This is one of my favorite times of the year, the time everything is fresh and new and possible! This is the time when I get to look back and forward, dream and consider, pray and trust as I look to a new year of home schooling.
Over the course of 18 years of teaching my children at home I have learned that this journey is not about figuring it out, but it is about prayerfully persevering. It is about continuing on through the challenges and celebrating God’s goodness and faithfulness.
We must remember not to allow our plans to become our idol. God’s word says that “man plans his ways, but the Lord directs his steps.” God has a plan for each of our lives, for our family’s homeschool. We should plan prayerfully and hold our plans with open hands, offering our plans up to God to work through and use as He will for His glory.
Planning gives us a target to aim for. We do not always hit the bull’s eye, but having one means we are shooting in the right direction. It is vital we have a target to aim at while allowing, or rather inviting God to come and direct our steps.
Here are some steps I go through as I plan the year:
- Pray. Before you even begin the day, ask the Father to guide you and grant you wisdom as you plan. His Spirit will help you and give you insights as you go forward.
- Review Objectives. Our over-arching goal each year is to glorify God and to raise children who glorify God. From there I look at each student, where they are and what they need for the year and set goals for them individually.
- Plan out weeks. This simply means looking at the calendar and your family’s activities/travel and planning which days/weeks you will be home schooling. Additionally, consider planning in some down time for you and your kids. We adopted a 6-weeks-on-1-week-off schedule several years ago that works great for our family. The week off gives us a break, a chance to adjust and catch-up if necessary. Once you know when you can homeschool, now you can better plan ‘what’ and ‘how’.
- Decide on the year’s subjects. I have developed a rotation for our study of history so that we can go through world and American history several times over the course of their education. Subsequently I add in math, science, writing and foreign language. After these are in place I look to see what I can add in that is unique to each child. For instance I might add in some LEGO material for my LEGO enthusiast or an art class for my emerging artist. Though these may seem to be merely extracurricular, I maintain that as their particular talents and interest begin to develop, they should become more prominent, not just add-on’s.
- Develop a Routine. Over the years I have come to believe that a routine is much better than a schedule. A routine sets a pattern for our day, a course of action, and ultimately, habits. In contrast a schedule ties us, makes us slaves to the clock. A schedule demands we pay attention to the minutes instead of the moments. It robs us of joy and distracts us from our purpose. I desire to create a context wherein my children love learning. I want to engage them in such a way that they don’t even notice the time. I don’t want to rush to the next ‘thing’ but lean into the now, what we are reading or discovering or solving now.
As you consider the pattern you want to adopt for your day, I would encourage you to put God first (Matthew 6:33). Read God’s word together first; pray together first. This example of putting God first is an excellent example for your children as they grow up and begin to adopt their own daily routines. As they get older, show them how to have their own quite time first and then ask them to share what they learned that day.
After time with God, then put the other subjects in an order that best serves your children, their needs, and your day. We have a routine that is basically the same each day. This way the kids know the drill. They can proceed on their own if I am busy with a character issue or the laundry.
- Plan a meeting with the Principal. This is key. Make sure that you take the time to go over your plan with the principal of your homeschool, your husband. (In North Carolina, the husband/father is considered the principal of the homeschool. Though homeschool law varies from state to state, this is a good way to look at the division of roles.) Get a date on the calendar to meet with him and discuss your plan. More on this next week!
That child is always challenging us. Sometimes it’s not just a different perspective. Sometimes it’s not just a crazy idea.
Sometimes it’s not just some imaginative plan that they want to put into place. Sometimes it’s a real attitude that creeps in and they’re just frustrating, and they have this angst within themselves and it kind of comes out to the rest of us.
We kind of had that day here today and I’m just telling you all that to say that I’m in this journey with you.
Maybe I’m a little further down the path since I do have a “that child” that I’ve already graduated who is currently in graduate school. This alone ought to give us all hope!
But I’m still dealing with it! Not just in my “that child” but also in me. Right?
I’m not a finished product.
