"These words, which I am commanding you today; shall be on your heart." Deuteronomy 6:5

In our fourth year of home schooling, I faced something I had feared for a long time. How would I ever be able to teach three young children at once? I was certain that my weakness as a mother, my lack of educational training, and the normal stress of life would somehow leave us falling short of our goal.

Our older son was in 3rd grade, struggling daily with math. Our daughter was having trouble remembering her short vowels when "normal" children should be reading. Our youngest, Jared, was just beginning kindergarten, and I had elaborate plans to provide him with the best start yet in home schooling. This had to be put on hold as I became overwhelmed by my inability to keep up with everything. Keeping Jared busy with projects became a challenge. In desperation one morning I handed him a stack of easy-to-do puzzles that would take some time. Hours later he proudly showed me his handiwork, each puzzle assembled side by side along the floor. I praised him profusely, while in my mind I couldn’t help thinking, "I hope he can make a good living doing this, because I may never get a handle on this home- school thing!"

When our three children reached their middle school years, 7th, 5th and 4th grades, I finally acquired the environment that I thought would contribute to my being a better home-school mom. We had the big table, the large chalkboard on the wall, and a separate place to spread out, with bookshelves and colorful posters on the walls. School days always began with our Bible class. However, these classes became longer and longer as issues arose and we got into long discussions. I would get caught up in sharing my passion and my heart with the children. They discovered it wasn’t hard to get Mom off the target and delay doing math or reading! One day after an especially long class discussing dating and its new alternative, courtship, I realized once again that I had cut our academic time too short. So we did our best each day, but the nagging suspicion that it wouldn’t be good enough was still there.

I remember another day years later when school had to be put on hold again for some reason. Jared returned from wandering the hillsides near our Montana home after a torrential downpour. He reported on all the flooding in the area and the direction the water was flowing. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty because we should have been doing our math and reading history. I tried to comfort myself with the idea that he could be a meteorologist.

My heart continued to long for my children to accomplish great academic feats. By the time Jared was finishing his senior year and the first two had graduated from home schooling, it occurred to me that despite my best efforts the days I had envisioned never really arrived. As I looked back on my 16 years of home schooling, I tried to recall what I had taught our children.

If asked today, my children would most likely tell you that they learned a little math, a little history, and that they can read well. They know what the periodic table is and are familiar with the parts of a cell. They will, however, be able to tell you more about the "real" education our family experienced. It was the working together, moving together, laughing together, struggling together, and living together that we did side-by-side every day that provided them with the essential tools for life. They recall the Bible classes when I spoke openly and honestly of my mistakes and joys. They remember discussions on social issues while traveling, and Sunday evening prayer times over heart issues. They remember that despite our weaknesses as parents, our lack of educational training, and the normal (and sometimes excessive) stresses of life, Rick and I worked to teach them three things: Glorify God in all you do, serve others, and grow to be like Christ in all you encounter in life. (See Chapter One of The Peacemaker by Ken Sande.)

We taught them this because above Math, History, Literature, or Science, the most important lesson you can offer your children is how to live at peace with God and with others. We can only live at peace by striving to do those three things: glorify God, serve others and grow to be like Christ. These should be our daily goal.

Yesterday, after a couple of years of college, Jared, our youngest, headed for boot camp and four years of active duty in the Air Force. This child who assembled puzzles and studied water flow on the prairie will now serve his country to keep the peace. Although my mother’s heart worries, I will be trusting in God that whatever Jared encounters, whatever our other children encounter, they will seek to glorify God and serve others, and they will let the experiences of life be opportunities to grow to be like Christ.

Be encouraged. Despite the academic struggles you face in home schooling, God has a plan for peace in your life and in your home schooling. Academics are very important, but the most important lessons you can give your children are the essential tools to live in peace with God and others. These are the words that will be written on their hearts!

© 2002 Peacemaker Ministries

Rick and Annette graduated all three children from home schooling. Currently their oldest, Jay R., attends Moody Bible Institute. Carrie Jean is the Annual Conference and Events Coordinator for Peacemaker ® Ministries. Jared, after attending community college and a year at Patrick Henry College, joined the Air Force in response to the events of September 11th. He started boot camp January 22, 2002. Rick and Annette live in Salt Lake City, where Rick serves as the President of UTCH, Utah Christian Home School Association. Annette is the Home School Specialist for Peacemaker Ministries, an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically.

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