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First Things First

School is beginning in earnest for another year. Tirzah's college classes begin today. Fall is coming upon us once again. After 32 years, my days of homeschooling ended a year ago. A new season of life has started for me. But I see younger moms who are gearing up for the new school year—with both eager anticipation and reticent dread! It's a LOT of WORK! No doubt about it, homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, nor for the slack of mind. It's a mammoth responsibility.

Part of my "older woman" duty as a veteran homeschool mom urges me to pass on some of the things I've learned during those 32 years. Did I do it all perfectly? Not by a long shot. Did I get everything in? Far from it. Do I wish I could do it over again? Oh, yes. Well . . . and no! But, truly, mostly YES! There's so much more I wish we could have learned together, so much more of life to share and enjoy, so many things to explore, so many things yet to fill and stretch our minds. But life flows on, and we can't hold it back or pull it back.

Even with all the burden of it, with all the ways it revealed my failures, with all the struggles and occasional butting of heads, I still loved it. I'd still recommend it. I'd still wish to do it again.

I was asked to speak at a local homeschool group in the Seattle area last year, and the topic they chose from my website list pleased me very much. It is the topic that is dearest to my heart: Discipleship 101: First Things First. Since this is my first homeschooling blog, it seemed that this would be a good place to start.

When our oldest son turned five, we were in the Philippines, and our children were the only white children in the whole province. He was quite shy, none of us knew the language yet, and every time we went into town to the open market the children's blonde hair was stroked and their white skin pinched. So we decided to homeschool. Back in those days it was difficult to even get homeschooling materials unless you were a missionary. I knew nothing about how to teach a kindergartner, but I did what the teacher's manuals said to do and sent in his work to the school that had provided us with the curricula.

When we came back to the States a couple years later, we had more choices. We could put them in public school—the most logical thing to do since we had very little money. We could put them in our church's Christian school. Or we could continue to homeschool. We weighed the options. Here's what tipped the scales for me: I thought of the teachers in the Christian school who would be discipling my children. Could they possibly have the same passion and heart for them as I did? Could they care as much about their spiritual growth? This was something God has laid upon us as parents. The privilege of that role has been given to parents. This was the desire of my heart to do.

Consequently, we decided to stick with it, embarking on the long haul of schooling our children. I look back now and see many flaws, many ways in which I didn't fulfill my own dreams and desires; but, nevertheless, the driving force behind our decision was the desire to teach our children the truths of the Bible and to lead them to the knowledge of God.

So Bible came first. As more of my children came of school age and I was juggling multiple grades plus new little ones, the pressure to get all the work done for every subject with each child would bear down on me. I caved to that pressure more than once, thinking, We'll just quickly get through their English, math, reading, science, etc. in the morning and then we'll do Bible when we're relaxed and everything else is done. I'm sure you can guess what happened. The children didn't work as fast as I wished they would, interruptions would waylay our day, and the day got away from us . . . And that would happen day after day.

Then the Lord would gently remind me—this question would come to my mind: "Why are you homeschooling?" Oh, right. Discipleship. And I'd have to repent and reorient our day: Bible first.

God's Word claims to be living and active and powerful. It can divide between our soul and our spirit. That is extremely important in knowing how to live the Christian life (more on that at another time). The Word of God transforms our thinking, builds character, convicts of sin, teaches us to walk in righteousness, equips us for service, trains us in living by a completely different philosophy than the "grab for all the gusto," "climb the ladder," "dog eat dog" existence of our normal patterns of thinking. The Bible teaches us godliness; and godliness, the Bible says, is profitable for ALL things. Do we believe this? Then . . . Bible first.

Days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Soon they are grown and flown. What you get in during those years is all they will have to launch them on their own journey of adult life. What do you want your children to take with them?

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