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Homeschoolers perform 34-39% above the national average in standardized tests. The national average, by definition, is 50%. Homeschoolers test at 84-89% in subject by subject standardized test scores, well above the national average.

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Three Problems Homeschooling Mothers Face

I was in Southern California (February 2004) speaking with Sally Clarkson at her WholeHearted Mother Conference the weekend prior to the Democratic Presidential Primary in South Carolina. While in my hotel room, I tuned into the news periodically to see how the reporters were covering the unfolding events in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina and my hometown.

While watching one of the cable newscasts, I heard a news anchor make this comment: "Let's go now to our 'embed' in Columbia, SC." It was the first time I had ever heard that term embed. I suppose it grew out of the concept of having reporters embedded with our troops during the Iraqi war.

When the station cut to the "embed," I was sorely disappointed in the coverage. I didn't agree with her choice of political pundits to interview. I didn't like the location she chose for her broadcast. It was ugly, and didn't cast Columbia in her best light. There were several important points to make that went unsaid, and several articulate people who should have been interviewed, that weren't.

The Problems with Embeds

I could critique the reporter and her job proficiency because I am a South Carolinian - not because I am smarter or have a better journalistic background. I live in South Carolina. I am not an embed. I know the geographical landscape because I have spent the better part of 48 years studying it, traveling it, enjoying it. I know the political landscape out of necessity. South Carolina's homeschooling history has been difficult - fraught with many years of legal, legislative, and political battles. The embed, on the other hand, is a visitor doing a research project - not a resident with something at stake. 

When I made my judgment of the embed's poor reporting, I was not being critical or mean spirited. I just wanted the rest of the country to appreciate the beauty of South Carolina. I wanted the rest of the watching world to hear from several different perspectives, not just one. I wanted the world to hear from someone who lived there.

Titus 2:2-5 reads:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored" (Holman Christian Standard Version).

I have often wondered about these verses - why God made a point of including them in Scripture. I have especially wondered about them as I have passed from the ranks of the younger woman to the older woman! I think, "Who am I, Lord, to try to help these younger women? Couldn't you have commissioned professionally trained counselors to do this? Or maybe college professors? Or seminary graduates?"

And then, while I was watching the embed in Columbia trying to report on a place she didn't know and commenting on events she hadn't lived, it hit me like a lightning bolt: God doesn't want embeds teaching women how to be wives and mothers. He wants women who have lived there to do that. He doesn't want detached reporters dispensing His truth in sound bites: He wants residents who know and love the landscape to be the guides.

Does it mean older women have all the answers or have led mistake free-lives? On the contrary - it means since we have lived longer, we have had the opportunity to make more mistakes and, by God's grace, find some solutions in the process. It means we have lived as wives and mothers and know the great, great joys, as well as the pitfalls to avoid. It means we can come alongside you in a supportive way, cheering for you to succeed and lending an encouraging word or a helping hand when you need it.

After 20 years of homeschooling and interacting with thousands of homeschooling mothers, I thought I might discuss three problems that homeschooling mothers face. I am not reporting on these problems and their solutions like a researcher or an embed would. I am raising these problems because I have experienced all of them.

Remember, the goal of this discussion is not perfection. It is not even the elimination of problems. My hope is that you will be strengthened by grace to pursue the Titus 2 goal of loving your husbands and your children more fervently and effectively.

Problem #1. Feeling discouraged, inadequate, and overwhelmed.

Homeschooling is a calling. It is rewarding. Homeschooling is also hard. As homeschooling mothers, we can now add choosing curriculum, organizing school days, and teaching our children to the long litany of demanding tasks that already fill our days: cooking, cleaning, laundry, chauffeuring, nurturing, grocery shopping - the list continues, ad infinitum.

As demanding as these daily responsibilities are, however, they are not the hardest part of homeschooling. The hardest part, I have found, is the daily pressure and concern I experience regarding my children's welfare. I know their lives are in God's hands, and yet I can't help but sense that my children's futures depend on me in a significant way. Am I giving them everything they need? Are we covering enough material in school? How are they doing spiritually? Am I challenging them enough? Too much? What if I mess up? What if, when they are grown, they resent our decision to homeschool? Have I given them adequate college and/or career training? The haunting "what if's "like my daily lists of chores" seem to be never-ending.

Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate is a natural response to the responsibilities and pressures that accompany the decision to homeschool. Therefore, we must find the supernatural remedy "and respond by faith" to the challenges presented by homeschooling and family life.

We must keep ourselves strong spiritually. In Praying God's Word, Beth Moore says, "God has handed us two sticks of dynamite with which to demolish our strongholds: His Word and prayer." We must make it a goal to constantly commune with God and to spend some time in His Word daily. When you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, it is very difficult to have any extended periods of alone time. God knows that.

Make small goals for yourself. Don't despair if you can't arrange for an hour of Bible study a day. Aim to read one chapter from the Bible daily, and be thankful for the unexpected periods of time when you can extend that. Remember that prayer doesn't always require solitude or isolation. Prayer is talking to God and listening to Him. Offer yourself and your children up to Him, moment by moment. Share your problems with Him as they occur. He is indeed the Wonderful Counselor. And, as you pray, include your children. Commit the day's assignments and chores to Him together. Pray about the math problems together. Pray for wisdom, strength, and patience together.