I’m still a work in progress. I’m grateful for this process of sanctification, but it’s not easy.
I still have really tough days with “that child”; I recently closed our school day early to deal with an attitude issue.
We could have pushed through. I could have insisted on the work getting done. But you know what? That work that we would have gotten done and any of those academic pursuits would not have been as valuable as the work we needed to do in his heart. So, I’m in this with you. I want you to know that.
We are in this together as we seek God together, and seek to honor God, and seek His glory and all we say and do.
I really do believe that as we have “that child” in our families and in our homes, that we have an opportunity to raise up a generation to change the world.
That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That’s what makes me so excited about coming here to talk to you about these kids that are just so misunderstood.
These are the kids that get a bad rap. It’s hard to be these kids because very few people want to invest in getting to know them.
Very few people want to consider “that child’s” perspective or listen to their rantings or their ravings or their idea lists.
Very few people want to do that. But, Mom, you’ve got an amazing opportunity to really invest in that kid and really love “that child” as a unique creation of a holy, mighty God.
Let’s Review “That Child”
I told you the story about I loved my oldest, my original “that child”, but I didn’t like him very much.
That may ring true with some of you in the audience. You may just go, “Gasp! You just said that.”
Yeah, I said it. I don’t think there is any shame in admitting how selfish I was and how I had just failed to see this from a different perspective.
But I want to challenge you to embrace that child. Embrace him as a unique son or daughter of the King, uniquely wired for His glory.
They are someone very special. So, I want to encourage you to embrace “that child”.
Second of all, and we have talked about this, I want to dare you to engage with them.
Look! These are the kids that no one wants to engage with. They are always going off on rabbit trails. They see things that the rest of us can’t see.
They have ideas that seem impossible. It’s amazing. But we need to dare to engage with them. It starts with conversation.
“Unpack that idea for me.”
“Talk me a little more about that.”
Dare to chase the squirrel with them. These kids… remember the movie “UP” where you had the dog named Dug, and every now and then he would go, “Squirrel!”
That’s our “that child”, right? Because they’re always chasing squirrels.
Anything that crosses their path is game for conversation. Would we dare to engage in that conversation? Give “that child” a voice.
So, we engage with them in conversation. We engage with them in their ideas. We engage with them in their imagination.
But we don’t just engage with them. We get to know who they are. What motivates them. What lights their fire. What frustrates them.
Based on all the things we learn based on this active, intentional engagement we advocate for them.
We advocate for them before the throne of grace. We pray for them constantly. We advocate for them in the medical community when everybody wants to shove a prescription across the table to help that child.
We advocate for other methods. We advocate for them when it comes to their inappropriate behavior on a team.
I think I’ve told you in the past we have had some very real consequences for very wrong behavior. One that I can remember well was, “you won’t get to play in your next soccer game”. Now, mind you, this doesn’t mean we didn’t go to the game…Oh no! We went to that game and supported the team. And in doing so, “that child” would realize that he could have actually played in the game. But instead he got to explain to the coach that he wouldn’t be playing because he disobeyed.
Yeah, that’s a real consequence.
It’s daring to engage and enlist the help of others through advocation as you engage and get to know them and pay attention.
We are going to embrace them.
We are going to engage with them.
Finally, we are going to enjoy them.
It’s not a straight shot
Look, these kids are not going to allow your life to just go in a linear pattern. They’re not!
They’re going to take you around the moon and back again. That’s how they are. But what an amazing opportunity to enjoy them.
Enjoy the laughter.
Enjoy their perspective.
Enjoy learning from them.
I’m sure many of you saw the video my boys posted a while back on how to spread an insect.
So, I’ve learned a lot about bugs this year! I didn’t know that there were even websites where you can buy dead bugs! I didn’t know that! I am learning so much from my “that child”. Just like I learned so much from Charles (my first “that child”) when he was home.
What a rush! What a ride! The enjoyment that we get to celebrate with “that child”…I want to invite you in to that.
That’s what we’ve been talking about. I talked about the top ten things you say.
