What I Did This Summer?
If homeschooling saves our children from any one thing in the public school classroom, it is that dreaded first paper at the return of every new school year that seeks to answer the question, “What did you do during the summer?” Since parents are the teachers in homeschooling, they know exactly what their children did all summer so this is a mute point!
Instead of asking this antiquated question of the children, my challenge today is for homeschooling parents to ask themselves at the start of the summer season, “What am I going to do now to prepare for the next school year?” There are some, no doubt, who go right on homeschooling throughout the summer since one hundred plus degree days drive their children back inside for the respite of the air conditioner and they feel it’s better to go on schooling than falling prey to idle hands. Most, however, slacken the pace once the weather warms and it hopefully sends a refreshing breeze through their spirit, soul and body. I believe that this is an excellent time to do one of the most important things to insure success in the homeschooling journey. Because it isn’t urgent, however, many parents either push it to the backburner or give a little indifferent attention to it. I am talking about sharpening our vision for why and how we homeschool.
If you’ve been involved in the homeschool community any time at all, you have most assuredly heard of the importance of having vision. What I have discovered in talking to people, the language surrounding vision is usually spoken of in more generic terms, so much so that many have difficulty getting their arms around the concept. One transparent leader shared with me “we hear about ‘catching the vision’ all the time, but nobody ever tells us how to get it with the exception of read this book or that book.”
For the next 2 months, this is my goal. Firstly, I want to explain why vision is important. Next week I will share specific ingredients in obtaining a vision. Thirdly, I will share about how to keep the vision pure yet open to adjustments. The discussion will then move on to how to share vision with others. Then I will break down the ICHE vision for home education in bite size pieces so you, the reader, can better articulate this vision for future homeschoolers who I hope will be coming to you for wisdom!
Firstly, a solid vision is necessary to establish personal and educational discipline. I love to combine Proverbs 29:18 in both the KJV and the NKJV:
“Where the is no vision (KJV), people cast of restraint (NKJV). -- Proverbs 29:18
There are many good things that vie for our time. They are often biblical, moral and important. I frequently tell my children, you can’t have it all and you can’t do it all so you have to be selective in where you spend your time, energy and resources. How do we know what activities to give our lives to and which ones to forego? Vision. If something comes our way, we have only to compare it to what our vision is and ask, “Is this consistent with my vision?” Let’s flesh this out.
You have a vision for having evening devotions with your children a minimum of five nights a week. As you schedule your week, you discover that you have four opportunities that will require late evenings. Your vision helps you say “No” to the extra prospects without feeling a load of guilt. There’s no need to go through all of these emotional and spiritual acrobatics. In declining your invitations, you simply have to say, “We have a rule of devotions five times a week and we are already over our quota for the week. Thanks for the invitation though. May be another time.” I realize this package may be a little too neat, but you get the picture.
For you young people, don’t think vision is just for parents. In many ways it’s even more important for you. Youth is that magical time that has a potentially disastrous concoction: maximum amount of freedom and limited amount of responsibility. Some call this college. (Only kidding…sort of) Those years between 13 and 22 are so important yet they are treated so indifferently because young adults don’t have vision; they simply do what comes along. Where do you want to be in five years? Ten? What do you need to be doing now to get yourself there? Vision will give you the discipline you need to say “No” while your peers are all saying, “Yes.”
A second reason to have a vision is to avoid the herd mentality. Homeschooling parents often spend thousands of dollars on virtually unused curriculum. Why would they do such a thing? Most likely a friend is using a certain curriculum and is really excited about it. Their excitement is contagious and the listener concludes this program would serve them well too, so they fork out their hard earned money. This shouldn’t surprise us as advertisers spend billions of dollars a year trying to get us to spend $30,000 on a new car when the one we presently have is running just fine. People tend to gravitate towards that which contains energy. I think this can especially be true of the homeschooling community when we hit an inevitable snag and are looking for that non-existent silver bullet to make our journey with our homeschooled child idyllic.
You may have heard the story of the father whose wife died and he took his daughter into the backwoods to live. When authorities were made aware of the situation several years later and found the man and his daughter, they had the girl tested to see how much this overt isolation cost her in regards to academics. She scored past a senior in high school even though she was only an incoming freshman! Her curriculum? A worn out set of encyclopedias and the Bible. While I’m not advocating this type of lifestyle, it serves to remind us of the power of a life lived by vision and not by the voices of culture.
The crowd that hailed Christ as “Emmanuel” on Monday yelled “Crucify Him!” on Friday. Even with such negative examples, adults and youth alike still tend to follow the crowd. Why do people typically ride the flow downstream? It’s easier for sure. I also think it is a security issue. If you don’t have a strong “Yes” driving you from within, the next best thing is strength in numbers from without. If we don’t live by revelation from the Word of God we will live by imitation of the world. People find solace in standing in the longest line, even if it winds around to nowhere.
Conviction to a vision allows you to focus on the vision and not on what’s going on around you. The story of Jesus walking on the water comes quickly to mind. When He joins his disciples mid-sea, Peter looks at the Master and receives permission to join Him. All goes well until Peter loses his vision of Christ and starts to see the swelling sea all around. Please understand, not one external thing changed. The sea didn’t start tossing more in a matter of seconds. Christ certainly didn’t alter His invitation. What happened? Peter simply lost his vision and when he did, he got the same results we get when we look at any thing else but Christ…he sank like a rock. Ephesians makes the same point:
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, -- Ephesians 4:14
Like Peter, if vision doesn’t come from within, we will be tossed to and fro and will eventually sink. The world is fickle. To try and follow it is like riding a roller coaster. It may bring momentary excitement but it will eventually make you sick.
Finally—although this list could easily be extended—vision keeps us anchored during the times of uncertainty that are sure to come. Much of the contemporary theology encourages us to avoid difficulties at any price by throwing some type of biblical incantation at our circumstances and top it off in “Jesus name.” To use Jesus name, however, implies we want Jesus’ will done in our lives. In the story of the house built upon the solid rock, the writer did not say “If the rain descends, the floods come and the winds blow” but rather “WHEN the rain descends … If anyone tells you that the winds of life will not blow against your homeschool journey, they are either totally naïve or totally lying.
During these sanctifying situations, you are not a bad parent and your children definitely would not be better off in public school. Bad times come and go but it’s vision that helps us weather the storms. Far too many individuals conclude if pressures come against them, whatever they’re doing must not be God’s will. I say, if we have an enemy that is fearful of a move of God in our lives, difficulties may very well be confirmation that we are exactly where God wants us to be. Let’s be careful to interpret events according to God’s Word and not contemporary theology.
Vision acts as an anchor, keeping us from jumping from one ship to another to another in turbulent seas. You don’t need a new curriculum but simply constancy to your vision. It keeps us focused on the macro, which is ten years down the road, and not to get unduly stressed on the micro, which may change week to week.
The warmth of summer is upon us. It’s a season in which we can draw in a deep and refreshing educational breath. The daily trenches of homeschooling—for most—have temporarily subsided. Step back and recalibrate so that when September rolls around, you will have an exciting discussion with your children on what you did this summer.
Executive Director, ICHE