by Mary Schofield
Member of CHEA of California Board of Directors
Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; And sinners shall be converted unto thee (Ps. 51:10-13 KJV).
With the close of the school year and the beginning of summer comes a time for evaluation of our home education progress. How did the year turn out? Did you finish studying all the subjects you planned to cover last fall? If your year was anything like my family’s year, you didn’t even come close. Even after many years of home education, I still couldn’t tell whether our problem was that I simply planned too much for one school year, or whether I needed to be more disciplined in sticking to a schedule so we can fit everything in. I suspect it’s some of both. Either way, I found myself sighing as the end of this year arrived, feeling a bit disappointed that we left so much material untouched again.
When the children were in the elementary grades, it was easier to say, “Oh well, we’ll work more on that subject next year.” Soon I was confronted with the realization that I was running out of next years. I found this frustrating and stressful. I have talked to many parents who also are frustrated. Some parents have an additional stress of teaching teens who would rather not be homeschooled next year.
What is needed, I believe, as we pack away each year’s books and finish up those last few assignments, is a time of prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and renewal. We need to take the time to confess our shortcomings as parents, as teachers, and as believers. We need to forgive our children for their shortcomings as well.
While it may be tempting to simply send the children “back to school” next fall, we cannot afford to do that without taking time for a period of intense prayer, preceded by repentance. We must not succumb to pressure that would cause us to seek our own worldly or fleshly answer to our failures. That pressure can come from our schedules, our lack of confidence, our relatives, our peers (yes, our peers!), our churches, our goals, or our children. How easy it is to forget that these same pressures working to turn us from homeschooling are often the very same ones that turned us to home education in the first place. I can well remember thinking that my schedule could not stand just one more school-related activity.
It seemed, when Scott was in second grade, that surely I could teach him at home in less time than it took for him to take the bus to and from school, and to sit at his desk all day, much less considering the precious time wasted on frivolous homework assignments. My schedule simply couldn’t handle school–it seemed as though our whole family began to revolve around the school’s schedule. How ironic that later I felt that I could do a much better job of homeschooling if only I could have a little more control over our schedule.
When we began homeschooling, I lacked confidence in the school system. I had begun to seriously doubt the ability of the school to provide my children with a strong academic education, much less a godly one. After a few years I found that I was plagued with doubts about my own abilities. It’s hard enough to wonder if we really did a good enough job with subjects like chemistry or composition. What really threw me was my lack of confidence in dealing with those troublesome character flaws. How can I teach patience when I have none left?
The issues that cause you frustration may be different than mine. Your pressures may cause temporary frustration or they may lead to a serious reconsideration of whether to even continue to homeschool. Either way, it’s ironic that outside pressures can cause us such internal grief. Why are we so easily depressed? Worse, why are we swayed over such a serious issue as our children’s upbringing? Didn’t we pray over this venture when we began? Assuming that you spent much time seeking God’s will when you began homeschooling, as my husband and I did, why question that decision now? Did you hear wrong? Have things really changed so much just because your children have grown older?
I am often amazed when I talk to teens who want to quit homeschooling. Their reasons vary, but I have never yet heard a teenager say, “It’s because I am sure that attending a campus school will draw me closer to my Lord than having my own parents teach me at home.” No, what I hear from teens is, “I want to play sports,” “I want to graduate with my friends,” or some similar childlike comment.
If you are reconsidering home education, think back for a moment to when you started. Your resolve wasn’t swayed when your friends thought you were crazy, when your own pastor questioned your ability, when your relatives worried and watched. You had prayed about this. You had sought the Lord’s instruction. You may have been nervous, even frightened, as you began, but you knew God was leading you and you knew that would be enough. What could happen that would change your mind?
Perhaps what is needed as this school year ends is a time of refreshment and renewal. Pack away those books and forget about what didn’t get finished this year. Take a long, hot bath. If you have lost track of your daily routine, begin again to have a short time of prayer and Bible reading each day. Plan a fun outing with your children to a never-before-visited place, so you can see each other in a new setting with a fresher perspective. Ask God to show you what has been accomplished this year that pleases Him. Confess to Him your weaknesses, your failures, and your frustrations. Finally, ask God to renew your vision and to realign your will to His.
Copyright 1996. Used by permission of the author. Originally published in the California Parent Educator News.
Mary and husband Paul began homeschooling in 1986.Their children graduated, married, moved into their own homes, got decent jobs, have great kids of their own, and are doing fine out in “the real world” despite the fears of homeschool naysayers. Mary wrote The High School Handbook based on years of experience, research, and prayer. She speaks at home education conventions, encouraging parents to seek God’s unique plan for their families. Mary has been enjoying her “retirement” from active homeschooling by continuing to serve on CHEA’s Board of Directors. She also found time to go back to school, get a law degree, and become an attorney, practicing in northern California and serving as “of counsel” for HSLDA.