The Daily Bread of Homeschooling



It happens every few months or so.  I hear about a new math curriculum or read a beautiful blog post about literature based learning or see yet another parent intensive (but oh so tempting and fun!) learning activity pinned on Pinterest.  The doubt tries to wiggle its way in and my confidence in what we've been doing can begin to crumble.

They're doing something better.
That curriculum will make it all easy!
Self, why don't you do all those fun science experiments with your kids?
You've never even HEARD of most of the books on that list of great books, let alone read them. What in the world do you think you're doing teaching these kids?
Why don't your kids know that (insert random educational fact/topic here) yet?!?!

I'm getting better at ignoring the voices.
But sometimes, I admit, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that the curriculum and educational method they'd be receiving in an institutional setting around here would be worse than what even I am doing.  And sometimes I get angry that I don't know these things that it seems every other good homeschooling mother knows intuitively.  Great books.  Obscure poetry references.  How to diagram a sentence.  (I still don't actually know what that means.)   Oh, crud, history.  Why didn't I learn this stuff?

Of course, I could do intensive study into All the Things Your Children Should be Learning in Homeschool (and I've done a bit) but dinner.

There are times when I am confident in our curriculum and the way my kids are learning.  And there are seasons or sometimes just days or moments where I am not.  I think that's okay.  It's okay to reevaluate what is working and what is not.  It's a prudent and humble thing to be willing to change things up as needed.  Provided, of course, that you don't lose your mind or your peace in the process.

Once upon a time I was desperate to choose a program that we could start when my oldest was of Kindergarten age and could be our family's program forever and ever amen.  I just wanted to pick the best already designed program out there and never have to think about it again.
  My oldest was just a baby and I remember talking with some homeschooling moms at a park date.  I mentioned that I just wanted all my books to look the same, be the same size, and be nice and organized on the shelf.  Oh, and have desks.  We must have the desks.  (Obvious high educational standards.)  My friend laughed and said, "You're totally going to be a Seton mom."  Sounded good to me even though at that time I had no idea what a Seton was.  Fast forward eight years and ends up I don't own and have never owned a book from Seton.

What happened in the meantime is that God intervened.  And when God works, it's not all nice and neat and prepackaged on a shelf.  At least not with me.  He asks me to live life and trust Him, disordered shelves and all, pulling and dragging me out of my comfort zones.  He tells me that this homeschooling thing is HIS work, not mine.  And we are going to do it His way.  He has called me to do this work and He will provide the resources necessary to complete it well.
And, yes, He needs to remind me of this truth over and over and over and over.

I don't necessarily like that.  I want to know what the plan is and feel like I have it all under control all the time.  But when I look back, I can see that He has continually provided the right books, extracurricular opportunities, and support that I needed right when we needed it.  (Oftentimes it's even in the form of that new math curriculum, that inspiring blog post, or that super fun activity from Pinterest.)  I don't have a clue what our homeschooling will look like in five years but I do know that He will provide and that He has proved over and over that He is worthy of my trust.  For some people, God pulling them out of their comfort zone and asking them to trust may look like moving toward that pre-packaged all-inclusive program.  The important thing is, He's in charge of both.

The more I looked into curricula, like many, I realized I wasn't satisfied with any of the programs on their own and I begrudgingly began to piece things together that worked for us.  I have had to come to a gradual acceptance that my books won't match and I might have to switch programs from year to year, child to child.  I've had to learn to trust that He will provide the right resources at the right time.  And I've had to learn to trust that He will make up for all that I am lacking.  And as I look back I can see that He has always always provided for our homeschool.  Whether it was a semester of trying this or an opportunity for lessons for this child placed right in my path or providing just the right books for a steal at that random garage sale I just happened to stop at, He has provided and provided well.  Because He cares and He loves and this homeschool here?  It's His.

Here's what I want other homeschooling (or thinking about homeschooling) parents to know:  If He calls you to it, He will provide for you, too.  He will.  I promise.

You don't need to know it all.  You don't need to have your homeschooling act all together in kindergarten and have a detailed map of how it all will work.  You don't need to know what calculus program you will be using for high school when you're simply trying to teach first grade.  You'll figure it out when you get there.  You don't need to worry that your kids are not doing All The Things.  It's better that they don't.  Really.  No, really.  You don't need to label yourself a sports family or a dance family or a science family or a whatever family.  You don't need to observe every liturgical feast with tea and a homemade dessert.  And you don't need perfectly arranged books on a shelf.  It might not be what you pictured homeschool to be, but it will be GOOD and RIGHT if it is His.

If He has called you to it, He will provide.  Not always years, months, or even days beforehand but He will.  Sometimes it's a day to day, moment to moment exercise in trust as He doles out what you will need just for that day.  Sometimes it's through some books passed down by a friend or the lady at church who offers to teach your kids something you don't know.  Sometimes it's with grandparents willing to take the toddler once a week or the blog post you happened to stumble upon.  Sometimes it's the perfect app to help your child get that tough concept or the field trip organized by a friend.  He provides.

