Tag Archives: Homeschool

Quietness, Confidence, and Strength

Homeschooling moms can find themselves feeling discouraged by the constancy of their job in the midst of what they want to be the most joyful years of their lives. Here are a couple of moms with whom we might relate:

I am failing miserably and feel awful. I am irritable, cranky, and anxious. Please pray for me that I can get thru this, that God will give me strength, and that I will not be crabby to my children. A homeschooling mom

I am feeling overwhelmed and depressed. I have 3 kiddos. First of all, my 5 and 2 year olds constantly run and make noise, noise, noise. I am always tripping over train tracks, etc., because they drag all of it out into the living room. I have tried to carve out times where they play in their room or take quiet time, but they are constantly running out. I feel like I am interrupted so many times that I can’t keep a thought in my head, or get any time alone to sort out my thoughts. It is very discouraging to me. Another mom

“ . . . In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength . . .” (Isaiah 30:15). Here we read three words that can be very meaningful to a discouraged homeschooling mother: quietness, confidence, strength. We know that we want quietness of heart and confidence in the Lord; that will be our strength. However, sometimes it appears that the circumstances of noise, disorder, and pressure rob us of any quietness or confidence.

Quietness, confidence, and strength—it all comes back to our focus. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). God’s Word tells me that Jesus’ yoke is easy, and His burden is light. That is truth. When I feel a heavy burden or difficult yoke, then something has happened that isn’t right. I can know for sure the problem lies with me and not with the Lord!

Perhaps the starting point for moving back to quietness, confidence, and strength is, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). For my heart to remain quiet, I can’t be anxious about anything. Therefore, Philippians 4:6-7 tells me that I am to lift up my concerns in prayer. Sometimes we may feel like we are doing this, but are we really? It could be that we think about our problems, we worry about our circumstances, and we try to figure out solutions. However, do we truly and simply pray about them? When we pray, they are no longer our problems, difficult circumstances, or solutions. They belong to the Lord. He can deal with them infinitely better than we can.

Paul knew what it was to have difficulties, ones beyond what most of us have experienced. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed . . . For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18).

While the tasks of a homeschooling mom may at times seem mundane, wearisome, and constant, our eyes must be focused not on the temporal but on the eternal. What we are doing in our homes with our children has value that goes far beyond feeding and caring for children. We are impacting their souls for eternity. The opportunity is given to us to mold the hearts of these children for Jesus Christ. The noise, discouragement, and fatigue that may accompany this high calling of mothering are nothing in comparison with the eternal benefits we can reap. Just like Paul, if we are troubled on every side, we are not to be distressed. When we are perplexed, we don’t want to be in despair. At times of feeling cast down, we know we aren’t destroyed. Paul’s secret in this was his total, wholehearted, complete commitment to the calling Jesus had given to him—his mission. That will be our secret at well—commitment to our mission as Christian mothers.

We are being renewed day by day, 2 Corinthians tells us. This doesn’t happen apart from where our thoughts are. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). As we are seeking those things which are above and setting our affections on them, our thoughts will automatically be on Jesus. If we think about ourselves, we set ourselves up for feelings of pity, selfishness, and hopelessness. However, when our minds move to Jesus Christ, then there is joy. “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:9-11).

If we are to let quietness and confidence be our strength, then we will choose to give our anxieties to the Lord Jesus in prayer. We will set our minds on what is eternal rather than what is temporal. May we be homeschooling moms who have a greater focus on the calling we have to impact our children for eternity than on our own difficulties or discomforts.

First Day of School

August 11th marked the Maxwell family’s nineteenth first day of school. We celebrated that night, because it was our very best first day of school ever! Generally the first day of school is one that I look forward to with great excitement. However, the reality of living through it most often has generated discouragement and frustration. It is not unheard of in the Maxwell home for Mom to be crying by dinnertime on those momentous first days of school. I have been known to say to Steve, “It was a zoo here today, dear. I have no idea how we will ever get any real schoolwork done.”

Since I have experienced nineteen first days of school, and since I really, really like happy first days of school, and since I truly, truly, truly want to learn from all of our failures, perhaps I can share some of my first day of school experiences with you. It could be that your first days of school have been much like mine, and that you, too, would love to have one you could celebrate.

First-Day-of-School Traditions

When Nathan started school, he attended a private, Christian school for three years. On the first day of school, I always took a photo of him before he left home in the morning. There he stood with his lunch box in one hand and his pack on his back, sporting his tidy blue-and-white uniform. Each year’s photo shows him a bit bigger but just as cute. Therefore, when we began homeschooling, we decided to continue first-day-of-school photos. Without lunch boxes, the children hold their favorite school books in their hands for the picture-taking session.

Another tradition we have for our first day of school is special school supply surprises. While school supplies are on sale at the stores, I will shop for any school supplies the children need. I purchase notebooks, notebook paper, notebook tabs, pencils, pens, colored pencils, pencil pouches, small whiteboards, whiteboard markers, scissors, rulers, glue sticks, crayons, tape—although not each of these every year. Since our materials often last us more than one year, it can be challenging coming up with needed supplies, so sometimes I resort to buying not-so-needed-but-fun supplies. Each child finds a stack of school surprises by his spot on the dining room table on the first day of school.

Because pencils being left out in the house are a problem here, I purchase the children pencils with different outside colors. I discovered that there are pencils with not only yellow on the outside but also green, black, and wood color. There are different colored bands around the yellow pencils in various packs. I give each child a couple of sets of pencils, different from his siblings, and then when a pencil is left out, I know to whom it belongs. Plus, if the child loses all of his pencils before the school year is over, he can buy his own replacements.

