In our new state of Colorado, we have to take standardized tests every odd year. Because my kids are not used to testing, we purchased the practice test first so that we could go slowly and understand the test before taking it. We also took the practice as opportunity to study the things the kids didn’t know, using dictionaries and other helps to look up terms. As one of the kids was looking up, “inflectional morpheme,” I laughingly blurted out, “Look at us! We are studying what we need to know by taking a test, instead of taking a test to see what we know! We are homeschooling backwards!”
And it made me pause and think how many other things we have done backwards in our homeschooling.
A Backwards Choice
We didn’t research homeschooling and decide it was the best option. No, we did it backwards. We studied the already made fruit of other homeschool families’ children and decided that the fruit of those innocent, beloved, and intelligent children was what we wanted for ours—years before we even thought of having any children!
A Backwards Start
I was so excited to get started as a homeschool teacher, but we had to wait seven years before we even had our first child. So, when my first three children were ages 4, 2, and newborn, I couldn’t wait any longer and set up a dedicated schoolroom with a chalkboard, school desks, and more books than the littles could even digest. I had a full curriculum and set forth to make a regular daily school schedule. I put the baby in the swing, the little boys in their seats, and began my teaching career. It didn’t take long for me to learn that I wasn’t supposed to try to bring the public school setting home, but that learning actually happens naturally and with far less effort.
Children are learning from birth to the time when they leave our homes. I needed to give them time to be children and learn real-life skills, real-life applications, delight-directed learning, and creation-nature adventures. I discovered teaching styles directed to their particular modes of learning. Wow. I learned a lot after I got turned around from my backwards start.
In the very beginning, we didn’t have a homeschool mission statement, nor any chosen Scriptures on which to base our homeschool decision. I emphasized academics and added a little Bible in, too. (Definitely backwards!) However, we learned as Sunday School teachers that memorization of Scripture was important, so we began to memorize Psalm 1 with our own children. The light bulb moments happened as we worked on this Psalm with the kids. We saw that this is what we stood on for our homeschool. Instead of knowing our priorities, and teaching those to the children, we backwardly began to teach the kids, and we learned what our priorities should be.
We also soon realized that what we were doing at home was completely opposite of what most others were doing with their children. They were willingly placing them under the counsel of the ungodly, they were having them stand directly in the path of sinners, and every day they had to sit in the seat of the scorners of all things Truth.
We realized that this culture believes if you fill the children with worldly knowledge and current philosophies that they will be successful. But the Bible in Psalm 1 says that if your children meditate on the Word of God day and night, then they will have true success. Homeschooling is so very backwards to this culture’s priorities, and I’m glad that it is so.
This back-to-school season is always a marker of time that makes me somewhat nervous as I look ahead, so instead, I look behind. In fact, looking backwards is helpful for me. Every year I think I didn’t get enough done. But looking back and reading through my calendar, I see the incredible amount of things we packed in. The books were not always finished, but progress was definitely made, and lots of learning experiences happened that I forgot about. We learned outside of the books, we got some core subjects mastered, we loved each other, and we grew as individuals and as Christians.
Looking Back at the Facts
Want to know the truth about private parent-led home education? Research has taken a good look backwards over the years of home education. And the results are in: homeschoolers excel across the board, no matter what education the parents had themselves, no matter how much or how little money was spent on a child’s education, no matter where the child lived, or who taught the child. In all areas, parentled home education comes out on top of the stats. Check it out for yourself at the National Home Education Research Institute led by the research efforts of Brian D. Ray, PhD.
Looking back also helps me plan forward. I know where the gaps are and can fill them. I can easily make a plan going forward knowing what is behind. I see what we finished and what needs work.
It is not always like that. Some years I look backwards and see what I glaringly didn’t do; what I didn’t make time for; that life crisis that put us way behind; the little progress made on character issues; and all the things that I wish I would have done differently. Looking back on those kinds of years depresses me.
How about you? Did you make a mess of it all? Yell at your kids? Procrastinate the important stuff? Forgot to pray daily? Forgot where you put your Bibles? You can begin to think that you are not cut out for this homeschool life. Here’s what you do with all those depressing thoughts: lay them down at the Cross and repent for whatever necessary. Thank God for His mercy and a fresh new year to serve Him. Get up and walk with Him this time. Face the new day with your spirit, soul, and body captivated by Him and His mercy. The kids will see the difference in the way you live out this new school year with the right perspective back in place.
Looking Back to the Cross
In all things, at all times, it always comes back to the Cross. Looking back to the Cross reminds me where love is. It reminds me of eternal truth that far outweighs any temporal knowledge. It reminds me to lay down my own kingdom and live for His. It reminds me to put to death my own thinking; and rise in the life of His wisdom. It reminds me to pray:
Lord, please don’t allow me to lead this homeschool. I have no wisdom of my own. I thank You that even in my backwards thinking, and trying, and living, You have made something of my mess when I have surrendered it to You. Even when I plan my ways, You direct my steps. You give me beauty for the ashes of life. You give me joy in place of heaviness.
Thank you, Father, for giving Your Son that my little homeschool might have purpose—to glorify You and enjoy You forever. Let us see You, even if just through a glass darkly. We give you praise for all You have done and will do. You are a Faithful God.
Praising Him in the most difficult of times and seasons—worshipping through hardship (how backwards is that?) is where your mourning will turn into joy. Facing the right direction means looking at Him in every circumstance. If you’ve gone ahead of Him, it means looking backward and finding Him.
Now, as we look ahead and follow our Leader, Christ Himself, we will pray, we will plan, and we will persevere. And we will put it all in His hands as we trust Him for the path and the outcome of this next year. No anxiety, no stress, just resting in God’s faithfulness.
Copyright 2019, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.