first things first

I really do love the homeschooling life. In fact, I wish I had about three more of me to go around, so one of me could dedicate all day every day to exciting and fun learning pursuits.

Combine that natural enjoyment with a heavy dose of regular “Am I doing enough? Is this working?” doubts and fears, and it’s the perfect recipe for curriculum-discontent and grass-is-greener issues.

This article today reminded me of how good and simplifying it is when the right things stay in focus.

See, we aren’t school teachers. We aren’t really even homeschooling moms. *gasp* We are mothers and we are wives, and we are raising children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Probably, most likely, this is why most of us are homeschooling — we feel it best serves the vision of discipleship that we have. But that word there — serve — is so important. The math and the language, the field trips and the journaling, the classical approach and the unschooling persuasion: they all need to serve this much higher, much broader task of teaching our children about the love of God for them and of how they might live lives of love toward Him.

I loved how, in that article, the mom would realize after reflection that the true goals and hopes for a new year often had little to do with curriculum and much more to do with character growth and personal development. There may be reading struggles to address, or the realization that this year’s choices just really aren’t suited to your personal style — but our eyes are also lifted to higher goals, and we can hear creative ideas spoken by the Holy Spirit as we jot down things like, “connect with each kid,” “see growth in personal responsibility for Johnny”, “more orderly start to the day,” etc. I think it can be easy to feel the lack in areas such as those, but get caught up in the shiny new math curriculum because isn’t it easier to admire glossy pages and hope for change than it sometimes is to stare face to face with our lack as home managers or our children’s sin issues?

We can’t allow the mission to get compromised by forgotten priorities.

I also love discovering what does work for our family, as this mom says. Sometimes I get a little itch to add something new, and sometimes that itch is worth listening to — but once I’ve evaluated what’s worked and how the past year has gone, and where we’re lacking, “new” often looks less like a whole new expensive curriculum and more like a new art project to tackle, a commitment to doing the science experiments, purposing to cook together more often, or taking a walk somewhere new a few times this next year. (And maybe for you and your family, other amazingly fun and creative things the Holy Spirit lays on your heart.)

There may be real learning struggles to address and research, or tears over academics that you really think could be avoided with a new approach — and how wonderful to have the tools we need so readily available to us, and certainly, equipping each child is part of what we’re called to do, with diligence and resourcefulness. But each spring, each October (when the new ideas turn out to not be a shiny and fun as I’d been hoping), each January (when the return after Christmas can sometimes feel a bit dull), I remember: evaluating how we’re doing is important, but it has to be done in light of the high call this homeschooling thing is serving. And suddenly, each time, I see clearly again and feel vision return for the what and how and why of it all.

Jesus first.

Family and character next.

And the rest can take a number.

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