Finally, the first day of school will often bring with it a special breakfast. Because of having children living at home who drive, I have the advantage of being able to suggest to Sarah that we could enjoy donuts for the first-day-of-school breakfast if she has time to go to the grocery store that morning. She is very accommodating, and donuts are a great treat in our family.

The Change

While these first-day-of-school traditions have been in place for quite a while, this is the first year that I realized the biggest failure of my first day of school. We typically do these traditions on the first day of school and also attempt a normal day of academic schoolwork. This year, the week before our first real day of school we had another first day of school. You might call it a pre-first day of school. I scheduled no academic work for that day, only our first-day-of-school traditions. It was a little like registration day used to be when I went to school.

Because each of these practical and memory-making activities we do on the first day of school takes up time, we would be frustrated trying to get normal school completed. We spent several hours doing our pre-first day of school. No wonder I have been frustrated with what I was trying to fit into our previous first days of school.

After the special breakfast and school surprises on our pre-first day of school, I had a one-on-one meeting with each child. We went through his schedule and looked at all his books. For my fourth and fifth graders, I read out loud with them their first spelling lesson because they do that on their own. Often they will struggle with things that are very simple, because they try to fill in blanks without reading the material. This was an opportunity to teach them how to do their spelling lessons effectively.

Each child from fourth grade on up has a school notebook. This year we finally got them organized. We have used notebooks for organizing schoolwork for several years, but I am generally frustrated with them. We hadn’t taken the time to plan how many tabs each child needed and what the tabs should be labeled. Then the history tests and quizzes were mixed in with the daily history work and difficult to find come “study-for-nine-week-exam” time. The writing was somewhere in the spelling section because we didn’t have enough tabs. You get the picture, I am sure.

This year I made a list of what each child would need as far as number of tabs and what they should be labeled. I bought enough tabs for their notebooks and for my notebook. I included the children’s tabs in their school supply surprises. During our one-on-one meeting we labeled the tabs and alphabetized them, too. That was another problem. With three children (four this year) with schoolwork in notebooks, I was always struggling through the tabs to locate the right one. Every child had the tabs set up in a different order. I don’t care much for checking schoolwork to begin with, so anything I can do to make it easier is a benefit to me. Even having readable tabs that are in order helps.

After lunch, Sarah, one of our family photographers, did the first-day-of-school photos. Getting five children to choose their photo props, get the camera setting correct, pose each one individually for photos, and then put them together as a group is not a five-minute project. Again, this was time that was pulled from what normally was a full academic school day. None of us likes to finish school at dinnertime.

While what we did on our pre-first day of school are small, little tasks, each one adds up to extra time away from schoolwork. Having these activities planned for a day when we weren’t going to do any normal schoolwork was wonderful. I know it was a major factor in our super-duper, best-ever first day of school. May I encourage you to look at your previous first days of school, and if they aren’t what you would like them to be, try to determine why they weren’t. Then make the necessary changes. You will be glad you did, and perhaps it won’t take you nineteen years of trying.

I Just Want To Be a Mommy

Our first year of homeschooling, I had a seven-year-old, a five-year-old, and a three-year-old, plus a constant struggle with depression partly rooted in a lack of spiritual growth. At this time, I found another Christian mom, with children my children’s ages, in whom I saw wonderful spiritual maturity. This other mom agreed to spiritually mentor me. For a year, we met together, did a Bible study, memorized Scripture, and discussed the practical aspects of our spiritual walk as Christian women. I was so grateful for the investment this woman made in my life. That year my friend’s children were in a Christian school, but the following year she decided to homeschool them.

Although our mentoring time lasted only one year, we continued to maintain a friendship. After a year of homeschooling, my friend chose to put her boys back in a Christian school. I can still remember her words to me that afternoon as I sat in her home, and she justified her actions, “Oh, Teri. I just want to be a mommy. I want to welcome my boys home in the afternoon as their mommy. I don’t want to have to be their teacher too. I just want to be their mommy.”

My Heart to be a Happy, Homeschool Mom

I recall driving home that afternoon in tears. “Lord, I just want to be a mommy too. I want all the happy, fun things about being a mommy with none of the difficulties.”

In my mind, I pictured my friend’s children coming home from school in the afternoon. She would have spent the day in personal Bible study, prayer, exercise, housecleaning, reading, ministry, sewing, and cookie baking. As the children bounced in the door, they would be met by a beautiful, smiling mommy. I was sure she would have taken a long shower and blown her hair dry too. The children would smell the freshly baked cookies and scramble for a seat at the table. There they would happily discuss the excitement of their day in school. Finally, they would head outside to play while my friend started supper in peace and quiet. I just want to be a mommy too!

As I prayed about my heart-wrenching discussion with my friend and my personal feelings about wanting to “just be a mommy” too, the Lord soon began to show me some things. He made me realize that my homeschooling lifestyle was “just being a mommy” in its fullest sense. As we begin a new school year, perhaps you are struggling with feelings of not wanting to tackle another homeschool year. Maybe you have even thought the thoughts of my friend when she told me she “just wanted to be a mommy.” It could be that this is your first year of homeschooling, and you are concerned about being both a teacher and a mommy. Perhaps your role as a homeschool mom has lost the joy it once had. Together let’s encourage one another in the direction the Lord has led each of us in homeschooling. After all, I just want to be a mommy!

Definition of a Real, Homeschool Mom According to Titus2

What does being a mommy really mean? Titus 2:4 tells the older women to “. . . teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children.” Easily seen then, my role as a mommy is to love my children. Practically speaking, how is this done? Do I have more chance to love my children when they are away from home at school for seven or eight hours or when I have them home with me all day? The answer to this one is obvious: when they are home with me. By loving my children, I just want to be a mommy!

