Another benefit of homeschooling is that it provides us, as parents, with a unique opportunity to prepare our children for "real life" by training them in productive labor. This just isn't possible in the traditional public school setting. Let's face it--in life we will labor. How better to ready our children for this challenge than to ask them to share in household work or to encourage them in entrepreneurial ventures?

Yet the most important conclusion we've reached about our schooling objectives reverberated throughout our conversation and re-solidified our commitment to our true priority in homeschooling: not academics, not life skills, not simply "sheltering," but, quite simply, living the Word of God in an authentic and joyful way so that our children will grow up embracing our lifestyle of faith.

While the net result of sheltering our children from some of the adverse philosophies and influences that are found in schools is certainly positive, what will ultimately please God the most is not that we simply remove these influences, but that we proactively equip our children to grow to love Him and abide by His Word. We can shelter our children from all of those "bad" things and still miss the mark if we fail to fill them up with all the good things. Consider the following Scriptures:

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, emphasis added)

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, emphasis added)

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

These are some of the verses that have directed our planning and preparation for our homeschooling regimen. What impressed us about these commands is that they are not prescriptive of what we keep from our children, but rather descriptive of how we are to actively impart God's Word to our children, both by instruction and by example. These verses (and others like them) should be at the heart of our homeschooling objectives.

We also noted that these passages do not reflect the compartmentalized academic curriculum that is common to schools and all too willingly emulated by many homeschooling parents. As a result, we have decided to move away from curricula and toward a life-skills oriented "program" of doing life together with God's Word at the center. Yes, we still use textbooks. Yes, we still have certain times that are set aside for "schoolwork." Yes, we want our children to achieve a certain academic standard. However, what we do not want is to end up sacrificing our children's character and their spiritual health on the altar of academic excellence.

Likely, all of us as Christian homeschoolers pay some lip service to offering our children a spiritual education. When we began to honestly assess our homeschooling materials and methods, however, we didn't like how we measured up, and we were forced to make some changes. Looking introspectively at what we'd been doing during the previous year, we found that we had, more and more frequently, simply brought some element of Bible teaching into our home education rather than integrating academics into our everyday Biblical living. It wasn't that our children's spiritual growth and faith were not important; in fact, we would have said they were essential. However, the curriculum approach to education had truly trapped us into a more rigid academic focus.

Thus, another change we've made is to not have a "Bible curriculum." While we will occasionally use Bible study materials or take part in a group study, that's not our typical method of growing in God's Word. We read the Bible daily (both independently and as a family); we seek God in prayer for guidance and direction in our reading; we delve deeper by using concordances and dictionaries; we challenge each other with thoughts and questions; we enjoy speaking and living God's Word to the best of our ability. This is what we want for our children. We don't want our children's faith to become just another academic subject, or something to check off in a daily assignment book. We want it to be what they live and breathe.