting them in preschool like they did.
I could never go anywhere without having a group of small children in tow - so any outings or errands became a major event, to get everyone organized, bags packed, juice cups filled, safety-belts all buckled up etc. etc.
I could no longer go to gym, craft mornings, Bible studies or other adult activities that would stimulate me unless it was a 'child-friendly' group.
We had to survive on one income, which meant that for many years, until I started a home business, money was very tight and was often an 'issue'.
There were relationship clashes between me and my step-daughter, which affected the atmosphere in our home and made it hard on everyone in the family.
I regularly wondered if we were doing enough compared to what school-children were doing, as our days seemed to be filled with interruptions.
I wondered if I was using the best curriculum or if we should have used some better program.
I wondered if my children would one day be glad that they were homeschooled, or if they would feel that we had deprived them of a school career.
At times, some of my children had very few friends their own age or own gender and I wondered if they felt deprived of friends.
On days when I lost my cool with my kids, I felt I was a terrible teacher and parent.
I often compared myself to other homeschoolers, either in real life, or on the Net, and felt that I was not offering my kids as rich an education with as many opportunities as they were giving theirs.
I read about many different styles and philosophies about homeschooling and often felt that there might be something lacking in the way we do school.
As the years rolled on, I found answers to some of these dilemmas. I became more confident and settled in our way of homeschooling. I found better curricula materials that suited our needs more comfortably and in time I realized that the sacrifices that I had made for homeschooling our family were paying off.
My children, although far from perfect, were learning to do their chores. They were becoming self-motivated learners, able to get out their books and start without me at times.
I succeeded in teaching them to read well and they fell in love with books, becoming bookworms that devour any literature they can find in the house that they haven't already read. (I now have to pack away in boxes any literature that I want to read aloud with them!)
They are well-socialised and polite, able to converse with both adults and two-year-olds alike! They make friends easily and participate in both individual and team sports.
They say that they are happy to be homeschooled and view one another as each others' best companions. They value their relationships with their siblings. Our house is reasonably neat, but never going to feature in any interior decorating magazine!
I have found ways to pursue hobbies, a home business and interests of my own in the evenings that leave me fulfilled. BUT, in spite of all these wonderful successes, I have discovered a far more valuable and hidden blessing in our homeschool life:
Firstly, let me state that the success of a homeschool does not lie in any curriculum!
God is using homeschooling to constantly shape and mould all our characters. The constant rubbing up caused by our different personalities enables us to sharpen one another like iron sharpens iron.
As homeschooling parents, we have the opportunity to constantly disciple and train our children's characters. Whenever vices such as laziness, selfishness, dishonesty, lack of respect or any such trait raises its ugly head, we have to deal with it head on!
We have the opportunity to build strong relationships with our children, to win their hearts, so that they will learn to honour and obey both their parents and God and become adults of integrity! What good is it if they are well-educated academically, but not honest, reliable, diligent and God-fearing men and women of integrity! Knowing how to deal with these heart issues that we face in our homeschool is not always easy...and learning to govern one's own emotions is also a challenge.
As a parent, I have had to develop traits that would hardly be needed if my children were in school for hours and hours each day.
People often say to me, "You must have such patience!" If I have patience, it is because I have developed it to meet a need. Nobody has patience if they don't need it!
Patience, perseverance, self-sacrifice and humility in the face of one's own weaknesses are just a few of the traits that are constantly developed in the homeschool situation. I think every homeschool parent has, at one time or another, had the awful realization of the bad fruit in their own lives being reflected back to them through their children's behaviour - be it attitudes, actions or even just intonation! It's enough to make any parent run to the foot of the Cross and cry for mercy and help!
A few years ago, I found a quote that says in a nutshell what I have discovered:
"...God's initial goal for Christian homeschooling families is not the raising of godly children. Instead, God's wonderful, but subtly hidden agenda is that the homeschooling experience be so challenging for the parents that they feel the need and hunger for a closer walk with their heavenly Father." (Kyle Miller)
It has taken me years to fully comprehend that homeschooling is not just about academics, rather, the hidden blessing of homeschooling is the opportunity that it affords us to allow God to develop His character in us and in our children by drawing near to Him in our need