When I first started homeschooling my three kids (ages six, three, and one) in 1995, I thought my life from that moment would always be about homeschooling. I pictured all of my time (or at least most of it) shaping my children’s education. I scheduled my day in 15-minute increments and did my best to stick to it. What I didn’t know was that over the years God would call me to follow my own dreams. What I also didn’t realize was my kids would benefit from that.
It all started when I attended the Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference with a friend. Being there with industry professionals made writing for publication seem possible. Classes taught me how to be published. The love, prayers and support of published authors and editors brought people into my life who believed in me and prodded me to follow God’s dreams. It didn’t matter to them that I was a young, homeschooling mom who hadn’t even finished college.
At first I felt guilty following my dreams. I’d homeschool in the morning and then in the afternoon I’d set aside a few hours to write while my children played. Those early years, I wrote articles and ideas for novels as Barney played on the television. At least a dozen times during those two hours my kids would ask me for milk, or a snack, or to play with them. I’d offer what I could but then remind them, “This was Mommy’s writing time.” Guilt weighed me down as if Barney the dinosaur sat on my shoulders, and I was sure I was the worst homeschooling mother there was. To combat my guilt I swung the other way and became over committed, making frequent library trips, signing my daughter up for dance lessons and my boys up for sports. It was my husband who urged me to stop the madness. Over the months to come we figured out our priorities:
- To provide a godly education for our kids
- To sign up each child for one extra-curricular activity a year
- To have dinner time as a family
- To train our children how to be part of the family unit and do chores
- To connect and serve in our local church
- To have reading time together as a family at night
- To see what God was doing in our lives and follow Him
For me, this last one included following my writing dreams, and as the years past I started getting published—first with articles and later with books. When the kids were 11, 8 and 6, God called me to help start a crisis pregnancy center, too, and to start mentoring teen moms. During that same time my husband started a dynamic children’s ministry at our church.
With each call from God I argued. Lord, what about this homeschooling thing? Shouldn’t I focus more on that? Yes, I was still spending 3-4 hours homeschooling every day, but I’d look around and see my friends pouring 100% of their lives into their kids. I felt I was giving my kids the short end of the stick. Instead of sitting outside working on nature journals, my kids were with me at the pregnancy center folding baby clothes or babysitting for the teen moms. Instead of taking those art classes at the museum, my kids were reading or building Lego forts while I worked at my computer. The more success I had in both arenas, the more I felt torn. Yet the more I prayed about it, I also saw God opening doors. Soon I was traveling out of town to research books and attend conferences, and sometimes I had to drag my kids along. (Poor kids!)
I can’t say when the “ah-ha” moment happened, but over time I began to see how following my dreams benefited my children in numerous ways. For them, they’d say they realized having a mom who wrote books was cool when we got free tickets and backstage passes to a Newsboys concert through a writing friend. For me, I’d say it was when I saw my daughter’s compassion for teenage mothers or when I overheard my son telling someone he wanted to write screenplays. They met WWII veterans I was interviewing and traveled all over the US as I researched.
As a mom, I didn’t need to teach my kids that we should follow God’s dreams for us and work hard to share His truth with others. They saw that lived out on a daily basis. Being a servant of God was modeled … and I just thought I was being a slacker for not doing science projects or having them memorize enough spelling words! As time passed, I realized God asked me to follow my dreams not only for the people I served, but also for my kids.
My kids are 23, 20 and 18 now. Cory is married with a newborn son. He’s working in insurance and writing a novel on the side. Leslie is a senior in college and plans on teaching English and doing mission work overseas when she graduates. Nathan is a college freshman, is an intern in the writing lab at his university, and he’s also writing a novel. We’ve also adopted a baby girl who is almost 3-years-old and we are in the process of adopting two more children from the foster care system. I plan on doing many things the same, including homeschooling, serving teen moms and writing … but this time I’m doing it without the guilt. I trust God more now. I trust that if He’s called me to something for Him, He understands how it’ll impact my kids. I trust He sees their futures too. I trust homeschooling isn’t just about books and learning, it’s about serving and following God with everything we have.
So what about you, Mom? Has God placed a dream in your heart or your spouse’s heart? Maybe like me you’re thinking, “I’ll do that after these homeschooling years have passed.” I’d encourage you to reconsider that and go to God in prayer. After all, kids learn far more from our lives than from books. You are your child’s teacher … teach them with your life not just your lesson plan.