A View from Halfway Down the Road
- 2009 10 Aug
I sighed with relief as I put the finishing touches on my planning list for my daughter’s 7th grade coursework. It looked like we were pretty much on target for where I’d hoped we’d be in our homeschool plan. As I thumbed through my notebook, I realized in astonishment that we were halfway through our homeschooling journey—already! It seemed like we were just working on phonics and 2 + 2 = 4, and now suddenly we would be studying the intricacies of debate and the complexities of pre-algebra.
Halfway down the road. It’s been an exciting, challenging, ever-changing adventure that I had no idea would be so rich. How faithful God has been to meet our every need and to broaden my own horizons into areas I never dreamed. What an honor and a privilege to be part of this world-changing movement!
Maybe you’re at the beginning of your homeschool journey and are wondering how it is possible to do this for one year, let alone twelve. Maybe you have been at this a few years but are in one of those seasons of difficulty or discouragement that come to all of us at one time or another. When I first signed up for this trip, I was so grateful for those homeschooling pioneers and veterans who had done this before me and left a road map to follow. Now I’m a bit of a veteran, too, so from this viewpoint, I’d like to offer some encouragement that may help you on your journey. Mine is a testimony of God’s loving leadership, enabling, and attention to every detail and need—and He’ll do it for you, too.
Off to a Good Start
At first, I had never even considered homeschooling for our only daughter. You know, the socialization issue—how fair would it be for her to be stuck at home with just me for 12 years? And besides, it seemed like an impossible undertaking. But God used the steady persuasion of a dear friend who homeschooled her children to finally turn my heart. “You can do it!” she challenged me over and over again. Could I really? The clincher came when I heard about support groups and what they could provide. This was the balance I felt we would need, and timidly I ventured a toe into the water.
Wondering how to begin, I went to my first used curriculum sale. I’ll never forget the scene that met me: rows and rows of book-laden tables tended by ladies just like me—and children. Nice children. Helping their moms, laughing, polite, wholesome. Tears sprang to my eyes, and all I could think was, “If this is what homeschooled kids are like, I want to do this!” In the goody-bag handed to me at the door was a catalog for the curriculum that was to be a perfect match for my love of books and history.
Next on my list was finding a support group. I prayed for guidance, and using the directory on the state homeschooling Web site, I discovered one close to home. I was soon talking to the leader on the phone, peppering her with questions. “I know you haven’t begun homeschooling yet,” she said, “but bring your daughter to the preschool gym class and see how you like it.” We did, and as they say—the rest is history. We’ve been part of that same group for nine years now, and not only have we enjoyed a host of activities and wonderful friendships, but I’ve had the joy of watching these precious kids grow up together and make memories to last a lifetime. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect social environment for an only child.
The Learning Curve
We settled into a comfortable routine, just having a lot of fun with a hands-on and good-books approach. My counselors—the homeschool veterans in their books and magazine articles—urged me not to try to duplicate traditional school but to get down to the heart of real learning through classic read-alouds and living books, math in real-life experience, nature walks, field trips, and lots of discussion. This was school? Not like I had known growing up! Our dinnertime talk with Daddy about our day usually included a remark from me: “Honey! You’ll never believe what we learned about today!” One day my daughter looked at me seriously and said, “Mommy, I think you like school better than I do.” It was true.
Even though we had a wonderful curriculum, I began to add extras—a workbook here, a special project there. The problem was, I wasn’t eliminating anything to accommodate the new additions, and pretty soon I found our days on overload. I had to learn that if we were going to add a special display on Mexico for a geography fair or a unit study on the Iditarod, we had to scale back on something else. “A mile wide and an inch deep” was not my educational goal . . . so I needed to reevaluate my priorities once again.
One day in the middle of a month loaded with lots of running and outside commitments, my daughter said, “Do you realize that I have no time to play this week? By the time I’m done with chores, school, piano, and everything, it’s bedtime!”
I sighed. I’d done it again. Filled our schedule with so many good things that we were homeschoolers who weren’t home very much! The things were wonderful; we’d just said yes to too many of them. This explained the frustration I was feeling with our schoolwork—making slow progress and not getting done what I had hoped. So we trimmed what we could from our schedule, and I lightened our studies until some of the commitments had been met, determined that I would guard our energies and home life more carefully.
Sometimes a book or program just didn’t work, and we would have to drop it. My frugal side protested the waste of money, but the veterans were right—not everything is going to work, and that’s just a fact. Better to get the right materials that work for my student than push on with something problematic and make both of us suffer. I learned in practice the truth of the advice that there is no one-size-fits-all for every kid, and sometimes it takes trial and error to find what works.
