One of my great joys in life is attending home-school conferences. I’ll never forget the first conference I attended in Sacramento, California. I was amazed at all the workshops, products, and people in denim jumpers.

When I looked down at my shorts I felt a bit like perhaps I didn’t belong among this group of holy, spiritual people. My friend assured me that I could indeed home school my children, even if I wore shorts. However, I still went out and bought a jumper. I’ve thought about mass marketing them for the home-school audience. They could have a cute appliqué that says, "Home-School Mom," as if she would be confused as being anyone else.

The truth is even non-conformists like me want to conform. We don’t want to feel like we’re different than everyone else, even though we’ve set out on a course that is different than the norm. Humans have a desire to be normal. I’m no different, even though my children will quickly attest to the fact that I am indeed far from normal. Normalcy is something I desire.

Honestly, I think I go to home-school conventions to feel normal. I don my jumper, borrow a baby, walk through the myriad of tables, and listen to a bunch of normal speakers telling me if I use their product I will have the best and the brightest!

And I buy it! I buy it just like the hula hoops of the 50s, the yo-yo’s, and the scooters of today.

Speakers with the best kids win my money--even if they are selling an auditory product to my visual learner. I will buy the product, because it’s the latest and greatest.

Years ago A Beka and Bob Jones were the "in" thing. Then along came unit studies, literature based curriculum, the classical approach, the principal approach, and even the Fire method.

Everywhere we turn there is a new product being heralded as the one that is guaranteed to make your child read by the time he is twelve! We are spending hundreds of dollars on products, not really for our child, but to help us fit in with our peers.

Why do we have this desire? I don’t think it’s really a desire to fit in, as a feeling that we don’t quite have what it takes. Typically we are average parents, with average income, with average children. We see the stories of the great parents with their incredibly brilliant children. Hey, even I can make my children look brilliant on a good day!

As I would listen to speakers telling me how great their kids are, I would want to buy their product, because I knew deep inside that I wanted greatness for my children.

I would talk to other home-school moms and find out what their favorite products were. It didn’t matter much to me at that point what was the best for each child. Or even what was best for me. I simply wanted the latest fad. I didn’t think that’s what I desired, but it was.

Steve is a bit apprehensive when I go speak at conventions because he knows I am easily swayed by the illusion of what will be the best. He is very good at keeping me from following a trend, a person, or an image.

After we were home schooling for about five years I had decided I wanted our family to look a certain way, and to present themselves to the world a certain way. I decided I must use the right curriculum put out by the right group of people in order to attain this.

I began filling out the application. I convinced Steve to spend the large sum of money so we could have the perfect family. It wasn’t until we got to the application process that Steve put the brakes on our perfect family. He inquired, "What does my facial hair have to do with home schooling our children?"

After a few more questions on the application, he told me we were not going to use this curriculum. I was certain he told me we would never be the perfect family I so desperately wanted. How could I possibly home school effectively if my husband was unwilling to let me use the curriculum I wanted to use?

That was when the Lord began prompting me to seek Him with the education of our children. I began the process of learning how children learn. I began praying for the direction the Lord wanted each of our children to go. I even asked the Lord to show me daily what He wanted me to do with them.

I suddenly became free of being swayed by the best, latest and greatest. I began to seek the Lord’s direction for every product I purchased. I no longer bought the hula hoops and jumpers.

Curriculum questions are popping up all over home-school message boards and chat rooms as moms seek to find the best for their children. Last year I was talking with Jill Bond about this very topic. I loved the advice she had for me when people ask what they should use for their children. Rather than point a mother to a certain curriculum, she reminds them that she does not know the child, but more importantly that she has not spent time fasting and praying for the child. How could she possibly know what the Lord would have for her?

Her advice is so basic, yet so wise. As we seek out the best for our children, we must not forget who knows what is best for them. We need not be led by the great commercials, but fast and pray for our own children so that we, with the help of God, can train them up in the way they should go.

In addition to devoting herself to her husband and the eight children she home schools, Terri also enjoys writing and speaking to offer encouragement to women in an effervescent, humorous way. Visit her Web site at www.ignitethefire.com or e-mail her at terri@ignitethefire.com.