I talked about you might have a “that child” if…
We’ve talked about all these different things, all these different tools, all these different conversations.
We talked about their sin nature. If you’ve missed any of this go back on my blog you can find all my posts on “that child” and catch up.
Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. In both cases, God is glorified.
Now I want to introduce you, some of you maybe for the first time, to someone who has really helped me on my journey, and my son’s journey. This is Dianne Craft, DianneCraft.org on the web.
This woman gets your “that child” from a thousand different perspectives.
She specializes in helping us get to know them and really fight this battle with them.
Often “that child” is educationally frustrated. There are many issues. I was extremely dyslexic as a child. My oldest child had an auditory processing issue. It’s not just that they’ve got this ADHD, and they’ve got this incredible mind, and these really unique perspectives.
I’ve talked last week about the different signs of genius, the twelve characteristics of genius. Often, your “that child” will show those characteristics. But they are often struggling.
Well Dianne is the expert in all of those issues. She has a plethora of articles, YouTube videos, you can catch her at a conference.
Her schedule is online, too. You can do phone consultations, and you can even make an appointment and fly out to see her in Colorado. She is the real deal.
You know, I come alongside the moms to really encourage mom’s hearts. She comes alongside with some really practical things, everything from learning tools to articles.
She wants to approach this from a natural perspective. I wouldn’t say she’s anti-pharmaceuticals. We didn’t get that far into the conversation. But she has found there are natural supplementations, dietary supplement, and also dietary changes that we can make in our home to help that kid function.
I have seen it firsthand. If I have cut down on carbs at the beginning of the day for “that child”, it makes all the difference. It’s a little bitty thing for us to have protein shakes and eggs for breakfast instead of just cereal or oatmeal.
That sounds great, the oatmeal does, but not for “that kid”.
So, learning all of this from her I wanted to make sure that you were aware of her many resources.
Get in the game with “that child”
Look, we’ve got to fight for “that kid”. These are things that they don’t know. They don’t know that, one of the things that Dianne talks about, I want to get it right, is about the learning glitches that your kid might have. She has an assessment online free that you can go through and read the article and go, “Ah! That’s it!”
Look, “that kid” can’t do that for them.
They don’t know what they don’t know. You and I don’t either but we can find some resources like Dianne and her website and get some real practical help to help that child.
I’ve added a few supplements to my son’s diet currently. We also did this with Charles in the old days.
I’m here to tell you mama, we can help them in natural, practical ways to be able to take in the information. We don’t have to drug them down or make them into something else. There are natural ways to make it easier, not just for us, but easier for them to function so they can think clearly and so that they can focus.
Take some time today to thank God for the “that child” in your home.
Have you ever prayed the “most dangerous prayer,” as I’ve heard it called by Pastor Rick Warren?
Have your lips and your heart ever cried out, “Use Me, Lord!” but you think you’re stuck in an unending season of homeschooling?
As I’ve contemplated His holiness and our humility this month to write this to you, dear sister, I can’t help but share with you a few encouraging revelations I’ve gleaned over the years.
Homeschooling Keeps Us Humble
This thing we do, the thing you, dear mama, do– knee deep and over your head at times (and I’m right there with you) called homeschooling is our place of humility. We surely know that the Holy Spirit will convict us through words we speak to our children. Over and over again. (Thank the Lord for His grace!) It’s a place we’re brought humbly to our knees (even if that looks like the driver’s seat of our minivans) to ask repeatedly- each and every day, “Jesus, help!” We know that without Him, this homeschool is nothing.
Humility is remembering our place in the Lord, but not shying away from our role and place in His Kingdom here on Earth. I had a Bible college teacher say: “we’ve often got this humility thing all wrong. We think being humble means hiding our true selves, whom God has called and created us to be, under a banner of ‘The Lord has it, I’m just going to be humble and shy and do nothing.’ Quite the contrary! Humility means yes, put our pride aside and know the Lord Almighty is in control, and to give Him all the glory! But it also means to step out confidently in the Lord into who He has called you to be, and the plans upon your lives!” If He’s called you to homeschool, then your plans as a homeschooling family are to be His Light in this world, together. ” When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” — Proverbs 11:2”
Let’s humbly seek the Lord for His wisdom, but then “GO!” into the World as the Lord has commanded us!