This homeschooling gig is a lesson in trust, in humility, in grace, in patience, and in pretty much every virtue there is.  It is a lifestyle, to be sure.  A lifestyle that forms us as parents and as a family, helps us to grow in relationship with God and just so happens to also teach our children their multiplication tables.

A few of the (many) lessons I've gleaned in these homeschooling years so far:

DON'T think that just because you question your curriculum or even your qualifications that you are not supposed to homeschool.  Every mom has those moments or even seasons of doubt.  That doesn't mean you completely ignore them, of course, but don't buy into thinking that doubt means that you aren't supposed to do this.  Every single person God has called to do something great has doubted their abilities.  It's actually a good thing.

•It's okay to not have it all planned out.  Do your legwork, of course.  Know what your major goals are for your children and your minor goals for the year.  Look for the best way to accomplish those things that will work for your family.  But it's okay if you don't know how you will fit in All The Things.  There is always next year.

  •Pray about your curriculum choices.  Don't fall into the lie of thinking that God doesn't care about such small things.  If your homeschooling girlfriend cares enough to talk about your dilemma of selecting this grammar curriculum or that one for ten minutes, then surely He wouldn't mind you asking His advice, too.  You are forming the minds of His children.  That's not too small for Him.  It doesn't need to be elaborate.  Just throwing up a small prayer for discernment and guidance as you're making your plans goes a long way when you factor in grace.

•Trust that He will provide.  Your children's education is important to God.  It is vital to them becoming the people He created them to be.  Their minds, after all, are a part of their souls! He has called you to give yourself to your children in this way and He will provide the opportunities and curriculum that they need and He will make up for the areas where you lack.  He will take the raw material you give, supplement it with an abundance of grace, and it will be enough.

•But with that said, don't sweat The (ever elusive) Perfect Curriculum.  Choose the best one you can that fits your family and go with it.  Your curriculum is not the be all and end all of your children's well-being or even their education.  Somehow we all managed to read despite many of us not having that PERFECT reading curriculum used when we were little.  It's okay.  I am also continually surprised at the things my children have learned that were never part of our formal curriculum but they learned through reading, life, and normal conversation.  Don't feel guilty if, especially in a bigger family, you can't cater to each one of your children's learning styles in every subject.  They learn from that, too.  They learn how to learn in different ways and how to adapt.  Know that your curriculum will never be perfect and your children will still be okay.

•Don't forget to give your children, this homeschool, to HIM.  Remember that these children, this work you're doing, is His first.
  
You CAN do this, homeschooling mom.  
More importantly, HE can do this.  He loves you and He loves your children, 
I promise you, He will provide.


27 comments

  1. I needed this - we still haven't started any sort of curriculum and it's so intimidating that I'm scared to research it! It's ridiculous, because I'm a public school teacher so you'd think I'm totally qualified for this, but it scares me to death!

    Also, every time the kids ask to do a science experiment, we do baking soda and vinegar. EVERY time. Sometimes I add food coloring to the vinegar. And they have a blast every time and it cleans itself up!

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    1. Oh my goodness, it is SO overwhelming at the beginning! I have no doubt you'll do just fine, though. Your son is clearly well taught already! And there's such an awesome community in the internet world to help you through it which is such a gift!

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  2. GREAT post!! LOVE the picture!
    This is my favorite: "It might not be what you pictured homeschool to be, but it will be GOOD and RIGHT if it is His." Amen to that.

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    1. A lesson I will have to learn about a thousand more times, I'm sure! Thanks, Theresa!

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  3. Amen, amen, and amen. This is one of the best homeschooling posts I have ever read. Truly.

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    1. Wow, well I don't know what to say to that except thank you, Sarah!

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  4. Well said, Mary. And great flashback picture!!

    For me I see it as a lifestyle choice. I don't want to replicate what's being done at school, so I try not to compare and see if my kids are at grade level. And even more important than learning reading, writing and math is teaching my children faith in a real way. Having them home with me is such an honor and great opportunity to guide their hearts towards Christ (and it certainly guides mine to Christ as well as I know I can't do this on my own!).

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    1. Funny, we both posted flashback pictures today! And yes, definitely a lifestyle. I hate that we have such strict reporting guidelines in our state. It makes it tougher to avoid the idea of grade level getting in your head.

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  5. Thank you Mary! I feel like this post could have started with "Dear Sarah". I was JUST having this conversation with your sister Kelly....maybe she told you....that is how spot on it is for me right now. I really think that I might print it and keep it as a reminder. I will be honest and admit that when I saw the title of the post, I was reluctant to read it because I am feeling so unconfident in myself and my ability to pull this off well. I see how other people do it and know that I can't do what they do. I feel like God is trying to tell me that I don't have to do it their way and that I will have my own way that uses my own strengths but then Satan takes one more poke at me and tries to tell me that I don't really have any strengths that will be good for homeschooling so this isn't a great idea. When I saw the title of the post, I thought you were going to write about the joys of homeschooling and I just wasn't sure I could take it today. (Not that you can't write about that.....please don't mind me and write about it ;) ) This post was such a blessing to me today. Thank you for taking the time to think it out and share it!

