When God Told Me to Homeschool My Kids, I Told Him No.

Funny how hindsight is 20/20.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Istood in the middle of the pure chaos that was supposed to be my daughter’s first grade classroom, and her teacher’s gaze met mine. His chest and shoulders rose as he inhaled deeply. His eyes closed.

Children were screeching, running, one or two were crying, papers and pencils and crayons fell to the floor, and I could almost hear Mr. L counting to ten in his head, trying to compose himself before he lost it.

My heart went out to him in that moment, and I thought, This is no way for kids to learn.

Between the two of us, we finally managed to get the majority of the kids back on task, and then it was time for me to go, thank goodness. I didn’t know how he could stand being in the middle of that for seven hours every day. I didn’t know how my daughter could stand it, especially because Mr. L would frequently rely on her to help keep her classmates on task, or to even chase down children that had escaped down the hallway. (She has kind of a “little mother” personality and is unusually responsible for her age.)

“I didn’t give you those talents so you could teach other people’s children.”

But it wasn’t Mr. L’s fault. I had been volunteering in his classroom for months, and I had volunteered in multiple classrooms over the years. Never before had I seen the level of disrespect, lack of attention spans, and outright rebellion as he had on his hands with that group of first graders. He was a talented teacher, but he could only do so much with that many kids who were out of control.

I had cycled two– almost three– other children through public elementary school already, but it hadn’t been at this school or with these students. Our county had built a new school and had redrawn the boundaries, moving us out of the elementary school we’d been a part of for the past nine years and putting us here.

My older daughter was in fourth grade, and had had struggles of her own in school that year. She’d started out the year popular and well-liked, but had fallen from grace when she’d decided to befriend a girl in her class that everyone picked on. Eventually, the girl became her only friend.

Various other issues I’d experienced (like being treated coldly by office staff, witnessing a lunchroom worker completely lose it and scream in a child’s face, and practically having to pull teeth to even be allowed to help out in the classroom) also contributed to my unease with the school, so I began to look for other options.

To make a long story shorter, I went through literally every other option before coming around to homeschooling. It was a last resort. I could feel God nudging me toward homeschooling, but I didn’t want to homeschool.

I had been living in a world of black and white, and suddenly everything was in color.

I worked from home. How could I work and homeschool at the same time?

Plus, I’m an introvert. How would I handle having my two youngest under my feet ALL day?

As it became increasingly clear that my options were limited, I decided I would just start looking into homeschooling. No commitments yet, just a cautious exploration.

Fortunately, I had friends from church who homeschooled. I made appointments to meet with them and pepper them with questions. I joined a homeschooling Facebook group. I attended the free information sessions at a local homeschool conference.

Still, I resisted. It made no sense for me. I had hard work deadlines. I served in a demanding volunteer position in my church working with public affairs, requiring frequent meetings and appointments. I also had two teenagers who were involved with play practices and robotics competitions and cross country meets– how would I be able to continue driving them all over creation and supporting them while also teaching their younger sisters? I didn’t have any time as it was!

I explained all of this to God. I told Him homeschooling was a nice idea, but it wouldn’t work. He pushed. I pushed back.

One day I was on my way home from one of my meetings with a homeschooling friend. My mind was wandering to what homeschooling might be like for us. I thought, If I homeschooled, I wonder if I could still go do story time with the kids at the elementary school? I have talents I still want to share.

Then words came into my mind as clearly as if someone had spoken them aloud: “I didn’t give you those talents so you could teach other people’s children.”

Ouch.

I went home and I decided to present the idea to my daughters, just to test the waters. “What would you two think about being homeschooled next year?” I asked.

I could almost hear Him chuckling at me from up above as I grumbled down below.

My first grader smiled. She thought it was a great plan.

My fourth grader burst into tears. “NO!” she screamed. “NO! I HATE that idea!” She ran up to her room, sobbing.

I looked up at the ceiling. “Fine, God,” I said. “You want me to homeschool? Convince her. Then we’ll talk.”

Literally five minutes later she came downstairs, sniffling, but calm.

“Actually, Mom,” she said. “I think I might like being homeschooled.” She then laid out all the reasons she’d decided it would be a pretty good idea.

I glared at the ceiling.

These were just a few of the many unmistakable signs God gave me during this time. Literally every time I threw Him a challenge, He knocked it out of the park. I could almost hear Him chuckling at me from up above as I grumbled down below.

Finally, I relented. In June I sent in our official Notice of Intent for home instruction. I officially withdrew my girls from the public school system and said farewell to Mr. L, who heartily agreed with my decision to homeschool (and confided that he and his wife planned to do the same when their children were old enough). I then spent the summer researching and purchasing curriculum, and praying fervently over a daily schedule that would give me the time I still needed to work.

By the time September rolled around, I was terrified, but I also knew God had made the way clear for me. So I leapt.

And it was amazing.

The talents God had given me for teaching began to come alive in me in a way I’d never experienced before. I realized how much I love to learn. I found myself excited to wake up each day, excited for math and science and reading and history.

I got to take field trips. I love being out in nature, and visiting museums and historical sites. Before, I never had any good reason to do those things by myself while my girls were in school. But once I started homeschooling, we were taking field trips every week, and we had a wonderful time exploring together.

At home, we baked cookies. We had poetry teatimes. We read books and then watched movies of the books we’d read. We did science experiments. We got excited about the things we learned.

The best way to describe it was that it was like the part in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s world goes from black and white to color: I had been living in a world of black and white, and suddenly everything was in color.

The daily schedule that had been born of prayer has worked so well I haven’t had to change a thing, and I found myself meeting my work deadlines even earlier than before. Homeschooling and working from home made no sense, and yet it was working.

I had to laugh. God was right. He knew me better than I knew myself and He was so, so right.

We’d been plugging along with our homeschooling, doing just fine when the COVID-19 outbreak hit. Schools everywhere closed, and parents all over the world were thrust into involuntary homeschooling.

Remember how I felt about homeschooling at this time in 2019?

Had I been forced into homeschooling my girls the same way most of the people I know have been forced into homeschooling their kids, I would have been an emotional wreck.

Granted, this isn’t quite like the homeschooling I’ve been doing– most notably, the big increase in the amount of time we actually spend at home– but I am eminently grateful to a loving Father in Heaven who guided me toward it gradually, carefully, in preparation for this trying situation.

Unlike my friends who are parents of public schooled kids, I haven’t been thrown into the deep end. I’m not suddenly scrambling, trying to guide my second grader and fifth grader through confusing work packets and online assignments, or trying to wrap my head around what they’re supposed to be learning right now. God made sure I figured all that out nine months ago when he pushed me to become a homeschooler, even when it made no sense.

I’m so glad He didn’t take “no” for an answer.

Musings on motherhood, writing, life, and relationships– and the struggle to stay sane through it all.

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