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Home education tips from a mother of ten

Back in February I asked Ruth Bosveld to answer some questions about her experiences as a home schooling mother. I share this in the hope that it may encourage others who are also aiming to learn from older women. In the past my interview posts with home schoolers have generated some controversy on my blog. Please understand that this post is not intended to persuade those who hold differing views on education. This is not a debate blog, but honest questions are welcome.

What are five of the ways homeschooling has been of benefit to your family?

  1. Opportunity to spend time teaching the children about the Lord.
  2. Time to get to know the children and work at moulding their characters.
  3. Solid academics.
  4. Opportunity to adapt to individual children’s needs – especially the older children.
  5. The children get to know and be friends with each other.
My husband Dave and I have two children aged two and one, so we are only just starting our journey of educating children at home. As a mother of ten, what do you believe are the most important attitudes and practices to foster now in order to set a good foundation for the coming years? Do you have any resources or Scriptures to share that guided you in the toddler years of your children's lives?

We endeavour to teach the children that their chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. If God is central in our lives, everything else fits into place. We will honour His word, we will honour those in authority over us and we will respect others. We will also do our best in all our activities as we strive to do them for God’s glory.

I don’t think we have specifically thought of any Scriptures that are more relevant to toddlers than to older children. Proverbs often speaks of training a child in the way he should go, of disciplining, and of God’s blessing on that. That starts when they are little. Having the children at home makes it so much easier to nurture them in God’s ways. We will be held responsible for their upbringing.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 29:17
Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
After being homeschooled for much of my education, I am aware that homeschooling families can develop severe weaknesses or sins that hamper their children's growth into godly adults. The tremendous potential of homeschooling as a means of child discipleship can only be realised if we are aware of potential weaknesses in our approach and conquer those with God's help. What are some of the weaknesses in homeschooling that have come across your path? How would you recommend that we seek to avoid or overcome these?

It’s hard to see our own weaknesses, of course, but I think it’s really important that we don’t home school to satisfy something in ourselves. We do it to give our children a Godly education.

We have sought to involve Brian (my husband) as much as possible, and that helps overcome many issues. The children are accountable to him – not just to me. They also have a strong male role model.

To avoid becoming slack, we endeavour to have the children aim to achieve certain goals and then accomplish them, which can be quite challenging at times. We use the curriculum Accelerated Christian Education and we involve the children in the annual state ACE conventions, which we feel helps them understand that it is Christian education which is ultimately most important – not everyone can be homeschooled. It also gives them a bar to aim for in all the areas of their education as they see other children work hard and achieve. Along with attendance at Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, this helps us not be isolationist.

What are your key ways of persevering in homeschooling through life's changing seasons?

Daily reliance on God. We can’t do this in our own strength. Support for each other (husband and wife) and love for our children.

In a practical sense, we’ve had to move to some labour-saving things to help me out. When I was overwhelmed by washing nappies, we moved to disposables (baby number 7), we now have a dishwasher and I have two driers, which I use throughout the academic portion of the year. Probably the thing that has helped most is using a pre-prepared curriculum. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and the structure allows the children to do the bulk of their marking. All these things take a financial commitment and may not be possible for everyone.

There are many competing commitments and good things we can do in life, yet many of these are incompatible with devoting ourselves 100% to our key roles of being wives and mothers. What are some of the things you have had to lay aside in order to be a homeschooling mother to ten children? What advice would you give to those of us who are just beginning to "count the cost"?

I trained as a doctor and worked for one year before giving birth to Lauren. I haven’t been in paid employment since. As a single income family with ten children, we have to be very careful. We could have been on easy street financially, if I had continued to work. I still have people make comments about how I should work, or I’ve failed the system (having had all that training put into me), or I’ve missed out on fulfilling “my” ambitions. Even Christian people say quite hurtful things at times. I can’t say it has been pleasant for me to lose the knowledge or skills that I worked hard to develop and achieve, but what I am doing is much better. In fifty years, no one will remember that I did medicine, but I hope my children and grandchildren will be salt in the earth. The Lord blesses us when we walk in His ways.

Titus 2:3-5
The aged women likewise, ...
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Psalm 16:6
The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

The other day I was considering what our children truly need at this point in their lives. God reminded me of a Scripture in Deuteronomy that keeps it very simple! We are to have his words in our hearts, and talk about them all the time! How have you sought to keep God's word in your heart so that it flows out to your children?

Obviously, we need to individually spend time in God’s word each day. We have a family Bible time after tea each night. We sing a portion of a Psalm and read the Bible. After breakfast, we read “The Daily Light”. The curriculum we use is full of the Bible. All the subjects rotate around it with Bible verses to learn all the time. We also learn whole books of the Bible, a chapter at a time. I try to keep up with the middle children. The older two have learned Proverbs. The older four have learned Revelation and we have all had a go at many shorter books. We do lots of Bible. It provides an opportunity for asking and answering questions.

We are also very involved in our church so the children are thoroughly taught. We pray God’s blessing on this so that they may really know their own sinfulness and need of a Saviour.

What do you love about being a homeschooling mother?

Having never done it any other way, I have nothing to compare with, but there are lots of things when I think about it. One of the very special things is the one-on-one time with the child who is learning to read – watching their mind open up and respond to what they are learning. I love to be there when any of the children have questions, especially spiritual questions. I can answer them right away and I know what they are learning.

There are lots of bonuses – no lunches to pack, no buses to catch... Lots of things. But, it’s hard work – no two ways about it. You have to know that before you start. It’s a marathon, not a 100 metre dash.

The gospel can become an unstated foundation to our family life, and yet it is the main message I want our children to take from their life with us. How have you sought to maintain a gospel and mission focus in your home?

I think our curriculum really helps with the awareness of the gospel and missions. Our seven year old currently wants to be a missionary to Greenland, because he thinks that fewer of the people there would have heard about the Lord than here. We don’t know how he came to that conclusion and he will probably change his mind a few times before settling on his future path, but it is an indication that our children are thinking along those lines.

Deuteronomy 6:7
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Genesis 18:18-19
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

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