Effective Home Schooling
We started home schooling with the perception that it would be "school at home." Gradually, over the last several years, we have learned that "school" is not confined to a room and a time. It is a vital, growing aspect of family life.
True education is learning how to learn; learning about yourself, your family, the world around you; and, most importantly, getting to know God and His awesome plans for you in His world.
I began home schooling with the idea that I would teach our girls the things I had been taught at their age. God continues to teach me that true education is not merely facts, formulas, dates, and field trips (although those are necessary building blocks). True education is seeing that these things are parts of God's world, created to help us begin to know Him. True education is a lifelong journey, available to anyone willing to learn.
Here are some of the trail markers of effective home schooling we are discovering along the home school journey.
Trust God in All Things
When we began our home school journey, we were easily overwhelmed by all kinds of advice, curriculum choices, methods, learning styles . . . in fact, the more we read about schooling, the less competent I felt about teaching.
Fortunately, as we began, I heard a speaker explain that parents are qualified and able — even without formal degrees! — to teach their own children. We can teach them because God provides all we need for what He requires. How true!
And yet, we must continually go to Him with our questions and be willing to sit and hear His advice. God is the only expert worthy of our full attention because He created the precious children that we have, and He knows best how they will learn.
It is a simple, yet powerful truth to remember: make time daily to read God's Word and pray. Many times I have been too busy, and have waited until the day unraveled before stopping to ask Him to guide us and make our attitudes right. Recognizing that we are all learners helps us realize who the real Teacher is!
Glean All You Can
Resources abound explaining the hows and whys of home schooling. One of the most important is your local support group. Read, observe, and listen to the advice of others with experience.
As you do, remember to not compare your bad days, or areas of weakness, with another family's pinnacle of success: it brings despair and it clouds reality.
Search out other home schooling families, and be open to share with one another. In getting to know the uniqueness of other families through their choices and experiences, your family will be enriched and challenged.
I wish I had known when we began that there is more than just one right curriculum, and more than just one right way to home school. It is OK to change your plan as you and your family grow.
As you begin to gather lots of great ideas, or hear about a fun project to do, remember that it does not all have to be done this year. There will be time to work in some things later.
Keep a simple file drawer with notes about those great ideas under general categories: science, math, history, music, etc. Later, when you need something new and different, or when you are planning the next semester, the ideas will be there close at hand.
Be Aware of Perspective
As we began, it was tempting to make choices based on another person's opinion or on someone else's values or perceived expectations for our family. Trying to live up to the expectations of others has not always been wise.
When we pause to consider that other person's perspective, we might realize that our values differ greatly. What is absolutely essential to one person may not be important to another. What do they value? What do you value? Whose standard do you live by? Are you determining your values based on truth in context with the whole counsel of God's Word?
Because it is so easy to be sidetracked by someone's comments or enthusiasm, we frequently need to monitor our own perspective. Our pastor explains perspective with the illustration of a person who picks up a small piece of green glass. If he holds it to his eye, he will declare that all the world is green, because all that he sees is colored by that glass.
True perspective is found by holding the glass at arm's length. Then we realize that, although the piece of glass is green, not everything in the world is. Take time to evaluate what "glass" may be influencing you. Sifting the influences, and holding them in perspective, will help to keep you on track.
Follow God's Priorities for Each Day
It sounds easy in theory, but this is where I struggle the most. I make "to do" lists, and then find myself asking God to bless what I have decided to do...ouch!
In a study of the book of John, it became apparent that Jesus' example was to always seek His Father first. Jesus had very full, productive days, ordered by His Father. He also had time for rest and relaxation. Jesus avoided stress as we know it because He followed God's priorities for each day. He did not add his own agenda to the work of the day.
I have often crawled along this part of the journey because of my unwillingness to let go of my "to do" lists. Some days lead us in a totally different direction than we had planned: a friend has a pressing need, illness strikes, fatigue overwhelms, a doorbell announces a surprise visit, or we wrestle with a math concept and then with each other!
Whatever the detour, when I remember to trust God to know what to put in and take out of each day, and yield to His guidance, He never fails to bring good out of it all. Trusting God to order each day brings peace and greater satisfaction than any completed list ever will.
What is your destination? When we began the journey of home schooling, our first goal was to get through the year with good grades. We have since realized that academics will come with daily diligence.
Time on the trail has taught us that our life here on earth is simply "boot camp" for eternity. A lifetime of learning is but a brief preparation for life in eternity with God.
Our goal now is to invest our days in building relationships and developing character, which have eternal value, as we master academics. Proverbs 3:5-6 has been described as God's compass for life. It is a practical travel guide for the journey of home schooling as well. It says:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight. (NAS)
In home schooling, as in life, the compass you use to reach your goals and destination will determine the course of your journey. Make each day count for what you value.
Adapted from Janice Southerland, "The Compass," in Bill and Diana Waring's Things We Wish We'd Known
(Lynnwood, Wa.: Emerald Books
, 1991). Used by permission.