10 Secrets to Surviving the Long Haul of Homeschooling
It’s February 2012. The leftover frozen Christmas cookies have been consumed, the unwanted gifts have (finally!) been exchanged, that protracted euphoric sense of holiday freedom lingering through December and January has ended, and all your excuses for “not doing normal school” have run dry. (No, Mom, Super Bowl Sunday isn’t considered a long weekend!)
It’s that time of year on the school calendar. You’re “in between” in the dead of winter—sort of like the Laura Ingalls Wilder family in the late 1800s, rolling across the desolate, flat, blustery plains of the Midwest in their rustic covered wagon, with no … end … in … sight. And, most definitely, no 7-Elevens to stop at for a Big Gulp!
The remaining stretch of terrain lying before you can appear particularly daunting this time of year. I know, because I’ve been there. Our “wagon” was packed with five busy boys and led by two public school-educated, first-generation, homeschooling pioneer parents: hubby and me, who were intent on changing the world—but without much practical preparation.
As you know, beginning is always more exciting than continuing. That’s why so many people give up in the middle. But if we’ll persist, it’s amazing how much treasure is hidden along the way. Here are ten secrets I’ve unearthed as I’ve journeyed for thirty-one years in marriage and over twenty years in home education. If you’ll take them to heart, these nuggets of gold are guaranteed to propel you forward with momentum!
1. Capture afresh your initial revelation about home education. I’m doing what I’m doing today because of a revelation, and I imagine you are too. It may have come through observation of a successful homeschooling family, academic study, or an online news story, but the result was what we would call an “aha!” moment. This unfolding of new information, this striking disclosure, opened our eyes to see something we didn’t even know existed and brought a revolution to our homes. Let it inspire and empower you once again!
2. Remember your vision. Proverbs 29:18 shoots straight on this one: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” When we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing, we falter. Time and again, I remind myself of the dream God put in my heart: to raise extraordinary young men who will have an impact in the earth. I can’t imagine a more ideal setting for training my sons in every facet of life than at home with Mom and Dad and their brothers. However, the “ideal” of which we dream is oft-times challenged by the “real” in which we live. Which leads me to my next secret.
3. Beware of “the dailies”! In the 24/7 grind of life at home, the “dailies” can set in to bog us down and blur our vision. You know well the tedium of everyday life. It’s all that stuff that has to be done: toddlers to chase, teens to embrace, papers to correct, meals to make, bills to juggle, friends to call, clutter to straighten, diapers to change . . . it never ends. Enduring the daily slog can, at times, feel like the greatest test. We must refuse to allow the mundane to overshadow the truly important issues of our lives. Don’t be found drowning in the dailies.
4. Hold on to your confidence! Confidence is powerful. The Bible encourages it, and Hebrews 10:35 reminds us that “it will be richly rewarded”. When our confidence is rocked, our resolve is substantially weakened. We begin to second-guess our parenting decisions and we become double-minded about our ability to carry out our mission to homeschool. Be like a dog with a bone, and don’t let go of your confidence!
5. Remember, we “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38)! As believers in a living God, let’s not separate our “Sunday faith” from our Monday mission as moms and dads! By faith, I encourage myself daily. By faith, I see my vision for my sons’ futures unfolding before me. If we lean only upon our natural perceptions as we parent and home educate, we can be misled and quickly become discouraged. Many, many times, I must lift my gaze to see beyond what my five senses are telling me. Faith enables me to press on. Which brings me to my next secret …
6. Learn to persevere. In our high-speed, fast-food, microwave society, we want it now! We have to fight our human tendency to give up too quickly. Perseverance is defined as “steadfastness in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”1 It’s not a concept that initially summons happy thoughts, but James 1:4 promises that if we allow perseverance to “finish its work” in us, we’ll become mature and complete, “lacking nothing.” Perseverance isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us; it’s more like a muscle we must develop with consistent use.
7. Pray, pray, and pray! As I reflect upon my twenty-seven years of mothering, the majority of my days have begun in the quiet of the early morning hours on my knees, imploring God for His grace, mercy, and wisdom. I’m desperate for His help. I picture myself in prayer, making a divine exchange. Trading my better ideas, my human reasoning, my secular standards, my friends’ advice, for a heavenly anointing that enables me to succeed. Prayer is a strategy I know I can trust completely. (See James 5:16b.)
8. Count it all joy (James 1:2)! As homeschooling families, each day presents us with frequent irritations: spilled juice, dawdling students, rolling pencils, bickering siblings, lost books, and continual interruptions. We usually have a split second to decide whether to grumble or rejoice. Choose joy! Decide to be lighthearted about your light and momentary afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17), and you will sense God’s strength filling your heart (Nehemiah 8:10).
9. Sing! Do you have a song in your heart? I’m not a gifted vocalist (and all my boys said “Amen!”), but as a homemaker I’ve found myself singing my way through my blessings and my battles these past three decades. James 5:13 asks, “Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” The book of Psalms is literally a songbook filled with beautiful words of praise to God. I believe singing God’s Word reinforces the Truth and effectively drives away the dark cloud that wants to hang over our homes and lives. That’s why “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 104:33).
10. Be the tortoise, not the hare. As full-time parents and home educators, we have to think “marathon” not “sprint.” A long-distance runner who fails to pace himself mentally and physically runs real fast at the beginning and fizzles out somewhere in the middle.
I want you to make it to the finish line, not simply surviving the trip but thriving along the way. I believe these ten timeless secrets will equip you well for the road ahead. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Stay the course!
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Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOS apps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.