Fall 2019 / Amy Sloan
There is nothing like being a parent to make you realize just how hard your own parents worked to raise you into a (semi) well-adjusted adult. It’s only as a homeschool mom that I have begun to appreciate how much I owe my own homeschool moms. Yes, moms—because not only do I have a personal experience with my own wonderful mother and her homeschooling, but my fabulous mother-in-law was also a homeschooler.
They were both within that first heroic wave of homeschool pioneers. Their supplies and curriculum were limited. They somehow still managed to educate six children between the two of them, mainly without YouTube or Google. The two of them are and were completely different in so many ways. But without doubt, my homeschool now owes so much to both of their homeschools.
Three lessons from my mom:
- Classical is timeless.
My mom was essentially classical before it was hip, cool or had a trendy label. The opposite of an ages and stages approach, her approach used the humanities as the core of our academic adventures. We studied history biographically and chronologically. We delved deeply into the riches of original sources. We memorized large chunks of Scripture and (later on) catechism. We even studied Latin!
When I was a teenager and thought that I knew everything, I remember regretting that I hadn’t been drilled with a bunch of facts and dates. From my months of reading and becoming an expert from all the new cool books on classical education, I now know how I misunderstood the grammar stage at that time. Now that I’m an adult and realize how little I actually know, I am filled with such intense gratitude for my mom’s vision for raising a human being in the light of God’s Word and through the riches of a liberal arts education.
- You can sit on a book, but you can’t read a chair.
This is one of my most favorite mom-isms. My family never had fancy furniture, but we had shelves brimming with well-read treasures. Our entire home overflowed with books from my earliest memories. We read books aloud together constantly, both for school and pleasure. When we traveled as a family, we listened to hours of audiobook. I still fondly remember returning home from a long trip in the wee hours of the morning. We all rushed inside to pile on my parents’ bed and finish the last CD of Treasure Island, before we had even unloaded the car! And beware the siren call of the library book sales and used bookstores! Our whole family knows the thrill of finding a longed-for treasure in a dusty, forsaken pile of books at the back of an antique shop! We were taught to treasure books over stuff and raised to know the delight of reading.
- Ebullient enthusiasm is catching.
Perhaps ebullient enthusiasm is a bit redundant, but it’s hard to imagine how else to describe the vivacity and infectious delight with which my mom approached all the subjects, almost all the time. G. K. Chesterton once quipped, “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.” We never had time to grow uninterested, because Mom had personal enthusiasm for learning new things herself that radiated to the rest of us. Whether we were crying over a novel, discovering reasons behind a math rule, or waxing doxological over the intricacies of science, we always knew that learning was something worth loving.
Three Blessings from My Mom-in-Law
As if I were not already blessed enough by the educational example of my own mom, I married a man whose mother has truly become a second mom of my heart. I have been heavily influenced by her homeschooling style through the recollections and reminisces of her son, John.
- Her son.
Ok, don’t laugh at me. But seriously, my biggest debt to my mom-in-law is that she raised a fabulous son who cares about our family and about how and why we educate our children. In fact, John had his own personal vision for educating our future children even before we were married. While many struggle to get on the same page with their spouses, I am so grateful for our predominant unity in the essentials. The ease of achieving this unity was possible in large part, I believe, to the example set by John’s mom. Plus, she just raised a really great son in general: a man who loves Jesus, loves his family, and is my best friend. For that alone I will be forever indebted to this dear lady. I want to remember that I’m raising up potential future spouses, too!
- Her consistency and faithfulness over perfection.
Perhaps the most transformative thing in my own approach to homeschooling has come from hearing of the consistent faithfulness John’s mom maintained in their school life. She managed in her home and inculcated the desire in her children for a disciplined, self-controlled approach to education and family life. She created regular plans and stuck with them, modeling for me the beauty of routine and order. She encouraged independence, persistence, and hard work. She taught her children to be faithful in their daily callings. Consistency is the hardest aspect of our homeschool for me. I naturally love the big, fun, splashy things. (Don’t get me wrong, the splashy things are equally valuable in their proper place!) But I have learned that there is such a peace that comes from not worrying about whether I’ve picked the right, ideal, or best curriculum. The greatest impact is achieved when we just get up each and every morning and do the next thing.
- Her love for God’s Word.
Instilling a fervent love for God’s Word in their children is something both my moms did very well. But I mention this here because it is one of the top things John always mentions when discussing the things he’s thankful for about his own mom. Indeed, the love for the Bible and Bible memory that Mom encouraged has been tremendously formational in John’s life. Thus, it is something that is also integral to how John views our own goals in education. Just as it does not profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul, so it would have been mere vanity and striving for the wind had Mom managed to get all the academics right but ignored the Truth on which it is all founded!
I realize that many of you do not have fond memories of your moms for various reasons, and it can be challenging to hear sappy stories and memories about mothers. I am earnestly sorry for your hurts. I pray that this article can bring encouragement as you think about how you want your own children to look back on their education one day. You can make decisions now that will affect how you will be remembered in the future.
Most importantly, I just want to reassure all of you that the three of us (my two moms and I) would laugh maniacally if someone said any of this sounded so perfect! Neither of these lovely ladies is perfect, and their homeschools certainly weren’t either. But doesn’t this illustrate why we need the gospel, after all? The good news is that our gracious God takes bent twigs and flickering wicks and uses them for His glory and His children’s good! My moms are beautiful “plantings of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Is 61:3). Understanding how God can use bent twigs and flickering wicks is of such profound encouragement to me as I remain deep in the trenches! God is taking all our unique abilities and failures as homeschool moms and forming a beautiful tapestry to display His splendor, not our own!
Our Quirky Homeschool Collage
By God’s grace, John and I have taken these lessons and many others from our moms as we have formed our homeschool. We’ve created a funky collage with elements from our homes of origin, new homeschool mentors, and our own quirky perspectives on life. Our homeschool doesn’t look exactly like either of the homeschools from which we came. I am not exactly like my mom or my mom-in-law in personality or educational style, and our day-to-day style of educating reflects these differences. But I am even more convinced each year that most things that arise organically within our education, or bring joy and peace to our homeschool, owe so much to these two women: my moms and my mentors.
What lessons do you hope your children remember from their homeschool mom? Head to HumilityandDoxology.com/Greenhouse and let me know!
Amy Sloan is a second-generation homeschooler (by grace alone) to five children ages four to fourteen. They adventure in Holly Springs. Follow @HumilityandDoxology on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and HumilityandDoxology.com