During those extra hours I have to “just be a mommy,” I can tell my children over and over again how special they are to me, how much I love them, how wonderful they are, and how blessed I am to “just be their mommy.” I have seven more hours a day to give them hugs, pat them, put my arm around them, smile at them, kiss them, laugh with them—opportunities to “just be a mommy.” The bottom line is, “I just want to be a mommy!”

What about the time we spend in homeschooling? Have I taken off my “mommy” hat and replaced it with a “teacher” one? I am taking the place of a teacher in a classroom in my children’s lives, but I am still “Mommy” in the fullest sense of the word. My mommy role as a teacher began from the first words I quietly whispered in each newborn baby’s tiny ear. Almost everything my children have learned in their young lives, this mommy has had a part in teaching them. Being an official teacher in our homeschool is simply an extension of this natural teaching relationship that exists between a mother and her child. Really and truly, I just want to be a mommy!

Reality of Being a Homeschool Mom and Teacher

I thought about what it meant to be a mommy teacher beyond simply teaching my children facts and figures. What teacher in a school loves their students like I love mine? What teacher’s main goal in life is to see their students grow up to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? What teacher is going to cuddle a sick student on the couch, tucking that student in with extra pillows and blankets, while loving and consoling him through his misery? Hey, I just want to be a mommy!

Perhaps I should consider the time spent in disciplining or correcting my children during school hours. Maybe I am not being a “mommy” then. Once again Scripture assures me that this is part of my mommy role. “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 6:20). My friend didn’t like to have to make her children do their schoolwork. Sometimes they cried about what they were to do for school and this was part of why she abandoned homeschooling in favor of “just being a mommy.” One of my most important “mommy” responsibilities is to prepare my children for life. If they face a difficult task in their school and choose to cry about it, this is my chance, as their mommy, to encourage them to pray about it, to put forth some effort, to try again, and to rest in the Lord. What opportunity these hours my children are home with me during school time afford. Wow, I just want to be a mommy!

Every day I have a choice set before me. I can look at my homeschooling with resentment and think, “Lord, I just want to be a mommy,” while sending my children away to school and doing what I want to do all day. I might think these same thoughts without acting on them but all the while wishing I could put them in school. It will still affect my attitude toward my children and my homeschooling. Alternatively, I can view homeschooling with rejoicing in my heart and say, “Lord, I am so grateful to just be a mommy. Thank you that homeschooling is part of the mothering I can give to my children. I know there are moms who want to homeschool their children but can’t. I know there will be difficult days for us as I homeschool my children. Yet, it remains with me as to what I will allow in my thoughts.” May we be mothers who relish our roles as homeschooling mommies. Let’s never forget, I just want to be a mommy!

Homeschool Textbook Curricula

We love traditional Christian textbook curricula for our homeschooling family. Through my eighteen years of homeschooling, however, I have regularly read homeschool literature where this choice of homeschooling materials is criticized. Very seldom, if ever, have I been encouraged by a homeschooling book or article in the direction of using textbooks for education. Many authors have indicated that my children will not love to learn if I use textbooks. Others tell me that my children will not grow up to be godly adults with strong character exhibited in their lives if I use textbooks for their education. At first, reading these books and articles distressed me and caused me to go back regularly to Steve about our curricula choices.

Reasons for Using Christian Textbooks

Now, however, we have been using traditional Christian textbooks for our homeschool long enough that I am secure in our decisions. In addition, we have personal experience and visible results in our children to refute those authors who say the negative things about using textbooks. I want to share our reasons for our traditional Christian textbook curricula decision. This may encourage others who have made the same choice but are usually discouraged by the homeschooling articles they read about curricula. It may also help some who haven’t considered traditional Christian textbooks as a viable homeschool curricula option.

I might also add that if you have chosen other methods of teaching, I am not trying to dissuade you in any way. Follow the path that God leads you down. In fact, I would suggest you not read this article any further as I don’t want to discourage you in your choice. This article is strictly to share the benefits we have experienced and encourage moms who might be struggling with doubts after reading or hearing negative words about traditional textbooks.

For nine years in our early homeschooling, we used unit studies. Then, when Sarah was entering high school, we switched to traditional Christian textbooks. Both Nathan and Christopher, our oldest children, have told us that they would have liked to have had textbooks for their high school education. Why? They observed Sarah’s study and learning from her textbooks. The textbooks were comprehensive and methodical. They liked history being completely and chronologically presented. They saw the thoroughness of the science textbooks. The boys believe Sarah received a better high school education than they did.

Homeschool textbooks helps us in our goals for our children. We see childhood as a training ground for adulthood.

While our children have time to play and enjoy being children, we think their school and chore time should challenge them to learn to work. We want these hours of their day to be very beneficial in helping them grow into responsible, productive, mature adults—ones who don’t need to have something be fun in order to choose to do it.

We find the traditional Christian curriculum to be thorough and complete, allowing us to give our children the type of education we want them to have. Studying the same material repetitively on a higher level as the successive years progress helps to cement in our children’s minds what they are learning. Rather than squelching their love for learning, textbooks have given our children the tools they need to pursue their personal interests. As a matter of fact, our younger children always ask for school books at age three or four when we don’t want them to start school until they are five.

Textbooks Help Schooling Multiple Children

I am able to homeschool my large family to achieve a maximum of learning for a minimum investment of my time. Traditional Christian curriculum helps me budget my school time plus my children’s time. I can work with an individual child for a scheduled amount of time. What doesn’t fit into that time frame, he can accomplish on his own without direction from me. I can schedule each child the amount of time he needs for each of his subjects, knowing approximately how long that subject will take him each day.