” And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3 NIV
Mamas, It doesn’t say “your whole home(school) is full of His glory! It says the whole earth! Do you know just a couple verses under those often quoted words where we sing holy, holy, holy, that the Lord asked Isaiah : Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And Isaiah responded, ” Here am I. Send Me!”
The Earth is Filled with His Glory!
Remember that dangerous prayer? Have you asked to be sent? This is your opportunity! When was the last time you took yourself, and your children, on an adventure to see some of the glory covering His earth? Are you out in nature regularly, even if just for a walk or a picnic? How about exploring other places? Maybe studying His creation and other cultures? Are we really getting our children out to see some of this Earth full of His glory?
What are we doing to be sent- getting into the world- as an answer to that dangerous prayer I’m sure so many of us have said? See, mamas, this homeschooling thing, it’s about being available, hands raised high, for expanding His Kingdom here on Earth. I bet you’ve prayed that prayer sometime in your life. And maybe you’ve said to yourself, “the Lord will use me when we get done with this homeschooling season.” But, friends, the time is now! What if that prayer gets answered through your children and your homeschooling? I personally think homeschool is a misnomer. We’re hardly home, and it certainly doesn’t look like school. And that, my friends, is the Lord’s great blessing of freedom in your education in this season!
Homeschooling Is Holy
This homeschool thing is already holy. It’s set apart. It’s different from the world’s systems, and we’re raising up an army of His warriors! Let’s get them trained and out in the world as to how to respond to it, while they’re still home with us under our wings. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 Ask the Lord, my friends, is this the time? Could you really use me during our homeschooling season?
Think about the story of Gideon. He was hiding from the world, and from the call of the Lord. Yet, the angel knew Gideon was a mighty man of valor. How about you, mama? Are you hiding from the call of the Lord to get out with your families into this big, wide, world, yet He sees you as a mighty warrior leading your army for Him?
He Was and Is and Is to Come
…Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8
If the Lord says it in the Old Testament and He says it in the New, we should certainly pay attention. He was and is and is to come. Let’s use this “is” season we’re in to show our children His glory around the world, not just in our homes, while we educate them on the ways of the Lord. Embrace your gifts and use them for His good. Where do you think He’s calling your family to reach out? I’m sure it will be through the gifts He’s given you, and your children, as strange and puzzling as they may be. (Here’s a little glimpse at one of our family’s outreaches.)
I believe in you, mamas, and I know the Lord does, too. Keep humbling yourselves under His mighty hand and He will exalt you. All for His glory.
Vaya Con Dios-
Homeschooling Is A Lifestyle
Finally, you need to understand that this is more than just an educational choice. Homeschooling is a lifestyle.
In North Carolina, we are required to complete 180 days of school. You need to embrace the idea that homeschooling is full-time. If you accept that home education is a daily, round-the-clock commitment, if you understand that learning should never be confined to a classroom or governed by a clock, you won’t have a problem meeting a 180-day minimum. Homeschooling will change your family’s outlook on everything—how you read and discuss the news, how you go to the grocery store, how you watch a movie. It will change what you talk about, where you shop, what you buy, what you listen to, read, and watch. And it should!
However, I’m going to suggest to you that these changes are not occurring just because you’ve embraced homeschooling, but because you have embraced the Lord of lords. After all, shouldn’t His presence and will permeate everything we do?
In the coming years your kids are going to have questions of eternal significance. I think of some of the questions my kids have asked me during our homeschool journey. I could have said, “School’s out! Sorry about that. I’ll answer your questions tomorrow!” But I’m so grateful and honored that they are coming to me with their life questions any and all times of the day. Your kids will come to you with those questions if you approach homeschooling as something you do together as a family in the admonition of the Lord. And that will be an eternal blessing for you and your kids.