One of the challenges that confronted me when we got into longer school days was housework. My Proverbs 31 woman standards for a sparkling clean home and creative, nutritious meals were just not realistic in our homeschooling lifestyle. That was a hard one! I learned to buy food in bulk, cook ahead, and freeze meals for my busier days. My crock-pot became my best kitchen friend. And creating a simpler menu eliminated a lot of planning time that I needed elsewhere. I found that a clean-as-you-go philosophy helped keep our week’s messes from demoralizing me completely by Saturday. While it was embarrassing to have guests see the dust and disorder sometimes, this freeing quote from another homeschooling mom put it all in perspective: “Did you come to see me or my house?”
I was learning one of the cardinal rules of homeschooling: Be adaptable. Life has a way of throwing us a curve sometimes that may require a fresh approach. I saw this in action when a friend lost her voice for six weeks due to strain, so she and her two daughters learned sign language. What seemed to be a huge roadblock to their school turned out to be a whole new learning adventure. As I’ve had my own share of curves to deal with along the way, I’ve laughingly adopted this proverb, passed on to me by another mom: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken.”
Trouble Spots and Detours
One day, on absolute overload with too little sleep, too much to do, and nothing going right, I assigned my daughter some seatwork and dragged off to my room. Throwing myself on the bed for a nap, I burst into exhausted, self-pitying tears. This is too much! I can’t do it! God, can’t you see? I’m at the end of my rope! I wanted to sleep for a year. I wanted to go away somewhere very far—alone. Then, as I lay there wallowing in my tears, a thought intruded. Wait a minute. I can’t do this—I don’t have time to cry!
While I can laugh now looking back on that rough day, it sure wasn’t funny at the time. Discouragement and exhaustion are two very real enemies we homeschooling moms face. The dozens of hats we wear, the 24/7 demands on our energy and resources, the unrelenting do-the-next-thing, and the fact that the dishes will be dirty again in a few hours can make you cry in despair, “Stop this merry-go-round! I want to get off!” I had to take a break and regroup, maybe load a picnic up for the two of us and head for the park. The Lord reminded me time and again that He did not call me to do something He hadn’t equipped me for! Each day I could learn afresh that my weakness was His opportunity to show Himself strong on my behalf.
Sometimes it was really big stuff that sent us off into the ditch. Without warning, a few years ago a major illness struck me, keeping me at minimum functionality for many months. We did school on the bed, simplified our schedule, gratefully accepted the kind offers of help from friends, and learned in a new way the value of simplicity. The Lord brought me through that difficult time with a fresh appreciation for His incredible faithfulness.
Just as He provided so beautifully for everything else on our homeschool journey, the Lord brought me a special blessing in the form of a prayer partner—a good homeschooling friend who also felt the need for someone to support her in her efforts. We agreed to pray every week by phone and soon began to see very specific answers to our prayers. Not surprisingly, the weeks we didn’t pray tended to be bumpy and problematic, convincing me more than ever of our essential partnership with God in this undertaking. This weekly appointment is still on my calendar today, assuring me that I’m not in this alone.
Ready for the Second Half
I sat spellbound with hundreds of other homeschoolers one summer at our state conference, listening to one of the early founders of the movement. As he told of God’s miraculous intervention time and again, His help in creating good state laws for us, and His granting of favor in high places, I was moved to tears. “I’m here to tell you that we achieved none of this in our own strength or ability,” he said. “We were David facing Goliath. But the difference was—God was on our side. This is His work.”
What a wonderful reminder. The challenges, battles, and discouragement they went through to stay the course until the job was done spoke deeply to my heart. My own homeschool journey has been a mirror of that in microcosm—struggles, setbacks, victories, and wonderful joys. Remembering that this is His work reminds me that He gives us both to will and to do His good pleasure.
So, my friend, I encourage you to trust the Lord with your own homeschooling journey. You’ll find it the adventure of a lifetime! We’ve made it halfway through our own journey, and now the second half beckons invitingly, “Come on, you can do it!” I know now that I can—with God in the driver’s seat.
Wendy Dellinger and her husband, Matt, are in their eighth year of homeschooling their 12-year-old daughter, Laurie. They make their home in the beautiful foothills of the Colorado Rockies. Wendy loves books, tea parties, anything out in God’s great creation, and homeschooling. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug ’09 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Visit www.HomeSchoolEnrichment.com for more information.