If there is a year when a baby is added into our lives and I don’t have as much time for school, I can cut back on my one-on-one school time and let my children do more of their school work on their own. When this is the case, we will spend our individual school time on the subjects with which they struggle, while they will work independently on the other subjects. School doesn’t have to be put on hold for several weeks while I am recovering from childbirth.

I love to read history and science with my children, but if there are days, or seasons, my one-on-one school time doesn’t allow for this, the children can read the lessons and answer questions on their own. We like to do science experiments during our individual half hour of fun together time. That way it doesn’t impact our school time, plus I find it easier to work with only one child when it comes to a science experiment.

With traditional Christian textbooks, I generally don’t have to weed out information I don’t want my children to be exposed to such as evolution, false religions and gods, mythology and fables. Romans 16:19 says, “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” Deuteronomy 12:30 tells us to, “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.”

A traditional Christian curriculum requires little teacher prep time for me. Each week, I put the next week’s assignments on our assignment sheets or simply write the day of the week on the page in the child’s workbook if it is consumable. I don’t have to hunt up materials related to our studies, and we never miss school because I didn’t get around to doing what I needed to do in preparation.

School does not dissolve into “nothingness” if I don’t have school planning time. My children are not completely dependent on my time and availability in order for them to do school. On those occasions when I am sick or away, they can continue with their normal school day. We aren’t down with school because I am not available. This also helps to occupy their time when I am unavailable, and it makes those days function much more smoothly.

If I don’t have time to check the children’s schoolwork, they could actually check it themselves. I have a scheduled time in my afternoon for this, but if I were to be sick or gone for several days, I would allow them to do the checking themselves or check each other’s work.

There are other homeschooling families who are making the traditional Christian textbook choice. Here is what one says:

“My children also love their textbooks, and I have met several children going to college now who have expressed that they wished that their parents had stuck with a curriculum that would have provided greater consistency, especially in math.”

Here are the reasons another mom shares for liking traditional Christian textbooks:

  • My husband wants me to!
  • It offers structure.
  • It requires less time by Mom for planning.
  • It follows a logical sequence.
  • Transcripts and records are easier.
  • Easier to teach large numbers of children.
  • Earlier student independence.
  • More support for questions from publisher.

Finally, one more mom shares:

  • They have the materials presented clearly and in an efficient way for learning—broken into reasonable “chunks.”
  • They save me a lot of preparation time, making it possible for me to teach children at different levels easily.
  • They provide an orderly way to move through materials year to year.
  • They provide the tools of learning and a core of knowledge my children use to build onto with their own interests and strengths.
  • They help my children learn that learning requires discipline and is not always entertaining.
  • They make it possible for me to teach things in which I have little or no background.

One area of disappointment for us in some of the traditional Christian textbooks has come in their reading and literature courses. We have found only one acceptable publisher for this. Rod and Staff have the only textbooks we have come across that don’t have mythology, fables, violence, or extreme silliness in their elementary reading program. Rod and Staff uses strictly stories taken directly from Scripture until the end of fourth grade. We have chosen to have reading a separate subject from first through fourth grade.

As we choose our textbooks, we are careful to look at the books at a homeschool convention so that we can see if there are any objectionable themes in them. For example, our children have chosen not to date. One high school English textbook had a story running through it that involved a boy-girl dating relationship. Another English textbook had a sports theme in it, and our family has decided not to participate in sports. We want our textbooks to support our choices not undermine them.

These are many of the reasons we have decided to use a traditional Christian textbook curriculum. However, this does not mean that we don’t respect and support homeschoolers’ decisions to use other types of curricula and methods. We encourage each family to seek the Lord, review what is available, and make informed curriculum decisions for their children—based on discernment of the Lord’s goals for those children. What does bother us is when we read books and articles making it sound like no one could effectively homeschool their children using traditional Christian textbooks. We are here to say we are using Christian textbooks, we like them, and they are working!

What Has Homeschooling Done for Us?

Last month I shared a letter I wrote to my parents seventeen years ago dropping the bomb on them that we were going to begin homeschooling. The main reason we started homeschooling was to allow our little boys the time to play and be children. We entered this alternative education with the thought of taking it one year at a time. Now, with thirteen years of homeschooling still before us, we can’t fathom any other type of schooling for our children. Benefits we never dreamed of have come from homeschooling. I would like for this Mom’s Corner to be a testimonial to God’s working in a simple family who was set to seek His face.

By beginning to homeschool, we were better able to follow the instruction in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to speak of the Lord when we rise up, sit down, and walk on the way. Our relationship with Jesus Christ could be a focus of our whole day, not just the early morning and evening.

Homeschooling allowed us to put Jesus Christ in charge of our children’s education. We could pray about what the children would study, what materials they would use, when they would do their schoolwork, how to address problem areas, and more. No longer did we have to accept others’ direction of how and what our children learned.

We became the controllers of our children’s curriculum. We could choose their school materials, avoiding the ones that were objectionable to us. We were able to search for curricula that was Christian in content and avoid worldly thrusts. Bible became a priority for us, not only for our family devotions, but also for school time.

We have had the pleasure of spending countless more hours with our children than we could have if they had been away from home at school. I suppose I could do the math on that number of hours. It would be something like seven hours a day times five days a week times thirty-six weeks a year times seventeen years and counting. The childhood years pass quickly. How often do you hear someone say they wish they had had more time with their children?

As a homeschooling family, we were able to set our own schedule. We didn’t have to put the children in bed at 8:00 p.m. in order for them to be up by 7:00 a.m. to prepare to leave for school. For us, this translated into a later bedtime and morning rising time. Since Steve had a forty-five minute commute, he often wasn’t home from work until 6:00 p.m. We relished the extra family time we gained by not needing to institute an early bedtime.

