There is nothing like being a parent to make you realize just how hard your own parents worked to raise you into a (semi)well-adjusted adult. It’s only as a homeschool mom that I have begun to appreciate how much I owe my own homeschool moms. Yes, Moms. Because not only do I have a personal experience with my own wonderful mother and her homeschooling, but my fabulous mother-in-law was also a homeschooler.
They were both within that first heroic wave of homeschool pioneers. Their supplies and curriculum were limited. They somehow still managed to educate six children between the two of them, mainly without YouTube or Google. The two of them are and were completely different in so many ways. But without doubt, my homeschool now owes so much to both of their homeschools then.
Three Lessons from my Mom
Classical Before it was Cool
My mom was essentially classical before it was hip or had a trendy label. The opposite of an “ages and stages” approach, she used the humanities as the core of our academic adventures. We studied history biographically and chronologically. We delved deeply into the riches of original sources. We memorized large chunks of Scripture and (later on) catechism. We even studied Latin!
When I was a teenager and knew everything, I remember regretting that I hadn’t been drilled with a bunch of facts and dates (how I misunderstood the “grammar” stage at that time from my months of reading and becoming an “expert” from all the new cool books on classical education). Now that I’m an adult and realize how little I actually know, I am filled with such intense gratitude for my mom’s vision for raising a human being in the light of God’s Word and through the riches of a liberal arts education.
“You can Sit on a Book, but You can’t Read a Chair”
This is one of my favorite mom-isms ever. My family never had fancy furniture, but we had shelves brimming with well-read treasures. Our entire home overflowed with books from my earliest memories. We read books aloud together constantly, both for school and pleasure. When we would travel, we listened to hours of audiobooks as a family.
I still remember fondly one evening returning home in the wee hours of the morning from a long trip. We all rushed inside to pile on my parents’ bed and finish the last CD of Treasure Island…before we had even unloaded the car! And beware the siren call of the library booksales and used bookstores! Our whole family knows the thrill of finding a longed-for treasure in a dusty, forsaken pile of books at the back of an antique shop! We were taught to treasure books over stuff and raised to know the delight of reading.
Perhaps “ebullient enthusiasm” is a bit redundant, but it’s hard to imagine how else to encompass the vivacity and infectious delight with which my mom approached all the subjects, almost all the time. G. K. Chesterton once quipped, “there is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.”
We never had time to grow uninterested, because Mom had personal enthusiasm for learning new things herself that radiated outward to the rest of us. Whether we were crying over a novel, discovering reasons behind a math rule, or waxing doxological over the intricacies of science, we always knew that learning was something worth loving.
Three Lessons from my Mom-in-Law
As if I were not already blessed enough by the educational example of my own mom, I married a man whose mother has truly become a second mom of my heart. I have been heavily influenced by her homeschooling style through the recollections and reminisces of her son, John.
Her Son Turned out to be Fabulous
Ok, don’t laugh at me. But seriously, my biggest debt to my mom-in-law is that she raised a fabulous son who cares about our family and about how and why we educate our children. In fact, John had his own personal vision for educating our future children even before we were married. While many struggle to get on the same page with their spouses, I am so grateful for our predominantly unified purpose in the essentials.
The ease with which this is possible is due in large part, I believe, to the example set by John’s mom. Plus, she just raised a really great son in general: a man who loves Jesus, loves his family, and is my best friend. For that alone I will be forever indebted to this dear lady. I want to remember that I’m raising up potential future spouses, too!
Consistency and Faithfulness over Perfection
Perhaps the most transformative thing in my own approach to homeschooling has come from hearing of the consistent faithfulness John’s mom maintained in their school life. She managed in her home and inculcated in her children a disciplined, self-controlled approach to education and family life. She created regular plans and they stuck with them, modelling for me the beauty of routine and order. She encouraged independence, persistence, and hard work.
She taught her children to be faithful in their daily callings. This is the hardest aspect of our homeschool for me. I naturally love the big, fun, splashy things (and don’t get me wrong, those are equally valuable in their proper place)! But I have learned that there is such peace that comes from not worrying about whether I’ve picked the “right,” “ideal,” or “best” curriculum. What is so much more impactful is if we get up each and every morning and just do the next thing.
Love for God’s Word
Instilling a fervent love for God’s Word in their children is something both my moms did very well. But I mention this here because it is one of the top things John always mentions when discussing the things he’s thankful for about his own mom. Indeed, the love for the Bible and Bible memory that Mom encouraged has been tremendously formational in John’s life. Thus, it is something that is also integral to how John views our own goals in education. Just as it does not profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul, so it would have been mere vanity and striving for the wind had Mom managed to get all the academics right but ignored the Truth on which it is all founded!
These are merely highlights from both of these fantastic ladies, but you don’t really want to sit here while I continue to ramble on rhapsodically. And neither am I trying to leave out my dads, as if the moms were so awesome all on their own. But Mother’s Day is approaching, so the Mothers get all the streamers and sparklers today!
I also realize that many of you do not have fond memories of your moms for various reasons, and that this can be a challenging and painful season hearing sappy stories and memories about mothers. I am earnestly sorry for your hurts. I pray that this post can bring encouragement as you think how you want your own children to look back on their education one day. You can make decisions now for the mom you want to be remembered as in the future.
Most importantly, can I just reassure all of you that the three of us would laugh maniacally if someone said any of this sounded so “perfect”? Neither of these lovely ladies is perfect, and their homeschools certainly weren’t either. But isn’t that the gospel, after all? Our gracious God takes bent twigs and flickering wicks, using them for His glory and His children’s good! My moms are beautiful “plantings of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Is 61:3). This is of such profound encouragement to me as I remain deep in the trenches! God is taking all our unique abilities and failures as homeschool moms and forming a beautiful tapestry to display His splendor, not our own!
Our Quirky Homeschool Collage
By God’s grace, John and I have taken these lessons and many others from our moms. We’ve created a funky collage with elements from our homes of origin, new homeschool mentors, and our own quirky perspectives on life.
Our homeschool doesn’t look exactly like either of the homeschools from which we came. I am not exactly like my mom or my mom-in-law in personality or educational style, and our day-to-day education reflects these differences.
But I am ever more convinced each year that most things that arise organically within our education, or bring joy and peace to our homeschool, owe so much to these two women: my Moms and my mentors.