About this time last year, I had no clue I would be educating my children at home today.
Yet here we are, seeing the end of our first year as a homeschooling family coming into focus over the crest of the next hill. Watching life events come full circle always puts me in a reflective mood, but our journey to this place is a complicated one — not something I can tackle in a single post.
This blog has always been a place for me to share my heart (at least as much as a battered introvert like me can dare to do). The shift from public school to homeschool has been about so much more than the logistics of where or when my children learn — so completely transformational, in fact, that the need to share that corner of my heart has been percolating for a long time.
But it’s slow going.
Nevertheless, its enrollment time once again. I’ve had enough friends asking about our decision to homeschool in general, and our participation in Classical Conversations in particular, I need to start somewhere.
And I suppose the best “somewhere” to start is the vision.
[Disclaimer: Touchy-feely post ahead. You have been warned…]
Most of us who grew up in Sunday school can remember the gist of Numbers 13.
Following the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites are searching for the Land the Lord had been promising to them since His covenant with Abraham. On the outskirts of Canaan, Moses sends twelve men into the land as spies. A little reconnaissance mission, if you will.
Ten of the spies come back shaking in their boots. We can’t do it, they say. The land is rich and fruitful, yes, but the people are giants. The cities are fortresses. We’re just a little ol’ nation of former slaves with zero battle experience. We are completely outmatched.
Forget it, Moses. It can’t be done.
Ten spies, ten reports of certain defeat. And then Caleb and Joshua get up to speak.
You gotta give Joshua and Caleb snaps for bringing a visual aid: a cluster of grapes so big, it took two men to carry it. But even 34 centuries later, it is Caleb’s words that resonate with me:
…Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”
— Numbers 13:30 (NASB)
Caleb and Joshua surveyed the very same land that overawed their ten companions. They’d seen the same enemies, the same obstacles. But with 600 years of God’s promises ringing in their ears, the prospect of giant men and well-fortified cities didn’t defeat them. It empowered them.
The Lord knew exactly what the Israelite spies would find in Canaan. Down to the thickness of the walls and the very last spear, He knew. God’s reconnaissance mission was not meant to formulate His plan of attack; I think He used it to build the faith of His people. Maybe He wanted the Israelites to taste that fear. And to step out in faith anyway. To follow Him, against all practical considerations or logical reasoning.
To go up and take possession of it. Because it was theirs already.
The Lord said so.
Exactly what has this to do with homeschooling, you ask?
One year ago, I’d already given up.
I had accepted the fact that some of my son’s unique challenges meant his education would be, at best, an indifferent one. He was struggling in school, not because he couldn’t master the academics but because the classroom environment ran completely against his learning style. He was in a good school with a good teacher, with supportive staff, and special resources at his disposal — and yet he struggled.
Worst of all, he was losing his enthusiasm for learning. By the beginning of the second semester, the child who’d begun the year saying: “I love school,” found school a burden. Afternoon homework sessions were a nightmare for us both. “School” had become a source of anxiety and frustration.
Meanwhile, the school (with the best of intentions) tried to make sure I saw the rocky shoals ahead. “He’s going to struggle in second grade,” they told me, “But when his grades fall, we have these services available…”
When his grades fall. Not if. When.
The realization that the most I could hope for my son was “mediocre” utterly defeated me.
Where do you go when a child’s main obstacle to education is the classroom itself? Yes, we could send him to a private school, but most private classrooms just duplicate an environment that had already proved challenging to him within a public classroom. As for homeschooling, well…
My husband wasn’t enthused. And even for a someone who had been homeschooled herself, the prospect was daunting.
Homeschooling is just… so much work.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I let that sentiment take root in my mind for several months. With attendant excuses, of course. I have two other children. I have a small business. I have meals to make and a house to clean and I just couldn’t face taking on the homeschooling behemoth on top of everything else. Returning our son to public school for another crack at a mediocre education somehow seemed… practical.
Just like that, I’d persuaded myself to stop fighting for him.
[Newsflash: becoming a parent is not some magical vaccine against selfishness. Unfortunately.]
