“Hey Dad, bring us back the brain!” Luke shouted as his dad hopped in his truck headed towards a long awaited elk hunt at the exclusive Three Forks Ranch in Wyoming. Seth had saved all his “points” over the years to cash them in for a guided elk hunt on an incredible property about an hour from our home. We all chuckled at Luke’s request, but he was completely serious. He wanted to dissect the brain of whatever elk his dad was sure to shoot. Luke is a scientist. That is how God made him. Always the first to spot a bald eagle high up in a tree or a three inch long lizard climbing a wall, and spends his free time creating rocket launchers and parachutes. His desire to dissect was yet another self-directed learning endeavor Luke has been embarking on since we began homeschooling. Like finally fitting a key piece into a puzzle, this moment connected parts of a God-woven journey together for me.
The first two years I was consumed by “doing school at home” and getting my kids “caught up” in the 3 R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic). One child had already been diagnosed with ADHD and had been on an Individual Education Plan for a learning disability while he was in public school. The second child was in the process of that evaluation when the schools closed in 2020. My third follows closely in her brothers’ footsteps.
I’ve noticed over the years how God’s provision often comes in the form of a casual conversation with a trusted friend. That’s exactly how He led us to an incredible program that teaches kids (and adults) the 3 R’s in a completely different way that taps into the strengths of right brain learners. Pictures and color coding along with the use of story-telling is how phonics and math facts are learned for example. There are also brain exercises crossing the midline and the repetitive drawing of large figure eights with a crayon while saying letter names and sounds to help with reversals. While time consuming and tedious, these methods dramatically helped my kids.
I was absorbed in the day-to-day minutiae of these endeavors as well as the constant behavior management of my three strong-willed children that it was difficult for me to see the big picture of what we were doing. We entertained the idea of giving up because it was “hard.” Well, what worthwhile endeavor in life is always smooth and easy? That’s right….none!
The summer of 2022 was a pivotal moment in our home education journey. I told Seth I didn’t want to make any decisions about whether we would continue or not until I spent the month of June praying. I also wanted to go to the Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference one more time. Human reasoning, thoughts, emotions, and other influences can have a lot of sway in our decision making, but above all else, I want to be obedient to what God wants me to do. He alone sees the end from the beginning, and He has a plan for each of our lives, and for our family as a whole.
Setting aside a whole month to pray taught me to wait and listen. It taught me patience in my prayer life, and of course gratitude as I thanked God in advance for the direction and wisdom I knew He would provide. Around the time this prayer journey began, I started to have some conversations with a few families at our church who had either been homeschooling for a while or were interested in starting. God was making connections and drawing like-minded hearts together. By the end of June, we hosted a dinner meeting for any families interested in learning about homeschool. A Co-Op was beginning to be birthed from our meeting as several families expressed interest in coming alongside to support each other, and provide both educational and social activities for the kids.
At the same time all of this was transpiring, God was working on both my husband and my hearts drawing us to a place of unity. One beautiful summer afternoon sitting on our deck, Seth told me we could continue home education as long as we made some major changes. School needed to be more interesting and engaging for the kids, we needed more structure, and we needed to get out of the house more and take advantage of the freedom our schedule allows. More organization and preparation was also needed in order to eliminate some of my “mom meltdowns.”
While attending the homeschool conference in mid June, I was introduced to both a method and curriculum that God, in His infinite wisdom, knew would be a great fit for our family. The Charlotte Mason approach encourages short, but focused lessons, learning outdoors, and working only in the morning so kids have time to play outside and/or pursue other individual learning opportunities in the afternoon. This is only a brief list of the many benefits of the Charlotte Mason approach, but what attracted me to it most. A flier from the conference advertised “My Father’s World” curriculum as one way to incorporate the Charlotte Mason method as well as being designed for teaching multiple ages. Most subjects can be learned together as a family, with only math and language arts taught at different levels.
God is so good, so faithful, so wonderful. He took a hold of my hand and led me along a path of provision as He equipped me in the calling He had placed on my life. In essence He said, “Yes, I want you to continue this, and I will provide you with people to do this with, a method that works better for your kids, and a curriculum that will be engaging for all of you.” All of this came like puzzle pieces throughout the month of June as I continued to trust, pray, and thank Him. The picture the puzzle was creating became more clear as the summer went on and the prayers continued.
Surprising pieces were added to the puzzle this fall like the request to dissect the brain. In praying for wisdom and direction over the summer, as we started our new school year, God opened my eyes to all the ways my children are directing their own learning. Our new method, curriculum, and schedule are like the scaffolding outside the building giving us the support we need. With that structure in place, I was able to see how learning was happening all the time. Children are naturally inquisitive, and God has given them each certain areas that fascinate them more than others. It’s all a part of the specific plan and purpose He has for each of their lives.
When Luke asked for the elk brain (something I NEVER would have thought of!), the pressure of thinking that their education rests entirely on my shoulders, came crashing to the ground. Yes, I need to teach and provide the environment for them to learn, but ultimately God is teaching them and piquing their interest in very specific ways. Suddenly “catching up” on the 3 R’s didn’t seem so pressing. We continue learning and growing in those areas, but the bigger picture of what God is up to in our home education is so much grander than that.
Did Seth get an elk, and did we actually dissect its brain? Yes, and almost yes. Thankfully, Seth had a successful hunt. When the animal was out of the woods and hanging at the processing facility, he took the kids to see it so they could understand where their cheeseburgers and steaks come from. While they were there, the taxidermist next door offered to give them a tour of her facility. She had all sorts of organs at her disposal, so she offered to give the kids two elk eyeballs and a deer brain. So, we got a brain, but not from our animal. My stomach was a little uneasy as the kids proudly held up their Ziploc bags of organs, so I asked Seth if he would like to be the lead teacher for this science lesson! I am happy to say when the day came for the kids to actually sit down at the kitchen counter with their eyeballs and brain, I was more curious than queasy. Seth carefully guided them through their dissection. Their curiosity on full display as they marveled at the intricate body parts so skillfully knit together by the Master Designer. A silent prayer of thanks was lifted up. These moments are why we are homeschooling again.
I am a child of God, a wife to Seth, and a mother to James, Luke, and Eva. The Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I became a “new creation” at the age of 23 when I surrendered my life to Jesus and was delivered from a decade of depression. Read more...