When I first began homeschooling, I wanted to create Rhodes Scholars. I had heard so many glowing reports of wildly successful homeschoolers, and I felt sure that with enough effort on my part, my children could join their ranks. But God reminded me of my own success as a scholar but failure spiritually. He told me to seek Him first, not academic success. Then if He chose to bless my children with academic success, awards, and acclaim, God would get the credit.

So what does keeping God first in my homeschool look like? My primary, daily goal is pleasing God through our homeschool. My definition of success must be the same as God's definition. Was I thankful today for everything, good and bad, that happened? Was I patient with my disorganized daughter when she delayed her English lesson because she could not locate her workbook again? Was I kind rather than angry and frustrated when I intervened during a squabble between my daughters? Have I behaved like the person I dream and pray my children will be like when they are adults? If I have exhibited the Fruit of the Spirit and have asked forgiveness from my children and God when I failed, then my day has been successful.

It is so easy to lose this eternal focus. It is tempting to compare myself with other homeschooling families and try to emulate their success. It is easy to focus daily on checking off the squares in my curriculum guide so I can feel satisfied that we had a complete day of school. Fear can whisper to me that my children are missing a mysterious "something" from their childhood, telling me that I need to run them from activity to activity so they will fulfill their potential. When any of these things happens, my focus has shifted from "pleasing God" to keeping up with the Jones's or gaining academic success.

I have learned to recognize when my focus is shifting. I lose the "peace that passes all understanding" and begin to feel stressed. I resent the interruption of lessons by my toddler and preschooler and treat them with impatience rather than kindness. I start feeling pressure to pack our schedule with outside activities. When these warning signs come to my attention, I pray and re-surrender our homeschool to God. I pray that our homeschool will be pleasing to Him and that we will concentrate on winning applause from our audience of One.

Just as we can focus on false success in our homeschooling, we can also pursue the wrong things spiritually. I want to be used by God to bless other people, and I also want the joy of seeing my children mightily used by God. But I've learned to surrender this desire to God, knowing that if I pursue it, this healthy desire to use my gifts to build up the body of Christ could become an idol. We see this exemplified by the Pharisees in Jesus' time. They loved their ministries and the perks that came with their public office so much that they plotted the murder of the God they claimed to serve.

There is a great hymn called " My Goal is God Himself" by Frances Brook. The first stanza goes like this:

My goal is God Himself, not joy or peace
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
'Tis His to lead me there, not mine 
    but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.

My human nature wants to chase after everything but God, whether that entails pursuing academic laurels in my homeschool or promoting myself toward a large public ministry. This hymn has become a prayer: that I will desire God Himself more than success, more than joy, more than peace, more than blessing. Otherwise, not only do I end up worshiping idols, but I find myself disloyal to my Savior when success, joy, peace, or blessing are in short supply.

So, what makes a successful homeschool? If our families win awards and acclaim, can we declare success? It depends on our focus. If we pursue the world's definition of success, we may gain it, but we'll miss God. If we pursue God, He may choose to give us honor and commendation as a by-product. Do we want the world's praise—or even our homeschool support group's admiration—if God is not smiling over our success? Isn't hearing God say "Well done" at the end of each day a worthy goal, even if our kids are just "average"? What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? Having gained worldly praise without pleasing God at the same time, I can testify to how hollow and empty such achievements are. May God in His mercy enable us to make pleasing and glorifying God our definition of true success. 

*This article published September 12, 2008.

Cindy Puhek resides in Colorado Springs and has been homeschooling for five years. She earned a BS and MA in chemisty and taught college and high school science classes before realizing that God's highest calling for her was to make a home for her husband of 12 years and four children.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2008 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Visit http://homeschoolenrichment.com/ to request a FREE sample issue today!