Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24
I have longed for my children in their personal “contests” of life to run the race that is worthy of the calling and to desire what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. As a mother, wife, and a home school teacher, I need to live that out myself first modeling life in such a way as to win the prize in the most important race.
After college graduation, I began my professional career in the Governor’s Office working side-by-side with powerful elected officials and political candidates, broadcasting personalities and media representatives, as well as many other ego-boosting individuals. Rubbing elbows with these sorts of people evoked a sense of fulfillment and empowerment but brought with it an empty satisfaction that I could not articulate at the time. I later left the political arena to pursue a public relations directorship at the local science museum. This job offered similar opportunities to hobnob with the movers and shakers of Central Florida while providing more sense of fulfillment. But it was not until I began my home educating journey that I entered the employment opportunity of a lifetime that has far surpassed dreams of my “perfect job” in any public workplace. I find it most fulfilling as I have helped shape the lives of my children. I have never looked backed or doubted my calling to direct the hearts, spiritual training, and academic teaching of my children with my husband’s full support through Christian home education. As a runner, I have come to view the journey as a marathon–a long, paced race with eyes on the final goal, expecting great satisfaction along the way and upon completion.
My husband Curt and I each desired to home educate our children long before we married and had a family. We discussed it and dreamed about it. One year after we married we were expecting our first child and were blessed with a total of four children over the years. From the very beginning, we home educated Christian, now 18; Jesse, 17; Sarah, 15, and Benjamin, 8. For 15 years, our educational marathon has been filled with challenges and victories, emotional and spiritual highs and lows, fulfillment, failures and successes along the way. At times we felt we were running sprints, barely having time to catch our breath. Other times we just kept pace with the tempo, putting one foot in front of the other. At times we felt like we would never see the finish line. But now, having graduated one son with two more children in high school, we are beginning to feel like the last mile is within sight for them. (As it stands now, we are still running tempo with our eight year old!)
We began “training for the race” even before we birthed our first child. We read and studied. We listened to respected and successful veteran homeschoolers and speakers at the FPEA conventions and in our community of friends. We adopted much of our philosophical approach from those studies and conversations. One poignant piece of advice was given to us from a Mr. Chris Davis. He said, “Always remember–hearts first, relationships second, academics third.” Over the years, we have seen how providentially well-timed it was for us to hear and implement that advice. Curt and I also heard it said that education is the imparting of ideas from one soul to another; “education of children is a matter of soulcraft.” We are grateful for the freedom to impart such ideas to nourish their souls. Our children, by God’s grace, have hearts for Him and honoring relationships with us, one another, friends and other family members. G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The most important fact about the subject of education is that there is no such thing. Education is not a subject, and it does not deal in subjects. It is instead the transfer of a way of life.” We have spent time with our children, investing in them in order to transfer an honorable way of excellent living that has been mutually edifying. Although our educational pursuits have been ambitious and rigorous, they have been met for the most part with success and blessings, and great ideas have been imparted to their souls.
Were there difficulties? Did I ever consider quitting the race? I can say a resounding, YES. There were years when I was pregnant, sick, and tired with young children 21 months and 19 months apart and all we did was to read, read, read with little other studies. (I can remember “resting my eyes” to listen to my new readers during read-aloud time and missing much of the story.) There was a period in our educational marathon when we had a family death every six months for 2 1/2 years. (Dealing with grief seemed to be the Unit Study of the year.) Later, the high school years brought tsunamis of doubt to me regarding my ability as a higher-education teacher. Stopping the race was prayerfully considered. Wasn’t I going to simply ruin their education with my inadequacies? But, we have pressed on always looking toward the goal, desiring that our Christian education at home embody the pursuit of wisdom, virtue, and knowledge in all circumstances. Our philosophy has been to cultivate hearts, nurture souls to fullness so that they could pursue and enjoy the beauties of this world and the relationships placed before while at the same time acquiring an academic mind. Sending them elsewhere was not the answer. Embracing and instilling our commitment and philosophy has had a sublimely amplifying effect on the rest of the areas of life for them. The desire to achieve this goal at home out-weighed the fears and temptations to quit the race when we started “cramping up” and doubting that we could make it to the finish line.
The race has not been fully completed, but I can happily report we’ve been met with overall success. This past May we graduated our oldest son and this spring he will receive his AA degree thanks to dual-enrollment. Our second son, a high school junior, will have 30 hours completed at Valencia by the beginning of his senior year if all goes as planned. Both of them are excelling in college despite some of the challenges we faced in our home school years. My sophomore daughter is following on their heels with successes as well. And, my eight year old…well, he’s just out of the gate where we will continue our conditioning and training for another marathon. He’s off to a healthy start and we’ll continue to pray for a strong finish in his race for the prize.