In the fall of 1998, we took a break from school, but we plunged head first into one of the most intense courses of life lessons – a lesson on death. That fall, one of my mom’s closest friends was dying of cancer. Colon cancer that hadn’t been adequately treated had spread throughout her body. She was a homeschool mom with one adult son, two high school aged children and a toddler granddaughter that she was raising. She loved singing and music and life…and that life was slowly taken from her as we had the privilege of helping her family in the days, weeks and months leading up to her death.
When we talk about schedules, planners and blocking out time for “learning,” we can’t forget that as homeschoolers the world is our classroom and life’s lessons are sometimes much more important than what we have scheduled into our calendar. God may have lessons in mind for us and for our children that aren’t yet on our radar, and there may be a season when flexibility and letting go of a dream schedule is essential for embracing those lessons.
My mom was queen of flexibility and able to see and embrace spiritual lessons that came our way. We took breaks from homeschool to plan a VBS for neighbor kids. We took breaks from school to help lonely international friends pack up their apartments before a big move back to their home country.
We took a break from school to watch the birth of my baby sister.
And boy did we learn a lot during those breaks! We learned to study and share God’s word. We learned to comfort and serve those who are lonely and needy. We learned to value life and the miracle and blessing that it is. We learned to make the most of each moment because we knew from experience our days are short and numbered.
No text book could have taught us all that. No lecture could have instilled these truths the way that those experiences did.
For those of us that like objectives, outcomes and a grid by which to achieve them, the idea of letting go of the academics might sound terrifying.
But what if you think about your bigger objectives and outcomes? If your larger goal is eternal and to have children who are passionate about following Christ and serving others, then letting go of the schedule for a season of service or outreach is possibly a better way to achieve that goal than sticking with your original homeschool plan.
Will there be things that your homeschool kids won’t learn academically because of these breaks? Yes, probably. But which lesson would you rather them miss out on? The one about fractions or the one about caring for the orphan and the widow?
My mom always said, “If my kids have good character, they will succeed in whatever God calls them to do, so I’m not as worried about the academics.” And she wasn’t! …And she was right.
My older sister started college at 16, obtained a master’s degree in nursing, and spent summers and a year abroad using her nursing skills to serve through medical missions. My younger sister who has a learning disability graduated from college with honors, went on to cook at some of the most prestigious restaurants in the area and used her abilities to manage cooking to serve at Christian camps and church events. I started college a year early and graduated with a master’s degree in written communications with an emphasis in teaching and have had the blessing of being able to use my skills to lead Bible studies, women’s groups and teach internationals. If you take a break from the books, you’re not undermining their ability to “succeed” in their career of choice.
I share all this because I hear other homeschool moms voicing insecurity about “what if I can’t do school when my new baby is born?” Or “we’re going through some intense family medical issues right now; maybe I shouldn’t be homeschooling.” I understand, and I’ve asked myself those same questions! But I also have seen what those “breaks from learning” can teach us.
This spring my 17 year old sister was suddenly hospitalized with an undiagnosed heart attack, lupus and blood clotting disorder. Honestly all I could do was sit by the phone and wait for the next text day after day as we rode the roller-coaster of a life-threatening medical situation.
But as my kids watched extra movies as I talked with family members, they also got to pray with me, to learn about the human body that’s so intricately designed, and to watch me struggle and trust God in the midst of a very hard scenario.
Those moments of life learning are the life changing ones we don’t want our kids to miss out on. I’d encourage you to embrace those life lessons as some of the most educational that your children will ever receive. I’m learning that being purposeful with my time with my children means embracing God’s purpose and schedule for my day which may or may not line up with my own.