I just spoke to a group of homeschoolers in Northern Indiana. It was a great meeting with lots of laughs. I could tell from the tears and nods of affirmation that what we talked about penetrated straight to the hearts of the moms in the crowd.
Afterwards, out by my book table, a group of moms descended on me like buzzards on a road-kill sandwich.
“So you think we should relax and not push our kids to excellence?” one of them asked.
“We can’t just let them be lazy and decide what they do or don’t want to do,” another added.
I let them fire their questions, and then I said, “I’m not telling you to do anything. In fact, I don’t care what you do for school. It’s not about what I want, or what my kids want. What do you think you should do?”
One of them said, “I believe all that you say about relaxing, and that each child is a masterpiece, but how do you live that out?” I know she was looking for some kind of curriculum approach that would fill in all the blanks, but I’m not about curriculum (although I could make a lot of money if I was).
“I’m not going to tell you how to live it out,” I said, “but I believe God will make it clear and that you probably already know how to do it, but you’re just afraid to do it.”
Just then, another mom reduced all the questions into a simple statement. “It would be easy if I lived out in the middle of nowhere and didn’t have to worry about anyone else.”
I’ve thought about that statement since our conversation. What that mom said is what I believe many other moms feel deep in their hearts. They know what is best, but the pressure that comes from others causes them to do something different—even something they don’t believe to be best or worthwhile.
So I’m going to try and help you do what you believe you should do.
Do you want a happy home, filled with happy kids who love you, God and all that you believe in, or a miserable home filled with unhappy kids, who may or may not be able to do algebra and who vow never to homeschool their kids? If you choose the first, then you’ll have to go against the flow. You’ll have to chart your own waters while others look at you and scratch their head.
You may have to endure looks of shock or silent judgments, not just from non-homeschooling friends and relatives but from other militant, homeschool nuts. You can’t live a life of freedom and joy by trying to please others. It just doesn’t work. So buck up and quit making choices based on what others think, say or do.
Second—Chart your course!
With a pen or pencil, divide a piece of paper into four columns. At the top of the first column write Essentials. Under that heading list all the subjects you believe your children need in order to function in the world. At the top of the second column write Desired. Under this heading list all the subjects you’d like your children to know or be exposed to. At the top of the third column write Frustrations. In this column list all the subjects that exist in your present school format that frustrate either you or your children. At the top of the last column write Stupid Stuff. Under this heading, list all the subjects that you or your spouse think are a waste of time.
Third—Burn your ships!
Although Cortez may not have actually burned his ships to keep his troops from returning to wherever it was they were from, I like the idea of making it hard to go back. This is really an important step. I know too many homeschooling moms who know what is true but can’t ever get away from the things they hate because they don’t burn the ships.
So take the piece of paper that you just charted your course on. Now rip that last column off. You think these items or subjects are stupid and a waste of time, so get rid of them. Take this torn off piece and get rid of everything listed on it. That means if it lists a musical instrument, cancel your lessons and sell the instrument on eBay. If you listed something like sentence diagramming on this last column, then scratch it from your lesson plan. Do what you know to be best. Stop!
Now, turn your attention to the third column. Take a good long look at it. If these subjects or items are truly causing frustration, then do one of two things: either figure out a different way to do those things to eliminate the frustration and disharmony or cut them out and get rid of them. The relationships and joy in your home are much more important than the things that are causing the frustration and relationship breakdowns.
That leaves you with two columns. Now adjust your homeschool day to reflect what really matters. It’s simple if you will allow it to be.
Fourth—Circle up the wagons!
Since you don’t live in the middle of nowhere (unless you’re from Montana) and will hear others’ critical comments, make sure to have at least one like-minded friend who has similar types of things on her list. Then hold each other to your lists of what really matters. That circle of friends is like a circle of wagons offering protection from the flaming darts of the enemy.
Husbands, if you’re reading this, make sure you are one of those wagons reminding your spouse of what matters and what doesn’t.
I’m telling you, you’re this close to having the homeschool you’ve always wanted. All you have to do is—what you really believe.