5 Things I Learned From Nearly 30 Homeschooling Years

A Dad’s Perspective
by Gabe Valencia

We began homeschooling way back in the mid 80’s. Just so we’re clear, when I say “we” I really mean I made every effort to support the sacrifice my wife made each day to educate our children. So when I use “we” just insert mostly “her” and we’ll be on the same page. Rosemary and I decided to homeschool for many of the reasons most homeschool parents decide to homeschool their children. First of all, we felt called according to Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

We thought we couldn’t possibly do worse than the failing public educational system; at a minimum we would teach them to read. We didn’t think public school was a safe environment for our kids…and confident our school could be free of normal school experiences—bullying, guns, drugs, sex, and whatever else happens within school walls. Most importantly, we wanted to have a biblical influence on the lives and character of our children all day, every day. Honestly, when we first started it was not intimidating; after all who isn’t smarter than a kindergartner?

Then came P-H-O-N-I-C-S (why wasn’t it spelled fawnix?) With week one under our belt, we realized that teaching our children was a bit more complex than had been foreseen. Each child was unique, had different learning styles, temperaments, talents, gifts, and even learning challenges. We had much to learn. Reflecting on three decades of school can be hard to summarize concisely. The lessons God has taught us throughout this journey are too numerous to fit into a newsletter article but as I talked with my wife about our experiences, these stood out to me the most.

I Learned:

The Bible Is the Most Important Curriculum
Bible literacy, doctrine, and the command to share the Gospel can easily be lost in the home school. The responsibility or pressures of teaching academics, involvement in sports or other outside interests, tests, getting into college, when out of balance may consume our time to such a degree that Bible gets squeezed out of the lesson plans. According to Rainer Research, approximately 70 percent of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29. Equipping them to face the hostility and often ridicule against their faith should be the top priority. Topics we tackled that helped our children solidify their faith were: prayer, doctrine, church history, Biblical archaeology, how to study the Bible, apologetics, understanding creation vs. evolution worldviews, discerning God’s will for their
lives.

Homeschool Teachers Are Real Teachers Ordained by God
As such, Rosemary needed regular continued teacher education. What she needed most from me was total wholehearted support, so we attended CHEA each year. When possible we stayed at the hotel creating a much needed retreat for just the two of us. I can not emphasize enough what a difference it made. God met us there and always provided the training we needed for that next year; solved our school problems, comforted our insecurities, guided our curriculum decisions, provided fresh creative ideas, renewed and inspired us. I couldn’t imagine educating our children without a homeschool conference.

My wife rarely felt burned out throughout our journey and we are indebted to CHEA for that and more. Rosemary did what moms do at exhibit halls: buy tons and tons of books (not exaggerating) and read on topics that helped her teach, found encouragement from other moms, and eventually the Internet was born which made finding ideas and encouragement easy. As her husband, I needed to be her greatest cheerleader and provide all the resources and support she needed for success.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut 6:6-7

Children are Inquisitive
Children are born learners. God made them that way. We adults can foster or hinder their natural love of learning. As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.” The effort we make to make learning fun, even exciting, is worth the trouble a hundred-fold. Sure it’s easier to find canned curriculum that is easy on the teacher, and there is a place for it for sanity’s sake, however, making lifelong learners reaps benefits well into adulthood.

What we tried: different teaching/learning styles, unit studies, literature studies, delight-directed studies. We had lots of messes, crafts, art, costumes, projects of every kind. We let them play—it’s educational. They went outside to study nature and creation, took field trips, and saved like crazy for educational vacations, celebrated first day of school, the end of school year, holidays, traditions, life. Read together. Laughed a lot. Talked to each other. . .a lot. Lots of memories and loads of pictures. We learned that our school should be a place they would like to go to every day.

Taking Time To Set Goals and Debrief Regularly Is Crucial for Success
Each year before the beginning of the school year, we set goals for our children. The two most important and ones that required careful thought and prayer were a spiritual (e.g. learn to pray), and a character trait (e.g. diligence) goal for each child. We also set a physical (e.g. ride a bike), and academic (e.g. learn timetables) goal. It helped us keep focus on our priorities. We debriefed at the end of the year and as a part of our school’s promotion celebration we made certificates for academic and character trait awards which we presented to the kids. It was also a good time to discuss my wife’s needs, how we were doing with each child and relationships with them as individuals, my level of involvement in teaching, and family calendar planning. It helped me keep a pulse on the needs of the family.

Pray Without Ceasing
Which leads us to this final lesson. The responsibility and great calling to educate our children according to God’s will and purposes led me to my knees. It was through prayer and God’s grace that we finished the race He set before us. To God be the Glory. My encouragement to others is to honor God in your homeschool. Relentlessly pursue the heart of your child(ren) and diligently teach them how to love and honor God. Thirty years from now the only thing that will matter is the reason why you and your wife chose to keep them at home with you in the first place. All the other stuff is added unto you.

Published in the Dikaios Christian Academy Defender newsletter, May/June 2017. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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