Don’t miss the rest of my series on homeschooling:
My Best Advice for New Homeschoolers
When we got started, I received a tremendous piece of advice. Remember, I’m calling people and desperately asking them what I should do. I took my son out of school on a Friday and school is supposed to start on Monday, right? This is what my friends said: Relax. Don’t panic. Pray.
That’s my advice to you. Not just in your homeschooling journey, but in every part of life. When starting anything new and potentially life-changing, it’s very easy for panic set in, isn’t it? You start thinking about everything you don’t know or can’t anticipate and you soon find yourself reaching for a brown paper bag to breathe into. As a longtime homeschool mom, I’ve had moments like that as recently as last week!
When my oldest graduated five years ago, he chose to attend college in New York City. At some level that should have caused me to panic, but I had been praying about where God would take him. And when God has led my child to where He wants him to be, I can rest in what God is doing in his life. This is a habit you, too, can form. Not panicking, but praying.
After you relax, don’t panic, and pray, then my advice to you is simply to read, read, read, read, and read some more! If you’re pulling your kids out of school, you need to make it a priority to learn what they’re interested in and what makes them tick. I didn’t know that about my kids. I was so caught up in what the culture said about what I was supposed to be and do as a mother that I had allowed myself to believe it was the school district’s problem to motivate them to learn. The best advice I got was from someone who told me to take Charles to the library and see what books he was drawn to, then read those books to him and get to know him better.
If your children have already attended public school and you’re taking them out, you are going to have to “unschool” them to some degree. In this first year of homeschooling, they may say, “But at school we did this!” You’re going to have to work with them to let go of routines designed primarily to corral large groups of children. In the meantime, there are some great books out there to help you get a handle on this homeschooling thing. Books such as Cynthia Tobias’s The Way They Learn.
Become a student of your children. How do they learn best? Each one will be different. Debra Bell has a best-selling book called The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. Cathy Duffy has written some great books on how to select curriculum for your home school. These books are great tools that you need to get your hands on.
Don’t miss the rest of my series on homeschooling:
At the end of our first year of homeschooling, there were people who sensed we were not in it for the long haul. The feeling was that we were short-timers, that we weren’t going to make it. Someone suggested that we attend the North Carolina state homeschool conference and told us they would watch our kids and pay our way. A paid weekend away with my husband? Now this may shed a little light on my legalistic background, which I have since been liberated from. (Thank you, Jesus!) We went and registered for just one workshop so that we could honestly say we had attended the convention. Isn’t that pathetic? I wonder how many are here today because they feel they have to be here and not because they want to. I hope that’s not you, but that was certainly me!
But God is so good. The workshop we went to was presented by a man named Chris Davis, and he totally inspired both of us. I remember weeping in that workshop because I got what he was saying. Things like, “Are you just going to fill a bucket, or are you going to light a fire? Are you just going to raise another cog in a wheel, or are you going to raise someone that’s going to change the world?” We left that workshop excited and on fire. We drove back to Charlotte discussing all that we could do as homeschoolers, our minds exploding with possibilities.
I’m speaking this week on the how, when, who, what, why, and where to homeschool. But I want to tell you right now that homeschooling is not what you can do, but what God will do if the “you” will step out of the way. God’s faithful preparation, God’s faithful provision, and God’s faithful prompting made home education not only doable for my family but the best possible choice for educating our children.
God’s faithful preparation for me had happened in Akron, that strange and foreign land. We moved there because my father-in-law was terminally ill, and I wanted my kids to have some knowledge of their grandfather. We didn’t go there to learn about homeschooling. You may find that as you look back on the path that has brought you to this place today—this decision in your life—just how faithful God has been to you in your preparation. God gave me those women on that street who I just thought were cool because they stayed home and liked to garden. I learned more about gardening from those women than from anybody else. Indeed, I thought that’s why I was there. But in retrospect I was there to learn to embrace my role as a wife, a mother, and a daughter of the King. I bet that as you retrace your steps you will find that God has been faithful in preparing you.