We reaped financial benefits. We saved the tuition money we had been spending to have two children attend a private school and ride the bus to get there. What would it have cost to send eight children to private school?!! We no longer have lunches to buy nor school clothes to purchase. While we have curricula to purchase and some school supplies, the cost has been a fraction of what we would have spent with the children in school.

Our first goal with the extra money was to buy a computer. Steve said, “Computers are the tools of the future. Our children need to be computer literate.” That simple start opened the floodgates to eventually provide computer-related vocations for all three of our adult children. Homeschooling allowed them to pursue their vocational interests as a part of their education before high school graduation. They were each well equipped to begin their careers upon graduation.

One result of allowing our children to pursue vocational interests was that it enabled one son to purchase his home debt-free prior to marriage. Our second born is able to do so now, as well, if he so chooses.

I was able to teach several of my children to read. I had the joy of listening to them sound out their first word. I was the one who encouraged them when the task seemed too difficult. I was the one smiling from ear to ear as they read their first book to Daddy. When I wasn’t teaching phonics, it was an older sibling who had that responsibility and the enjoyment that goes with it—not to mention the experience.

Homeschooling allowed us truly to be aware of how each child was doing. We could make sure they corrected mistakes in their schoolwork. We were able to discern whether the errors were from carelessness or from a lack of comprehension.

Individualizing studies was possible with our homeschooling. One child moved ahead in reading because it was easy for him, while another took his math more slowly. We were able to include typing for each child, piano lessons, Spanish—whatever we prayerfully deemed important.

Our children became each other’s best friends. They had playtime together off and on throughout the day. The extra playtime encouraged them to become lifelong friends. Sibling friendships remain close throughout life.

We were able to take vacations when other families could not do so. As soon as we began homeschooling, if we could take a vacation, we did it in May or September. That way we avoided crowds and often received off-season, lower rates.

There is one final benefit that causes Steve and I to believe that we could never educate our children in any other way. It stands as a giant above our other homeschooling reasons. Protection! Our children kept their childish innocence throughout their childhood years. Sheltered in the homeschool environment, they didn’t have to face vulgar, profane, ungodly, jeering, mocking, or hateful words and actions from other children. We have been so grateful to the Lord for giving us something in homeschooling that we never dreamed would be so precious.

Peer pressure did not push our children to develop an interest in the opposite gender before God’s time. It kept them from being around others who were dating through high school and perhaps before, and they maintained their moral purity. They choose not to give their hearts away to anyone except the one the Lord shows them is to be their spouse.

There are certainly days I would love to be at home alone, cleaning my house, answering e-mails, or doing some sewing. There are days when I feel like seventeen years has been long enough of doing something that doesn’t come naturally to me. However, I never think of calling the local Christian school to see if I can enroll the children, something I used to do in our early homeschooling days. Reviewing what I see God has done for our family through homeschooling reminds me that it is worth every sacrifice. May each homeschooling mom reading this recall the benefits of her homeschool and be encouraged in the sacrificial giving of herself to her family.

Seventeen Down – Thirteen to Go

Seventeen years and three graduated homeschooled students ago, we began homeschooling. Now our youngest (unless the Lord has a big blessing in store for us) is entering kindergarten. Thirteen years and five more graduated homeschooled students from now, with a thirty-year homeschool career, I expect to retire from homeschooling.

Recently my mom was doing some cleaning and organizing. She came across the letter I had written to them about our plan to homeschool. This letter was written by a young thirty-year-old mother of three. As I read that letter, tears of gratitude filled my eyes. There was no one less likely to make it a year as a homeschooling mom, let alone what will be a career of it, than me!

I want to share part of that letter with you. As you read Mom’s Corners, you may be tempted to think that homeschooling has been a natural part of my life. I expect as you read this letter, though, you will come to a different conclusion. My prayer is that you may be encouraged that if Teri can do it, I can do it!

Summer 1985

Dear Dad and Mom,

I almost called you today to tell you what I am going to write in this letter but decided to give you some time to digest this information before we talk rather than have you try to conceal your shock and figure out what to say. Now I’m sure I have your curiosity aroused.

I am going to homeschool the boys this year and maybe a few more if this works out. I can hear the silent pause at your end now—you literally can’t believe that last sentence. From anyone but me perhaps, but not Teri—not the Teri who often questions whether she loves her kids, who can’t stand to be around her boys’ fussing, who has such emotional downs and doesn’t think she is mother material.

Well, you know, as I know, God’s economy isn’t always our economy, and Steve and I can’t figure this out but can see God’s possibilities. I have always had a little desire, since I know some did, to homeschool. I always discounted it because I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even get Nathan to do his homework without a shouting match. The last three weeks, that desire has grown and grown among much reasoning on my part that there was no way.

Finally I brought it up to Steve, and we began to discuss it and pray about it. Last week for three days we practiced school. That is why you got a letter. Seems much more logical to practice writing by doing a letter than by copying sentences. We made our decision this weekend with the proviso of trying again this week.

I found some amazing things as we practiced school. First, I wasn’t fighting to get Nathan to accomplish what the teacher had said he had to in the way she said. We just did what I said and worked on it for a set amount of time. Although we did have a confrontation, it was the type of thing we had virtually every day after school last spring, and this was only one incident in three days with several concentrated hours together each day. Also, I began to see good qualities in them as we worked together rather than only seeing the fighting and fussing.

A major reason we are doing this is to give them more time to pursue their interests. There won’t be time for everything, but now there is time for none. Even if it takes as many teaching hours at home, they will gain the two hours they now spend on the bus to and from school.

