Yesterday, I got to be part of a beautiful conversation with some passionate homeschool Mommas whose first short years in the trenches have already taught them that the world of curriculum and academia is a perilous place for the sincere Christian. It sounds overly dramatic, but I promise you, it’s true. The family whose top priority is to raise children steeped in the Word of God and submitted to the sovereignty of Christ will quickly realize that holding fast to that commitment is no simple thing.
I was privileged to spend a few hours today with mothers of very young children. Those with four years or less under their belts, still excited and yet exhausted by the day in and day out of caring for little people who can’t meet even the simplest of needs. It was a lovely time; if you ever start to feel jaded by the long haul, sit in the company of women just now discovering the beauty and the burden of being a stay at home mom, of raising her babies, of juggling marriage and faith and stealing a shower in between the newborn’s cat naps…all with a few little people clinging to her skirts.
Right now, I’m sitting in Bryan College’s still library. It’s Spring Break, so the campus is empty except for a handful of staff members charged with duties that aren’t suspended in the absence of classes. It’s a beautiful, well-lit library on a cozy campus. It’s my first time here and frankly, I can see why, after visiting this past fall, my husband spoke so highly of it. It’s beautiful, yes. But it’s peaceful, too. Everywhere, the motto “Christ Above All” is sprinkled– and feels real.
We school year-round—three months on, one month off. The shorter, intermittent breaks suit the rhythm of our family well. By the end of a twelve week summer break, all of us were craving structure and weary of open-ended days. Too, we find the heat of the summer in the south exhausting at its peak, and not enjoyable in the “we’re on vacation!” sense. So: three on, one off. The perfect compromise.
“Measure his education, not solely by his progress in the ‘three R’s,’ but by the number of living and growing things he knows by look, name, and habitat.” –Charlotte Mason
The sun is out nearly every afternoon now, warm and inviting. There have already been a few trips to check in on the creek, and a good number of plans made for a whole village of “mouses’ houses.” The back field has been plowed. Birds are flitting in and out of the houses that dot our property.
I recently took a trip to visit my parents. Took most of the children with me so that my wife could finish a book project she’s been writing.
This isn’t the first time I’ve slipped away with the children but every time is different as they each get older.
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I’ve shared our approach to high school many times (a podcast summary is right here), and I probably will continue to do so. Homeschooling, after all, isn’t a one-size-fits-all order, no matter what the entrenched institutions try to sell you. A good— no, a great— high school education can’t fit in a box, or even a classroom. That kind of learning comes from following rabbit trails into unkempt, sometimes even messy places where young adults grab the spade that is the foundational years you’ve given them and start digging in to the dirt that is everything.
Hi. My name is Heather. I know you’re probably going to call me, “Mom,” throughout most of this first meeting, and that’s o.k. I can take it, though I admit you’ll score bonus points if you take the time to remember me as something beyond my role today. But again, if you don’t, I’m not going to hold it against you. It’s not me that I want you to invest in, anyhow.
When we started homeschooling, I had three children ages 4 and under. We bought a boxed curriculum that year, one of those terribly stuffy, all-in-one deals that delivered a classroom kindergarten experience right to our front door, pencils and all. We all hated it— even my husband, who had been its biggest proponent when we had started researching our options. The fact is, a home isn’t a classroom and therefore, classroom management just isn’t a skill a homeschooling mother needs. Oh, she needs plenty of other skills. (Like delicately balancing the personalities of a whole family full of people who live and work together all the time.) But homes and brick and mortar schools are totally different beasts, and what works in one really doesn’t work well in others.
I cried. I’ll tell you that right up front, so that you pick up the thread of this post with its full weight. I cried right there at the table, that laughing, overwhelmed cry that requires you to grab someone and hold them a little too tight for just a little too long.