One of the factors that terrified me most thoroughly about homeschooling my kids was the daunting task of how to choose a homeschool curriculum. Not only would I have to decide on which curriculum to use for each subject, but I also must choose which curriculum to use for each subject. For five kids. And there is a vast world of homeschooling curriculum out there. A wide world of publishers in a galaxy of textbooks.
I took on this challenge with determination and enthusiasm. I was pumped. I had a sharp #2 pencil with a perfectly formed pink eraser and a new spiral-bound college ruled notebook in red: The Power Color. I was ready. I was eager. I was born for this.
Fast-forward twenty minutes and observe the scene.
Me: My hair disheveled, one sleeve pushed up, the other stretched out and low, crowding my palm and getting smudged in the lead scribbles on the now battle-worn color of power notebook. I’ve stopped writing completely at this point and I am instead looking from the computer screen to my notes, back to the screen and then again to my notes.
I am no longer sure of what it is I was looking up in the first place and the matrix I so carefully began to outline has become the unruly scratchings of a madman. A madmom.
I wonder to myself during an isolated moment of lucidity: How could I ever hope to teach them everything they need to know if I am no longer confident that I am able to match their socks?
Here’s a little nugget of advice for anyone considering educating their kids at home: Get help. I’m not making a statement regarding your mental fitness. I am telling you that you should get help from someone who has already been down this road and has experience with many teaching options: The good, the bad and the clunky.
I’m fortunate that I have such a vast and rich pool of resources from which to draw. My church is absolutely infested with home schooling families. The good ones, too. I didn’t just call up one friend for help, I cornered at least three different women in the lobby at church.
I was prepared to be persistent and take a strong and relentless stand, but each of them seemed happy to help without having to employ even a single coercion tactic.
Sitting on the floor and surrounded by shelves jammed with books, my friend asked me what I hoped to accomplish by home schooling my kids. I knew I should have a thoughtfully worded mission statement or maybe even a manifesto penned and ready to dazzle, but let me share with you what my real answer looked like:
My List Of What I Hope To Accomplish By Homeschooling My Children
1) To not fail.
I hope to accomplish non-failure. If I can get through this first year and then look back on it without the overwhelming desire to bury my face and a litany of pitiful ramblings in the pillow, I’ll count it an enormous success.
My friend had some other suggestions of what I may want to consider. Such as, am I trying to prepare them for a four year university? I asked myself if my focus would be on academic enrichment, or will my desire to impart my faith and values to my kids be the lesson plan darling with academics taking the passenger seat?
I kept this in mind while she presented me with a few options. Somewhere in the middle of perusing a marked-up math book and with the memories of my own school career (that felt an awful lot like drowning) coming to the surface, I came to realize that my goal for my kids these next years is to teach them how to learn.
I want them to know how to know things. I want them to be resourceful and observant and curious. I want them to feel prepared and confident as they step out on the playground, the board room or the mission field. I want them to do their best and to be content with the results of their good efforts.
They don’t have to know everything, but they will know how to learn anything.
In the end, I chose textbooks and guides that would highlight my strengths and abilities. After juggling the schedules of six handfuls of teachers and working around their strengths and abilities, all the while having the ever-present awareness that I was always right at the brink of Total Parent Failure, I am looking forward to setting myself up for success instead of feeling set up for failure. I chose textbooks that work best for my kids and for their teacher. Me.
In the end, I believe that as the mother of these kids who God has entrusted to me, I am uniquely qualified to instruct and train them. Never am I more qualified and prepared to do what He has called me to do than when I am walking closely with Him. The more like Him I become, the more closely I resemble the woman He made me to be.
I made my final choices for math, language arts, science and history but even with one more task accomplished, I am keenly aware that even when the whole list is populated with lined-out words, my preparations are not done.
Psalm 127:1 says:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
The builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
The guards stand watch in vain.
All my plans and work mean nothing unless God is leading the way. God is doing the work and I labor alongside. I know that any success I have as a parent or teacher springs solely from the grace of God and I know that the failures that are waiting for me are covered by that same grace. There’s a reason we call it amazing.
So, like my kids, I don’t have to know everything, but I know who holds all the answers and all my days. He is so, very faithful to me and to my little family. I want to teach my kids to know that, too.