Amazingly, without trying to bias, just presenting facts, the boys both (that is unbelievable in itself) want to do it. I didn’t think Nathan would want to give up peer time. Also, because I so often, as a mother, view myself negatively, I couldn’t imagine them wanting to be home with me all day every day. Nathan said he will miss his friends but it will be okay because he won’t have to go to the board to work a problem and be embarrassed if he messes up.

We plan to do this for at least a year. Only if I am a total basketcase will we quit after Christmas. If it is just not a great situation, then we finish the year, and they go back to Christian school next year. That is for a sense of commitment for me so I don’t throw up my hands one day and try to enroll them back in school the next.

August 24th is a homeschool conference near here which will be a great learning chance.

Four-plus pages is a long letter.

Bye and love,

Teri

Our reasons for homeschooling have changed immensely since we started. I would like to reminisce in the next Mom’s Corner about the benefits our family has experienced through homeschooling. However, this month my testimony is totally on a loving, faithful God Who could take the woman you see described in this letter and support her, mold her, change her, comfort her, challenge her, and grow her so that she could do what He had called her to do.

I believe this verse is the embodiment of my homeschooling life. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

There was nothing in my life to commend me to homeschooling except a heart to hear the Lord and be obedient to Him. If you are struggling in any way with your homeschooling, may I encourage you to rest in the Lord and continue on in your obedience to Him. Then look back in seventeen years to see God’s faithfulness!

A Mother’s Influence

At the opening of our church’s mother/daughter banquet, the mom who was the banquet coordinator shared with us her love for gardening. This enjoyment of gardening began when she was just a little girl and would be included in her grandmother’s daily garden time. Her grandmother talked to her and gave her appropriate tasks to do. All of this was the beginning of a lifelong pleasure in many aspects of gardening.

When I was a little girl, we frequently visited my grandparents for periods of time during the summer. Those summer days at their house were filled with pleasant memories. Beside my grandparents’ driveway was a bed of flowers they called moss rose. These flowers bloomed with a variety of colors all summer long. Can you guess what my favorite summer flower is? Yes, every year I ask Sarah, our gardener, to please plant me a crop of moss rose.

I don’t like to garden. For me, working in a garden is hot, dirty, and backbreaking—totally devoid of any pleasure. Perhaps, though, if my grandmother had been a gardener who loved her gardening, I would have picked up from her that same feeling toward gardening.

While my grandma, with her hay fever and asthma, could not garden, she did love to bake cookies. We never visited her home without finding several containers of freshly baked cookies in the pantry. Meme passed that same enjoyment of baking on to my mother. My mother has passed it on to me, and now it is effortlessly being handed down to my girls. When there is a quiet, rainy day, one of my first thoughts is, “What a great cookie baking day!”

The purpose of these stories is to encourage us to consider how critical it is that we cultivate good memories in our children’s minds. Consider my delight in moss rose flowers. My grandparents didn’t even know that the flowers they liked so much would become my favorite as well. This simply happened because of the love and sweet memories from those summer visits with my grandparents. I believe these are valuable lessons for us as Christian mothers and homeschooling moms as well. We have the incredible ability to influence some of our children’s likes and perhaps their dislikes too.

I remember when my seventh-grade son was beginning kindergarten. We had a half hour set aside each afternoon to do math together. Almost before we started our first day, he had decided he didn’t like math. Each day he would complain that he didn’t like school and didn’t want to do the work. This was the beginning of my fourth child’s homeschool career!

I must admit to feeling rather powerless against this early level of grumbling. We were not doing difficult work. He was using manipulatives in addition to do one workbook page each day, plus I was sitting right with him. Math just didn’t get any better than that!

I knew I could give him consequences for his murmuring that would cause him to stop. However, I also realized his feelings would probably still be there; he just would not be vocalizing them. I saw this as an opportunity to influence his attitudes toward his school time.

When Joseph would start griping as we began our math work, I counterattacked. “Joseph, I want you to know this is one of the best parts of Mommy’s day. I love doing school with you. I like to have some time for just you and Mommy to be together. You know math is very important, and you will use the math you are learning in some way or other almost every single day. I am so happy that I can be the one to teach you how to add and subtract. This is a special time each day for Mommy.”

It wasn’t the first day I looked Joseph in the eye during math and said those words to him, nor was it after a week, but very gradually, I began to see a change in his spirit. He complained less and less about joining me for math. He perked up and put forth more effort into his work. Finally, there was our day of triumph. After once again sharing with Joseph my joy in spending math time with him, he responded with, “Mommy, I really like this time, too!”

Steve shares with our children how his mother taught him to like to work. She would tell her children over and over that they would be working all of their lives so they might as well learn to enjoy it. Those words may not sound terribly profound, but they were said often enough and pleasantly enough that they impacted Steve’s life. He is a man who learned to enjoy his work—in all the various forms it takes.

Moms, our attitude toward homeschooling is going to affect our children’s attitudes toward their studies now and toward homeschooling their own children. If we grumble and complain about the burden of homeschooling, are short-tempered and irritable with them during school, and look forward to school time being over, what attitudes will they pick up from us?

I believe our children will acquire many attitudes from us toward not only homeschooling but also the daily routines of life. Scripture says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). When we have a smile on our faces, a happy lilt to our voices, and pleasant words coming from our mouths, our children will automatically be drawn to having good memories of their days in our home. It is likely these memories will actually determine some of their future likes and dislikes.

I know how easy it is for me to fall into the habit of focusing on myself and my workload. Sometimes with being a wife, mother of eight children, homeschooling, homemaking, and other ministering, my tasks can look overwhelming. If I start to complain and murmur about my jobs, my children quickly pick up on my negative attitudes. It is entirely possible that if these attitudes were the habit of my life, my own children could decide not to homeschool their children because of the burden Mom portrayed homeschooling to be in her life.

