Guest post: Kristina Smith
The four children are dressed, chores completed, hot breakfast eaten and pencils to paper as we begin this school day at 8am sharp. I sip my coffee and sit on the patio overlooking the prairie, careful not to spill on my freshly ironed jean skirt. JUST KIDDING y’all, half my crew is groggily making their way out of bed, while the others are running around the house waiting for me to whip up a fancy bowl of cereal or some oatmeal. Chances are our homeschool family is similar, in some ways, to your public school family. My kids are just like yours and trust me, I’m just like you. Let me dispel a few myths you may have about your “weird” homeschool neighbors. 😉
So, no, I don’t own a long jean skirt. I loathe ironing. We aren’t living a Little House on the Prairie lifestyle (fantastic book, by the way), and I’m not my kids’ only friend. I’m also not the most patient person or a super mom. A few responses I just have to laugh about when I tell others we homeschool.
I’m married to my love who is a pastor. We’ve been in ministry together since we married 11 years ago this May. We home educate our 4 littles (with my oldest almost 10 and my youngest turning 1 in a few weeks). You can do the math, I got pregnant with my firstborn 3 months after we got married. I’ve been pregnant or nursing, or should I say sleep deprived and hormonal, for the better part of our marriage. Thank you God for your mercy and grace that carry us through.
Never in a million years would I have thought homeschooling was the path I would take. But I also didn’t see myself getting married at 21 years old to a man in ministry, or becoming a stay at home mom. These things have been the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s been a journey, a calling, of obedience, sacrifice and selflessness.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
Yep, this verse would be the one where God laughs at me and says, “oh sweet girl, I’m about to rock your world.” But oh have I learned that His ways so much greater than my own.
There are many things I’ve learned in the past 5 years of this homeschooling journey. The biggest thing I’ve come to accept is the freedom we have. Being able to home educate my kids is NOT bringing a classroom into my home. In fact, we don’t even have a schoolroom, nor do we need one. We do our school work in our breakfast nook, on the couch, or outside on the back patio on a nice day. Mostly though, homeschooling is a lifestyle. I have tuned my eyes to see learning opportunities that are in front of us daily. In turn my kids are learning to view life as a learning experience. By doing this we become more aware of the amazing presence of God. His wonder is all around us and He is in everything. Fostering that love for learning is a passion of mine. A few other passions that I am able to freely cultivate are a love for the Lord and His word, a close-knit relationship within our family, and a love for others in a world view context.
Thankfully, here in Oklahoma we are able to have free reign as far as what our home education looks like. Every state is different, so if you are considering this path be sure to look into your state’s requirements. There are many educational philosophies. I am able to lead my kids in the way I am passionate and feel lead by Holy Spirit to go. My kids are able to learn in the way that works for them individually. One is an audible learner while another is a kinesthetic and visual learner. They are able to move forward when they are ready, as well as slow down and focus on an area they need more time in. This allows each of them to thrive.
With being in ministry and having a unique schedule, homeschooling has allowed us the flexibility to maximum family time. We have the freedom to take trips in the middle of the week when others are in school. We enjoy being able to get discounts on trips during less busy times as well as avoid long lines and crowds. This has really spoiled us. You won’t catch the Smith crew at the zoo or the library during public school spring break.
But what about the elephant in the room? What about those poor unsocialized children who only have their mother for a friend? I will say that one fruit of homeschooling is the healthy relationship my kids have with each other. They have their moments as any sinful person does, but they truly consider each other their best friends. And although they are best friends, they aren’t just trapped at home with no sign of other humans besides their siblings. My kids are very active in sports, church, neighborhood friends, and activities that happen just about every day of the week. We are also involved in a homeschool co-op group where they are in a classroom setting with friends once a week. We take field trips, have family nights, and moms nights with our homeschool group. It’s a good sized group of over 120 kids. They get plenty of opportunity to socialize and learn to work with others who are different from themselves. Although, trust me, in a house of 6 different personalities we get plenty of chances to work out our differences before we even step out the door.
Being a home educating mama has forced me to be intentional and disciplined with my time. There are things that must get done each day whether it’s running our household, juggling extra curricular activities or schooling. I’m with my kids all day and I honestly like being around them. And yet, at the same time, I do also need and look forward to my own time. We aim to complete our schoolwork by noon so that we have the rest of the day to do whatever. That doesn’t always happen. But most afternoons we have at least an hour of rest time where the kids each go and do their own thing. Meanwhile, I pop in my ear buds to do some chores while listening to my podcast list or an audiobook. I may retreat to my room with some coffee (and let’s be honest, maybe some chocolate) and catch up on group texts from my other mom friends in the trenches with me. I also make it a point to make it to a moms night or a coffee date with some friends.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
It’s been a refinement, a dying to myself, in this journey. There are long, hard days when I wonder if all of this is worth it. God reminds me that this is the path he has called our family for this time. I know that if I diligently walk in obedience in whatever God has put before me that the harvest will be great. This may not always be where he has us. He has refined and shown me that this life is not all about me and my desires. My greatest ministry is my home and these arrows I’m raising to send out into the world. He has worked on me to be more patient, kind, loving and to give grace through this calling. I don’t always get it right but He gives me plenty of opportunity to walk in the Spirit and depend on Him. He reminds me that by serving my family in this way, I am serving Him. And that right there is worth being your “weird” homeschool neighbor.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24