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    1. Dear Sarah,
      Thank you for writing this! You just made my day. And no, I haven't talked to Kelly lately! Props, Holy Spirit!

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  6. Great post Mary ! I, too, needed this reminder. Thank you !

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  7. Mary,
    You are not only a fabulous writer, but your thoughts are incredibly well-stated. I couldn't agree more that homeschooling is a vocation and your words so aptly note this as you wrote, "If He has called you to it, He will provide." Thanks for the beautiful and inspiring post!
    Lisa P. from "Book Club"

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  8. I love this, I was considering writing a post about it but yours says it all so well I may just link it!

    Homeschooling is definitely a pathway to sainthood. It drives me to my knees in prayer more than anything else and roots out tons of my own sins, including the ever famous "relying on myself" to pull this off instead of relying on God.

    And, yes, I do question whether or not this is really the path God wants for us, especially as we approach the high school years (gulp)! However, God has made it very clear this is where He wants our family so this is where we'll stay. Now I just have to figure out the whole high school credit system before 2014 and we're good.

    Although homebirths are hard to do in Illinois, my state rocks when it comes to homeschooling (and believe me, we fight hard to keep it that way).

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    1. Yup, we used to live in IL! I've always found it odd (but refreshing!) that in that state of all places the homeschool laws are so great there! I miss that a lot. Good for you for helping keep it that way.

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  9. Great post! I've been really nervous about homeschooling, but very much feel called to it. I just hope I can be a good teacher for my children.

    I'd love to hear about some of the resources you use, especially for the young children.

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    1. You are more than qualified to be their first and best teacher, I believe! I wrote about some of our curriculum choices for this past year at this post: http://www.betterthaneden.com/2012/08/curriculum-choices-2012-2013.html
      I'll probably also do another post in the next few months on our plans for this next year!

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  10. Great post Mary! I have learned to just "step away" from reading what others do and my own expectations as well. I think my oldest having a learning disability has been one of the greatest gifts for me on my homeschooling journey (I cannot believe I just typed that!) and that is because I have had to completely let go of everything I wanted or thought how it would look and just do what we could and what was best for each boy. Our main goal has always been to help get these boys to heaven and to love God. I remember meeting a homeschooling family in Williamsburg when we had just started homeschooling and the mom gave me some of the best advice. She said that as along as we committ our homeschooling to God, HE will bless it. And though we may lack in areas, or thing we are not doing enough, if you are following Him, that child will have the education necessary to become whatever God wants him/her to become.

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    1. I love this. I love that home schooled kids have a reputation for excelling academically in so many areas but it can also be a source of pressure, too. It's a good reminder for me that I want them to fulfill their OWN potential and plan and that their academic pursuits should always be secondary to character and spiritual progress.

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  11. What a brilliant post!

    I stumbled upon your blog just today! I think what is "hard" for us homeschooling parents is this "measuring up" to what "school" is and "should be" according to "SCHOOL" - that place that "most" kids go to 180 days a year on a fixed weekly schedule with a fixed curriculum, learning "appropriate" grade-level curriculum, testing for "standard achievement" and "socializing properly." What that little voice in our head likes to talk about are all those things - as if THOSE THINGS ARE the "measuring stick". Since when? And why? I think THAT is what we really need to "divorce" ourselves from as best as we can (and within our State requirements). It doesn't "really" serve our children well because some of the very reasons WHY we choose to homeschool is too NOT "be SCHOOL" - but to love God and the gifts and vocation that HE has given. If we feel we won't "measure up" we must take a step back and think "why"? "Success" is not graduating early or wining some award for one's perfect project or paper or reading at age 4 or doing Algebra in the 3rd grade. Success is loving life and all that God has given to us and to our children and enjoying every opportunity to LEARN ABOUT HIM AND HIS CREATION. THAT is what I find the MOST REWARDING in my life that I can share with my child - imparting GOD AND HIS CREATION and that love of learning, discovering and sharing in it WITH GOD. How marvelous this gift is from God that we have to be parents and to "co-parent" with God in this way!!!

    It is freeing to "let go" of all the "human traps" and "societal measurements" and allow God to "fill up our souls" with His creation and love!

    THANK YOU for your post, Mary!

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    1. PS - I also have a degree in Theology (M.T.S.)! :)

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    2. Thank YOU for this encouragement! What a beautiful reminder about what it REALLY is all about!

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  12. This was an excellent post, Mary. I'll have you know, your blog is part of what helped us in discerning whether we should homeschool. I hadn't seen this post until now, but wow, it is just what every homeschooling mom needs to read. God is SO good and yes, He provides so abundantly when we let go and trust!

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    1. Oh, Michelle, thank you so much for saying that. You are so sweet and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post!

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  13. I forgot about this post! And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I think I actually need to print it out, because I need this reminder a lot. Mind if I link to it during my series? It will tie in so beautifully...

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  14. Just saw this on the sidebar of your blog while I'm waiting for my SLOWER than slow printer to print our Easter message for the kids. Still love it just as much as I did two years ago! God bless you and your sweet family with a BEAUTIFUL Easter!!

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