Are we being hypocrites to act pleasantly and cheerfully toward daily tasks we really don’t care to have to do? Philippians 2:14 tells us to “Do all things without murmurings and disputings. . . .” I see making the choice to have a good attitude toward what we don’t like as choosing obedience to God’s Word. We should certainly pray for the Lord to work in our hearts so that our positive attitude comes from a heart that is truly pleased to do what we are called to do. However, if that heart is still struggling, choose not to let it show on the outside.

Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We moms have such tremendous potential for positive influence on our children’s future. I want to challenge us to consider the importance of our words toward each area for which the Lord has given us responsibility. We would do well to see to it that those words are, as Proverbs says, “fitly spoken.”

As you think about how your own likes and dislikes have been shaped by your childhood memories, consider the influence you want to have on your children. May we not become so caught up in ourselves that we lose sight of the impact our words will have on our children’s attitudes. May we build pleasant memories of every aspect of daily life for our children by guarding our own attitudes and by keeping them pleasant and positive.

Decisions for the New School Year

As another school year winds down, homeschooling moms begin to think ahead to the upcoming academic year. The new homeschool catalogs arrive in the mail, homeschool conventions are available, and decision time is upon us! Perhaps there are some lessons the Lord has taught me through sixteen years of homeschooling that I could share with you to help this time be more peaceful and more fruitful for you.

First, I had to learn the hard way to bathe all of my school plans and curriculum decisions in prayer. I can mull a school purchase over and over in my mind for weeks, not coming to any conclusion and gradually becoming more anxious simply because I cannot make a decision. I will think about the pros for the decision going one way and then the cons. However, it is balanced by the pros and cons associated with making the decision a different way.

I remember needing a different phonics program than I had been using because of the unique needs of a particular child. Each program I looked at had strengths and weaknesses. None seemed to offer exactly what I wanted. Rather than resting in the Lord and praying about the decision, I let it pressure me. I felt I had to make the decision simply to relieve my anxiety over it, while at the same time having no idea what to decide! This was not productive for my spirit toward my homeschooling nor toward my decision.

When prayer over school decisions is the basis of my thoughts, then I can have a peaceful heart as I wait for the Lord’s direction rather than forcing myself to make a choice simply to have it done. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

If I will follow the truth of Philippians 4:6-7 not to be anxious about anything but to present my requests to God, then I can set my thoughts about it aside. Usually, when I come back to the decision, I don’t have the same level of frustration over it. If you begin to feel yourself becoming tense, worried, or fearful about any of the decisions, stop thinking and begin praying.

Next, I have needed to learn to be content. Philippians 4:11 says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Here is what would happen to me during a school year. Things would be going well in our school, but I would hear about this new spelling program “everyone” just loved. I would see it advertised in the homeschool magazines and look at the program’s website. It sounded so perfect! Very quickly I found myself discontent with our spelling program and thinking about all of its weaknesses. In reality, I had invested time learning the spelling program we were using, and it was working. I had no leading from the Lord to change our spelling. All I had was a desire not to be left behind the rest of the homeschooling crowd.

If you have a curriculum that has been working for your family, don’t change it. You have invested time learning the material and are now experienced with it. This is such a time saver for you as a homeschool mom! Even if others are raving about what they are using, be grateful for the experience and success the Lord has given you with your curriculum. Unless the Lord is clearly directing you to something else, stick with what you already know.

I discovered I was a wise woman to seek my husband’s input. I try to type out information for Steve so that he can help me make upcoming school decisions. I include what has been problematic for us in the current school year. I write out the pros and cons of a new curriculum I am considering and how I believe it will impact our school. With this background, Steve is often able to help give needed direction on the decisions.

My schedule was another tool that was instrumental in helping me make curriculum decisions. When I had completed a school year where I could have comfortably devoted more time to school, I would expand and add more subjects or extras in. I could also consider a curriculum that was more teacher intensive. However, when I was completing a school year where I felt extremely busy with school and where we were barely accomplishing the essentials, I looked for ways to streamline my curriculum.

You, too, can use your schedule to help you with school choices for next year. If you are pushed for time this year, pray for curricula that will be less time intensive for you or the children. Please consider the importance of your curricula truly reflecting the available time you have. So often I see moms who are struggling with homeschooling because they don’t have time for it. They have not been willing to trade off a time-intensive curriculum for one that takes less teacher time in order to maintain their own peace of mind and the overall integrity of their homeschool.

Whatever challenges you are facing as you start your preparations for the next homeschool year, may you be realistic about what you can do and content with what the Lord has already provided. Step out boldly in a new direction the Lord is leading, but only if He is leading! Don’t think you have to follow the crowd. Perhaps you will be given the chance to honor your husband by following, without questioning, his suggestions. My prayer for you through the school decisions you are making as a homeschooling mom is that this becomes an enjoyable season for you. I encourage you to use each choice you must make as an opportunity to pray and then rest in the Lord.

(After this Corner was written, we wrote a book called Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling. The book shares our experience gained from over 23 years of homeschooling, including what has worked for our family, homeschooling how-to’s, planning the school year, what curriculum we use, and how we manage homeschooling).

How to Homeschool a Dawdler

Seldom do I give a “Getting It All Done” workshop in which I do not get this question: “My child manages to draw out every school assignment he is given. This ends up making the rest of the family have to wait on him before we can go on to our next activity. I really feel like he could do the work more quickly, but he just dawdles, rather than applying himself to his task. What do I do?”

