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Reader submitted questions - Christian Homeschooling, Home Education

Homeschool? Ya Gotta Have Faith

  • Reader submitted questions
  • 2004 2 Feb
  • COMMENTS
Homeschool? Ya Gotta Have Faith

I know in my heart of hearts it has to be more than cattle prodding my children from one subject to another while trying to keep them focused and alert without my having to feel like the witch of the day!

An older woman I mentor with says, as you did in your comment, that the Lord called me to homeschool, and He will fill the gaps.

I would love to REST in that, yet is it the right thing to do? How do I know it's not ME not doing something I should be? I know God can do ANYTHING, but fill in all the details? Is that what faith looks like, or would I be a fool? This issue plagues me every month. If you have any more words of wisdom to offer, I'd be thrilled to hear them. I couldn't imagine doing anything BUT homeschooling, I truly do like it.. I just wish that I was out in the middle of a prairie somewhere far from any other kid to compare mine to and to hear that the last Geography and Spelling Bee champ was a homeschooler.

- Cindy M. -

Response from the Trenches...
I'm reminded of a story a fellow homeschooling mom tells during speaking engagements about a public school student who had received a perfect score on her SAT's and was about to graduate valedictorian, on her way to an ivy league school on a full scholarship. In an interview, she was asked what she thought the most important thing in life was, to which she responded "I don't know. I guess I've never really thought about it."

So, can hers truly be called a success story?

With eternity in mind, we all know what is truly important to strive for, to achieve, to become, and to do while on this earth. It is not in God's will for us all to play the same role in the same way. But you're right that our children have to grow up and function in this world, just as all of us did.

To that end, it's my opinion that our children should, first and foremost, have a solid foundation on the Word of God. We parents are called to have a heart for our children, and to know their hearts. Without Christ, nothing else matters. I would hope that our young people are being taught to read critically, to write fluently, and to do arithmetic capably. Everything else is negotiable. (I realize that my list above can be argued to also be negotiable, but in our American society, I firmly believe that anything less does a disservice not only to our children but also to the Body of Christ, the Church as a whole. Christians should be the most articulate, the best thinkers, the clearest orators. But I digress.) You'd be amazed how much science, history, and geography a child will pick up just by reading widely and well. There's no real need to teach other subjects specifically, unless you want to and/or your children are interested. And sometimes, playing a math game is a far more productive use of the math period than 30 minutes spent on a worksheet, not to mention more fun!

Certainly, we all do have to "answer to the state" in some way for the academic education of our children, not to mention our families, friends, and spouses! Acknowledging that Christ matters more than anything does not mean that everything else matters not at all. Education does matter. To many of us, it matters a great deal. But we always need to remember what, ultimately, we are educating our children for. I have two academically gifted children, and I am daily (hourly!) confronted with the fact that it does not matter how smart they are or how easily they can achieve things if they have not learned humility, not to mention "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." As a Type-A mother of two Type-A overachieving children, I do not say any of this lightly! Flexibility and relaxation have been the hardest subjects in my own home education.

Practically speaking, as far as "cattle-prodding children from one subject to another," our family also suffered through this for a time. I can definitely relate. The way I solved this issue was to give my children their own planners. I started out with regular weekly school planners, but we now use planning forms I designed which better suit our needs. The kids can see the week at a glance, with the work they are expected to complete by the end of each day as well as the work they are expected to complete sometime during the week, to be finished by Friday. The planners don't include any of the learning we do together as a family, but only each child's individual work: math, writing, spelling, grammar, and so on. Each child does the work in the order he or she chooses, and I check it off when it's been shown to me and we've gone over it. This has totally eliminated the need for me to make the kids move on to something else because it's "time," and it puts the kids in control of their own learning and days in a limited but substantial way. Because the kids know exactly what is expected of them, they happily (most of the time) do their work diligently. If they finish early, they know they're done for the day. But if they dawdle or daydream or procrastinate, they will only have themselves to blame when they still have schoolwork late in the day. When I am not working with another child, I announce that I can work with someone on the subject he or she cannot do without my help. This system also made it abundantly clear whether the children are behaving the way they are due to laziness or because the work is either too difficult or too easy. A clear picture of how the children like to work, what subjects they enjoy, what their learning style is emerged

I have found it helpful to have a checklist of what children are expected to have learned or have mastered by certain ages. I use Robin Sampson's What Your Child Needs to Know When, but there are other lists out there. Your state will have general learning expectations in checklist form that the public schools are supposed to follow, due to required standardized achievement testing, and you can request a copy from the State Department of Education. Using such lists helps you evaluate where they stand in relation to generalized standards, and you aren't tied to any curriculum, publisher, or textbook. We can spend more concentrated time when we need to, and skip ahead if we want to. As long as the evaluator can see progress, you'll be just fine in that regard.

It is our sinful nature to compare ourselves to others and to compare our children with others. A friend, homeschooling mother of 12 children, explained to me a way she helps her children understand about the futility of this. Imagine you have just finished running a marathon. You wouldn't say, "I came in ahead of those six people," but would say, "I came in twelfth," counting back from the winner. In the same way, because Christ is always best and always first, we should look to Him as the standard, not the other people running with us. No matter what, none of us are any better than second rate in comparison.

Helene Barker Kiser is one of our "Trenchperts." She lives and learns with her husband, children, and assorted animals in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She welcomes your thoughts and comments on this article or on any aspect of educating gifted children at home. Contact her at hbkiser@earthlink.net