Running the Race: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Running the Race (Part 1)

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We all know that any venture has three parts: starting, doing and completing. We should also know that as difficult as getting something started may be, it is the doing part that requires the greatest amount of time and effort, with finishing usually coming fairly easily at the end.

This is not the case with home education. Getting started is usually the most difficult. This is because all of our status quo educational experiences have to be overcome. Not only that, but everybody else’s hang-ups seem to end up being “our” problems.

Completing a home education journey can also be difficult, depending on just how much pressure you are facing from the outside.

Before I continue, I would like to suggest that you take the time to review the blogs completed thus far in this series. If you have not been closely following, it would be a good idea to get the background and if you have, simply do so as a refresher. Most of the hang-ups you have had to overcome have been already been dealt with there.

Once having gotten out of the gate, so to speak, having established the foundation and the goal, having found the best fit for a provider, and having determined the how, the where and the why of home education, the easiest part is the actual day to day task of providing opportunity for the children to learn.

Usually after the first year, most of the anxieties, fears and insecurities will have diminished. Sadly, there will always be that lingering nagging feeling that you may have made the wrong decision and there will be no lack of people to “encourage” you with these doubts and misgivings.

By now you have had a chance to reconsider the things you thought were important, some of which you will now see as silly. You may even regret having implemented some of these things, but take heart. As important as starting may be, it is not so important how you start, but how you Run The Race.

If you are struggling with doubts and fears, or you have lost your initial vision, perhaps you have been listening to or following the wrong people.

If you find that fundamentally nothing has changed regarding why you chose to home educate in the first place, then re-evaluate what has been going well and continue or improve on those things. Discard the things that haven’t been working.

This season of your home education journey could very well be the most fun you will have as a family. The children are little, they see their parents as perfect (I believe God has temporarily blinded them!), and once past the Learning To Read phase, they are like sponges just soaking up the information from the opportunities you provide them.

However, one must always keep in mind that younger children must be treated as such, and not as adults. It is good to give children responsibilities, no doubt, but not major decisions that will affect their lives.

When children squeak about going to or going back to school, the answer is no! Sometimes they just want what other children have which may be as simple as buying them a backpack!

If you started without having sent the children to school, this new, more comfortable phase, will continue until the children enter puberty.

Should you have started home education from a school situation, the outcomes of this phase will depend on just how much time the student spent in school.

Generally speaking, it is fair to say that the more time spent in school, the greater the number of “school issues” that may have to be dealt with, on both the parent’s and the student’s part, and the longer it may take to get things working in this new paradigm of home education.

Even if really comfortable with your decision to home educate and even if things are going relatively well, problems and issues will arise from time to time. As long as you have committed to home education and not just picked it as an option presented to you by the world, you should be able to get past them when they arise.

Truth is, there would have been problems and issues had you sent the children to school. In comparison, home based issues are relatively minor, so “get over it”!

The most difficult part of getting started was likely having to review, renew or replace the school-based thinking that you were tempted to bring home. Once you have overcome those temptations, your ongoing challenge will likely be the continual vigilance to avoid slipping back into that snare.

Gradually and eventually, both parents and students should find comfort in learning within the environment created by God for the training and teaching of children, namely, the home. We have found that after the first year has been accomplished, parents (and students) are better equipped to carry on.

We call it being on home education “cruise control” and it will likely go fairly smoothly until you reach the finishing part, which will not necessarily be more difficult, but it will be different. We will talk about that later.

Training For The Race: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Running the Race (Part 2)

The most common issue that arises during the “Running The Race” phase of home education is familiarity. The mother is always with the children and the children start to see her as one of them. Fathers have to be especially diligent in having the children keep a healthy respect for their mother during this time.

Dad also can become a little complacent, since mom is doing such a good job. It is true that if “something isn’t broken it is not wise to fix it,” but it is also true that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The overriding principle at this stage becomes “if momma isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

Dad should take mom out on a date, giving her a chance to bounce some ideas, vent a little and to enjoy some “adult company.” It is probably a good thing to make a habit of this. Mom needs to be encouraged too and there is no one who can do this better than a loving, faithful, caring and responsible husband.

The father HAS to be involved in the training, teaching and discipling of their children, at all times, as this is HIS responsibility and not the mother’s, even though the mother does most of the work involved in the home education.

The mother’s role is simply to be a helpmeet, that is, to help the father meet his goals for the preparation of his children to be good citizens of this world while serving God in every way.

I have found that if the father is not seriously involved in this part of the training, he is largely disqualified from being taken seriously by the children after puberty. Fathers may not be physically there, in the home, on a day to day basis, but their authority, which comes from God should be omnipresent.

I cannot overstate the importance of having the father take and demonstrate responsibility in the education of his children, with mother actively performing the task on his behalf.

It should also be noted that even though academic study is important, it pales in comparison with understanding who God is and how He desires to be part of our lives.

Let’s take a close look at a couple of Bible verses to get a vision of our goal as Christian home educating parents.

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is the most quoted verse in the home education world. Although we may quote it often, do we truly understand what it means?

It says train, not teach, up a child, not an adult. Training is just that. The repeating and repeating of things to the young, until it is finally absorbed. Training is aimed at the heart, not the head, which is the target for teaching.

Training the heart is what should take place before puberty arrives. There is plenty of time for teaching the head afterwards. If the heart is not trained before puberty, you may end up with an educated person, yet someone without a moral rudder. This is becoming all too common, these days.

