Fall 2023, by Amy Sloan
My firstborn son graduated from our homeschool last spring. While I trust he will look back on his years of home education with joy, that’s a story he will, God willing, share himself one day. But there’s a sneaky part of homeschooling you may not expect if you’re just getting started: it’s not just the kids who are learning something in your homeschool!
As we approached our son’s graduation, it gave me time to reflect on how God has used homeschooling in my own life. I’ve learned so many things over the past twelve years! (Well, closer to eighteen if you start quibbling about grades and lifelong learning and kids who ask for reading lessons by age three, but I digress.)
I’ll warn you ahead of time, this list does not include homeschool curriculum or planning tips. It won’t tell you how to write a transcript or get your kid into college. It won’t give my tips for helping siblings to get along. (But if you find that out, let me in on the secret, okay?) Instead, I’d like to share three things that have fundamentally transformed my own heart as a homeschooling mom.
Family devotions set the tone for the homeschool family.
Is it strange to see family devotions included in a list of things I’ve learned about as the mom of a homeschool graduate? After all, it usually occurs in the evening after school hours, and I’ve never listed it on a transcript or homeschool curriculum planning page. Yet when we realize just how intertwined homeschooling is with family life, listing devotions begins to make more sense.
One of the great joys of home education, after all, is that there is no great divide between school and life. We’re constantly learning and making connections across subjects and experiences, whether it’s inside a textbook or while crammed together in the van for family road trips.
Our family has never seen Bible as a subject to be tacked on to the day or its verses to be sprinkled around a worksheet to baptize an otherwise secular topic. Instead, we see that everything we learn is under the lordship of Christ. This is His world, and we are learning His truth no matter what we’re studying.
Crowning our days with family devotions has allowed us to live out our worldview in an immensely practical way, embodying our theoretical philosophy. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Thus, all our academic pursuits are rooted in wonder and worship.
There were times early on when I occasionally wondered if we were being too intense about this whole family worship thing. After all, we’ve even been known to rearrange multiple schedules to make sure we fit worship into our day. Yet when I see my teen pursuing his own relationship with the Lord, I am convinced more than ever that keeping our family devotions as the absolute foundation of our family life is what grounded us all in truth. The devotions became the core around which our family relationships have revolved. In fact, when I think of our oldest child moving into adulthood, I think the place I may miss him the most will be in the living room while we worship together as a family.
Family worship has been the single thing that has been most significant in keeping us connected during the changing seasons of parenting and family life.
Starting the day together with truth and beauty is worth it.
During the first few years of our homeschooling journey, I struggled to fit my ideals into our daily reality. There were all these beautiful poems I wanted us to recite together, lengthy Scripture passages I wanted us to memorize, and read-alouds I wanted to share. But I didn’t know how to fit that in when we were often already more than a little grumpy by lunchtime! What a joy to learn about Morning Time and realize that we could actually do those delightful things first! Those early days with all of us around the table reciting “Death Be Not Proud,” “Ozymandias,” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay” are some of the most precious memories I carry in my heart from our years of homeschooling!
While my teen’s work and dual enrollment schedules (not to mention his strange obsession with sleep, ahem) meant we didn’t usually see him for Morning Time during his senior year, it only serves to reinforce in my own heart how precious those times together in all the previous years were! Even now, there are inside jokes and Shakespearean quips we exchange in the midst of ordinary life. I have these visions of future family reunions in my living room with kids and grandkids laughing as we recite “Casey at the Bat” or a bit of “Much Ado about Nothing” together. Can we make that happen, please, kids?
The beautiful ideas we’ve shared over the past decade have mattered. They’ve formed our affections and trained our minds, and beyond that, they’ve given us a shared family culture and deepened our relationships. Of all the homeschooling decisions I’ve made, starting our days gathering together around good books, beautiful poetry, and God’s Word may be the best.
Homeschooling has been as much about my own sanctification as it’s been about my kids’ education.
We often hear homeschool mamas say that they’ve learned more while homeschooling than they ever did in their own school years. As a second-generation homeschooler, I came into this homeschool endeavor full of confidence and bravado. I had received a glorious academic education, and I was looking forward to reviewing and revisiting similar glories with my own children—while avoiding all the mistakes made by past generations, obviously.
I didn’t think I had that much to learn. God, in His mercy, loved me too much to leave me in that perilous position of arrogance. Homeschooling has been full of joy and glory, but it’s been equally full of heartbreak, humiliation, and struggle. I wish humiliation wasn’t so frequently a step along the journey toward humility, but it seems my hard heart needs brokenness.
Would I still have chosen to homeschool if I had known how often a sword would pierce my soul? Oh, yes, indeed! Coming face to face with my daily need for Jesus and the toppling of idols of self-sufficiency—these have been painful, yes, but the temporary suffering pales in comparison to the eternal weight of glory!
Homeschooling has pushed me to my knees and forced me to unclench fists that so desperately want to hold on to my plans and vision for how things ought to go. I’ve been reminded to find my identity in Christ alone.
Our homeschool project has been all of grace, bringing to mind the words of the beloved hymn:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured–
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
Sin and despair, like the sea-waves cold,
Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater– yes, grace untold–
Points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
All who are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
Reflecting on Homeschool Graduation
When we customized our graduate’s homeschool diploma, we chose the seal “Soli Deo Gloria,” a further reminder that our homeschool telos is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We came together with family and friends to commemorate the ending of one season and the beginning of another at our son’s homeschool graduation celebration. He donned a cap and gown, and we celebrated his hard work, dedication, and years of learning. And my husband and I celebrated our hard work, dedication, and years of learning alongside our son.
If you’re a homeschool mama just starting out on this journey, I hope you are encouraged when I tell you it is all worth it. The tears and the laughter are all worth it. Keep persevering by God’s grace.
And if you’re a homeschool mama with the end in sight, I hope you’ll link arms with me as we laugh and cry and persevere together towards this particular end and the start of new beginnings by God’s grace.
“A little bit sad about the place we are leaving. A little bit glad about the place we are going. It’s a time of quiet wonder.” Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
Amy Sloan and her husband, John, are second-generation homeschoolers to five children (including a homeschool graduate), adventuring together in NC as they pursue a restfully-classical education. If you hang out with Amy for any length of time, you’ll quickly learn that she loves overflowing book stacks, giant mugs of coffee, beautiful memory work, and silly memes. Amy writes at HumilityandDoxology.com (where this article first appeared) and hosts the “Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology” podcast. Find Amy @HumilityandDoxology on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.