Dana McDill and Jessica Frierson, October 2022
Much like life itself, the course of homeschooling is not about the destination but the journey. Reaching that moment when we present our child with a diploma may be the prevailing image when we consider a vision for our homeschool. However, the journey to get to that point is what will shape our child’s future in an even greater way.
Know Where You Are Going
When starting any new endeavor, it is important to know where you are going. At whatever stage of your homeschooling journey you may be, I encourage you to write out a vision for your homeschool. At first glance, the goal of homeschooling is rather obvious: educate my child. And while that may be the foundation of your goal, you will want to take some time to paint the broader picture around that. As you do so, here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Be purposeful and intentional. Consider the qualities that you want to work on strengthening in your child. Remember that a fulfilling life involves far more than having a successful career. Yet, many parents tend to focus on career-based skills and neglect the characteristics that define the kind of person their child will grow to be, such as building strong relationships, integrity, gratitude, perseverance, and faith.
2. Set priorities. Ask yourself (and your child) what the most important pursuits are for the upcoming year, then take a moment to think about how those pursuits fit into your long-term goals. Keep in mind that many activities will require a high level of commitment that may not be worth the time and effort invested. Sports, dance, debate club, orchestra, and equestrianism are examples of activities that our family has considered at some point. Some we determined were investments we were willing to make; others we decided were not priorities for us.
Another aspect of setting priorities is considering what will be most meaningful for your children to remember from their childhood, including their school days. Will it be a home that looks like a page from Better Homes and Gardens, or will it be memories of blanket forts and a teddy bear tea in the dining room? Some families prioritize travel to see our country—or even the world! – while others give precedence in their time and resources to activities that keep them tied down closer to home.
3. Don’t compare yourself, your child, or your homeschool to others. You can find inspiration in or learn some strategies from other families but be on guard against allowing comparisons to creep into your thinking. Know that what works well for one family may not work for yours. Beware of letting a picture-perfect image you may see on social media stir up feelings of inadequacy in your heart. Remember that no one does everything well.
4. Know your limitations. A new baby in the home, toddlers, outside responsibilities, and medical conditions – these are just a few of the myriad factors that must be considered. Don’t set yourself up for failure by stretching your expectations for yourself or your family beyond what is reasonable.
Once you have set your vision, you must work to stay on track. Just as with any journey, you need to stick to your itinerary. Distractions come from a variety of fronts. The Bible warns us that we have an enemy, Satan, who is busily trying to distract us from God’s purposes. One specific piece of our spiritual armor is for our defense against this very thing. Ephesians 6:16 instructs us to take up “the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Some of these fiery darts that he shoots at us include feelings of fear, regret, guilt, or of being a failure.
Busyness or outside activities can derail our well-laid plans. Having the wrong priorities is sure to get us off track before long. There are even times when we become our worst distractions!
You must ensure that these distractions do not take your homeschool down a sideroad. Put your blinders on; stay focused on where you are headed. Don’t settle for what is good; only do what is best – and that means best for your family. And when a distraction seemingly appears, submit it to the Lord. Ask Him to help you remove it or ignore it if it is not from Him. This is an important step. There have been rare times when what I perceived as a distraction was, in fact, a detour ordained by the Lord. However, there are far more occasions when the detour I took was nothing more than a setback of my own doing. Prayer is the key to discerning the difference.
Psalm 16:8 shows us what a lifeline the Lord can be for us: “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” When I begin to falter, I remind myself that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. Keeping my vision ever before me, as I give God the reins, I can trust that He will keep me on track for where He wants to take my family.
Your role as wife and mother must not get swallowed up by your secondary role of teacher. Seek ways to serve your husband and to have time alone with just the two of you. Your marital relationship is the bedrock of your family, and thereby, your homeschool. Cherish the time you spend with your children, whether around the school table or doing other activities together. These are precious days that will slip by faster than you can imagine!
One day, you will look back on the years spent homeschooling your children with the satisfaction of having completed a long and difficult task. The journey you will have traveled to get to that point will have taken you through valleys of despair, brought you to mountaintop victories, and jostled you over many bumpy roads. You will feel as if the world rushed past in a blur one moment and turned ever so slowly the next. Having a clearly laid-out plan for your journey will not only be the guidebook for you to follow to stay on track, but it will also serve as a record of the tremendous achievements you and your family made along the way.
Dana McDill is the wife of NCHE’s executive director, Matthew McDill. They live in Clemmons, NC, with six (ages 17 to 8) of their nine children. Their oldest daughter is married and their two oldest boys are in college. She has been homeschooling for 19 years. She loves to come alongside and encourage moms because she knows well the challenges of the journey. She doesn’t claim to be an expert because she knows God is still refining her! She hopes some of the lessons she has learned will help you!
Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE blog.
All photos by Jessica Frierson