Remember the house we bought because it was located in the best school district in Charlotte? There was a space over the garage that we had intended to build into an office for my husband. As it turned out, this space made a wonderful schoolroom! We thought we were moving into the perfect school district, but God already had faithfully provided the perfect place to put our school. You are going to find that God has provided for you, too, as you look back on this time one day.
Finally, there’s God’s faithful prompting. We must be open to what God is telling us—not just about homeschooling, but about countless other things. Before moving ahead, you need to know something: Homeschooling is not the answer. I don’t know what questions you have, but homeschooling is not the answer. Jesus is the answer. If you’re trying to address whatever is coming between you and your husband or you and your kids, and you think homeschooling is the answer, you are looking in the wrong place.
Homeschooling is all about introducing your kids to the Lord of the universe—the King of kings who loved them (and you) so much that He died on a cross to pay their debt. That’s what it’s about. I’ve met people who say they’ve tried homeschooling and it didn’t work, and I want to ask them, “Have you tried Jesus? He won’t let you down!” If you are trying to fill a void in your home or your heart and you think homeschooling is the answer, you will be disappointed. Unless Jesus is at the center of what you are looking to achieve, it’s not going to happen.
I challenge you to take some time this weekend to trace God’s faithful preparation in your life. Why are you here today? What circumstance brought you to this point? Perhaps it was the leading of the Holy Spirit—His faithful provision and prompting in your life. I want you to explore this further so that you can give praise and glory where it’s due.
I thought the yellow school bus was going to be my salvation. I thought it was going give me time away from Charles and allow me some personal space and freedom. In my workshop entitled “How to Have a HEART for Your Children,” I explore this issue of my relationship with Charles and what God has done to bind our hearts together and, subsequently, the rest of my children. I believe as mothers we have given our hearts over to a culture that says, “It’s all about you!” In the meantime, our children suffer. We’ve raised a generation whose mother’s hearts have not been with them. I want to invite you today to consider what you think is the answer to your woes. If you think it’s a big yellow school bus, you are mistaken.
Don’t miss the rest of my series on homeschooling:
A Rude Awakening
When we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where did we look for a house? In the best local school district, of course! We were willing to spend more money than we had to buy a house in the right location. So we found a house and began praying for Charles’s kindergarten instructor. Bless her heart, whoever she was going to be! That summer we went to an open house and met Charles’ new teacher. I was not impressed. As we buckled the kids into the car, I looked at Davis and asked “Is that who you’ve been praying for, because that’s not who I’ve been praying for.” And he said, “You know, that’s really not who I had in mind either.” So we decided to continue praying because we had six more weeks until school started.
And then the glorious day came: the day I would get my life back. This was the day that I would go back to Bible study and start rendezvousing with friends for lunch. Charles was such a strong-willed child that I had had to withdraw from so many social activities; I simply could not predict how he was going to behave each day. But this year was going to be different. I could not have been more excited about the first day of school. We bought the new outfit, got the new lunch box (both of which I still have, by the way). We took lots of pictures, and Charles was so excited about riding the bus. And glory to God, the bus stopped just at the end of our street!
We had it all worked out. Davis was going to take Charles and the neighbor boy to school in the morning, and at the end of the day (when Savannah Anne, our newborn, would be taking a nap) my neighbor would meet the boys at the end of the street and walk them home.
So the first day, Davis took Charles and the neighborhood boy to school and delivered them to their kindergarten classroom. Davis took pictures, waved goodbye, and left for work. In the afternoon, I waited for Charles to return. I walked down to my mailbox at 2:30 p.m. and saw my neighbor coming over the hill. Her son was beside her and her dog, but my son was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Charles?” I asked. And she said, “He wasn’t there.”
I ran into the house and called the school. “Oh, you must be the parent of the little boy sitting in our office,” they said. I called my husband and cried, “Charles wasn’t on the bus! They didn’t put him on the bus!”
