What Does a Christian Homeschooling Family Look Like?
The Finish Well Conference is designed to help homeschooling families complete the high school years with excellence. We want to open doors for these families. Whether a family has been homeschooling for years, or are considering homeschooling for the first time, we can and wish to help. Our vision is to see families united under Christ and His church, to see teens captured by God’s love and established in their faith, and to equip parents to raise their children up to be godly men and women.
Our vision is to see teens and families captured by God’s love and established in their faith, and to equip parents to raise their children to be world-changers!
NOTE: This post originally appeared on Meredith Curtis’ website January 30, 2013. All three “college kids” mentioned in this article have successfully graduated with honors. Sarah Joy, who was in high school when this was written, is at this time her only child in college. To see the original article, click here.
They were the best of times, they were the worst of times!
College years are so exciting with friendships, opportunities to meet new people from all over the world, and the thrill of learning and growing. But college can be stressful—those exams and papers! I have three people living in my house right now who are attending college. The end of the semester is crunch time around here, and sometimes stressful.
But, my kids are successful in college! They make good grades, share their faith, and build strong friendships. Mike and I managed to not just survive college years, but to thrive! How can you be successful in college? Here are some tips that work for our family!
Put Christ First
When the pressure of crunch time comes—a paper is due, an exam is on the horizon—don’t neglect your relationship with God. More important than your GPA and keeping your scholarship, walking in the favor of the Lord must take high priority.
My daughter, Jenny Rose, sets Saturday aside for the Lord (we happen to meet on Saturday right now because we don’t have our own church building). She prays, reads the Bible, encourages her friends, practices with the worship team, goes to sound check, and sings on the worship team at church. She realizes that this means losing an entire day that could be devoted to studies, but she doesn’t care. She knows the truth, life goes better when you put Jesus and His Kingdom first.
If you are in college, school is your job. Learning is your vocation. Be excellent at it. Don’t just try to “get by” or “pass the class.” Make up your mind to be excellent at all you do. Set aside time to study and treat those times as if you are heading off to work. Be diligent.
Zack is working two jobs and going to school. Some weeks the only time I see him is at LIFE group and at church. He works hard writing papers, doing projects, and studying for exams. Yes, he misses out on some fun things and will have to wait until the end of the semester to see certain movies, but Zack knows the truth: All hard work brings a profit!
Know Your Professors
Every instructor has preferences and expectations that are different from every other professor. Learn about your professor’s teaching style and expectations by reading the syllabus and paying close attention in class during the first few weeks of the semester. Ask questions if you are unsure of what his/her requirements are.
Go see your professor during office hours when they are available. My oldest daughter teaches English at UCF and she loves for students to ask for help or just come by to chat during office hours. One on one conversations will help you clarify information. Professors are happy to help students with difficult concepts or assignments.
Take Assignments One Phase at a Time
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. When you are faced with a big assignment, break it down into small manageable parts. If you have a research project coming up, you might break it down into these phases.
- Decided the exact subject/scope of your project
- Find Sources
- Make an Outline
- Write Rough Draft
- Revise and Edit
- Write Final Paper
- Print Up and Bound
Divide things up in a way that makes sense to you, but always keep the end goal in mind and know how many steps it will take to get there. Here’s an example of studying for a test.
- Read Assignments
- Listen to Lecture and Take Notes
- Review Reading and Notes
- Explain the Material to Someone Else as Simply as Possible
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
- Take the Test
Don’t wait until the week before the test to ask for help. Always be looking ahead so that you know what’s coming. If something seems confusing at the end of the semester, ask about it early on; don’t wait!
Steven is full of ideas! He is constantly going to his professors with ideas for independent studies or guest lecturers. He makes an impact in his class because he is always looking for ways to learn and be successful in his classes.
Manage Your Time
Use a calendar, daytimer, or other form of keeping track of your schedule and class assignments. Put EVERYTHING down on your calendar, including study hours. It is so easy when things get busy to lose track of time. I had to learn to ruthlessly manage my time in college after scheduling two or more things at the same time.
