Right before my move in April I attended a homeschool conference in Kelowna BC. I went because it was basically free (thanks Hes!). I am not a seminar type person especially if I don't know who is speaking. This conference was exclusively Christian therefore more worth the risk. The main speaker at the conference was Debra Bell. Come to find out, she attends a Sovereign Grace church in Pennsylvania. We attend one in our local area. It was such a blessing to attend a homeschool conference where the gospel was at the center and not method, ideology or the best curriculum. It was refreshing to say the least.
I was deeply effected by many of the things she said. Her opening message was entitled "Homeschooling from a Foundation of Grace. She so freshly reminded me that grace (not my works) and the gospel must be the center of what I am doing at home with my kids regardless of curriculum or methods.....it's about the gospel and the great price he paid for our salvation. How am I bringing grace into our day? How am I living in front of my kids as we school? Am I dependant on Jesus and the gospel to carry me through the day or my self sufficient tendencies? Am I embracing my weakness and grateful for them as his method to teach me HIS all sufficiency and my great need? All questions that I can and do so easily let fall to the wayside. She challenged us to live in awareness of the grace that is available every minute of everyday and to build faith into our kids lives with our words and actions. Pointing them to his kindnesses and purpose in things and not just getting things done.
She talked about discouragement. And defined it very simply yet powerfully as unbelief. When we get down about homeschooling or overwhelmed (at the time I was....baby, moving, behaviour struggles with my son etc) it is because we lack faith to believe that God is at work and has a plan even in those times. It comes down to his sovereignty. Every season and circumstance has a place in his perfect plan. It helped me relax about all we weren't doing related to education at the time.
She went on to talk about family relationships and how homeschooling is a tool used by God to sanctify us and how it brings sin to the surface. Ain't that the truth!. She made it very clear that family relationships have to take priority over academics....which I think we all know because that's why we have our kids at home right. But how many times have you said or thought "We just need to get this done now, no matter what!"...I have found myself there many times...this is when I tend to sin against my kids trying to get it done when really the priority is their heart and mine before God...not the last 10 math problems. I also felt very convicted about my relationship with my husband. We have had a long season of much change and challenging circumstances. I have maintained our homeschooling, keeping the kids on track but listening to Debra made me realize there were areas I wasn't maintaining in my marriage, in all the chaos. It was pointed out that we have only a season for family discipleship and influence with our kids but they have a life time to continue learning and pursuing academics. She covered many other practical tips too but these were the most memorable to me.
This conference has made an impact on how we will be homeschooling this coming year. First our year will be very relaxed and low key. We are changing who we enroll with to simplify things. I have dropped doing Latin next year (gasp :) and have a very loose kindergarten planned for my soon to be 5 year old son. We have a baby arriving in the fall and we have had a very demanding year on our family (actually about 6 years). I want our homeschool day and method to support our family life and not the other way around. I want to have limited activities so my husband and I can get back in to dating again and having time to just hang (partly why the TV went). In order to add a new family member and work on some current dynamics in our family....school has to not be the center of our world but simply apart of it. I feel God's mercy and grace in seeing these things. It's not about method nor curriculum...it's about the gospel and educating our kids for his glory. It is through my weakness that I will learn better how to do this.
I hope to post soon what we are doing next year as a family to educate our kids.