Fall 2017 / by Diane Helfrich

Are you a new homeschooler beginning your first year, questioning if you have made the right choice for your family? Maybe you are moving into the high school years for the first time, fearing that you will ruin your child’s chances for good colleges. Perhaps, you have homeschooled your other children, but the child who is coming of age has learning disabilities, and you know the journey will be different this time. Your high schooler may be going into concurrent enrollment at the local community college, and you question not only his readiness, but yours. Possibly your senior is graduating next spring, and either this is your first venture into letting go, or your last; and you are now facing the upcoming empty-nest, feeling tugs at your heart and questioning who you are now that your household is changing. These are some of the situations that can create anxiety and make you question your choices. I would like to share my experiences to give you encouragement!

Isaiah 42:16 begins with, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.” I remember well the first year we decided to homeschool. I had no idea about curriculum or how to structure our day. I went to the NCHE homeschool conference in Winston-Salem and dashed through the three days, running from one speaker to the vendor area for ideas and then dashed back to another speaker. About mid-morning on Saturday, I felt saturated with ideas and overwhelmed by the choices. I was swimming in advice from all corners. If you saw me that morning, you may have thought I resembled the deer in the headlights, and if you asked me a question, you may have wondered if anyone was home in my brain! Nevertheless, I made my purchases and went home to pore over them and try to schedule our year. As we began, I realized homeschooling was a different environment from my previous corporate life with a department full of adults. Even though I knew I had organizational skills, I was frustrated that the things I wanted to accomplish didn’t fit the schedule I’d set. I had little idea what to do with my third grader!

In looking back, I see now the God-connection that led me to a homeschool group: a co-op that met weekly. We started with one class that met every other week for one semester; we were real joiners! What happened, however, was that I listened to parents around me and soaked up conversations. I started getting to know parents I respected. As we became more involved with classes and other activities, those parents became my friends. As we had kids in classes together, and as we discussed things on the playground and in the halls, God provided the exact mentors I needed to proceed with more confidence. The parents who had become friends had children older than mine, and the transitions into high school and college came with enlightening discussions that prepared me.

We had always bathed our school in prayer, but I could not always see how God was working until I could look back. You are not alone. God has you in His palm, and He will guide you, provide for you, and answer your questions. Not every day is easy—it wasn’t in corporate America either! The darkness does meld into light, and you often don’t even realize it until you stop to see what you have accomplished. Isaiah 42:16 goes on to say, “I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.” If your darkness level is high, remember that the sun comes up every day. It will not be dark for long. That is a certainty of nature!

Let’s talk about making the “rough places smooth.” In your school, you will inevitably run into the season when your child does not want to do what you have planned—maybe, the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s personality or learning style. Maybe, something traumatic has happened in your family—cancer, death, a family move, a hurricane that brings damage and the loss of school materials. Perhaps, a new baby arrived at your house and schedules are up in the air. We were not immune to those things in our school, and sometimes, when I look back, I marvel that we kept going. What I learned, however, was that fighting the rough places wasn’t my job. When I could submit to the flow, I found that even if we didn’t finish what I had planned (yes, or sometimes even start what I had planned), the kids turned out fine. Sometimes, I think they turned out fine despite me! If you look at that statement, you unavoidably conclude that this was a process less about me than I ever could have imagined! You see, it’s God’s job to make the rough places smooth, the crooked paths straight, just as He makes the sun rise every day. He promises us that, and His promises are perfect. Your schooling may not look at all like what you envisioned, or it may reflect very clearly your vision. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you trust the process and keep focusing on the love of learning in your household, on excellence, and on broadening horizons. What matters is that you trust the process that is bigger than you!

The last statement in this Isaiah verse is, “These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” I try to make my promises perfect, both to myself and to my kids. I am human, and mistakes are part of my existence, often too much so. God, however, is perfection. Trust your blindness, the darkness, and the rough places to Him. He said handling them was His job, and He meant it. When things are unclear or unsettling, know that God’s promise is for you, and He will not forsake you. One day, you too will look back and see that it was much less about you than you expected—and your kids are just fine!

Diane Helfrich is a veteran homeschooler of fourteen years. She now serves as the NCHE development director. She is active in her church music program and loves teaching confirmation to middle schoolers at her church. Outside of church, she has taken up playing the ukulele. She is married to newly-retired David. They have two children. Ian is working on a Ph.D. in economics at Georgia Tech, and Anna is a case manager for trafficked and abused children in Yakima, Washington.