If you are more of a laid-back free-spirit-type, then manage your time in blocks instead of hours. Of course, your classes are scheduled, but you can block off a morning for chemistry and an afternoon for history. When you finish chemistry, you move on to history. I like scheduling in blocks of time better using before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner. Don’t forget to schedule in dressing, sleeping, Quiet Times, and transportation.
Julianna would work ahead at the beginning of the semester, getting assignments done weeks early so that the end of the semester (when more work is due) was less stressful. She would look over her schedule at the beginning of every week and every day so that she could stay focused and disciplined.
Now, don’t overdo it here! Make sure there is empty time on your calendar so you can relax and enjoy life!
Set Patterns that Last a Lifetime!
Work hard, keep Christ first, and use wise management skills to set patterns that will last a lifetime. Relax. Don’t forget to pray about college. Your workload matters to God. He is concerned about you! Give Him your worries and confusion and ask Him to allow you to enjoy success and joy in college.
Meredith Curtis, pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of five amazing children, has been married to her college sweetheart for 30 years. She loves Jesus, leads worship, homeschools, writes, mentors ladies, and sometimes even cooks dinner! She is the author of Joyful and Successful Homeschooling, Unlocking the Mysteries of Homeschooling High School (with Laura Nolette), Beauty Secrets (with Sarah Jeffords), and several high school classes. Meredith wants to encourage homeschooling families to be joyful and successful in their homeschool adventures, all the way to high school graduation.
Last week, I talked about the importance of being a World Changer so you can raise World Changers. This week I’m going to share with you the five “stones” needed to do so. While there are many strategies and tips you can use to help you on this journey, I have found these particular five habits to be indispensable in raising young men and women after God’s own heart.
Are you ready?
Stone 1: Because God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), and God’s grace is the foundation to dynamic living and ministry, ALWAYS be quick to apologize to your children when you blow it. And between you and me, that happens more frequently than we care to admit. They will respect this, and it will actually serve to bridge any gap in communicating the next four principles.
Stone 2: Spend regular time in the Word, prayer, and worship so as to train them. Concerning God’s Word, Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV). You can do this in regular, planned times as well as unplanned, teachable moments.
I always counted it my privilege to put my children down at night. We would read the Bible, discuss it, and pray. I would then lay my hands on them and pray over them, “ … and Lord, make them World Changers!” Then I would sing a song over them (this is what God does for us—Zephaniah 3:17) and I have even on occasion done a rap over them (not necessarily recommended and no Scripture comes to mind here). Should I have lost track of time in the evening, inevitably one of my children would come to me: “Daddy, can you put me down now?” They looked forward to this time together.
Stone 3: Have them spend regular time each morning with Jesus. Each of my children had to do their five things before breakfast and this was one of them. Over time this duty turned to delight.
Early one morning while praying with a cup of coffee in my hand and circling our back porch (coffee and walking help keep me focused that early) crying out to my heavenly Father, I turned to find my little 3-year-old Jenny Rose following closely behind repeating, “Father, Father,” and gesturing with her hands as she saw me doing. I laughed and cuddled her as I was struck by the sincerity and simplicity of her heart. Little children can be this way.
Some years later I found that in order for me early in the morning to grab my Bible that lay in my study, I needed to step over this same “little one” whose posture in prayer was now quite different—prostrate on the floor crying out in desperate prayer to her heavenly Father. My “little girl” was blossoming into a World Changer.
Stone 4: This stone will need some time shaping. Instill in them a sense of divine destiny. About King David it was said, “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep” (Acts 13:36, NIV). Feed their dreams. Constantly encourage them to pursue God’s purposes. But graciously help them extract “self” from their visions of kingdom exploits. I know I needed this as a young man desiring to be in a Christian rock band. Eventually, God began to reveal His true purposes for me, but only as I embraced the principle of “more of Him and less of me.”
