After moving from the best school district in our state back to my hometown, I had no qualms about the school decision. I know most of the teachers and administration and knew Abby Kate would be loved on and looked after, as well as receive a great education. However, I also knew by the end of the first week, the majority of her innocence, that which we have worked so hard to protect up to this point, would be gone. Something we could never, ever get back. If you had told me 10, heck, even 5 years ago I would homeschool, I would have literally laughed out loud. Even the summer before Abby Kate was to start school, I would have not considered it. However, with a husband in law enforcement and the hard reality of a culture that is promoting truths so far from the Word of God, I just knew in my heart my sweet little five year old was not ready. Period. I know she will enter the world at some point, we just wanted her armed with truth and discernment. I wanted her to have wisdom and to have undivided time for us to invest in her a value system of worth. Daily. Moment by moment. "Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up." Deut. 6:7
So fast forward to now...
I cannot tell you how much the decision blessed our family. I spent a lot of time in the fall constantly feeling like I was failing. After reading so much about homeschooling, it seems to be a common thread homeschooling parents feel. However, not unique to homeschooling parents but one teachers feel as well. Our fall was jammed packed with a new baby, a huge move, etc...but we still spent time doing school and having so much fun learning. So I decided to break down my greatest joys of homeschooling and why we have decided to stick with it. We have agreed to pray each year seeking God's direction for the school situation with EACH of our children, and be completely open to what He has in store for each of them each year.
1. Not missing a thing...I would say the thing that I have loved the most about homeschooling is not missing a thing in Abby Kate's life. I cannot imagine her being away 90% of her day, 5 days a week. I do believe God's purpose is to raise and equip them to leave, however as a culture, I believe we are forcing our children out the door way too early.
2. Seeing her continue building precious, priceless relationships with her brothers... Part of the loss of innocence by going to school, I believe, it the loss of being surrounded with all age groups. By placing 18-25 five year olds in one classroom for 7 hours a day is limiting to say the least. It usually results in the child coming home and thinking their younger siblings aren't as fun or of value because the do not act and think like their friends at school. I love that Abby Kate still considers Bo, her two year old brother, her best friend. Yes, I am VERY proactive in getting her together with children her age, almost on a daily basis, but continue to watch and reinforce that her brothers will be friends for LIFE. And her behavior shows she believes this...and it makes my heart so, so happy.
3. Having a front row seat to watch her learn and truly comprehend new concepts...This year, probably more than any other we will have, has been fascinating for me to watch. Though her Daddy has a degree in elementary education, I have not had an opportunity to see this age group truly learning. Watching her learn to read, write, get numbers, fractions, etc...has just blessed my heart so much. It is a feeling like none other to see the light come on and for her to truly GET something I have taught her.
4. Being able to truly disciple my daughter...Growing up in a traditional, baptist church, I always thought evangelism was going door to door and handing out tracts. I have never heard the term discipleship and had no idea what that type of ministry was or looked like. But after attending college ministries that were discipleship based, I found my passion. I later went on staff full-time with a discipleship ministry and found the one thing I could do in this life that every, single time I felt God's pleasure. It was as if, for the first time, the light went on and I realized relational ministry leads people to Jesus just as the Roman Road tract would. And it made me so, so happy. And free. I love that Paul says in 1 Cor. "Follow me, as I follow Christ." Which is such a sweet, simple definition of evangelism. It is exactly what we are called to do each day with our children. Show them Jesus through an intentional life. And I love that I am still getting to do this full-time, all day, every day. (With plenty of need for grace and asking forgiveness EACH DAY...from both my kids and my Savior)
5. Being able to still be the guardian of her gate... I love that we still get to guard her heart and mind. I love that we can stand at the gate and let the things through that we have prayed over and deemed worthy to pass through. Yes, things get by. Yes, we won't always be able to do this fully, though as long as they are at home, I believe we are called to on some level. Especially Daddys. But I love getting to do this for my six year old. Just an example....over Christmas, we went on a family date to eat and then to the movies. I have done my research on the movies showing and picked one I thought would be most appropriate. Then I bought her the cd for her stocking. It was the kids version of several VERY adult songs. And she loved it. She literally had it playing almost all the time in her room. Until we had a few things arise that I knew needed to be addressed in her heart. And I prayed and God revealed I needed to take that cd away. I was dreading it so. SO God put it in my heart to burn her a cd with all my favorite Christian songs on it. I made her a special little cover that had the verse, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45 And she was thrilled. She now plays that cd as much or more than the old one and she is filling her heart with GOOD things. Not to mention I had to ask her forgiveness for letting something through the gate that was not the best for her.
6. Love that most days, SHE initiates learning...I really struggled through the fall feeling like we weren't spending enough time on school. We had about 15 minutes of sit down learn time and after research and reflection, so much of a traditional school day is filled with play learning, standing in line, etc...and so I realized we were doing just fine. Then a step further, I realized one day while she and I were laying on the trampoline during naptime, we heard a woodpecker. She wanted to know all about it so we went inside and read about woodpeckers. She learned the types we have here and all about there eating, habits, habitats, etc...and I realized through how interested she was and how she has shared the information she has learned several times that INITIATED learning sticks so much better than required memorization.
7. Though this has been said countless times by other homeschooling parents and research, I love that she is getting a personalized education with her teacher's undivided attention. Very simply, this is probably one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling. Period. There is no one on earth that is going to care more or desire to invest more in my own child than me. Teachers have the incredibly hard job of having to attempt this with 20+ students. Cannot imagine. We still pray so hard for them and the incredible task they have before them.
8. Love that she is learning daily responsibilities of the home...One thing that a sweet friend that homeschools shared with me long before I decided to was that she loved that education also incorporated the sweet tasks of daily home life. Having Abby Kate see me mother, care for the home, plan and order our days is a sweet advantage. In a culture that is so fast, always away from the home, eating out and racing from one activity to the other, I love that she is learning the time honored privilege of motherhood.
I literally could go on and on. Ultimately, I feel beyond blessed to be able to teach my children. I love this aspect of our life. We still pray and know someday, Abby Kate and our boys may be students at a school. But right now, I love having them learning right by my side....