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Following the Leader
by Sherri Wilson Johnson
Isn’t it almost comical how dramatically contrary the plans we have for our lives can be to God’s plans? My original plans were to marry and have children, then send them off to school and begin my writing career in the hours they were away from home. If I had only known then what I know now.

In the autumn of 1996, God set in motion the plans for our family’s future, but I did not respond to His urging right away. In the Bible, Jonah knew what God wanted, but he also wanted his own way. He took the long way around in obeying God, and that is exactly what I did. God was gracious though and provided a way for me to see that His plans were best. Outside of my salvation experience, this has probably been one of the most spiritually awakening times in my life.

In October 1990, our daughter, Kayla, was born. Her brother, Seth, followed in May 1994. From the beginning, both of these little jewels were full of life. At nine months, Kayla was talking in complete sentences and asking questions about everything in her world. It was no surprise to us that, when she was four years old and ready for pre-school, she was already reading and was quite bright.

Seth was not as verbal as Kayla, but he followed closely in her footsteps. He was then, and has proven still to be, a kinesthetic learner -- a mover and a shaker. Constant motion was this boy’s goal from the onset of his life.

Kayla was such a smart student that her pre-school teachers suggested I not place her in five-year-old kindergarten the following year. Since her birthday was soon after the school year starts, she was a year older than most of the kids in her class. She quickly grew bored, and there was never enough to keep her busy. Had I been wrong in working with her from the beginning to fulfill her natural curiosities?

When I contacted the school board about placing Kayla directly in first grade the following year, the lady was quite discourteous to me. She let me know that they could not accommodate our needs and that we should find an alternative source of education. You can imagine how shocked I was! We could not possibly afford a Montessori School or private Christian School on one income. We had no choice but to send her to public, five-year-old kindergarten. Needless to say, we did not look forward to the year ahead.

I prayed that God would open the doors for Kayla to attend the new elementary school that was being built several miles from our home. I went to the Board of Education, filled out the proper paperwork, and waited. When I got the notice that she had been accepted at the out-of-district school, I was ecstatic. I was even able to meet the teachers and choose the one that I thought would best suit her personality. I was sure this was what God wanted.

When autumn came, we were so excited to begin “big school." It did not take long, however, for me to see that Kayla was again bored. She began to cry every morning because she did not want to attend school.

“Everyday it is the same. We have a letter of the day and a number of the day,” she would groan. Therefore, we continued to work in the evenings together. We were happiest this way.

At this same time, my husband and I were attending a new church and were growing, spiritually, for the first time in several years. We were becoming more sensitive to the world and the influences it has on children. This, in combination with the things we learned from Kayla’s friends at school, was very disheartening. We had never imagined raising children could be so difficult.

Deborah, our pastor’s wife, had become a dear friend to me, and I shared with her the frustrations we were experiencing. She homeschools her five children. I could see a peace in her, and I wanted to know more. I spent one morning at her home and watched how she schooled her children. I looked at her textbooks, and a twinge of excitement went through my bones. Was God calling me to homeschool my children?

During the depths of winter, it seemed that every day was an effort for us. My husband worked at night and, therefore, saw Kayla only on the weekends. I knew she needed to spend time with her daddy. She seemed to be losing her zest for life. She continually contracted strep throat and missed many days of school. Seth, on the other hand, was thriving because of the time we spent teaching him. He was learning something new every day, and he began to talk increasingly. Could it be this easy teaching Kayla at home too?

In the spring, I had to fill out the paperwork again to determine if Kayla could attend the out-of-district school the next year. I prayed that if God wanted her in school, he’d make a way for her to attend the school of our choice.

One day, after sending Kayla to school in tears and with a stomach-ache, I sat down and prayed that God would give me "a peace" about what to do. My mother had always been my strength through difficult times, but she’d passed away when Kayla was two, so I did not have her around to advise me.

“Oh God, if only I could talk to Mom. She’d know what to say,” I cried. Within moments, the telephone rang and it was my Aunt Dot, my Mom’s sister. She had become a second mom to me. We had only been speaking for a short time when she asked me, “What do you think of homeschooling?” This question was asked after no previous conversation about the subject. I was a little bit shaken by her question. “I don’t know. What do you think about it?” She replied, in her sweet manner, “I know that if I were raising my kids today, I’d homeschool.” This was an amazing statement! She had no idea that I had been praying just moments before about this decision.

That day, when I got the mail, there was a letter from the Board of Education stating that our request had been denied. Since Kayla had been absent so many days that year (due to sickness), they felt she’d abused the privilege to attend the out-of-district school. They even suggested we attend family counseling about the importance of school attendance.

I submitted to God’s gentle prodding at that moment. I knew in my heart that He wanted me to homeschool Kayla and Seth and had been urging me in that direction since pre-school. I am always amazed at how God pushes us to where He wants us to be. Putting aside my plans to become a full-time writer, we began in the Fall of 1997 fulfilling God’s plans for our family.

At times, the schooling has become a challenge for me. Deep inside, I often want to take the road I had picked out for my life. When tempers flare or strong-willed children resist instruction, the lure of "writing success" becomes tempting. I think about how much work I could get done if the house were quiet for six hours each day. No matter how difficult it gets, though, I can never forget the way God impressed upon my heart the desires He has for my family and me. I do not know how long I will homeschool my children. I have simply committed to follow God’s leading in that area and every other area of my life, including my writing career. SWJ