On the first day the kids were suppose to wear a tag with their bus number pinned to their clothes. Davis said, “He had a tag on his shirt this morning. I don’t know if he took it off or what happened. I’ll take care of it.” So my husband left work, went to the school, spoke with the teacher, and sure enough, Charles still had the tag on his shirt that read “Bus 809.”
My husband told the principal, “Clearly, this is not okay. He has his tag and was supposed to get on the bus.” The principal reassured Davis, saying it was the first day of school and that things would go much smoother the next day. In fact, the principal said that Charles didn’t even need to wear the bus tag again, but Davis said, “Charles will wear the tag again tomorrow.”
Day two. Davis took Charles and the neighbor boy to school and dropped them off. At 2:30 I went down to the mailbox and over the ridge, only to see my neighbor, her son, and her dog—and no Charles. I called the school again, only this time they didn’t know where he was! Later we found out they had put him on the wrong bus! So now my son was terrified of the bus. This meant I would have to drive out every weekday afternoon, wait in a long line of cars, and pick him up from school.
This was totally messing up my plans. But was I thinking about homeschooling yet? Not on your life.
Charles stayed in school for eleven more days—and yet he never brought any schoolwork home. He had gone to preschool, and I had to have a suitcase to bring home all the stuff he’d created in class. Yet Charles did not bring home a single piece of paper in thirteen days of kindergarten. Davis decided to take that Friday off work. He made arrangements with the principal and teacher to spend the whole morning in the classroom as an observer. Soon after noon Davis and Charles came home: He had withdrawn Charles from school. It wasn’t that anything “bad” was happening. But there wasn’t anything good happening. Davis could see that our son was going to die a slow death if we kept him in that school setting.
When they got home, we packed all three kids into the car and spent three hours driving around Charlotte to visit private schools, putting Charles on every waiting list imaginable. At that time, private schools were asking tens of thousands of dollars just to put a child in kindergarten. Yet there was not one spot open anywhere. He was number six on the shortest waiting list we got him on. (I now chalk this up to God’s goodness.) When we finally arrived home, we were all sweaty, cranky, exhausted, and frustrated. We had pulled Charles out of school, and we didn’t know what we were going to do come Monday.
That’s when Davis said the fateful words: “What do you think about homeschooling?”
He swears now my head spun on my shoulders.
The most submissive response I could muster was, “Okay, so let me get this straight. You’re going to go to work all day, and I’m going to have to stay at home with the kids. Right?”
Davis said, “It just occurs to me that we’ve been praying for Charles’s teacher all this time. We know it’s not the teacher at the public school. Rachael, I think we’ve been praying for you.”
It was in that moment that the Creator of the universe used my husband to convict my heart about how we were supposed to move forward with my son.
I won’t lie to you. The first year my mantra was “You can’t mess up kindergarten.” How hard can this be? I thought. ABCs. 123. I can do that, right? Just the thought of my launching into this new endeavor sent my mother reeling. In the beginning, all we said was “We’re just doing this for now.”
Who do you think I called first when we made the decision to homeschool? I called my friends in Akron, Ohio.
“Caroline, I need some help.”
“Sure, anything. What is it?” she asked.
“We took Charles out of school, and I think we’re going to homeschool.”
The next thing I heard was the phone dropping. Caroline’s husband, Butch, got on the phone and asked what I had said to her. I had to eat a lot of humble pie, but the people that God had put in my life were the very people I called for help.
Isn’t God good?
Don’t miss the rest of my series on homeschooling:
Welcome! Nineteen years ago I was sitting where you are. Only I was unwilling to attend a workshop for new homeschoolers because I was too busy making fun of homeschooling in my spare time. Today, my husband is president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of creation-based science and Bible curriculum for homeschoolers. Davis and I have been married for twenty-eight years, and we have seven children, three of whom have now graduated from our home school. In recent years as a writer and speaker, I have traveled across the country and to Europe, Asia, and Africa to encourage homeschooling families around the world. What I have found is that through God’s grace, different parts of my reluctant journey touch different people in different places in their lives.
Here is the story of how we got started on this adventure of a lifetime.