It may be instructive at this point to expose the fact that schools constantly talk of teaching, and almost never, if ever, mention training until the post-secondary level. I believe this shows that the status quo education system is either not interested in training children, or fully understand that the heart is what needs to be targeted, secretly perhaps, with the Godless, unbiblical, anti-Christian message it advances under the banner of neutrality. Think about this.

Back to Proverbs 22:6. I interpret the “in the way that he should go” portion as “in keeping with whom I have created.” God has already created the child who does not need to be improved upon. God saw that His creation was not just good, but very good, after he had created man. I believe God sees every child as complete and very good.

It is not our place to create something of our child, but to develop what has already been created. As stated by Abram’s coach in the movie Chariots of Fire, “it is not a good thing to try to put in what God has left out.”

The training of a child is therefore best described as writing the truth in their hearts. This is done constantly not only in word, but also, in deed.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, also a commonly quoted verse in the home education world, tells us just what should be written in the hearts of children, stating that this is the responsibility of parents, fathers in particular, and that it can only be successful when constantly reinforced in daily living. Sounds like home education to me.

Once the truth has been written in their hearts, even if they deny it, run from it, pretend it doesn’t exist or simply turn their backs on it, it remains etched on the walls of their very being. That is why it states “and when he grows old, he shall not depart from it.”

No matter what, truth written in the heart of a child is there to stay. They may be adults before they return to the fold, so to speak, but it will happen because the truth written in their hearts by loving parents cannot be erased.

Train up a child, in keeping with what God has created, by constantly reiterating, demonstrating, reinforcing and writing the truth on the walls of his heart, before he reaches puberty.

Making this training a part of Running The Race stage of learning will best prepare children for that day when, having gone through puberty, the teaching phase of the home education can proceed in earnest.

Potentially Losing The Race: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Running the Race (Part 3)

I sincerely hope that this blog does not really apply to you. However, living in this world provides ample opportunity to become discouraged and return to what we initially intended to escape.

The pressure to conform to the status quo never stops. This is true respecting our Christian commitment, as well as our desire to educate the children at home.

By now, you have learned how to address the concerns of loved ones regarding home education. You may have become so weary of the “socialization” question that you have invented a “less than gracious answer” and you have become convinced that you are not ruining your children’s lives!

Still, the pressure is on and life is not fair or particular as to who gets what problems, only that they are inevitable.

Parents can be tempted to quit and they do occasionally “lose their wheels” and trip while Running The Race. It can happen at any time of the year and at any point in the journey, but January and February seem to be the worst times.

Remember the statement made at the beginning, the one about “requiring a lot of effort and faith”? If there is no biblical foundation in your life, you are free to do as you please. If you do have a biblical foundation in place, you are still free to do as you please, only in this case, you no doubt started home educating as a conviction.

Knowing that God has directed parents to train, teach and disciple their children, with no provision to abdicate that responsibility to “hired, replacement parents” in a very dysfunctional “gigantic age-segregated family,” how does one veer from this revelation?

Is God confused? Does He require one thing of us in the beginning and then change His mind and redirect us in complete opposition to His Word? Some parents have even stated that “God has given them a peace” about quitting home education. Really? Who is confused?

It is safe to conclude that, in order to avoid having to admit and deal with our struggles and fears, we deflect the issues by justifying our decision and by claiming that it is God’s will.

This is where confusion has set in, and it is quite often that parents in this situation become tired of Running The Race, believing that they cannot provide what is best for their children.

Is quitting the answer? Do you think that anyone else can do a better job of training children than loving parents? Is being tired an excuse to quit? If frustrated, is quitting the answer or is fixing the issue causing the frustration the wisest thing to do? If the children are “driving you crazy”, is sending them elsewhere a solution?

In making that decision, are you not just postponing today’s problems until tomorrow, when those problems are likely to become much more serious?

Before quitting, consider the following:

Nothing will change the fact that God is God and that He has directed parents to train, teach and direct their children to Him so He can direct them in their lives. Review your reasons for home educating in the first place and ask yourself what has changed.

Everybody experiences a crisis of faith from time to time, and you are no different. If you are in a crisis of faith, remember that it is temporary and in time, will pass. Seek a friend or mentor to encourage you.

Even though continuing on may occasionally seem difficult, Paul’s letter to the Galatians instructs us to “not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Remember that the darkest hour is usually just before the dawn.

Trials are to be expected in life. Learn and grow from them.

Finally, hang in there, God is not finished with you or your children. He is allowing you to be tested and He would never allow this testing to go beyond what you can endure.

Quitting may be the easiest solution, but it is a temporary one. As you have undoubtedly heard before, quitters never win. Sending your children to an institution can turn your children’s hearts from God to the world and its views and negatively influence family relationships.

Bringing the institution home is no better and not necessary, as there is no need for high school accreditation. We will address these issues in the next portion of this series.

In the meantime, remember our discussion about having to sacrifice when given children. Remember that we said that this sacrifice can be expressed as parents sacrificing themselves for the sake of the children or children being sacrificed for the sake of the parents.

The enemy wants your children and he wants them bad. He is fearful of fully equipped believers who can inflict damage to his diabolical plan.

The home educated are likely his biggest concern as he has not had the opportunity to poison their thinking to distrust God and His promises. And he has no lack of volunteers to aid him in discouraging parents who have determined to follow God’s directives rather than his schemes.

Perhaps keeping your children home is the simplest solution to keep them out of harm’s way, but nobody said it was going to be easy.

Trust me. You will never regret having kept your children at home, but you are sure to question the wisdom of sending them back to school or bringing that failed human institution home.

It is best to continue on your home education journey, so you can Finish Strong.