The Four "C's" of Home Schooling
- Friday, May 27, 2005
I gripped the steering wheel as a wave of panic washing over me. Had we ruined Amber's chances to go to college? Did she face a bleak future, unable to contribute to society because her parents insisted on teaching her themselves? Had we made a mistake in feeling God had called us to home school?
The doubt crept in during discussions with other parents at church a few days earlier. The topic had started out on shared feelings of stress and busyness but quickly moved into a defense of extra curricular activities, even though they consumed so much family time. "My child needs to be involved in the chess club, soccer team, band and newspaper staff to show his/her versatility on the college applications," was the consensus.
We began home schooling when our oldest daughter, Amber, was in third grade; she was now a high school freshman.
I recalled the conversation while driving my daughters to piano lessons and began to second-guess myself. Would Amber get into college? Would Taryn be a designer? How would we handle standardized testing and the SAT's? Were we raising social misfits, unable to fit with their peer groups? Then God spoke to my heart.
Who loves Amber and Taryn even more than you do? Who has plans for their lives? Who is able to accomplish those plans whether or not they participate in chess club? And aren't you just as busy and frazzled running from co-op science class, to piano lessons, to Scouting, to softball practice?
From that day on, I never doubted God's call to our family. My husband, David, never doubted. At the beginning, he was of the "if it's something you want to do, it's okay with me," camp. Over the first few months, as he witnessed Amber's transformation from unhappy and defiant to carefree and compliant, he became more involved. Although the bulk of the teaching remained mine, we made decisions jointly. He was head of our home and administrator of our school.
Now that we're "done" with home schooling, in the eyes of the state anyway, I have some hindsight about things we did right and lessons learned. I call them the Four C's of Home Schooling:
First, be sure of the call. Our family chose home education when the local public school became unacceptable to us, both academically and socially. When we moved to a different district, we considered enrolling both girls in school. The issues that influenced our original decision didn't apply anymore, so it must be time to go to school again, right? Wrong. We realized that God had called us away from public schools, and we'd be disobedient to ignore that calling.
Being sure of the call freed us from second-guessing the decision. We focused on doing our parts and we let God do His. I handled curriculum choice, lesson plans, and extra-curricular activities; David was in charge of physical education and accountability; God had all college entrance and future vocation issues. We believed Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
The second thing we did was to nurture and cultivate their dreams. Starting in sixth grade, Amber was adamant about going to Michigan State University. An excellent school, but a long way from our California home. We never did learn just what its appeal was; I presume the distance from Mom and Dad was a powerful lure.
We could have discouraged her for many reasons. But we made a conscious decision to let her dream. We believe it's better to have your own goal to achieve rather than one someone else chose for you.
Where there is no vision, the people perish, says Proverbs 29:18. To cultivate Amber's vision and ambition, we sent away for a catalog, ordered a Spartan pennant for her room, and encouraged her to watch the low temperatures reported in Michigan. When it came time to seriously consider colleges, MSU was still an option, but no longer first choice and ultimately didn't make it to her short list.
Next, be confident. Proverbs also says, Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established, (Proverbs 19:21). It is true God will accomplish His plan, but if that includes law school or medical school, we must give the necessary foundation in social studies or life sciences. Amber spent her summers abroad doing short-term mission work, preparing for her Inter-Cultural Studies major.
The explosion of the home education movement means more options are available than ever before. From co-op classes and enrichment centers to Internet courses and charter schools, there truly is something to fit every lifestyle, learning type, and budget. We took advantage of a wide variety of opportunities including co-ops, social and extracurricular activities, and community college courses. God provided the educational opportunities; we just had to make use of them.
Another aspect of being confident means keeping complete and accurate records of everything your child does in school. I bought books on record keeping and transcript preparation. As I read them, I wondered how believable a transcript would be if the admissions counselor knew Mom or Dad made it. It's taken very seriously. If you have the conviction to educate your child yourself, you must have the confidence to do it right.
Last, be content. It's a cliché, but these years truly do fly by. Make ice cream by rolling a coffee can back and forth across the back yard. Collect foliage for an autumn collage. Spend an afternoon cloud watching to teach the water cycle of evaporation and condensation. Don't let the pressure of goals and plans sap the joy from teaching a child the trick for memorizing the nines in the multiplication table.
It's been well said that time you enjoyed wasting was not really wasted. I used to feel guilty for reading fiction until I realized that after finishing a book, I felt refreshed. Now, I'm never without a novel.
Since identifying the four C's, I've known we were called to home school. This allowed me to cultivate my children and their dreams and gain confidence that God would meet their academic needs -- which made contentment easier.
Just a few years after that afternoon of doubts, I had the joy of standing with my husband on a platform and awarding a diploma to our first high school graduate. Amber continued her education at a Christian university, graduated, is now employed and a productive member of society -- all in spite of the fact that she was never a member of the chess club.
Carrie Padgett is a wife, mother of two home school graduates, freelance writer, and computer mahjongg-addict living in central California. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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