When we first began homeschooling Elizabeth when she was about four years old, I kept everything very compartmentalized. I subscribed to the classical school method to a T.
School time was in the mornings at the kitchen table, doing our lessons and workbooks. Eating time was for meals. Playtime was rest time for this pregnant or nursing Mama. Dad went to work on a regular schedule, Monday through Friday. Thursday afternoons were for art class and Fridays were park days. Our little home was organized into perfectly scheduled intervals. It was comfortable for me.
It was too organized. There was no room for emergencies, mistakes, messes, or spontaneity. There was no room to breathe. There was no room for God.
I went full-steam ahead for almost three years on this presumption that I could do it all on my own. I thought I was succeeding. I was exhausted.
I broke after I had Kate. She was just a few months old when I found I just couldn’t maintain that level of schedule and organization.
I remember our pastor’s wife coming to visit one afternoon. She sat on my sofa in my spotless living room while Tori and Kate napped in their shared bedroom. Liz played quietly in her bedroom. The dishwasher hummed and swooshed in my sterile kitchen.
The cat snuggled against her to the point she got uncomfortable and pushed him away.
She looked around my house, perhaps a bit in dismay at the absence of any trace of children. All the toys were stashed in bedrooms and the cooking, dining, and living areas were pristine. I had all homeschool materials stored in a hall closet when not in use.
She asked if Elizabeth had helped make the refrigerated preformed cookies. I confessed that she had not (I felt ashamed because I had been in such a hurry and it had been easier for me to just throw those in the oven). I wished I had made a better effort.
She helped me realize that my need for order was an idol. I really just needed to relax.
The fear of human opinion disables;
trusting in God protects you from that. Proverbs 29:25
Whereas that meeting hadn’t gone at all as I’d planned, it nudged me to realize I needed to change my outlook and my attitude as a mom and teacher. I had to let go, and let God.
Eventually, I allowed toys out of bedrooms and I reorganized our dining area to allow for homeschooling, but also (usually) convenient for eating.
It took a while for my husband to get on board with the “mess,” but he relented after he realized that we were home all day and this was our workplace and it needed to be functional for us. And we became so much happier not worrying about having everything sterile.
After we moved from that little base house and came to the rental house we’re currently in (way too big, but such a blessing!), we now have a basement we can use for play and school. We’ve sometimes relaxed so much that school creeps all over the house and weekends are clean-ups and organizing days. We’re almost out of the preschool stage so we can purge so much before we move again!
But I can tell you that since that day on the sofa in my pristine house, we have created a much more loving and forgiving atmosphere in our home. God has changed our hearts.
After much prayer, reading, and research…my heart changed to realize that our home should exude learning in all we do. With a different purpose. We should focus on teaching our children about Christ, not just learning those seemingly all-important academics…our lives are now a lifestyle of learning about God – through creation, relationships, leadership, service.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
I swung the extreme other way on the schooling method spectrum the time when I was pregnant with and nursing Alex. I had Liz work through a level on Ambleside Online but I wasn’t as proactive as I should have been with her, allowing too much freedom in delight-driven lessons. All she wanted to do was read and produce no actual work or projects. Tori and Kate were doing preschool work, so no worries there. I feel Liz got behind that year, especially in math and writing. We did circle time together, with Bible time and that was sometimes all I formally did. Too many DVDs and iPad games took the place of real teaching and mothering!
I don’t consider that time very successful by any standards.
I tightened up the old schedule belt again after that period. And made some improvements in our priorities.
I think we have good balance, finally. We’re going back to a looser classical model, with more freedom in our schedule and still some lovely Charlotte Mason ideals that are fun and meaningful to us. We’re really moving forward with balance and growth.
Heart: We work on character training through chores, family devotions and Bible study, and family discussion. Integrity first! We’re counter-cultural and raising radical Christians to change the world. We are lights for Jesus.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
Instead of always being one of the chief bastions of the social status quo, the Church is to develop a Christian counter-culture with its own distinctive goals, values, standards, and lifestyle — a realistic alternative to the contemporary technocracy which is marked by bondage, materialism, self-centredness, and greed. Christ’s call to obedience is a call to be different, not conformist. Such a Church — joyful, obedient, loving, and free — will do more than please God: it will attract the world. It is when the Church evidently is the Church, and is living a supernatural life of love by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the world will believe. ~John Stott
Health: We learn about health and economics together. It’s investing in our family’s future. We take no medicine at all, use essential oils and natural supplements, and eat only whole, clean foods. My kids do not have entitlement issues. We’re learning and teaching how to be better stewards of God’s blessings and provision. It was hard to say no in the beginning (to M&Ms or a new Wii game), but they eventually accepted this is our lifestyle. And we’re so much happier with less emphasis on stuff.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Hands: We learn to serve others with our time and resources. We serve God by always doing our best. We work towards success by not wasting or being idle. We put relationships before things. We are learning to be leaders in our society and for the Kingdom of God. We realize we must be in the world, but we don’t have to subscribe to the commonalities of the world’s teachings. We can serve others and show them Jesus by our actions.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24
We’re still a work in progress, and I love looking back to see where we were and I’m excited about where we’re going. The improvements in our family and homeschool are so very evident of God’s grace and love. We’re running with Jesus.
Jennifer is a displaced Southern belle. Amidst desperate attempts to balance her various roles as an Air Force wife, home educator, writer, editor, and teacher of marriage and child training…she seeks daily dumptruck loads of God’s grace. She shares her heart and passions at her personal blog and her family’s homeschooling journey at Royal Little Lambs.