I have a sign in my dining room (I love words on my walls!). It reads “Do not go where the path may lead, but go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” When I first saw it, I knew I needed it It has hung in my dining room ever since–a divine daily reminder for my homeschooling journey.
However, those well-worn paths before us can be so hard not to follow…
I started homeschooling 20 years ago (we’re about to graduate number 5 ❤️) with excitement and fear. EXCITEMENT at the idea of getting to be with my little darlings and not put them on the bright yellow school bus to be taken away from me for hours and hours… but complete FEAR at the weight of responsibility I had just put on my shoulders to carry. I was going to have to teach them… well, everything!
So, I stood surveying the beginning of several paths before me, trying to find my way. I packed my bags with well-sharpened pencils, new crayons, construction paper and all the educational toys and trinkets I could find and started out.
This path wasn’t so bad. My eyes were being opened to see all the learning opportunities around us and the beauty of the journey. We played, we created, we learned! Sometimes it was from a video, sometimes a field trip, sometimes a pile of picture books. This was our “trial year” – you know, the year that you tell everyone “We’re just trying this homeschool thing; if it doesn’t work – we’ll send them to school next year!”
But, this delightful preschool path came to fork in the road… called First Grade. Which path should I take now? I was beginning to discover this new homeschool travel necessity called “curriculum”. Should we continue to follow our own winding path of learning, or get a curriculum to guide us expertly along? But, the options were limitless… how could we navigate and find our way through this new forest of choices?
I jumped in with enthusiasm and tried them all! I even signed up to be a homeschool Curriculum Reviewer (yes, it’s a thing!) and share my finds with others. This was a fun-filled journey, at least for me. I could always justify trying something new when what we were doing was getting old, or when we wanted the thrill of a new direction, or when my child didn’t seem to “get it”.
I do think this path was good for us, for a season. But, this “Curriculum Path” – the one that promised us success if only we could unlock the perfect curriculum combination for our child–leads to a dead end.
Curriculum can’t deliver on the promise; it’s only a tool to be used, not a formula to be followed. It’s still up to us to lead our children to the paths the Lord has planned for them, and standardized lesson plans can never meet the needs our un-standardized, unique children!
As we traveled through the early school years, another homeschooling bend in the road came into view. The “Co-op Corner”. More decisions to make. Should we jump on this path and learn with others, or keep going at our own rhythm and pace? More twists and turns accompanied this maze of options.
We discovered that there were some fun new directions in this maze, like exciting classes, making friends, group activities, and even the small joys of packing backpacks and lunch bags for days spent away from the house. We made some incredible relationships and enjoyed discovering each new bend in the road, for a season. But, once again…we ran into dead ends.
We learned that not all co-ops are alike! We discovered that once we were in some co-op paths, it was hard (if not impossible) to take a different direction. We sacrificed some of our freedoms for the security and comfort of others’ wants and desires. Co-ops became “the best of times, and the worst of times” along our homeschool journey. I learned to proceed with caution when entering this maze and to stay alert. I learned to not be afraid to jump out and continue on my own way when things veered away from our desired destinations.
As we neared high school, we came face-to-face with the freeway called “College Prep”. This was not a gentle, winding path through peaceful places. Instead it took us straight into gridlocked traffic and at other times way too much speed! It was fast years of transcript building, entrance exams, dual credit classes, part-time jobs, sports, rehearsals, activities, volunteering… go, go, go.
Once again, I felt the fear of nagging questions… Is this the right path for us, for this child, for this season? There was not a single correct answer that fit every child or every situation. There were times when an exciting and ever-expanding journey was great and other times when our days felt overcrowded, frenzied and filled with unnecessary requirements and stress.
You will have to decide when you should hit the accelerator, or when you may need to slam on the brakes. It’s all about finding God’s balance for us where we are at. I admit, I am enjoying our present detour off the freeway during this current season. We’re discovering new paths we never noticed before and loving a slower pace of life again.
Don’t get stuck in the fast lane of “how everyone is doing it.” Be brave enough to make lane changes to a more manageable pace for your family. Be courageous enough to take an exit ahead and create new directions your journey! It’s never too late.
The truth is we have to repeatedly go to the Lord as our divine GPS to get the answers for which path we need to take! Those well-worn paths are hard to avoid, but they are not always the direction planned by the Lord that we should travel. I believe the Lord has a NEW untravelled paths for each one of us–ones that are uniquely suited to our families, and His growing purposes for us . We just have to trust His leading and be brave enough to journey into all His new plans for us.
He wants all of us to leave beautiful trails for others to follow.
Have a great journey!
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21