“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15
There are a few subjects that spark passion in me, often resulting in talking excessively and saying my signature phrase, “I am so excited about (insert subject)”. These subjects include God, books, history, and homeschooling. I was recently introducing myself to our new pastors and realized I was still defining myself as a Home Educator, although I relinquished that role four years ago. My daughter chimed in saying, “Once a homeschooler always a homeschooler”. I realized at that moment how passionate I still am about homeschooling and how it has defined my life. I thought I would share with you some lessons I have learned from homeschooling that have shaped me as a person.
First, be careful about labeling something weird and strange because you never know how God may challenge your perspective. I had never heard of homeschooling until I met a wonderful family in Aurora, Illinois who had made that the educational choice for their children. Although their children were polite, social, and intelligent, I still told a friend, “I will never homeschool.” Typically, like all naysayers, I was concerned about the quality of their education and socialization, even though the evidence right in front of me contradicted the stereotypes. Yet, God was already doing a work on my life, changing my priorities and life ambitions. Over the course of time, He also changed my mind about homeschooling. Eight years later, my husband and I made the decision to home educate our son and daughter. My “never” became one of the best things I ever changed my mind about!
Second, home educating is less about imparting your knowledge to your children. Instead, it is the rediscovering of the joy of learning. I geeked out about subjects I had never shown any interest in before, including the unique traits of a platypus, learning how Native Americans hunted buffalo and the history of architecture. I discovered the basics of drawing, uncovering a small artistic ability that had lain dormant. I shared my passion for history and literature with my children, reading new favorites. This joy of learning continues even now, making my life richer every day.
Third, children’s books are the best! They gently impart truths about life that can impact you even as an adult. Charlotte’s Web gives you hope as an underdog and teaches you the value of friendship. Olivia teaches you to be confident in everything you do, even how you accessorize your outfit. My Side of the Mountain shows you the importance of solitude and learning to live off the land. The Little House demonstrates that value of contentment. Miss Rhumpius reminds you to make the world a little more beautiful by giving something back to it. Even though my children are grown, I still look for opportunities to read children’s books to little ones.
Fourth, I also have learned about the different philosophies on how to educate children. One of my heroes in the home education community is Charlotte Mason. Miss Mason was not a home educator herself, but an English educator and reformer in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She treated children as whole people and believed in creating an environment that promoted learning by surrounding children with materials to explore. She also believed in the importance of cultivating good habits. She emphasized that science and history should not be just a list of facts and dates, but that the knowledge should be acquired by reading whole books, including biographies about famous scientists and leaders. Rather than dry textbooks, these should be “living books” that inspire children through the gift of story. She was the impetus behind my five-year project of learning about American history by reading a great biography of each president. She also believed that children should explore nature around them through observation and interaction. As I taught my children to observe nature, I too, slowed down and found delight in the intricate designs of moss, melodious bird calls, and the painted sky during sunsets.
Fifth, I have also learned you do not always need to defend yourself but let the fruits of your life speak on your behalf. Rarely is homeschooling a neutral subject in people’s lives. Instead, it often evokes opinions on both sides of the fence. Often, people would share with me the horror stories about their relatives who home educated, pointing out how deficient their kids were in spelling or how much they lacked social skills. In the beginning, I would defend my choice and point out the statistics that proved that homeschoolers were successful both academically and socially. As the years went by, I realized that I did not need to educate everyone on the virtues of homeschooling. Instead, I listened to their critiques and concerns, and made the conscious decision not to try and change their minds.
This brings me to the final lesson I learned through homeschooling. Even though homeschooling produced good fruits in my children’s lives, it did not lead to salvation for my children. Jesus was the only way of salvation for my children, through a regular relationship that restores and refines them. Homeschooling is a tool that Terry and I used to help bring about relationship, but it’s only a tool. At one point, I made it an idol in my life. I tried to appear humble when others talked about my children, but in my heart, I was prideful about all the time and energy I had put into our education. God has a way of pointing out the idols in your heart and humbling you to the point that you realize any good in your life is due to Jesus. I am so thankful the idol of home education was removed.
I am still passionate about home education. I love to share my journey with people and point them to resources to get them started on their own journey. I am thankful that both my children intend to home educate their children, and hopefully they will invite Mimi to attend the conferences with them. I also realize that this is personal decision that every family needs to make for themselves. But for me, I am so thankful that God used home education as not only a tool in my children’s lives, but also a tool to refine me and bring me into a deeper relationship with Him. So my daughter was right, “Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.”