The Ordinary Homeschooler
There is nothing out of the ordinary about our family. We are your average, middle–income, American family. We just happen to have more children than the average (8), and we just happen to have this “against the flow” Biblical conviction to educate our children at home. We have been homeschooling for more than fifteen years and have graduated two from our private school at home who are now pursuing their college degrees. We have one graduating from our high school next year, and then five more students to follow for another fifteen years of schooling in our home. I don’t see any of them as extra–ordinary; in fact, they are very normal kids, and I am a pretty ordinary homeschool teacher myself–nothing special here for sure.
Our family may be pretty ordinary, but there are many stories in the media about those above–average and over–achieving homeschoolers out there. I am amazed and impressed by the academic abilities, civil involvement, and private university material represented by these elite, home–educated students. Although fascinated when I hear about them, I often feel like maybe I am not equipped to produce any extraordinary homeschoolers in my little school. Actually, I know beyond doubt that I am not equipped to perform such a feat. This thought can paralyze me, cause me to doubt my calling to homeschool, motivate me to send my children to someone else to educate, or—on the opposite end of the spectrum—give me great relief. I choose relief, and I’d like to share that relief with you. First, a little more history on a school named Adonai Academy and its very ordinary teacher.
When my firstborn son was 5 and we started our little homeschool, things were so fun and exciting, and let’s face it, easy. We learned Bible verses and phonics songs, played math games, and started science collections. Then, as he grew, his schoolwork grew with him, and we added in things like language arts, history, journaling, project fairs, newsletter editing, oral presentations, and cooking. Then he reached those pre–teen and teen years and he got to do all the fun stuff: photography; clay and stop animation; all kinds of arts and crafts and woodworking projects; caring for and breeding of rabbits, chickens, tropical fish, and finches; mime evangelism; online classes; fossil digs; and whatever and wherever else his passion took him. We fed whatever desire he had at the time and let it continue until the interest was gone or redirected.
Then we suddenly found ourselves facing high school. What was once an “I can do this!” attitude for me became a nagging thought of “I don’t know what to do; this might be too hard for me; I don’t think I am equipped to teach these subjects.” I suddenly wondered if my conviction to homeschool would stand the test of higher learning. I obviously needed help and pleaded with God to give me wisdom.
All homeschoolers will face some challenges that won’t have obvious or easy solutions and for which we don’t have the required wisdom. I am here to bring you relief and to tell you that you don’t have to know what to do all the time. You can either follow someone who does, like all those wonderful veteran homeschoolers, or you can follow another Someone Who knows what you don’t know. He desires to show you the way to go, and not only that—He also will take you by the hand and go with you.
A prime example of this whole scenario would be found in that well–known Bible character named Moses. I, and dare I say, we, are more like Moses than we realize. I’d like to draw a similar line between the story of Moses and our own fears of producing merely ordinary homeschoolers or failing altogether because of our inadequacies. God spoke to Moses about getting His children out of Egypt, and the people whom God commanded Moses to release from the slavery, indoctrination, and intolerance of the culture in which they were held in bondage included members of Moses’s own family. Sounds like a familiar command to us today, does it not? Our own families are in bondage to a culture that wants to rip God from every shred of societal living, especially education. We are like Israelites who are living in Egypt. It’s time to get our families out, and we know it, yet we tremble—as Moses did.