Letting go of that selfishness and fear took a few months and some extra grace, and by the time God had opened our minds to homeschooling, it was already summer. We needed a plan. Pronto.
Enter Classical Conversations.
My first exposure to CC was an Info Meeting at the local Christian bookstore. The director of one of the area campuses gave an overview of the Trivium, followed by more details about CC programs. When a parent-tutor from another campus spoke about the Challenge program — CC’s highschool-age offering — and her son’s growing collection of Ivy League scholarship offers, I was duly impressed, but I failed to see what any of that had to do with me, the mother of a soon-to-be-second-grader. I just wanted to know about the programs for my son.
And in that moment, I missed it.
Caleb and Joshua were testifying before me. And I missed it.
Most of us try to be realistic about our kids’ abilities. Yes, there are plenty of “those parents” out there: the ones convinced their offspring are nascent geniuses. But most of us know that our kids are just kids. We try to equip them for success, we have high hopes for them, we urge them to do their best, we cheer them on, but we know they will probably discover they’re good at some things and absolute crap at other things. And that’s perfectly fine.
But then you hear from a few parents of “exceptional” children. Elementary kids naming all the presidents, or reciting the timeline of human events from creation to present day. Eighth-graders drawing detailed world maps, freehand and from memory, with astonishing accuracy. High school students translating the Gospel of John from Latin and mastering the Art of Rhetoric.
And then you realize that these children didn’t go to some $100,000/year private consortium, a place with a dozen PhDs on staff, classrooms with piped-in Mozart and concentrated oxygen, and a cafeteria serving macrobiotic lunches.
They learned this from their parents.
Not superhuman parents with impressive credentials, or independently wealthy parents who have nothing else to do. Normal parents. Parents pretty much like you and me.
And when you encounter these parents (and their kids) and you grasp the magnitude of what they’re doing, you have two choices. You can be scared — which is totally rational, by the way! — or you can be inspired.
Inspired to ask yourself: If they can do it, why can’t I? Why not my child? Why not?
Why not go up and take possession of it?
Damn straight, it’s scary. And it’s work.
But why not my kid?
And — with profound humility and deep gratitude that I get to ride along on this journey — I can tell you:
Yes. My kid, too.
My kid. My precious boy. Blossoming. Enthusiastic to learn. Eager to work. Confident. Percolating with creativity and energy. No longer struggling. Not medicated. Not predestined to fail.
There’s more to this story, of course. Much more.
But as I proceed — without any real planning or even a scope for the subject matter — I should make a couple of things clear.
I’m not trying to sell anyone on anything. Not on homeschooling. Not on classical homeschooling. Not on Classical Conversations. There are no “affiliate links” in my posts. I don’t get any kind of bonus or commission. I’m just here, sharing me. Take it as you will.
If you’re reading because Classical Conversations is under consideration in your family, I hope you’ll allow me to issue a little challenge to you.
The challenge is this: you may need to let go.
Let go of things such as:
- Fear. If I can, you can. Trust me. You can.
- Assumptions. Let go of your preconceptions of what “school” is supposed to be, what it means to be educated, what you think you know about homeschooling.
- Limitations. Like me, you probably haven’t even scratched the surface of what your child is capable of.
- Clichés. “I don’t have enough patience…” “I don’t remember enough Algebra…” “We can barely make it through an hour of homework…” “I don’t want my kids to be socially awkward…” “My kids and I would hate each other by the end of the first day…” “I look terrible in denim jumpers…”
- Guilt. Let go of the past. Last year was last year. Look to the future.
One last thing.
I will never say that Classical Conversations (or classical homeschooling or any kind of homeschooling) is “right” for every family. I doubt that it is. (Although I suspect it’s right for more people than just the families who take the plunge.)
Twelve men went into Canaan. Ten of them saw only obstacles. Two saw God’s promise fulfilled.
So don’t settle. Don’t be defeated. Advocate for your child. Invest in him. Fight for him. And keep on fighting. Whether your kid is in homeschool, private school, or public school, whether he’s thriving, struggling, or in between, his God-given potential is a promise.
So go up and take possession of it.
For you will surely overcome it.