Have you ever had one of those days? You wake up late. It's raining and dark outside. The laundry is piled high, your checkbook needs balancing, and you have company coming over for dinner. The phone keeps ringing and the baby has a dirty diaper. The children are fighting. When you go over the schoolwork that you covered yesterday, they can't remember any of it. As you pour your heart out in a lesson, a child throws down his pencil and yawns, "Why do we have to do this?" Any energy you had evaporates.
Homeschool students also face pressure, from a different perspective. I was the oldest child in my family and occasionally I felt like a guinea pig. I didn't have the benefit of seeing older siblings go through the journey before me and I remember uncertainty about my future, anxiety about life after graduation.
It's easy, in the day-to-day pressures of homeschooling, to forget why you decided to homeschool. There are many immediate benefits, but what gets you past those dark days?
Ultimately, homeschooling is about the end product: raising adults committed to God's Kingdom. As Mike Farris, president of Patrick Henry College, has said: "When someone is 25 years old, I don't want to know how many AWANA sections they passed - I want to know if they are walking with God and influencing the lives of others for Jesus Christ." Your greatest success will be marked by your adult children who live for Christ.
If the purpose of homeschooling is to turn children into godly adults who will change the world for Christ, parents and children must keep this goal in mind. Young people (particularly teens) need a vision for their lives - they need to learn to anticipate adulthood.
Scripture refers to children as "olive plants" (Ps. 128). During the early stages of a plant's life, it is kept in a greenhouse. The sheltered, monitored environment allows for maximum development. At some point, however, the plant has to be moved from the safe environment and placed out in the outer world.
The same principle applies to children. In their time at home, they are training to eventually accomplish some purpose out in the world. This process starts at home long before a child is actually sent out.
Entering into the world and transfiguring society for Christ is a deliberate process. First, children need a sense of destination beyond graduation. Back when I was still at home, my parents took time with me each year to set long-term goals. Those goals gave me a sense of direction and motivation. What things intrigue your child? What does your child want to do in life? Discover their aspirations and form a plan for achieving them.
Homeschool students also need to be trained to think independently - not to have an independent spirit, but to personalize their faith for when they are on their own.
"In the high school years, my parents focused on more than just academics," says Jonathan, a homeschool graduate. "They trained for maturity and gave me the information and resources to make good decisions." The benefit, he explains, is that when a young adult is out on his own, he is equipped with the wisdom to make good choices. "This involved a lot of communication: not just telling me what to do, but explaining convictions and why."
Children must be trained to think critically and apply Biblical principles to problems they face. If they are merely given dictates on what to believe and how to act, they lack the power of personal choice. God has given us all a free will. While a young person may exercise obedience at home, if he has not personally chosen to serve God, he will be an insipid Christian. These are the homeschool graduates who abandon all convictions because the convictions were never theirs in the first place.
Prepare your children for adulthood by helping them get a job. When I was ten years old, my father located several lawn mowing jobs for me and in my first summer I made $500. By the time I was eighteen, we had professional equipment and large landscaping accounts. Not only did I learn responsibility by working, but I learned how to run a business and manage finances.
Don't coddle them academically, either. The academic and professional worlds are tough. Make sure your older children who are entering those worlds have a realistic attitude about themselves and their abilities. Impose deadlines on schoolwork and consequences if the deadlines are not met.
You will still have days when everything goes wrong. Use those times to evaluate your focus and redirect your attention to Christ.
Then change the baby's diaper.