Stranger in a Strange Land
In October 1990 I gave birth to our first son. I was sure that I wasn’t going to do any of those things that everybody else had done wrong as parents. You probably had your own list of things that you knew for sure you weren’t going to do or say as a parent, right? Well, we weren’t long into Charles’ childhood before we discovered that he was one of “those” children—very strong-willed. I will never forget shopping at a grocery store when Charles was about nine months old. He was buckled into the cart when he started throwing the fit to end all fits. It got so bad that I had to leave the shopping cart half full and walk out of the store. He was totally out of control. I was so naive that I thought, Yay! We’re going to get the terrible twos over early. But we were just getting started.
As Charles neared school age, I was looking forward to spending some time without him because every day with Charles was a battle. It didn’t matter what subject we were discussing, from what shoes he was going to wear to what food he would agree to eat. Everything was a wrestling match.
There was a time when Davis and I agreed that we were not going to have any other kids after Charles. I’m a firstborn. I married a firstborn. I gave birth to a firstborn. I figured we could all reach some sort of understanding. You know, a you-take-your-corner-of-the-house-and-I’ll-take-mine kind of deal. But then we decided that Charles needed a sibling, and so we had Anderson. Charles and Anderson are complete opposites. And yet they became incredibly close and dearest friends, which is such a blessing.
I always said that I would have all the children Davis was willing to have. Of course, I said this when I believed that he was done after two. And then God got hold of Davis’s heart, and he decided that he was open to however many children God would send. Along came Savannah Anne and then Molly, Elizabeth, Joseph, and Benjamin. But you need to understand that I didn’t come at this as some people do; I had no grand, romantic vision of always wanting a big family.
We were living in Akron when I gave birth to Charles and Anderson. Akron, Ohio, as you probably know, is situated far north of the Mason-Dixon line. For this southern girl, it was a little too far north. I was raised in Texas and was used to 350 sunny days a year. Then we moved to Akron where they get a whopping fifty-six days of sunshine annually. This was very, very hard on me, and the romance of experiencing four seasons quickly faded when I found myself shoveling snow in April. It was in this place that seemed like a foreign country to me where I first heard the word “homeschooling.”
When we moved into our house in Akron, the people across the street brought us brownies. The woman said sweetly, “Oh, you have a son!”
I said, “Yes, how many children do you have?”
“I have four daughters.”
“Really? Where do they go to school?” I asked.
“We don’t send them to school,” she replied.
I was just dumbfounded, because the bus stopped right in front our house.
“We homeschool,” she explained.
I had no self-control. This is what I said to her: “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! The bus stops right here! It takes them away for eight luxurious hours a day! Why would you not send them to school?”
She just shook her head knowingly and said, “We need to get together.”
For three years we lived in that neighborhood of cute little houses built in the 1920s. It was the 1990s and there were five stay-at-home moms living on our street. Today you might be hard-pressed to find five stay-at-home moms in your entire neighborhood. But there we were, and we got together for Bible study every Thursday night. Despite the fact that we came from different denominations, we met to worship the King of kings together. I learned something very powerful from these women.
First, these women loved God. They also loved the Bible. You know, the book that so many of us are content to keep on the shelf as a symbol of our faith. But God’s Word meant everything to these women. They opened it and read it without expecting someone else to do it for them.
Second, these women loved their men. They were committed to their husbands. All of us women need to be committed to our men. And everyone who comes in contact with us needs to know that we are crazy about our husbands. These women taught me so much about how to honor, love, and respect Davis.
We had something we called “Baby Bucks.” Each baby buck was worth one hour of babysitting per child. We would switch off kids because we didn’t have the money to do it any other way. We would honor our husbands by regularly making time to go on dates and spend time with them without the kids around.
The third lesson I learned from these women is that they really loved their kids. They were dedicated to a level of motherhood that I had never seen before. However, I’m here to tell you that when it came time to leave Ohio, homeschooling still wasn’t for me.
Don’t miss the rest of my series on homeschooling: