Saturday, January 10, 2009

Never Give Up!

Deciding to homeschool is a big step, requiring a mixture of faith, desire, and often a bit of the attitude that says, “We’re different. We’re committed. We’re a little crazy. Get over it.” For the vast majority of the time, our family and friends have been very accepting and supportive. Many of our friends have made the decision to home educate as well, and we are seeing the growth of a community of like-minded people - people with the desire to depart from state-funded education, and who are committed to the daily discipling of their children. Yes, it’s possible to teach your children to follow God while still participating in the local school district. My wife and I both spent all of our education years in public school. But our family is now going down a different path.

Twice a year, without fail, I get a certain feeling about the upcoming homeschooling activities. This feeling occurs about a week before school starts up again, either after summer or Christmas break. It’s best described as a feeling of trepidation mixed with a little bit of exhaustion. It comes over me when I start to think about the time and effort that will be required in the coming sixteen weeks or so. Make no mistake, my wife spends countless hours more than I do preparing, teaching, grading, and planning for our children’s activities. But for me, preparing for the two or three subjects that I teach our children consumes a great deal of the weekend and even the evenings when I come home from work during the week. And I have to admit to a little bit of weariness when the cycle gets ready to begin.

This feeling hit me last weekend as I was getting ready for the next two quarters. I’m teaching economics to two of our children, and boyhood/manhood topics and guitar to my son. It doesn’t sound like much when I write it down. But I have to admit that I had those weary feelings again, as I began to read and write out assignment topics for an economics book which I had not yet read. Sometimes I feel guilty that I have these feelings. But, at no time do I ever feel like we should put aside our commitment to home education. Homeschooling is not typically compared to washing dishes – except that you have to get to it at some point, and you don’t typically hire it out to get done. So, I spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon getting up to speed on economics principles, and preparing two weeks of assignments in the kid’s daily planners. At the end of it, I was tired, but began to get that feeling of satisfaction that accompanies the completion of an important task.

The reward came four days later. I generally come home from work in the late afternoon on Thursdays and the house is left up to me and my son (my wife takes the girls to dance class for a few hours that night). It’s our “guys night out” time, and we both look forward to it. After doing a couple of chores around the house, my eleven-year-old son and I started into the task of schooling. We spent time discussing the topic of completing meaningful work (how appropriate) and what it means to save up for hard times. He went through a Q&A sheet of his own creation in Excel and summed up the topic very well. Then, we moved on to the subject of economics where we had a great discussion. Our talk about the importance of living debt-free and how government bailouts might not work was far more than I had planned for. But he gets it, far more than I did when I was at his age. That gives me a lot of hope for his future – and mine.

Finally, we concluded by breaking out our bass guitar and drum kit in the basement and having a jam session, in preparation for both of us playing in the worship band on Sunday. It was loud, and fun – and loud. We had a great time just playing and singing and worshiping. Did I mention it was loud, too?

What’s my point here? I would hazard a guess that anyone involved as the primary educator of their children has these fearful, exhausted moments when it seems it would be easier to just stop and let things slide. Chances are, many people experienced this feeling in the last couple of weeks as they prepared to start a new semester at home. But this endeavor is not without an eventual reward. Proverbs 13:22 says “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children”. I see this happening in our household right now. My children have a deeper understanding about meaningful subjects – more than I ever did at twice their age. And even more, they are learning to pass these things on to their own children, perpetuating a cycle which I pray will remain unbroken until the end of time. If you are a homeschooling parent, and you have occasional feelings of despair, take heart. It’s all worth it in the end.

Now, I need to go set a reminder in my calendar to read these words next August 15th.

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