Let’s look at that whole scenario in the first fifteen chapters of Exodus. The first few chapters record the conversation between God and Moses. Within this passage, we will discover several familiar excuses that we have in common, paraphrased below:
What Moses Said
What We Say
What God Said to Moses
|Who am I that I should bring the children out of Egypt?||Who am I that I should bring my children home?||What do I teach them? I don’t know what to teach!|
|What do I tell them? I don’t know what to say!||What do I teach them? I don’t know what to teach!||I will tell you what to say; I have visited you; I have seen what was done to you in Egypt; I will bring you out to a better place; The rulers of Egypt will not want you to go: I will give the people you bring out favor; they will not leave empty–handed.|
|They won’t believe me; they won’t listen to me; they will say God did not talk to me or tell me to do this.||Family/friends don’t understand; they won’t listen to me; they say that God did not tell me to do this.||What do you have in your hand? I will use what you have in your hand. I will do mighty wonders with what you have in hand so that they will believe the LORD has been with you.|
|I am not eloquent, neither before nor since you spoke to me; I am slow of speech and tongue.||I am not qualified; I am not smart; I am not certified; I have problems; I am disabled; I am weak in many subjects; I am not organized; I am not patient …||I made your mouth; I have made the deaf and mute and have made you the way you are. Now go and I will be with your mouth and I will teach you what to say.|
|Please send someone else.||Someone else could do this much better; I can’t do this.||I will send help; I will be with you; I will teach you what to say and what to do.|
Moses and Aaron obeyed, not knowing the future, not knowing what to do with all these people if they were let go, not knowing the next step until they took the first steps. God was with them all the way and did what He had promised to do. He got them out, defeated their enemies, taught them and led them day and night with his fire and cloud and voice, and provided for all their needs for the journey. They conquered lands and became a people to be feared because they served the living God and had the living God defend them again and again. This is the same amazing and holy God Who is asking us to obey Him. He will treat us no differently. He will use our ordinary skills, our inadequacies, and whatever we have in hand to do His work. In fact, only He can take the “ordinary” of who we are and make it extraordinary for His purposes.
To give you the end of the story, this fearful and ordinary homeschool mom found help in veteran homeschoolers, classes, higher learning activities, and a God Who guided us each step of the way. We found help in high school resources online and at the local junior colleges and through the pages of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Both ordinary sons graduated early, each within weeks of turning 17, with a scholarship from our local support group and a high GPA from the local junior college. They both had a strong knowledge of their God–given gifts and direction for their lives. And let me tell you, this mom’s very ordinary background, her fears, and her weaknesses couldn’t have helped facilitate any of that. But this mom has a God Who takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.
Do you know this God? He is waiting to use your weaknesses, to teach you, to use whatever you have in your hand, to do His mighty wonders in and through you and your family, just like He did with Moses and as He continues to do with homeschoolers worldwide.
Can you, an ordinary homeschool mom with ordinary children, homeschool continuously all the way through high school? Most certainly! Why? Because God won’t change when you hit higher learning. What He has always said, He will continue to say to you: “I will certainly be with you; I will teach you,” even and especially when we don’t know what to do.
Another aspect of our story is that we have a special needs child (Asperger’s syndrome) whom God has taken by the hand; He has faithfully given all of us wisdom beyond ourselves so that even when we didn’t know what to do … God did. He orchestrated people and events and ideas that would bring about His purposes for this child. We have learned that academics don’t have as high a priority as character for this one, so we have scaled back on the academics a bit. We have had two with dyslexia who have successfully learned to read and write. Should we have given these children up to the “experts”, or should we have asked their Creator how to work with how they were created? Do their weaknesses, or our weaknesses, serve as an excuse to throw our hands up?
The decision about what to do for your children’s education or socialization, i.e., should they go to public school or private school or homeschool, is not merely an ethical decision. It is a decision that must be based on following God’s commands to raise up our children to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. We cannot do that in a place where God is not allowed to sit in the seats, not allowed to walk in the halls of education where students are supposed to learn about the very things He created: science, history, geology, and geometry. He is the Creator of all these things and yet … He is not to be even mentioned when learning about them?! How am I loving God with all my heart if I am allowing the denial of His very existence as an ordinary part of my child’s routine? How can my children light the world if they sit in darkness?
The best way to light our world is to be distinct from the darkness, and homeschooling certainly helps to set us apart from the worldly culture in which we live. —Israel Wayne, Author, Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview
Perhaps you fear the seemingly overwhelming scope and sequence of teaching? If we really love God with all we have and all we are, the Bible is the foremost scope and sequence we should be using as the basis of all we teach. His every Word gives us all that we need for life and godliness. Obedience to His Word in raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord brings long–lasting eternal rewards.
