Have you ever purchased some kind of curriculum because it claimed to have all the answers for your particular child in your particular situation with your particular learning philosophy – only to find out that it really didn't meet up to its boast? Or, that it's just too complicated to figure out, let alone put into practice every day? Or maybe it promised to provide everything you would need to teach everyone in your house from your baby up through your grandmother, and you find it lacking. But it looked and sounded so perfect! Frustrating, isn't it.

We can be so easily deceived. It reminds me of when my daughter was four years old and came running in from the backyard with hands raised and shouting, "They tricked me! They tricked me!!" After getting her to settle down, I asked what happened. "Well, I was out feeding the chickens and I saw a prune on the ground in the chicken coop.  You know how I love prunes! Well, I picked it up and it wasn't a prune! It just looked like a prune! The chickens tricked me!" Sometimes we too are deceived by what looks good, in the hopes that it will satisfy our desires.

Just this morning, I received an email from a friend that claimed if I would just forward this message to umpteen people, I would receive thousands of dollars! It appeared somewhat believable because someone tacked a scripture to the end of it. Even though this spam has been around for quite some time, people like my godly, well meaning friend are still being duped. I pointed her in the right direction regarding researching spam email, and her response was, "It might have worked this time. It doesn't hurt to try!" I think I would disagree. It hurts because it's a waste of time, it clutters up our mailboxes with junk, and in the end, we play the fool.

Time is precious. We cannot afford to waste time in this ever so busy endeavor of homeschooling our children. Just as we cannot afford to waste time, we cannot afford to waste money and space on curriculum that doesn't work. But time and again we choose to believe the "perfect for your child" deception just in case it's really true this time.

Instead of feeling like you're groping around in the dark or, even worse, grabbing whatever sounds good at the time, let me give you some wise counsel I have gained when it comes to looking for just the right material for your child:

Prayer

I cannot over-emphasize the need for prayer in all areas of our life. Especially in relation to raising up our children. One of my children was so energetic; he was like a bottle of soda that had been shaken up and ready to explode! I earnestly prayed for a creative way to help him safely release that energy on a daily basis. The Lord answered by placing homeschooled competetive jump-ropers to take him under their wing and teach him incredible things I never thought possible with a jump rope! Something he could practice everyday without me having to run hither and yon. One of my older sons disliked reading unless the book had lots of pictures. I knew he was missing out on so many great classics. I prayed specifically. The Lord answered specifically and led me to a series of books from our homeschool library that hooked him into a love of reading so deep, it is painful for him to pull away to do anything else! There have been times when I have prayed specifically for the Lord to open the doors of opportunity to allow my children to become more proficient in or be able to use the special giftings the Lord has given them musically, artistically, or verbally. He has been faithful to provide as I have been faithful to pray. Pray before you go to that used book sale or that convention or that website.  Pray specifically and earnestly and remain open to His direction as you search. He will give you focus and you will find peace as your mind is guarded from that "fool-proof" deception.

Philippians 4:6,7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Support

Our homeschool support group meets once a month where we go over curriculum choices on a regular basis. This is so helpful to find out what has worked or hasn't work for each one. I have made most of my purchases based on these recommendations. After all, our friends are perfect teachers and their children are all well-adjusted geniuses, right? Another wonderful resource is our homeschool library. We have pooled and supplied resources in order to have a central library for all of our families to use. This way, we can check out that curriculum we were questioning and see if it really will work. If you don't have one in your area, think about starting one. Everyone benefits, especially the children. They can read that series of books that we couldn't afford to purchase for our own home library or those that the public libraries don't carry. In order for our children to do their work at home, we need to do our home work. Pray, research, and pray some more.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Test all things; hold fast what is good."

Basic Training

Another thing to consider is what our children already know, or conversely, what they don't know. If they are not proficient in the basics of reading, writing and math, continue with the basics. Look for things that repeat and reinforce. Find out what is essential and learn those things well. All the extra stuff is just that – extra. They may excel in Greek History, but if they don't know their times tables, something basic is missing. They may be able to do the best science experiments, but if they cannot write a decent letter, it's time to go back to the basics. In training them for the future, the basics are essential.

If you look at military basic training, you see that they cram into a few weeks everything they deem essential in becoming a good soldier. It's pretty basic. They require and reinforce unquestioned obedience and they prepare them mentally and physically for possible future combat. Specialized fields come later. Ever thought of that in relation to your goals for homeschooling? I have. I want my children to unquestioningly obey God's commands and my commands, and I want to help prepare them in the basics for whatever the future holds. And then, in prayer, he will show us how to develop our children in their specialized fields.

Ephesians 6:4 "…bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."

Testing

A good teacher knows where her children are academically. And if we are not sure, there are various avenues of testing. We don't need that special curriculum that guarantees success if they are already proficient in that area. And, we don't always need expensive tests. Most textbooks have them built right in, or we as their teachers can come up with our own.

The goal of testing is to ascertain knowledge. Therefore, the most important test, in my opinion, is the testing of the heart. Do our children know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy is understanding? Do we? Just as we test the basics in our children, the Lord tests the hearts. He knows we are easily deceived by our own thoughts and good ideas. Our ways seem right to us, but the end of them is futility. Let's look at verses 5-11 of the 17th chapter of Jeremiah in this light.

"Thus says the Lord: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes..."

When we trust in our own wisdom or the wisdom of man in relation to our children, and if we think our own strength can accomplish the task, we are deceived and our hearts have departed from the Lord. We will not be able to see when "good comes."

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Success in our homeschooling efforts will come by trusting in the Lord. If we teach our children that their hope is the Lord, they will be grounded in truth, prepared for the future, and unafraid. During times of seeming drought or when the "heat comes" they will not be anxious. This is an exemplary goal for the future I desire for my children.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. "As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool."

We are easily deceived. And it starts in our hearts. May we not just sit and brood over our children for no eternal reason and produce nothing of value, but may we pray that the Lord will produce good fruit in them as we faithfully teach, train and test them.  In the end, I do not want to be played the fool. I want to have known the Truth and I want my children to have learned the basics from me. And in the end, may they pass the test. 

Jeremiah 10:23 "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps."

Copyright, 2004.  The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Deborah Wuehler is the Devotional and E-Newsletter editor for  The Old Schoolhouse and lives in Roseville, CA with her husband Richard and their six gifts from heaven. E-mail Deborah with your comments at Devotions@TOSMag.com