Homeschooling is one of the hot topics in the headlines these days as parents face possible school closings, online only school, or a combination thereof. I know many of you are reevaluating your parental roles and having to make decisions you thought you would never have to make. Some of you are exploring what it means to “homeschool” for the first time. Current events may add a new twist, but the dilemma of how to parent and provide education for our children has been around since Adam and Eve, and we know how they must have struggled!
Forty- four years ago I got married. Two years later I became a parent. I was thrilled, yet panicked. Words from Deuteronomy 11:18-20 were seared onto my heart and conscience from the moment my firstborn was handed to me. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds, tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Powerful words of exhortation. How would I be able to raise a child? How to parent a child? How to educate a child? What an expectation from God! And me such a sinner!
I have a story and each of you will too. The gift of children gives us the tremendous opportunity to be a parent and to parent. Don’t get me wrong, I was overjoyed! The baby and preschool years flew by. What an adventure! Breastfeeding, potty training, bedtime stories, teaching nursery rhymes, singing, prayers; all of it was “good, right and salutary.” I hit plenty of road-blocks, but I prayed, read parenting books, asked advice, failed, repented and repented again. My vocation of motherhood was such a blessing.
Sending my oldest to school as a kindergartner was emotional but exciting for me. He liked school and was gone just half days. First grade became frustrating almost immediately. I noticed a decided change in my parenting role. It became more custodial. Our routine revolved around school; getting him up, getting him to school, getting him home from school, and then repeat. I felt that the school became the center of our life instead of the home being the center. I missed being the primary teacher and presence in their lives. It had all been so fleeting!
I usually laugh when people ask me how I decided to start homeschooling. I approached my dissatisfaction with school the same way I had faced struggles in the preschool years. I prayed, read books on learning, asked advice, etc. God answered these prayers in interesting ways. I had never heard of homeschooling. One day I heard educators Raymond and Dorothy Moore on Dr. James Dobson’s radio program, Focus on the Family. They were advocating for children entering school at a later age of seven or eight. They also encouraged teaching at home. My interest was piqued. Soon after this a friend of mine from high school, whom I hadn’t seen in 10 years, knocked on my door. She was handing out pro-life material. She had her children with her. They were school age and not in school. She told me she was teaching them at home. She gave me a book by John Holt called How Children Learn. She also recommended the book For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, the daughter of theologian/philosopher Francis Schaeffer, whom I had greatly admired for years. She described the very home life I envisioned and longed for. Her philosophy was very influenced by a woman named Charlotte Mason. I discovered that there were many people homeschooling their children in Europe and some even in Minnesota. I wanted this for my children. I knew that with God’s help I could teach them at home. I pulled the oldest two out of school in 1986. Homeschooling was not legal yet in Minnesota. We lobbied the MN legislature and a bill was passed. Nothing I did was perfect. I depended heavily on the library. There was very limited curriculum available at first, but I was finding my way. What a joy to have the opportunity to learn and grow together as a family at home!
What you decide to do as a parent really does matter. I believed then and I certainly do now, that God doesn’t ask us to do something He won’t enable us to do. If any of you know me, you know that my experience homeschooling had many bumps and harrowing bends in the road. Due to many different circumstances, mostly out of my control, we had some years at home, some in parochial school, and some in public school. God’s Word and love sustained and blessed us through it all. As you wrestle with your parenting and schooling decisions, remember that He is faithful; especially in “such a time as this.”
Kathy Anderson is wife to Tom, mother to seven, mother-in-law to seven, grandmother to 26 and two on the way!