As I stand on the verge of another school year, I can’t help but reflect on the incredible journey I’ve taken down this path called homeschooling. After a decade and a half, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown. It hasn’t been easy, but the things that truly matter seldom are. If I could reach back in time and send a letter to my younger self, the one standing uncertain, peering down this unknown path called homeschooling, this is what I would say:

Dear Younger Me,

Hey, you! You, standing there with your brood of young children, straining to see down this unknown path, debating whether or not you want to take this route. I know it’s a scary decision; you wonder if it’s the right choice, if you can make the journey, if you can handle what’s coming around the twists and turns. I know, because I’ve been where you are, choosing the road less traveled, doubting myself and my abilities, entertaining all the what-if scenarios. So, you’ll just have to trust me on this. Take the first step. Step out in faith and confidence in your decision. If others try to stop you, ignore them and walk on. Don’t try to explain it or defend it; just go!

The journey will be challenging, of course, but you already know that. What you don’t know is that the difficulties will come from heart issues, not necessarily head issues. Right now, you’re probably worried about the academics, the curriculum, and the testing. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: that’s the easy part. It doesn’t matter which method you use or philosophy you embrace. Anything you use diligently will work. Your biggest obstacle will be bad attitudes—theirs and yours! So, when those heart issues pop up, be ready to do battle. Right now, you think you’re simply choosing to home educate your children, but what you’re doing is entering the battlefield for their hearts and minds. In the process, your weakness and sinfulness will be exposed. When those days come (you know, the ones where everything goes wrong) forget what’s written in the lesson planner. Abandon the academics and deal with the heart. It doesn’t matter if your son can read three grade levels ahead, if your daughter is advanced in math, if he or she whines and complains, is disobedient, or has a rebellious spirit. The most important lessons won’t come from a book. Rather, they are life lessons learned as you walk along the way.

I also encourage you to enjoy the scenery along the way. Savor the days when they are young and nurture the natural curiosity that brings excitement when the whole world is brand new! Join in the joy of discovery in digging up worms, planting a seed, watching birds, and building forts. Bask in the glory of lightning bugs, stargazing, and summer storms. Education is so much more than paper, pencil, and books. As your children grow, you’ll be tempted to join in the rush of activities, sports, clubs, and co-ops. Choose wisely and continue to stay plugged into your child’s life and heart. As the teen years roll around, they may not need you to make them a sandwich, but they do need you to stay engaged and interested in who they are. Let them ask tough questions and don’t be afraid to let them see your own fears and struggles. Win their hearts in the small things when they are young, so they will trust you with the big things when as they grow older.

Last of all, determine right now to stay the course. Don’t let the inevitable doubts and fears cause you to turn around and look back, wondering if you’re too far down the path to turn around and go back. If you don’t hear anything else I have to say, hear this: it’s worth it! Don’t give up. The days are long, but the years are short. Suddenly you’ll turn around, and in place of a dirt-smudged cheek or a toothless grin, there will stand before a young adult looking back at you. In an instant, the years will seem to melt away. The tears will be forgotten, the hard days a distant memory. You’ll look on him or her with wonder and awe at the amazing work the Lord has done in that child’s life and how He used your humble obedience in shaping their heart and mind.

Until then,

Your Future You

Seasoned homeschool mom, author, and regular NHCE conference speaker, Amanda Garner and her family live, love, and learn together in Oxford, NC. Married for twenty-four years, she and her husband, Wes, have one homeschool graduate and three more to go! In addition to voracious reading, freelance writing, and teaching, Amanda also enjoys encouraging other homeschool moms via her blog: www.dropsofdelight.weebly.com.