First, Figure Out If He’s Truly a Dawdler.

What about you? Is one of your children a classic dawdler? He sits down to do a page of math and within a minute is up sharpening his pencil. Back to the book, the child is soon noticed looking out the window while thumbing through the book. Pretty soon a drink is called for, and within minutes of returning from that, a bathroom break is taken. Sound familiar?

First, I encourage you to discern whether the fact that your child cannot complete an assignment in the allotted time is because he is incapable of doing the work, or because he is a dawdler. Here is how we made this determination. We had a son who could spend two hours or more in front of his math book without completing more than two or three problems on his two pages’ worth of work. We certainly didn’t want to deal with this as a character issue if it were an ability deficiency.

One evening about 5:00 p.m., after this child had sat at the table with his math book in front of him most of the afternoon, his dad announced, “I have just ordered pizza for dinner. It will be here in thirty minutes. Anyone who has all their schoolwork completed may join us for pizza. Others can have a sandwich alone when their schoolwork is finished.”

Steve happened to know the current situation with this child and that the other children had long before turned in all their schoolwork. This was a test for our dawdler. You will never believe the results! Pencil went to paper, and within fifteen minutes, that child had every math problem completed on his lesson. Moreover, he had done an excellent job in terms of accuracy!

I had believed he could easily complete his math in thirty minutes, but had allowed him forty-five minutes just to be sure. It was confirmed. We had a character issue to work with, not an ability one.

Determine Consequences that Work.

This is the way we handle the dawdling situation in our home. The children are required, barring unusual circumstances, to finish any schoolwork they did not get done in their scheduled time during their free time later in the day. The more I am consistent with enforcing this, the more progress we see in our children applying themselves during their scheduled school time. It is absolutely no fun to watch your siblings out playing while you sit and complete what you could have done earlier in the day when they were working, too, and not available for play.

I can honestly tell you it is difficult for me to be consistent in this area. I want to make excuses, in my heart, for them and allow them to head out with the others for their free time. The truth, of course, is that I am not doing them any favors by not enforcing our policy, nor am I doing myself any favors!

The characteristics of a dawdler may be seen in other areas of their life, perhaps when chore time arrives. One thing that our dawdler thrives on is some motivation to get him moving, just as in the pizza story I shared with you. A time deadline that is short and immediate can help him focus on the need to keep at the task. You might try using a timer, which you or the child can set for a determined amount of time. Then the child will have a visual reminder of the need to continue with his job or schoolwork.

Here is a short testimonial I recently received on just what we are suggesting here.

“Our schedule has also provided an opportunity to teach them personal responsibility since they are now responsible for checking the schedule themselves to see what they should be doing, and they are also responsible for using free time to finish up anything they didn’t accomplish when they were supposed to. After forfeiting part of his playtime one afternoon in order to finish math that wasn’t done when it should have been, my ten-year-old son really applied himself on the other days.”

Dear Sister, if you have a dawdler in your homeschool, be encouraged! The Lord has provided you this wonderful opportunity to impact the character of your child in a needed and positive way. Be strong and courageous; take the challenge. Don’t nag and fuss at your dawdler. Maintain a pleasant, matter-of-fact attitude as you enforce the consequences you have chosen. Remember to keep this need as a matter of prayer. Be consistent throughout this whole year in dealing with this issue. Look back, after the year, and check for some progress. Also, keep in mind that your child’s character growth is a long-term project! Even if the progress in one year is not what you want for the finished product, know for certain that had you not worked in this area, no progress would have been realized and probably movement backward would have occurred.

School Year Planning

My summertime provides an opportunity to reflect back over our past school year and prepare for the upcoming one. New school beginnings hold the excitement, hope, and promise of significant accomplishments for each member of our household. Often, though, this promise will not come to fruition unless specific goals and direction are set for the year.

Planning with Steve for the next school year is a highlight of my summer. The two of us block out time together where we can set goals and the course of our school year. This past summer we went to the conference room at Steve’s work with a nice table, chairs, and a big whiteboard. Being away where there were no interruptions had obvious advantages. One year, though, we spent Saturday morning at home working on this with nothing else scheduled “to do” and encouraged the children to play in their rooms or outside as much as possible. After our planning time we try to have a “date” with dinner out.

To prepare for our planning time, I put together some background information for Steve to review before we meet. He takes what I give him, looks at it, and prays about it for several days before we have our meeting. I start by giving him our plan or goals from the previous summer and a schedule of what we actually did during the school year. I also write out areas in which I felt we did not do what we had wanted, including difficulties with attitudes, schedules, specific schoolwork, our not keeping the children accountable or their not doing what we had wanted. I give him a list of subjects that I think we may want each child to study or work in and the number of hours we do school each day. I may write out some character concerns that specifically affect schoolwork.

When we have our planning sessions we start with prayer, since Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” First, we go over last year’s plan to see what we achieved, what we deleted, and what did not work. Next, if we want to write out goals, we start with that. Then we look at our list of what each child could spend his school time on, and prioritize it. The big white board was great for this. We listed each child’s name on the board and then underneath placed the school subjects we wanted them to pursue with a number beside it for its priority. From there, we work with the specific amount of time to spend per day or week on a particular subject. We also write down ideas on how to make sure the character deficiencies are being addressed and followed up on.

I am very grateful that Steve is willing to sit down with me and make what we consider very important decisions regarding our school direction. Although I usually put together the specifics after this major meeting, I know where we as a team are heading. If I run into further snags, Steve and I set aside more time to address the new items that come up.

I hope it is possible for each of you as couples to make time to be together and focus on your school planning for the next year. Perhaps it will be something that you can look forward to as I do to my conference with my wonderful husband.