Monday, June 11, 2012

Educating as unto the Lord

We've been homeschooling for 5 years now.

Five full, wonderful, stressful, exciting, exasperating, joyous, delightful years.

And next year, we're taking a new direction.

My boys are headed to public school.  Our plan has always been for them to go with Philip when they are in 5th & 6th grades (for those who don't know, my husband is a mad scientist/teacher at a local intermediate school).  Nate wasn't quite ready last year, so he's heading off with Daddy for 6th grade.

And the little boys, well, that's another story.  Gabriel went to speech pre-K this year at the elementary school. And he thrived.  His behavior has improved so much (and we actually understand him when he speaks!)  So we are sending him and Luke to the elementary school next year for K and 1st.  They are excited and I am praying that more structure will help Luke in the way it has helped Gabe.

Which leaves me home with my girls.  I'll have a 2 yr old, a 2nd grader and a 4th grader.  I am so thrilled that I will have more time with Anna before she heads off with Philip to 5th grade the next year.  I am determined to teach Abigail to read - a challenge for both of us as she struggles with dyslexia.   Thankfully I'll have the carrot of "more time for crafts" to dangle before her!  And finally, I am delighted that I can thoroughly and completely enjoy my last go-round with the terrific two's as Leah Claire heads into the world of preschool.

I've even found a new homeschool enrichment co-op (though I will miss my SACC friends mightily) that will allow me to have 5 whole hours to myself each week.  (Imagine shopping alone!  Or taking a nap!)

But I've gotten a lot of flack from friends about this arrangement.  As if I have given up on my children and ceded them to the devil.  As if homeschooling is God's perfect design for children and public school is satan's playground.  

But I think that's silly.

God never said that we must homeschool.  Sure, there is Deuteronomy 6:7, which says of God's laws, "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."  Which homeschool zealots take to mean that we must have our children with us 24/7 so we can teach them God's laws.

But we have to remember that this command was given at a time when most children were with their parents 24/7 anyway.  And most fathers and mothers worked in the home.  We make a mistake when we read more into a verse than was originally meant.  When we read condemnation when it was not intended.

I believe the whole counsel of God is clear.  We should be teaching our children to love Him, follow Him and obey Him.  But homeschooling is not the only way to do that.

I also believe that we should be preparing our children to function at the fullest of their capabilities in a modern world.  That means giving them opportunities for academic excellence.  It means not using the cop-out "what really matters is that they love the Lord.  As long as they know the Bible, it doesn't matter if they know physics or chemistry."  Because academic excellence and a heart for God are not mutually exclusive.  The God who created our minds is glorified when we use them to our best ability.  And He is shamed when we waste them for some sham of holiness.

I have to admit, after 5 years, I have realized that I cannot do it all with excellence.  I cannot teach all 5 of my school aged kids to the level that I would like (at least not at this point).  I refuse to short-change my kids because of my pride.

I hear "we have all our homeschooling done by noon" and "it only takes 2-3 hrs per day" on homeschool blogs all the time.  But that isn't how it has looked for us.  We start in the morning and I'm usually finishing with the last child at dinner time.   We have been using an inclusive curriculum (Tapestry of Grace) that allows us to do many subjects together.  But there is no getting around the fact that math, reading, grammar, writing and spelling have to be done individually.  And when your dyslexic child's reading level is not the same as his comprehension level, you must read aloud most of his work.

Something's gotta give.

I want my children to love God wholeheartedly, but I also want them to be fully educated and prepared to do the things He has for them.

Homeschooling is a blessing.  But so is our educational system.  I challenge other moms to look honestly and prayerfully at the job they are doing with their kids and realize that putting your child in public school does not mean you have failed.  It may just be one path God uses to grow your child and educate him.  His Hand is not limited by your limitations.

If you cannot do it with excellence, maybe you need hand off the baton.  And that is okay.  I realize this may sound a bit judgmental, but I am getting so weary with the homeschool rhetoric.  When I hear moms say things like, "Well, we were busy last year with the new baby, so we just didn't do math," it makes me sad.  And angry.  (Especially when the new babies come every year or so.)   Raising your child to love God doesn't mean short-changing them educationally.

Or at least it shouldn't.