Last week, Todd Roughton from Homeschooling NZ dropped off Jacob’s Year 13 certificate. My last child, my last student – finished! As the end of my homeschooling has drawn near, I’ve experienced a huge range of emotions. But the over-riding one is of intense gratitude. I feel so incredibly blessed to have been able to stay at home and teach my children. (Thank you, Chris!)
In April 1994 I wrote in my diary, “I am absolutely in love with my children! Feel sad at the thought of Josiah going to school. Am thinking about homeschooling…”
Yes! That was the beginning of the most wonderful, fulfilling 24 years. “Am thinking about homeschooling…” Little did I know what those three little dots would hold for us as a family.
Ready to begin our journey…
When Josiah was four, he was a very active boy and still had an afternoon nap. As ‘D day’ loomed nearer, I began to look seriously at the local school, and other schooling options. For me, the clincher was that I didn’twant to hand Josiah over to a teacher for the biggest part of his day, only to have him for a few tired hours at the end. I also realized his teacher wouldn’t necessarily share the same values and beliefs that Chris and I wanted to share with our children. Deuteronomy 6: 5-7 was the mandate I had from the Lord to begin home schooling.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon 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.”
So I began. It was an exciting time. Kate was four years old and very keen to home school as well. The three of us spent many happy hours reading together, doing art and all sorts of projects. Learning became a natural part of our days. We read wonderful books. We cut out fantastic photos of animals from National Geographic magazines. We sat outside at night and learned about the stars. We made puppets and wrote songs together. It was wonderful. I had been given the gift of time. Time to enjoy my children. Time to nurture and teach them. And most importantly, time to teach them the ways of the Lord. It wasn’t something I had to try and squeeze in at the end of the day. It was all day, every day, as natural as can be. And over the years, I’ve watched my children grow in their love for Jesus. They’ve been free from daily negative peer pressure, and when they became teenagers, they were thirteen, going on thirteen. They enjoyed each other’s company. I loved watching them playing board games together and laughing loudly. I love the closeness we have as a family, and I know we owe much of it to our years of home schooling.
My little class…Ellie a tad too young, even with her wig on 🙂
Each one of my six children is different -some were fluent readers at four, while two of them struggled until they were eight and ten. But because I was able to take them at their own pace, and encourage them in their different areas of gifting, they haven’t struggled with low self-esteem. At age eight, Samuel was diagnosed as dyslexic. When the tests were finished, the woman who did them took me aside, and said, “Do you know what the best thing you ever did for your son is?” I had a pretty good idea, but wanted to hear her say it. “The best thing you ever did for Samuel was homeschool him!” Yay! Don’t I know it! 🙂 She told me to just carry on doing what I was doing already with him, and that one day it would all fall into place for him. I still remember the day little Jake came to me and complained, “Mum, all Sam ever does now is read!” When I clapped my hands with joy, he put his hands on his hips and said, “It was not meant as a compliment!” 🙂
The children have developed self-discipline and self-motivation and are high achievers. But I have had more joy watching them develop godly character than from their exam results.
Our days began with chores, and family devotions. In the early years, we would sit down to book work until lunchtime. After that, the younger ones would enjoy the afternoon – soccer, LEGO, music practice, computer time, baking, reading, fun with friends, making tree huts and forts…
We were also able do extra things I would never have found time for otherwise. We spent many afternoons making rubber latex puppets, doing pottery, and writing and illustrating a children’s book. The older girls helped me teach the younger ones how to bake and cook dinner. The days were full and busy.
As the years passed, the schooling took longer and became more demanding. They learnt that life is not just about having fun; that study and exams and success are demanding and time consuming. We changed curriculum as needed, and when they turned 16, the older children began correspondence and sat NCEA2 with Te Kura. Some of them studied with ACE and earned their Year 13 certificate.
Whereas for years I’d been adding more and more children to my classroom, the time came when they began dropping off the other end! Josiah began his Valuation degree at Massey; Katie and Eliza went to Vision College to do music degrees; Emily began her nursing degree at North Tec and Samuel was offered a building apprenticeship. For the last four years, it’s just been Jacob and I—a very different but incredibly special time. How I treasure these years of home schooling! What else allows you to spend beautiful unrushed hours with your 17 year old son, reading God’s word and great books together and beginning each day praying together? I didn’t want it to ever end. But of course, it must. And now we’ve had the excitement of seeing Jacob begin his civil engineering cadetship with WSP Opus here in Whangarei.
As I take the time to look back on these 24 years, I remember both the joys and the challenges. I remember feeling so tired that my eyes would get heavy and my speech slurred as I read to the children in the morning. I remember the ghastly feeling that maybe I wasn’t doing enough; the regret that I couldn’t offer everything the local high school was offering. I remember the time when I felt I was a complete failure and that I’d have to send my strong-willed daughter to school. But still, I kept going. And the ‘power of an hour’ worked its miracle. Day after day, morning by morning, I would teach them about the Lord. Layer upon layer, little by little, our family values were lived out and embraced. Often I would write in my diary, “Oh Lord, help me to do my very, very best!”
I know that I’ve made mistakes. I know that some days were a write-off. I know it hasn’t been perfect. But I also know that I did do my very, very best, and that God has made up my areas of lack. Hallelujah! I feel overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude as I write this, thinking back to the day I wrote, “I’m thinking about homeschooling…” What a journey it’s been! How I’ve loved it!
I can picture my six young children around the table, laughing as they did their schoolwork, and I marvel at what they’ve turned out to be. It was a mystery of course back then. When Joe spent hours playing with LEGO, I didn’t know he’d become a property valuer. I might have guessed Kate would do something with music, but a masters in Music Therapy?? I didn’t even know such a thing existed. When three-year- old Ellie used to write tip tip tip over a page and then say ‘Uh oh!” and twink the words out again and again, I never guessed she’d end up doing a masters in opera singing. I thought Milly might become a vet, but never guessed I’d have the thrill of seeing her choose nursing! Watching Samuel always creating things with his hands and helping Daddy on the building, I always hoped he would become a carpenter. 🙂 And little Jake, so enthusiastic and excitable, creating great LEGO structures and all kinds of drawings, a civil engineer? How marvelous! What a joy it is to be a mother. I think back to when I was a single missionary at 30, wondering if I would ever get married and have children. How good God has been to me!
So, what now? Last month, my children organized a surprise dinner for me to say thank you for homeschooling them. It was beautiful. Candles, fairy lights, delicious food, lots of laughter as they reminisced, a song written for me and sung by Kate and Ellie, and the gift of a beautiful leather diary.
My six graduates!
Lots of laughter as we all reminisced on 24 years…
An important shot with Chris, the one who made it possible for me to stay at home and teach the children. xxx
And somehow that really helped me find closure. I’m excited now as I look ahead. Every morning, I follow a similar routine as I did for those 24 years. But now after devotions, I write! Mrs Tappity Tap Tap Chris calls me. 🙂 I have so many books I want to finish. And who knows, in the future I may have the joy of helping some of my children with their own homeschooling journey? Now that’s a lovely thought…