Precisely when it was that I struck the chord of conviction amongst all the curriculum noise, I cannot say. I know I heard echoes of it, internally, throughout our many "Curriculum Discussion Days", the multiple curriculum fairs each year, and amongst the clutter of gathering curriculum catalogues collecting up in the corners.
I remember attending my first homeschool conference in February 2010, and seeing the hundred-or-so booths of distributors and feeling encouraged by it. Yes, it was overwhelming, but in an exciting way. A way that said, "look all that is out there! No matter what problem you come across, there are tools. There are resources available. It will be okay. He will make a way."
At that time, my husband and I weren't exploring home education for strictly religious purposes. In fact, my husband wasn't even particularly religious at the time. We had faith and belief in God, but we weren't raised in church. We started our home education journey through many of the secular ideas about education. We were both certainly raised in public schools, so it was hard enough getting out of that mindset, let alone into a completely distinct and different one. We thought people who took the Bible too seriously were, well, legalistic. Controlling. Oppressive?
We've all seen the type. Christian homeschoolers are framed to fit a certain mold. Obedience was an abusive term. Following what the Bible says, well, that sounds like a tricky trap. We were in two different places, my husband and I. I believed the Bible, he didn't trust it. We were out of sync in that way. He didn't read it unless pressured, and I grew tired daily of avoiding the urge to pressure. How quickly, in hindsight, the Lord pried open both of our hearts and minds, baptised us both in His Holy Name, and put us to work together without concern for anything else. It didn't matter whether or not some people perverted His message to fit their agendas. His message of mercy and astounding love remain. To many people, believing the Bible equals close-mindedness. For us, it was the complete opposite. It took the opening of our minds to accept that the Bible could be trusted and true. And I watched before my eyes as God made a new creation out of both of us. He transformed my husband, and renewed me. Praise Yahweh.
Fast forward five years from that first homeschool conference. This spring I attended one of the national homeschool conferences with a few of my close friends. It's a 3 day conference and we stay overnight out of state for it. It is a wonderful time to recharge and find inspiration, get a break and build up. During the first class, I found myself sitting on the floor in an empty hallway. I can't describe the feeling draped over me. Suffocation? Despair? Anxiety? A complexity of it all? Looking down at the massive curriculum hall that spanned an arena too big to take in through a 360-degree turn, I felt disheartened. Discouraged. Saddened.
What a racket.
What a racket we have turned this road into.
This road. The one of home education. Look how we have taken God's simple design of raising and training His children up in love, and complicated it. Conformed it. Common-cored it.
When the noise gets too loud to hear the still small voice, shut the volume to everything else off.
One of my girlfriends felt the same. We found each other through the sea of convention chaos and prayed together. "Lord, help us to see these things as a resource to do Your work, if needed, but not as a necessity. Your yolk is light, Lord. Help us to feel encouraged and strengthened in the tasks and knowledge You intend for our homes, Lord, not the world. Amen."
The conference carried on. We found encouragement. We found space to breathe and grow. We found inspiration and conviction. But some little place inside me remained in objection to the mass of products, programs and materials.
Because my family embraces eclectic learning, we have a vast array of materials of all types. We have programs we build on, because knowledge builds on knowledge; and we have a lot of delight-directed learning that takes place as well, so we have many educational resources available to the kids. It doesn't mean we buy a lot of materials. Most are given to us from teachers, other homeschool families, garage sale giveaways, etc. Our purchases are select and purpose-driven.
I cannot say for certain when it happened. But it did. Sometime this year. I become ruthlessly convicted. Perhaps it was the 17th story I had heard in a week of a Christian family based in firm faith, relationship strong belief falling away or losing their kids to the ideas and values of the world. Perhaps it was the strange lack of the True Gospel I saw portrayed through the media over national conversations and political nonsense. Perhaps it was questions I got after I gave my own speeches at a homeschool conference this summer that pried my eyes open.
And perhaps, it was nothing more than the urgency placed on my heart from the Creator of the Heavens and earth.
I have been saying for years that we have to stop asking ourselves what the world says education looks like, and instead ask what God requires of us in the teaching of our children. But, did I really believe it myself? Or was it back to the same out-of-sync pressure I used to feel with my husband and I not being on the same spiritual page? Only this time, it was fighting against the pressures of the world, even the homeschool world, pushing at every corner of what our kids supposedly need?
Did I really believe that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of all knowledge, as Proverbs 1:7 says? What does that LOOK like, if it's true?
These are the questions that we need to unravel. If we are not to conform, why are we conforming?
Here is my task for our family in the year ahead: Seek and Know God, with all our hearts and all our souls.
We read the Bible every day in our house. But are we shaping our day around what we read?
I thought we were. I realize now, how much we were not.
We were still preoccupied, with countless other quests. Distracted, with nameless other names. Too much time wasted, on wasteful things.
When the Bereans "... received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so," as the book of Acts tells us in chapter 17, they believed because they verified through the Tanakh. Everything Jesus came to fulfil, He did so perfectly from the Law, which was written upon their minds and hearts. It was there because they knew the Scriptures. They knew Torah. The Gospel rests on the Torah, and do most of us know the Bible that way? No. Even those who have read the Bible cover to cover don't know it with the earnest that those walking with our Lord learned it. Our traditions, our celebrations, our times and rhythms... are they God appointed? Have we embraced rhythms the world has set in our way or the ones God designed for us?
I will be offering a series this season, sharing how we can use the Bible to shape our days. Is the Bible really the only main curriculum we need? Is that a radical idea? What happens when we live what we believe? What happens when we learn what we believe?
What does it really mean to "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." -Joshua 1:8
What does it really look like to apply Deuteronomy 11:18-20? "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…"
Do our modern times allow for such a devotion? Who has time for all of that?? Ah, perhaps a better question would be, what are His purposes for time?
Is there time, especially in this day and age, for anything other?
What about 1 John 2:4? "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
Matthew 7:23: "And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"
Romans 3:31: "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law."
Do we uphold the law? Of course as Christians we know we cannot uphold the law perfectly because that is why Christ had to die in our place. It is faith through the blood of the lamb that we are saved.
But here's an uncomfortable question for you; do we KNOW the law? Do our kids understand the law that Christ came not to abolish but to fulfil? And, what are we saved FOR? Culture certainly doesn't wish to afford us the time to teach it. But, if we slow down to the pace God ordains for us, and shut out everything else the world pushes on us to chase... then. Maybe then, we will find what He intends for us. And friends, I promise, it is Good.
Watch for my weekly posts starting this September, "Sola scriptura: A series for home educating with The Bible" where I will be sharing ideas and encouragement for using God's Word to shape our days.