Stone 5: To raise a giant killer and kingdom builder, you must move them toward ministry. Initially you will take them with you, but later they will initiate ministry on their own. I have taken them evangelizing, their mother has introduced them to nursing home ministry, and they have all helped in the planting of our church here in Orlando, Florida. I love hearing their stories of how God has used them to share the gospel with students, professors, or workmates. Here is where we see the fruit of our years of hard labor. And it is so worth the sacrifice.
May these five principles serve as stepping stones toward instilling kingdom values in your World Changers-to-be (and you just might want to check your supply of Popsicle sticks).
Now … let’s go slay some giants!
Popsicle Sticks and Making Disciples
At age 10 with a backpack slung across her shoulders, my oldest daughter Kate was heading out the front door. “Hey, Hon, where are you heading?” I asked, thinking to myself, “Great! She’s already wanting to move out. What’d I do this time?”
Her response caught me emotionally, “Going to Jillian’s to disciple her.” She excitedly opened her backpack to reveal her Bible storybook, cookies for refreshments, and enough Popsicle sticks to build Noah’s ark. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. She has always had an amazing heart for Jesus and people, even at 10. Today she serves in our teen ministry, L.I.F.E. Groups, and drama outreach, as well as disciples young ladies. Can you say, “World Changer”?
Allow me to start by defining this term “World Changer”: someone who is radically devoted to and passionately pursuing Jesus Christ, compassionate toward people, and willing to risk everything for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.
So, how do we raise these fiery fighters? I can assure you it is not accidentally. It is intentional. It requires sacrifice and plenty of it. But before we explore the answer to this question, let me say this: We cannot pass on what we ourselves do not possess. We cannot raise World Changers if we ourselves are not changing the world.
We Recreate Who We Are
The Bible tells us in 2 Samuel 21:15-22 that David’s mighty men defeated four giants like Goliath in separate battles that demonstrated their skill and valor: “These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men” (v. 22, NIV). It is noteworthy that David’s brother, Shimea who served in Saul’s army, never managed to kill one of these huge, burly Philistine warriors, but Jonathan his son, who fought alongside David, is mentioned in v. 21 for his heroics in taking one down.
So, let’s do some math. Between David and his mighty warriors, they slew five giants. And how many did Saul and his men kill? Zippo. Zero. Nada. Why? Because you cannot pass on what you yourself do not have. It’s simple math. Or should I say spiritual legacy? David’s legacy as a giant slayer was passed on to his men. Saul could not do this.
We must assess with honesty our devotion to Christ and His kingdom. Are we allowing God to build in us what we desire to build into our children? If not, we must first ask our King to break through our religious external and thoroughly win our heart, train our hands for war (Psalm 144:1), and grant us a radical devotion to His purposes to slay some giants in the land.
Just as David had to draw five smooth stones from the creek bed to prepare for his battle with Goliath, so you must cultivate certain intentional habits to raise World Changers. Be sure to check out Part 2 next week, when I discuss the 5 “stones” you need in order to pass on a powerful spiritual legacy.
Pastor Mike Curtis has been senior pastor of Powerline Community Church for 18 years. The atmosphere at Powerline reflects his passion for discipleship, the local church, training leaders and the next generation, worship, and evangelism. Pastor Mike speaks at homeschool conferences on raising real men. He is married to the love of his life, Meredith Curtis, and has five children.
To begin, let me make it clear that I have never homeschooled children of my own. I’ve never even had children of my own. Instead, I come from the perspective of one who was homeschooled by some of the greatest, godliest parents known to mankind. That said, I often feel as though I don’t have much authority on the subject of homeschooling. After all, I’m the recipient not the pioneer.
Yet whenever I attend homeschooling conferences with my family, I inevitably have parents asking me for advice concerning their kids, curriculum, or teaching methods. Or they present me with questions regarding my own experience growing up in a homeschool family.
I have to be honest. Every time a parent asks me a question, I freeze, stammer out a couple of repetitive words as I mentally ask God for something of substance to say, and then finally begin to find an answer that is hopefully of some use to this person.
But in spite of my momentary discomfort, I can’t help but admire parents when they do this. It tells me homeschooling parents like you are looking to glean wisdom not only from those in your own position as mom or dad, but also from those in your children’s position.
