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Micheleís Musings: Homeschool or Boot Camp?

by Michele Hastings

(Thoughts on homeschooling matters from a Christian momís perspective. Questioning my decision to homeschool and my approach to homeschooling.)

My elder son has just turned eleven. He is still barely functional in his reading and writing ability. Although he has shown progress from year to year, reading and writing has been a slow, tedious struggle for him. On the other hand, his younger brother is an excellent reader and his writing ability has greatly improved this year. My mom asked me recently if I ever question the path weíve taken -- both in homeschooling and in the approach to homeschooling weíve embraced. She wondered if weíd followed a more traditional route and our kids had been put in school, perhaps our struggling son would have had greater success with reading and writing.

Iíve wondered the same thing myself! My homeschooling journey has not been an easy one. Iíve been guilty not of sticking my head in the sand despite lack of success in certain areas, but of constantly looking back as Iíve been plowing. Jesus says in Luke 9:62 ďNo one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.Ē I know this verse is talking about following Christ, but I believe it also refers to perseverance in anything God calls us to.

I believe our family has been called into the homeschooling lifestyle. I am as sure of that as I am of my own faith. Iím not always certain why weíve been given this quest, but I know in the deepest recesses of my heart that we have been. Itís probably just as much for my growth and development as a Christian and as a parent, as it is for my kids. No other lifestyle I can imagine puts you in such close proximity that all faults and weaknesses are magnified instead of shoved under the carpet. Attitudes and beliefs, patterns and behaviors are quickly and painfully revealed. But sweeping these issues under the rug, although quick and tidy, is not the most effective way to handle such dilemmas.

Homeschooling is like Boot Camp: Intense, humbling and wracked with blood, sweat and tears. Nothing escapes unnoticed. Character flaws stare you in the face. The process either makes you or breaks you. So whether this lifestyle is just a way to refine our family or whether raising our kids free from societyís programming will allow them to unfold as God designed, Iím not yet sure.

Perhaps if our sons were in school, they would be performing at a higher level academically. But would they continue to be described by others who know them as secure and confident in their identity? Would they be the strong leaders and creative entrepreneurs that they presently are? I donít know. I am confident that by the time my kids leave home they will be much more than functionally literate and capable and knowledgeable in the other required subject areas. I believe that God already has a path prepared for them to travel. He has equipped them with unique talents and abilities and they are brimming with passion for pursuing their interests. It ultimately will be their choice whether they follow the path their Creator laid out for them or wander from our faith and choose other paths less suitable for them. We all have been given the gift of free will and itís up to each of us to either bend our ear to Godís call in our life or choose our own way.

Itís good to question. I have questioned. Our kidsí preschool years were filled with wrestling with my doubts and concerns about the homeschooling lifestyle my husband was eager to take on. Even in the first few years of homeschooling I was assailed with questions and doubts. Iíve read enough books and researched enough educational philosophies to be deemed an expert in the field of Home Education. Iíve also filled pages and pages of prayer journals and discussed by the hour the pros and cons, benefits and doubts about the path weíre walking.

Questioning oneís path is a good thing. It helps you define what you believe and why you believe it. Iíve really flourished in that area since coming to the Lord and even more so since trudging along the homeschooling trail. No longer do I conform to the masses, no questions asked. Not that Iíve become the ultimate rebel. Iím too intimidated by authority and too much of a people-pleaser to do that. But I do attempt to dissect the reasons for the path weíre carving out for ourselves.

Unfortunately Iíll never know what my kids would be like if theyíd gone to school along with their age-mates. We only have one life to live here on earth and from this vantage point, more than halfway to manhood, I have to confidently say that so far I have no regrets. Thatís not to say that our life is perfect and we have all the answers. But Matthew 7:7-8 says ď Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

ďFor everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.Ē

Iíve been doing that from the start. Our life is far from perfect. We sure could use more money. Our kids are far from perfect. Right now weíre doling out extra chores for whining and complaining. And we are certainly not perfect. The other day I sent something flying across the room during a temper tantrum! But I believe that if we continue to seek Godís will for our lives, He will faithfully show us the way. And His way will not disappoint.

At this point, if anything were to happen to me, I would be concerned about my kids and how theyíd cope if they had to enter the school system. Iíve been preparing them for life, not for school. But if I reach a ripe old age, or even if my life ended tragically right now, I wouldnít face the regrets many people have of not spending enough time with their kids. I know my boys better than anyone else does, besides God. And they know me. They know my weaknesses and they know my strengths. They see how I rely on God day by day. And thatís the kind of legacy Iíd love to pass on.

A Boy, a Tree and a Dream
Iím just kidding about "the dream" partÖBut I wanted to share an interesting situation that transpired today. I was waiting outside our local bible college this afternoon, while my husband Ted and Asher, son number two, perused the music department of the bookstore. I was content to relax and let my mind wander but my energetic nine-year-old, Tymon hopped out of the car and quickly decided to climb this old tree beside us. We get a kick out of Tymon because he is famous for not being capable of walking in a straight line to get from point A to point B. He always runs for one thing, scaling every wall or ledge in sight. Going for a walk with him is like taking an exuberant puppy out for a stroll. The similarities are astounding, with both darting to and fro, excitedly sniffing everything in sight!

His goal in climbing the tree turned out to be no easy task! He took quite a number of "runs" at it, attempting to get up the thick trunk, but was unsuccessful no matter how far back he started his run. I sat in the car watching him, absentmindedly amused at first, by his determination to triumph over this tree. Soon however, I was caught up in his adventure and began to pray that he would in fact find a way to accomplish his goal! One attempt after another failed as he approached the tree from different angles. I thought he would become discouraged, abandon his plan and find some other way to pass the time. I was wrong. I donít know where this kid gets his perseverance, but it certainly isnít from me. I happen to have an incredibly short fuse and the least little difficulty causes me to throw in the towel. But not Tymon. The challenge seemed instead, to fuel his determination. I watched, quietly amazed,as he threw his Jean jacket through the crook in the tree and proceeded to haul himself up the trunk by pulling his weight against the sleeves. That too, proved to be unsuccessful. However, his determination did not waver but seemed to grow with every failed attempt. I was silently cheering his efforts from my place in the car and knew, without a doubt that he would keep trying until he succeeded. He didnít disappoint, as finally he came upon an idea that I thought was sheer brilliance! He tied his jacket around the trunk and put his foot in the hood like a stirrup on a saddle. He had to attempt this a few times, "shimmying" the jacket higher and higher but at last he was able to hoist himself up to the crook where he perched himself proudly, grinning from ear to ear, his face moist and glowing, glistening with perspiration!

I reflected on the endless battles weíve had over the subject of Tymon learning to read. Year after year Iíve unsuccessfully tried to assist Tymon in this seemingly impossible task but this incident made me question my past tactics. I clapped heartily, laughing to myself as God once again reaffirmed to me the truth that even my "resistant reader" could and would accomplish ANYTHING he put his mind to!

Later, back in the car, Tymon was eager to share with us his experience and how various ideas had come to him about what to try. I was dumbfounded when I heard that the most successful attempts had been inspired by the "non-educational," purely-for- entertainment Disney video called MULAN. I shook my head bemused, and chuckled quietly to myself contemplating the fact that absolutely anything could be considered educationalÖand almost anything can be the raw material for another article!

Copyright © 2002 by Michele Hastings. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media