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"One-Hundred Thirty-Six Weeks Times the Number of Children Equals ______?"
by Barbara Smith
It will happen inevitably: your little boy lays aside his Matchbox cars and starts asking how much insurance costs; your little girl stops playing dress-up with your things, and develops her own sense of style. That blessed callow countenance recedes into the face of an inquisitive, determined young man or young woman.
Then you look over their homeschool curriculum, and start to wonder if you are giving them what they will need to compete. Can a home-grown highschool program provide the foundation your children will need, should the Lord tarry? If you haven't thought about this question, others have, and some kindly folks will not hold back from peppering you with several:
How can you give your child a high school diploma?
What does your child need that the high schools in the community
Haven't you got something else better to do with your time?
Have you taken leave of your senses?
Are your palms starting to sweat?
Answering Those Questions by Clarifying Some Terms
- How can you give your child a high school diploma?
First, parents *are* teachers. God gave us children to train, knowing our limitations, before the foundation of the world! God is sufficient in all circumstances. Therefore, He will not let us fail in the task to which He called us!
We may not be the best algebra or literature or science instructors in America, but we may very well be the best for our children. At a minimum, we can show our children what God can do when we pray before and during the lesson for grace and courtesy and knowledge. (James 1:5)
Second, a high school diploma is simply a certificate, that certifies completion of a course of studies, but it does not define education. Nor does it tell what children know, what they are equipped to learn, or what they will do with their knowledge.
Whether children graduate with a home school diploma, or the diploma of a famous prep school, it is their responsibility to show the real degree of their education when they take up employment or undertake a more demanding level of education. In the end, neither your endorsement as a home teacher, nor a conventional school's diploma proves that your child has been properly taught. It is their performance after school that counts.
- What does your child need that the high schools in the community cannot provide?
While high school courses at home resemble traditional school courses, they also focus on the needs of particular individuals -- not crowds of them. Parents who teach through high school enjoy freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to be our children's personal mentors -- something conventional school teachers cannot do with twenty or thirty pupils. So, if a tutor or instruction by a local college professor is best for a student, homeschooling parents are free to arrange for it. Nevertheless, homeschooling is not a magic wand; nor is it a supernatural shield. Like all educational modes, though, the student must want to learn, or they will not. God implants that desire, or it is not there. The first step for parents is to pray for God to plant a hunger to learn, so we have something to feed and water. If fear is spawning your interest in homeschooling your teens, the next step is quickly to take your fears to God. We must not homeschool because of "fear."
- Haven't you got something else better to do with your time?
This noxious thought usually flares up in the heat of financial crunches, times constraints insane arguments or other bitter disappointments, especially when these heartaches appear long- term. Christ may have wondered this very thing throughout His ministry on earth — so asking Him this question is wise.
He has been tempted in every way we have been tempted, and because He was perfectly human, He can sympathize with our weaknesses. (Heb 2:17-18, 4:15-16)
- Have you taken leave of your senses?
If you are shaking your head saying, "Yes, but, I could never . . ." you have taken the most important step in letting God prepare your child for His Kingdom. Will God not grant the parent — to whom HE entrusted the well-being of this child — the means and the methods to equip the child? Our enemy deceives us and our common sense doubts God. So, deciding to homeschool through high school based only on our common sense and personal comfort is risky.
We must first look with eyes of faith when we plan how to educate our children. If God leads us to homeschool — or to use community resources — God, let us "see" with faith how and what we must do! In our own strength, we cannot teach physics or English literature; no godly teacher relies on his or her wit alone to teach any subject. A godly teacher daily asks for the grace and ability to meet the student's needs, to impart an awe and understanding of God: in history, mathematics, science, language and civics.
Setting Realistic Goals and Sensible Objectives
The first goal then of teaching is stirring children to a lifetime of learning and doing things for God's glory, not simply pushing children through even the best books as fast as possible. This is not teaching them! The teacher who has a zest for God's word and His creation will spark inquisitive students.
The fundamental objectives in your home teaching should answer these questions:
What do I want my kids to know about God, His creation, and their place in it?
How do I want them to live?
Curriculum guides do not always answer these questions, so take some time and consider the answers and apply them to the life around the home.
Learning to Live with "Disappointment."
High school subjects are frequently abstract, complicated and downright difficult. The facts may not be all new, but the conceptualization often is. Brain cells — yours and theirs — may not be transmitting at optimal speeds. Distractions abound: chores, hormones, and other pressures. Fights, arguments, or apathy may disrupt the teaching. Undergoing spiritual challenges, home educators teach their most important lesson: we trust the God of the Bible. That means we must increase our understanding if we want to increase theirs. In this way our children learn that God is faithful to His people -- even in bitterest trouble.
Relying on God's grace, consider this an opportunity to set an example of a godly response. Impossible as it seems, in such conflicts we can say "no" to ungodliness and natural passions, and be self-controlled, upright and godly. (Titus 3:11-12)
Do You Hear a Swan Singing?
When we started homeschooling more than eleven years ago, completing a high school education at home seemed an unimaginable project; now it seems simply "routine." Today the quality of many homeschoolers' achievements and the creativity of their parents are proving that high school at home does prepare older students to function effectively in today's world, potentially better than conventional schools.
It wasn't until our oldest was in college, away from home, that I began to figure how to teach some tough subjects. I finally felt equipped to teach him the things I wanted him to know to succeed. When I asked him if we could back up and start over, he shook in his head in wonder, laughed and kept packing up his gear. With less than five months remaining on our wonderful homeschool adventure, I can say with absolute confidence: the prospect of teaching three, or four years of science, math and British literature, plus a foreign language should be scary. But trust me here, 136 weeks of school will flash by!
May I encourage you that if God is calling you to homeschool, the
diploma that counts is the one God writes on their hearts. (Proverbs
3:3) If my children know God, and know to trust God, they will have the most important knowledge available. They -- and I -- can confidently rely on God to supply the rest. (James 1:5)
© Barbara W. Smith 1999, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.
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