The only realistic way to fulfill the Biblical mandate to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is to homeschool in the current culture. —Mike Smith, President, Home School Legal Defense Association
How great is your God? Does He still lead His people? Does He still call His people to come apart and be separate, to be holy as unto Him? Can He be exalted in an institution that glorifies man only? How much more can He be glorified in your home, where you have the freedom to tell your children about the great Creator of science, history, geology, and geometry? To tell your children that they were not formed by mere chance but were formed in the womb by their heavenly Father for His purposes? Created for His glory?
When you take His hand, He will lead you all the way through. I have tested Him and tried Him and know Him to be true to His Word.
How do we know if it will work for us and for our children? What happens when they grow up? Here are some great stats taken from the pamphlet “Homeschoolers Grown Up: What Do the Facts Show?” based on research provided by Brian D. Ray, Ph. D., President, National Home Education Research Institute (www.NHERI.org):
- Over 74% of homeschool–educated adults have taken college–level courses. That’s compared to 46% of the general population.
- About one–third of adult Americans think that government and politics are too complicated to understand, but 96% of homeschooled adults don’t agree. They not only think they can understand government and politics, but they are active and believe they can be effective in making positive changes in their communities and in the country.
- About 71% of young adults who were home educated are involved in community activities, such as coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association. About 71% versus 37% of the general population—that’s almost double the level of involvement represented by young adults who were not homeschooled.
- Among respondents (18– to 24–year–olds) who voted in national and/or state elections in the U.S. in the past five years, 76% of home–educated respondents voted versus 29% of the general population.
- The study showed that of those who were homeschooled, 93% continue to attend church, and 94% strongly agreed with this statement: “My religious beliefs are basically the same as those of my parents.” This is in contrast to the 75% to 85% of public–educated Christian youth who renounce their faith and/or quit going to church within two years after high school graduation.
- 95% agreed that they were glad that they were homeschooled, 92.4% agreed that having been homeschooled was an advantage to them as an adult, and 82% said that they would homeschool their own children.
What about our own little homeschool’s two graduates? Do they believe that homeschooling benefited their lives?
Jonathon Wuehler, 2008 graduate, said this to his graduating class: “Homeschooling has allowed me to learn at my own pace and discover my abilities. I have been given the freedom to excel academically. Being home with my parents has effected spiritual growth in my life and confidence in my faith. Because of homeschooling I am not caught in the lies of the world or pressured to conform to the world, and I am set apart for God’s purposes. These are a few of the ways that homeschooling has benefited my life. I believe homeschooling is the best educational path to make the most of your time here on earth and to make a difference in this world.”1.
Christopher Wuehler, 2010 graduate, said this: “With homeschooling, there are no limits. One can acquire a Godly foundation, minister to others, learn basic life skills, become familiar with the workforce, and soar academically. Countless numbers of people have been able to experience these things, and I myself am witness to the tremendous empowerment of homeschooling. So instead of asking myself, ‘How has homeschooling benefited my life?’ I prefer to ask myself, ‘How hasn&rsquot homeschooling benefited my life?’ ”2.
We may be merely ordinary people, but we have an extraordinary God. He can take your ordinary child and make him or her an extraordinary student, citizen, and servant of the Most High. He can take an ordinary mom, dad, and homeschool teacher and make them perform extraordinary things with the gifts He’s given them. Fear not; what you cannot do, He can do mightily in and through you and yours as you keep them Home Where They Belong.
- www.jrwuehler.com also reprinted in the Summer 2008 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
- crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/encouragement/how-homeschooling-has-benefited-my-life.html; also reprinted in the Fall 2010 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, participating author in The Homeschool Minute, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate! Email Deborah at email@example.com.
Copyright, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Fall 2011. Visit The Old Schoolhouse® at theoldschoolhouse.com to view a full–length sample copy of the magazine especially for homeschoolers. Click the graphic of the moving computer monitor on the left. Email the Publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.