Our family began our homeschool journey in 1989. My children are Rachel (27), who is married and homeschooling two children with one on the way; Jessica (25), who is also married and homeschooling two children; Emily (24), who is a newlywed and is employed as a dental assistant; Sarah (23), who is a preschool teacher; Nathan (21), who works as a lube technician; and Natalie (18), who graduates this year and plans to attend Christ for the Nations in 2012. We used the Charlotte Mason method from AmblesideOnline.org during many of their school years. Our homeschool experience provided us with the flexibility we needed as a minister’s family, the creativity we craved to nurture our children in their gifts and callings, and the bond that we share as a close family.

We once took our children on a field trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, and as I walked in stunned amazement through the underground miracle, I was reminded of my early journey through homeschooling. Carlsbad Cavern contains one of the world’s largest underground chambers and countless formations.

We started teaching our oldest daughter when she was 5, when her little sisters were aged 3, 2, and 1. During that season of my life, I sometimes felt like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark pit. I felt like the “me” I had known all my life was lost and my real life was hovering above me somewhere. I wandered around in the dark—a walking “needs meeting machine.” Then along came another baby, and then one more.

Just as the Native Americans and early settlers who discovered the caverns went down in there with lights, I needed a few lights turned on in my life. Some lessons and encouragement gained from my experience at the caverns seem to apply. Perhaps these insights can encourage you on your homeschooling journey, as they have encouraged me on mine.

1. Choose your path and get directions. Prayerfully determine goals for your family. These goals will ultimately help you choose the path for your homeschool and make it easier to select curriculum and activities.

Life lessons are extremely valuable to a homeschool family. My children learned about skeletal structure when my husband broke his leg. The motivation to learn was greater when the lesson was close to home. We had a clear curriculum path, but when life got in the way of our plans, life became the teacher. Having clear direction helped us get right back on track when upheavals settled down.

2. Don’t leave the path, or you might get lost.Stay focused on your goals. Don’t give up! Don’t allow yourself to compare your homeschool lifestyle with public school or even other homeschoolers. We felt the Lord encourage us with His assurance that our children would get what they needed to fulfill His plans for their lives. That promise has come true for the five that we have graduated, and we are confident that it will bear out in the one student who is still at home.

Staying focused on God’s promises helps prevent doubt and fear. But sometimes doubt and fear come anyway, so . . .

3. Stay with your group. Don’t let yourself “feel alone”! Support groups are available everywhere, if not locally, then online. Surround yourself with others who are on the same path, have already walked it, and are supportive of your chosen path.

4. Appreciate the miracle.Those children are miracles! Pay attention to all the little things that make them unique. Guard a sense of awe related to the precious and unexpected “formations” that are around every corner of parenting/homeschooling.

5. Stop and rest. Take care of yourself. I know it seems impossible sometimes, but this is a critical goal. Beware of the time bandit. Participate in only the activities that support the goals for your family. Make time for rest and play. Don’t neglect your marriage. With six it is hard to get a babysitter, but my husband and I try to have regular date nights.