Parenting is Homeschooling

Amy Sparkman share how homeschooling taught her to rely on God's guidance more and more with each passing year! 

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: School

We can all be "teachers of good things" (Titus 2:3).
Parenting involves teaching and educating to some degree through all the years that your children are home. Homeschooling is one way to enhance and hone your parenting skills because you are striving to guide and mentor your children in such a wide variety of subjects and environments. But, the guiding light is always the same: your highest sense of what's right for your child – and that is most effectively discerned when it's based on one's spiritual intuition, on one's willingness to turn to God for ideas and answers. I found that homeschooling taught me to rely on God's guidance more and more with each passing year! 

Let God guide the day's activities: "This is the way, walk ye in it…" (Isa 30:21).
Goals are helpful guideposts for the day's learning. Sometimes they provide a structure or framework for an activity; other times they may be completely tabled, spontaneously replaced by a more fitting goal for that moment. I recall one day when I planned to focus on the basics – math, reading, and history. As I was corralling the boys toward the family room to begin, my eldest son made a request: couldn't he please first make a glider plane out of popsicle sticks? I agreed to a 30-minute design-and-build session before we dug into our real learning time. Instantly, the dining room table became the glider workshop, and all three children went to work cutting, fitting, and gluing popsicle sticks together in just the right way. Thirty minutes flew by (no pun intended!) and led to thirty more. I was mostly an observer to their experimentation, and in a short time, I realized that I needed to let go of the day's planned activities in favor of the boys' determination to figure out what made one glider fly straight and another crooked, why one sank and another soared, why one flew faster than the other two, how the breeze affected the flight, what effect a hard vs. gentle take-off had on the flight path. All three boys worked on this project all day long. The learning that took place was incalculable. And I had nothing to do with the planning of it. 

When we're humbly listening for God's direction in our day, the outcome is often unexpected and spectacular. Clinging to our pre-determined agendas most often causes frustration and disappointment. I learned this over and over again as a homeschooling parent.

Turn everyday life into learning experiences: ID the underlying qualities.
Often, I had to be gentle with myself as their primary teacher, and trust that the boys were learning what they needed to know. For instance, at the end of the day, we would find that we had done two hours of math, gone to the grocery store, done a lot of reading together, and played three hours of Legos. If I questioned our day, I would go back and think: Well, while they are playing Legos, they are engrossed in designing and building. Then they take their creations apart and start all over again. When we're at the grocery store, they identify colors, shapes, quantities, choices, and they are terrific people-watchers. You can't turn every moment into a learning experience, but being aware of the potential of each moment and engaging your child in that ongoing, ever-present learning process is huge.

The context of Jesus' parables is daily life – he taught in terms that the disciples and the multitudes could easily relate to and understand. The ability to discern the spiritual qualities of everyday life is one of the most valuable lessons in life. Actively acknowledging through our daily prayers that God is the source of intelligence, inspiration, and creativity, we can feel completely at peace about how our children spend their time and about the value of the lessons they are learning. 

You must "have faith as a grain of mustard seed" (Matt 17:20).
Sometimes a child may not be interested in a particular field of study that is important – take math, for instance. All of my boys stopped doing math for a period of time – one son refused for six months, which was nerve-racking…until I finally relaxed and realized that we were not in a race! More to the point, he was quite happily engaged in learning complex math skills and applications through all the designing, drawing and constructing of planes and boats he did every day, for years. Another son refused to sound out words. I would start fresh each day with renewed purpose, and he would simply shut down. But he would listen for hours and hours if I read aloud. As a result, he was a very late independent reader. But when he was finally ready, he picked up one of his books and read it without help. He was nine years old, and he quickly became a voracious reader.

Who or what are you going to believe: a) what you hear/see around you that others are saying and doing to educate their children, OR b) your spiritual intuition gained through consecrated prayer and listening for and to your child's needs? Listening and then following the ideas that come to you – that's always the "right path" to take.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (I Cor. 12:4).
You're listening and building an educational community and an academic program that meets your children's needs and gives them opportunities to be flexible, independent, and responsible about learning. We had music classes, play groups, gymnastics, and library time when the kids were younger. In the middle years, we created a theater group, a choral group, nature and science classes, and we took field trips to art and history museums, plays, concerts, recycling centers, aviation and train museums, and live-history centers like Plymouth Plantation, Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. By the time the boys got to high school, I worked with parents who had a particular background or skill set they could teach to design higher-level courses. The boys took Science classes at a nearby community college; I taught English; another mom taught art history; a fabulous public school history teacher taught three years of history, civics, and philosophy; the boys took Spanish and math courses over Skype; and my youngest son took an online course from the University of Michigan in design. The opportunities really are endlessly varied and adaptable to your child's learning style and interests. 

It is so important to find a healthy balance of activity because one of the most sacred aspects of homeschooling is the completely private and independent time to think and process and imagine and envision and design and create and explore. The opportunities for out-of-the-house activities were overwhelming at times, and often I would pull back from going-and-doing in order to protect our individual and family time at home. 

"Pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:15).
The practical ideas that came to me were truly answers to continuous prayer. All of us are capable of unique and remarkable adventures throughout our lives, including the way in which we "go to school." Homeschooling is a process. I found that I was the primary student – learning to express more than I ever thought I could of my God-given qualities, such as insight, patience, flexibility, spontaneity, and creativity; learning to see the limitless possibilities for how to learn and what to learn in order to learn by meeting the specific learning styles and interests and needs of each child. The single most valuable aspect of homeschooling was the time together as a family. The boys established a deep and abiding connection to each other and to their dad and me – relationships they have actively maintained while away at college. Homeschooling provides a solid grounding in one's identity and one's potential – it's a remarkable, God-centered, family journey.