I have to start by confessing that I’ve never been one of those homeschooling moms tempted to do nothing but academics in our homeschooling. Don’t get me wrong; I was a hard-working student, getting mostly A’s in school and graduating Magna Cum Laude from ORU with a degree in music education.
However, growing up I also had many opportunities to develop gifts and interests God hard hard-wired me with even long before I ever knew Him. My mom had a saying for me when I was young, “You sang before you talked, and you danced before you walked.”
The dancing part was a fiasco. I did take ballet at age 11 for a short while, but I was the oldest in my class and I felt awkward and embarrassed. And because I was a klutz, I hated it. What I really loved though was singing. And did I sing…ALL the time! Choirs, solos, a Christian band, musicals, etc., and they all became a means of growing and developing a desire and gift God had given me.
When Christ saved me as a young adult, growing in the Lord and His Word became my highest goal. Wanting to bring God glory with my life put the gift of music into perspective and gave purpose and focus to using that gift for His glory.
Once I became an adult I saw a strong correlation between the opportunities I had to sing all through my education, and the discipline, confidence, and sense of purpose I had gained. Later, as a parent, I was more inclined to form a philosophy of education that looked for ways my children could develop God-given abilities, as well as grow academically and spiritually.
WHAT IS THE BIG PICTURE?
One of the greatest gifts of homeschooling our children, is using our time to help them develop into full human beings. Academics are certainly a big part of our homeschooling journey, but even more important than scholastic learning and achievement is what I call soul shaping. And helping our children grow in the gifts God has hard-wired into them goes hand-in-hand with that.
Perhaps you are feeling the drain of making academics a focus that leaves little room for anything else in your homeschooling. There are some things you can do to change that, but the starting point is having a big picture philosophy for your children’s education.
What priorities do you have for your children? Besides academics, what do you want them to learn that will serve them their whole life long? Since God has given each of my children gifts in certain areas, I want to be sensitive to His leading us to opportunities that help them develop those gifts. I also want my children to have a vision for using those gifts for God’s kingdom.
If that’s your desire too, what are some ways we can keep the big picture in our homeschooling, and as a result help our children grow in who God has made them?
1. SOUL SHAPING COMES FIRST – before my children learned their ABCs or 123s, I wanted them to know about God, who He is, what He says about them and His creation, and how they need to know Him in order for life to make sense. Making God’s Word the first and most important part of each day helped my kids learn that who they are in Him – knowing Him and loving Him – is what matters more than anything else and gives meaning to everything else.
2. PLAN ACADEMICS WELL – because we have always done more than academics, it’s important to plan the academic part of homeschooling well. Everything that I wanted to cover—all the basics at least—were part of a pretty tight schedule I wrote up at the beginning of each school year. If it wasn’t written down, there was a good chance we might not get to it consistently. Having the academics planned, and holding yourself accountable to the plan, frees you up to do other things that are equally important to your children’s development.
3. OBSERVE YOUR CHILDREN AND LOOK FOR THEIR NATURAL INTERESTS – when my kids were between the ages of 10-15, several of them were highly interested in trying some activity or developing some skill. Homeschooling is the ideal way to observe our children, day in and day out, and give them the opportunities they need to pursue a strong interest they may have.
4. PRAY FOR GOD TO LEAD AND TO OPEN DOORS – Because God loves my children infinitely more than I ever could, I can trust that He is going to be intimately involved in the details of their lives. I have consistently found that when I try to make things happen for my kids, it usually backfires. When I pray and ask the Lord to be at work, opening up opportunities for them where He has placed a strong interest in their hearts, wonderful things happen. God is the master planner; I just help facilitate the good experiences He desires them to have.
For instance, when Bethany was young, she was very interested in becoming a missionary. I prayedg for God to bring a meaningful opportunity for her, and at age 14 Bethany and I attended a week-long summer workshop at Wycliffe Bible Translators in Waxhaw, NC to learn about translation and linguistic work. Though she unfortunately had to be a high school graduate to enroll in their school full-time, her passion for the gospel grew because of her experience there and remains to this day.
One of our other daughters, Megan wanted to start her own business at an early age. So, after praying for God to lead us, when she was 13 I took her to a 3-day seminar on developing entrepreneurial skills. She went on to start small businesses as a teen, managed a Sephora store as a sophomore in college, and finished school with a business degree.
God used those experiences to develop godly character and practical skills in my girls. Praying for God to do the leading and providing gave me a great sense of peace that He was at work in them…and still is.
5. DO IT ALL FOR HIM – When our highest desire is to see God’s glory be magnified in our and our children’s lives, there’s nothing that can’t be used to showcase His greatness! And by learning and working with integrity, diligence, selflessness, love, and honesty, not for ourselves, but for the One who made us to live joyfully for Him, we will do just that.
Seeing everything we do—whether academics, chores, jobs, or personal development—as an opportunity to bring God glory makes it all count. And that’s the big picture we all want to have.
Enjoy the journey … there’s no place like home,