This teaches your children the habit of prayer. I can't tell you how deeply it ministers to me now when my (grown) children say, "Mom, I know this is a difficult situation for you." Or, "Mom, I know you have had a rough day. Can I pray for you?" Praying with our children teaches them that while we are human and frail, God is all-powerful and can solve any problem we or they will ever face.

As we handle our problems and difficulties on a daily basis, we teach our children to deal with life's stresses. If we yell and scream (habitually), we teach them to yell and scream. If we seek counsel from God through prayer and Bible reading, we teach our children to seek God in the midst of difficulties that life will inevitably bring their way.
Be thankful for your limitations, problems, and distresses. God uses them to teach your children what it means to walk by faith instead of by sight.

Suggested Bible readings: Hebrews 11, James 1, and Romans 5.

Problem #2. Focusing on your children, to the detriment of your marriage.

All the responsibilities we have just mentioned in Problem #1 could take a lifetime to fulfill if we did nothing else but focus on our children. It is easy to see how a marriage could take a back seat to the children in the home. After giving to children all day long, cooking dinner, and trying to keep some semblance of order in the home, homeschooling mothers could easily give in to the temptation of letting our husbands fend for themselves and putting no energy into the marriage relationship

This topic needs to be the focus of an entire article. But for now, let me just say - try to devote 15-30 minutes a day to thinking, praying, and focusing on your spouse. I don't mean that is all the time you should spend with him. I do mean to stop in the midst of the day's activities and focus mentally and prayerfully on your husband and marriage.

I always encourage women to read at least one book on marriage every year. Think about how many books you have read on homeschooling! You must make it a priority to invest in your marriage, especially when you think you don't have time. 

Suggested Bible readings: Ephesians 5, I Peter 3, and The Song of Solomon.

Problem #3. Jumping off the ark before God opens the door.

When I began homeschooling, the verse the Lord used to encourage me and keep me focused was Hebrews 11:7, "By faith Noah, after being warned about what was not yet seen, in reverence built an ark to deliver his family." I viewed our homeschool like our family's ark. God led us to build it for the protection of our family.

Genesis 7:16 gives us some interesting information about Noah and the ark: "Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered just as God had commanded him (Noah). Then the LORD shut him in" (HCSB). God shut the door for Noah and his family after they entered the ark. God would have to let them out.

Noah knew when it was time to leave the ark in two ways. First, he observed the landscape around him.

Then he sent out a dove to see whether the water on the earth's surface had gone down, but the dove found no resting place for her foot. She returned to him in the ark because water covered the surface of the whole earth. He reached out and brought her into the ark to himself. So Noah waited seven more days and sent out the dove from the ark again. When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth's surface had gone down. After he had waited another seven days, he sent out the dove, but she did not return to him again. (Genesis 8:8-12, HCSB)

Secondly, Noah conversed with God. He prayed. I'm sure Noah must have asked God many times, "Lord, can we get off of this ark yet?" Don't you know everyone on the ark was stir-crazy? And can you imagine the smell?

Genesis 8:15-16 tells us, "Then God spoke to Noah, 'Come out of the ark...'" After observing the landscape and knowing things looked safe, Noah heard from God when it was time to disembark. ("My sheep hear My voice.")

If, through prayer, Bible Study, and observing the landscape, God has led you and your family to homeschool, God, through the same means, will let you know when it is time to "come off the ark."

When my husband and I first began homeschooling in 1984, we were taking our decision to continue homeschooling a year at a time. In my bravest moments, I thought that maybe we could stick it out through the third grade. The thought of homeschooling in high school never even entered our minds. We would have never considered it because we didn't know such a thing existed! 

If you had told me then that I would still be homeschooling 20 years later, I would have been incredulous. But, in God's grace, we were exposed gradually to some wonderful homeschooled teens, and I can remember how my thought process changed. I questioned my ability to homeschool at the high school level, but I loved what I saw in the two or three homeschooled teens I knew.

There have been many times during the course of the past twenty years that I have wanted to jump ship (or jump ark!). My urges to quit have been caused by all the things we have discussed above: discouragement, panic, fear, fatigue, lack of faith - just to name a few. Many times I begged God to let me quit. I saw Him letting friends of mine (godly friends) off their arks. But I knew that God was not releasing me.

As I look at my two grown sons, and my beautiful daughter who will graduate from high school next year, I am so grateful that God told me, "No. Wait. Be strong. Can't leave the ark yet. Persevere. Have faith. Read the Word - more. Pray. Trust Me." It is in the high school years of homeschooling that I have witnessed my children blossom. They all participated in meaningful, life-changing internships. They grew in their faith significantly. They developed sophisticated, scriptural worldviews. They honed skills in different areas - sports, the arts, and hobbies. They had the opportunity to participate in community service projects. They traveled abroad with missions. And they grew intellectually.

I would have missed so many blessings if I had jumped off the homeschooling ark every time I had the inclination.

How long does God want you to homeschool? I can't answer that question for you, but God is faithful. He will lead you. He might not lead you in the way that He is leading your best friend or next door neighbor. But He will lead you. He might not always give you the answer you are seeking at the time. But His grace will keep you. His Word will focus and invigorate you. Prayer will revive you. His mercies are indeed new every morning. 

Zan Tyler is the Homeschool Resource and Media Consultant for Broadman and Holman Publishers and Homeschool Editor for LifeWay Christian Resources, on the Web at She and her husband Joe homeschooled for 21 years, teaching all of their children from kindergarten through high school.

Used by permission

Homeschool girl reading