This is awesome because it shows that you aren’t just looking for advice. You’re looking for results. You don’t just want a homeschooling guru or self-help book to tell you what to do. You want to see good fruit for yourselves so you can apply it to your own life. You ask those who were homeschooled, “What worked for you? What didn’t? What made the biggest impact on you?”
After all, “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16, NASB). What better way to discern a healthy homeschool pattern than by observing and discerning the difference between good fruit and bad fruit? So I commend you.
And since there seems to be a common thread among the questions parents ask me, let me share with you the top three things that have impacted me the most in my homeschool experience.
1. My parents taught me that Christ was the ultimate goal, not academic achievements.
Everything my parents did to teach us revolved around Jesus. From literature to history to science to even math—it all pointed to the Author, the Creator, the Concealer and Revealer of mysteries.
My parents based their homeschooling on a certain biblical principle: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33, NASB). My mom and dad knew that if they made Jesus the center of every decision they made—including their homeschool decisions—the academic goals would fall into place. Thankfully, they transmitted this principle to my siblings and me in the process. When I got saved, I made Jesus my goal, and my greatest desire was to obey and please Him. What happened? My work ethic skyrocketed. The laziness and frustration I exhibited in my school work began to melt away, replaced by an aptitude for learning and growing.
Because Jesus became my highest joy, my school took on new meaning for me, and as a result, I became a good student. So if you’re looking to make your kids great students and learners, I’m not going to tell you you’re wrong. But I will tell you that can’t be your ultimate goal. Jesus has to be. If He’s not, nothing else makes sense—not homeschooling or anything else.
2. My parents discipled me.
In a way, this one is much like my previous point, but it truly is distinct when you think about it. They didn’t just tell me that Jesus was the center of life, they showed me. They took my by the hand and led me through life, day in and day out, teaching me what it meant to follow Jesus. They discipled me by spending time with me, by taking me with them to work out and to run errands. They did it by disciplining me when I needed it and not letting me get away with things. They did it by loving me unconditionally, listening to me when I needed to talk with them, helping me walk through repentance and restoration, giving me advice, and, above all, teaching me the Word.
One of the things I cherish most is having deep talks with my parents about God’s Word. “Dad, why did God make the Israelites perform sacrifices?” “Mom, why does the Bible say wives should submit to their husbands?” “Dad, what are Zionism and replacement theology, and what’s your take on them?”
Granted, not all of these are the discussions you need to have with your child every day. (Some of these topics may have been the result of my dad being a pastor, but definitely not all of them, mind you!)
The point is: Are you studying God’s Word? Can your child ask you questions about the Bible and come away with a better answer than “Go ask your mom (or dad)”? Better yet, can they read the Bible and think, “Oh, so that’s why Mommy and Daddy do that”?
Take time to be a student of the Bible and teach it to your children. Live out the Word of God every day and teach your children to do it with you. Let them experience life as a disciple of Christ with you.
3. My parents sought to equip me to do anything God may call me to do.
If you think that because my parents emphasized Christ so much that they forgot about academics, you’re wrong. Oh so very, very wrong. Any person who has taken a homeschool class with my mother or bought one of her books can testify to her passion for academic excellence and constant learning.
Without sacrificing depth, my parents gave us a broad understanding of many topics. They gave us diverse experiences to try and see if we were interested in them. Please note that our not being interested in a particular class or an “extracurricular” (if such a word even exists in homeschooling) activity did not mean we were exempt from it. It simply meant that it would not be our future career objective.
This gave us the opportunity to discover passions and talents we didn’t know we had, as well as discover the beautiful art of “building character” as we did things we didn’t necessarily enjoy.
Now it’s your turn to share! What other things do you think are crucial in a Christian family’s homeschool journey?
Jenny Rose Curtis is a homeschool and Stetson University graduate, copy editor for Charisma magazines, and editor for Finish Well Blog. Discover more about her passion to serve and worship Jesus on her new blog, The Set-Apart Worshiper, or connect with her on Facebook.