by Karen D. Koch
I have made my share of mistakes in homeschooling over the years. I sometimes lament that I didn’t do this or that, or even that I focused too much on an academic area that wasn’t as necessary as I thought. I got a new perspective recently.
A few weeks ago, I was reading God’s Smuggler aloud to children #3 and #4, who didn’t remember it from the time I read it aloud to the older boys. In this exciting and inspiring missionary story dealing with Bible smuggling behind the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew recalled that he had made “mistakes” that later turned out to be divinely directed for something he could not have foreseen. I began thinking about that along with the verse Romans 8:28: “And God works all things together for good for those who love the Lord, for those who are called to His purpose.”
I tend to freak out when things don’t go according to plan, but obviously God’s plan is much better than mine. We don’t want to purposely seek to make mistakes in our homeschooling, but the older I get the more I’m convinced that our plan often has very little to do with God’s plan. When things aren’t going according to my plan, I need to step back and pray for God to reveal to me what I or my children should be learning in the situation. We never know when and how God will rearrange circumstances and use something we have considered useless or a mistake. That very mistake or rabbit trail may give us information, wisdom, or skill to manage something God has planned for us down the road.
A few examples of not-so-good things God used for good:
- The time I left the car headlights on, the battery died, but then my young sons learned how to jump-start the car. They have needed this skill more than once in the years since, including last week.
- The time I was so frustrated with my teen son in high school and his resistance to writing that I enrolled him in community college, secretly terrified he might crash and burn in college composition. He got almost all A’s, including one in college composition, and excelled in the new environment. I didn’t think he was ready, but he was.
- The time that I was so exhausted with the new baby that the three older kids learned to cook for themselves.
- The time I neglected swim lessons for years with my daughter because we had too many activities to manage. She was embarrassed to be put with little kids when she was 12, so I enrolled her in one-on-one lessons instead. She learned so quickly it was stunning.
- The time I dragged my oldest through an unnecessarily complex and detailed grammar curriculum in just third grade. He is currently 21, finished with his BA in Communications and working in a communication field. I saved that same curriculum for sixth grade for my younger kids.
- The time I was so exasperated with a certain unnamed child that I made said child copy a verse out of the Old Testamant about ravens pecking out eyes of mocking, scornful children. It wasn’t my best moment, but later we laughed and talked about it and realized it IS a lesson to go to the Bible for correction and direction. My choice of verses could have been much better, however!
- The time I kept giving spelling tests to my tearful six-year-old son who was struggling to read. I ditched the spelling tests permanently and concentrated on reading skills instead. He’s a great speller now.
- The times I stressed that the boys’ SAT math scores weren’t as high as they could have been, knowing it was my fault for not covering high school math adequately. Son #1 finished his BA math requirement all by himself and son #2 is majoring in finance in college (this term he’s taking accounting, finance, personal finance, economics, and religion!) Despite my deficiencies, they were able to learn what they needed, and became very self-directed in that area.
- The time I was eight months pregnant and sat in the front row of a crowded CHEA Convention workshop. My desperate bladder wouldn’t last, so I had to leave. It was too awkward to waddle back to the front, so I wandered into a workshop by Chris Klicka of Home School Legal Defense Association, which had a profound effect on me. Chris passed away less than a year later. I’m ever-grateful I was able to hear him speak just once.
If I were to go back and analyze every step and decision of homeschooling over the past 17 years, I think I would find hundreds of examples like these. I think you would, too. God is in this with you, homeschool mom or dad. If we continue to entrust ourselves to Him and seek His direction in our steps, He will not only direct us, He will salvage our mistakes and mis-steps in ways we could never imagine.
Karen D. Koch is finishing up her 17th year of homeschooling with four kids ranging from 9-21. She loves to read (especially aloud to the kids), drink coffee, think deep thoughts, and tend to her flowers. She finds excuses to visit her son who is three hours away at college in a different state. She has kept lists of books she reads every year since 1984.