Homeschooling. Just the word conjures up images of books and desks and computer programs and work, work, work for Mom, doesn’t it, though?
But it has come to my awareness lately that “mothering” and “homeschooling” are synonyms. From the moment that tiny babe is laid in your arms, you have become the “responsible party.” And that responsibility is grave. You have the job, the creative work, the task of raising this child into an upright person before the Lord. You suddenly start a new thought process: worrying for/and about your child. You want them to be happy, healthy, cared for, loved, treated well, comfortable, intelligent . . . and the concerns go on.
Exactly at what point does this mothering/worrying thing cease? Could it possibly stop when your child turns 5 in time for the state deadline date for Kindergarten? Could you possibly put your precious child on the school bus and say, “All done! Whew!”
The truth is that every parent homeschools. Until kindergarten at least. Isn’t it true? Every mother works with, encourages, helps along, and guides their little ones, training them in how to deal with their world with the least amount of bumps and scrapes both physically and emotionally. Everyday is a training session, and the lessons and modeling and hands-on training continue hour after hour, day after day, and year after year. Home is the school. Family life becomes training for life. In it, children are taught how to live by the most attentive teacher God could assign—their own parents, flesh of their flesh.
Just the other day, my 16 year old daughter came into the bathroom while I was showering, to discuss with me some issues of interpersonal relationships. How to get along with friends. How to apologize if you offend. How to make things right. How to make others feel good about themselves. How to help others who need credit to get noticed, rather than yourself. These are essential, high priority training lessons, and it doesn’t seem to stop at age 5. And they aren’t just math lessons, obviously. The lessons just advance and deepen as the years go on. If you have been the teacher, and have turned to the scriptures and prayer for answers, you teach a pattern that your child takes with them when they leave your happy homeschooling. It is very gratifying for me to see my grown sons grapple with problems by turning to their faith.
So, the question isn’t, “Do you homeschool?” The question is, “At what age did you stop homeschooling? When did you put the responsibility for your child’s molding and training into the hands of someone else?” Because whether we like it or not, we are still the responsible party, and we will be held accountable for our children’s training. And we will rejoice or suffer for the remainder of our lives, depending on how well these precious children turn out.
I am far from perfect, and that is a scary thought when I see myself as the responsible party. But I have one great advantage that another teacher does not have. My title of “Mother” came with an incredible love for my child—a love that makes me go to great lengths to insure my child’s well being. With the advantage of intense motherly love, and with the power to access through prayer that greatest parent and most intelligent being, it is hard to fail. If I am imperfect, I can point them to their real Father above, who does not make mistakes.
Mothers, take time to teach your children. You are your children’s best teacher. Don’t shift this precious responsibility. A mother’s love and prayerful concern for her children are her most important ingredients in teaching her own.
Homeschooling has made my family best friends. There is no friend I’d rather be with than my children. A group of old girlfriends called the other day and invited me to a girlfriend reunion. I was reluctant. I dragged my feet. I wanted to be with them and attend, but the truth was, I didn’t want to be away from my children for that long. I have friends, and I enjoy friends, but the ones I really delight in being with are the parents of my children’s friends. Then I am happy socializing. I know my children are happy playing, and I can feel relaxed and at peace. Leaving my children home while I went with my friends for a few days didn’t appeal to me. I enjoy my children! That friendship with my children has developed over years of being together, working together, playing together, teaching them what I like and how to act in a way that I can enjoy their company. It has bound us together, knit us together in love. It has made us lasting friends.
In a very practical sense, home is the school. Name any subject, and you will find that home is the best foundational school. Manners. Cooking. Social relations. Laundry. Health, Nutrition. How to access God’s help. Reading. Personal hygiene. Learning to forgive. All the basic information that a person needs to live happily in this world are taught most effectively in the home, by watching parents, by copying parents, by working side by side with parents (and also with older siblings who have been taught well). This is not to say that there isn’t a place for advanced training classes. I don’t pretend to be able to teach the Mechanical Engineering courses that my grown son takes at the university. But the basics of living, he was taught at home: basics that will get him through those classes to his degree, and beyond into a happy, productive life. Not just academic basics, but happy, good living.
Obviously, homeschooling a child isn’t just about academics. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52). Just like this scripture verse suggests, a person has four dimensions to his being: mental (wisdom), physical (stature), spiritual (favor with God) and social (favor with man). If we focus just on the academic or the “wisdom” dimension, we will be raising an out-of-balance person. We must give focus to each area of growth, nurturing our child along and providing opportunities to develop. The homeschool gives the perfect environment to give balance to these areas of development.
What does this mean? This means that a mother plans out her child’s education, giving time for mental growth through academics. She plans social gatherings and time for playing with wholesome friends to nurture her child’s social well being. She considers how to improve her child’s health (stature) through better nutrition, sleep, and exercise opportunities. The plan puts first a relationship with God and spiritual nourishment through learning to pray, reading the scriptures, memorizing verses, attending church and hearing parents testify to the truth of the gospel.
Sometimes we reduce homeschooling to an academic task, but the work of raising a child uprightly before the Lord is much, much more. A parent’s task, whether they homeschool or not, is molding a child in the image of God, spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. It will take the best effort we have to give. Home can be the best possible school, with a teacher that loves you best!
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