Spring 2022/Rachael Carman

Twenty-six years—that’s how long it’s been since we began this journey. And this May, we’ll cross the finish line. We’ll graduate our youngest. In the early days, it seemed like we’d never graduate the oldest, but somewhere in the middle, time sped up, and the end is in sight. I cannot believe it. All those veteran moms who told me to enjoy every moment because it would go so fast were right. I didn’t believe them when I had seven under thirteen. At that time, it was like our days were in slow-mo. The days and weeks lasted so long—the progress was slow, the chores were endless, and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was out of sight.

We began this journey through a series of circumstances that we would never have chosen. Thirteen days into the kindergarten year of our first child, we found ourselves in a disturbing situation. We thought we’d done everything right. We’d bought a house in the best district and gone to the meet the teacher orientation meeting. But the system failed us. Long story short, at the end of the first day of school, our son wasn’t put on a school bus. And on the second day, he was put on the wrong school bus. He had a tag pinned on his shirt with “Bus 809” printed on it, as prescribed by the school. We’d done everything we were told. As a result of this situation, we did the unthinkable. We pulled our oldest son out of the local public school.

Force
We started homeschooling because we felt forced, much the same as many families who are starting now. Maybe that’s you. You don’t want to take on such a large commitment, but you feel like you have no choice. Perhaps like me, you’ve made fun of or criticized homeschooling. I did. And I didn’t do it behind their backs. I did it to their faces. To my shame, I told the moms I knew who taught their children at home that it was dumb. All these years later, as I think back on what can best be described as my ignorance, I didn’t know one thing about why they were doing what they were doing. I didn’t get it. Guess who I called when things got tough in our first year? Yup, those same moms I’d criticized. I’d been the dumb one. They were so kind to me. The years that followed were both bumpy and blessed. It’s like we’ve been on a roller coaster ride with an occasional break on the lazy river.

Fear
Maybe you find yourself stepping out to homeschool because of fear. You are concerned about what’s going on in the government schools—the bullying, the indoctrination, the sexualization of children. You’ve discovered that the schools of today aren’t the same as the public school you attended, much less the school your parents attended. The revelation of the proliferation of anti-Christian influences in the curriculum has shocked parents. The normalizing of anti-American, anti-biblical, and anti-family instruction, as well as the influence of negative socialization within school hallways, during recess, and in the locker rooms, have many parents looking for alternatives to their local public school.

No one likes to feel forced to do anything. And fear as an initial motivator isn’t a bad reason to begin, but neither force nor fear will carry you to the finish line. We felt both when we started, but what emerged as we continued was much more meaningful and sustaining: faith.

Faith
God used a frustrating situation that forced us to begin this journey, and drew us to Himself in ways we would have avoided. Before beginning homeschooling, I limited myself to doing only those things that I was proficient at doing. I participated and contributed when and only when it was easy for me, and I knew I could excel. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy a good challenge, but it means that I limited myself to my wheelhouse. I didn’t venture far from my comfort zone. Homeschooling wasn’t in my set of skills.

That was a huge mistake. The walk of faith is all about stepping outside of ourselves, taking God’s hand and heading out on an adventure with Him. That’s what we did when we started homeschooling. Instead of joyfully taking God’s hand, I think He did for me what I used to do with my willful two-year-olds. He took my hand and insisted that I follow. So I did. But also like a two-year-old, I didn’t want to follow. Are you like this too? I get it.

But here’s the deal. It’s been the best adventure ever. I’m so glad, so grateful for His patience with me. I’m grateful for His providential orchestration of the forced-into-homeschooling-adventure, along with all of my fears of totally messing up my kids. I would never have chosen this path, never. He knew that. But He also knew that I desired to grow in my faith and my relationship with Him. So the God of the universe, the Good Shepherd, the Lord of hosts, the King of kings, my Savior and my God, took me on an adventure, “He made me lie down in green pastures. He led me beside still waters, He restored my soul. He led me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I did not fear for He has been with me.” (Psalm 23)

Bottom line: I don’t know where you are in your journey or why you’re thinking about stepping out into homeschooling. Maybe you aren’t sure either. Maybe you’re finding yourself in a place you never would have imagined, and as the dust begins to settle, nothing is familiar. Welcome to the club. Don’t panic. You’re not alone. Take a moment and catch your breath. Though this path isn’t worn by the masses, it is well-trodden, and there are many who are looking forward to helping and encouraging you along the way. I’m only one of them.

I’m going to be at the NCHE conference this year as a workshop and keynote presenter. I’d love to meet you and hear your story. I’d love to encourage you face-to-face. Come to the conference and be encouraged. Listen to others who are farther down the path.

Dare to join in this adventure of faith!

(C) 2022 Rachael Carman

Rachael Carman is co-owner of Apologia. As a mom to seven and “Coco” to three, she’s a twenty-six-year homeschool veteran—still energetic about affirming, encouraging, and equipping the next generation of families. She is a respected speaker and author of a Bible study titled The Word in Motion. Connect with her online at RachaelCarman.com, Real Refreshment – The Community, and the Let’s Talk Homeschool podcast.