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5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Homeschooling

Heidi St. John

With changes rapidly happening in our public school system, more parents than ever are considering the very viable option of homeschooling. If you're one of those, read on.

I'll never forget our first year of homeschooling. I sort of "fell" into homeschooling, and so, admittedly, I was not as well prepared as some of you dear readers will be. In fact, I was about as green as green could get—but I was trying—right down to the flag salute and scheduled recess time. Like many new homeschool moms, I was trying to imitate what I remembered about school. And the school that I attended as a child had a flag salute. So we did, too. As you are probably guessing, our first year was tricky. The neighbors thought we were crazy, my parents wondered out loud about my "ability" to teach our children, and I had no idea how to get dinner on the table and still teach math, reading, and science. Or, maybe I didn't need to be teaching science to our second grader? The opinions on teaching science to second graders were mixed, after all.

Can you relate? Oh, the things I worried about! I needed a class for homeschool rookies, but unfortunately, there were no such classes around.

Homeschooling is the best decision we have ever made with regard to how we would educate our children. But I won't lie to you—those first few years were especially challenging. If I could start again, I would do a few things differently.

But even so, God has a way of working all things together for good as we trust him. Here are just a few of the many things he's taught me over the past fifteen years:


"A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:40) Education is discipleship. This simple sentence has become the mission statement of our homeschool. The Lord has taught us the simple truth about education through homeschooling. And the truth is that ALL education can be summed up in one word: discipleship.

Because the Bible tells us that students become like their teachers, we know that our children are modeling us in every area of life. Luke 6:40 bears special meaning for homeschooling parents. It reminds us that no matter who is teaching our children, they are being discipled; and it compels us to examine our own lives, because our children are very likely going to be just like we are.

The culture we live in has made academics the "main thing," but I beg to differ. Academics pale in comparison to teaching our children what it means to be men and women who are sold out for Jesus Christ, ready to give an answer for the Hope that lies within them. Education is simply the opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of our children. There can be no greater goal than to teach our children to follow hard after Christ.


As a new homeschooler, I was bombarded with academic opportunities. Dozens of programs and curricula overwhelmed me at the homeschool conference. I studied my options, poring through homeschool catalogs and investigating different companies. Our coffee table overflowed with flyers and curriculum samples.

If I could start over (which I can, each year, by the way!), I would have spent more time praying and preparing for the manner in which I would be known for teaching our children, rather the method I chose. At the end of the day, my kids remember much more about how I taught them, rather that what I taught them.

As you begin homeschooling, take some time to think about how you want your kids to remember their homeschool years. I have learned that the relationships I foster with my children are much more important than the books I choose.


No one ever plants a fruit tree and expects mature fruit to appear overnight. Yet, for some reason, homeschooling parents often feel pressure to "out-perform" in almost every area of parenting, even when children are very young!

Your kids don't need to be seen as geniuses. If your neighbors ask your fourth grader what the capital of Texas is and he answers "Oregon," don't panic! Remind yourself that good fruit takes time to grow. The results of good homeschooling take time to see.

We can place undue pressure on ourselves and our children when we saddle ourselves with expectations that do not come from the Lord. See his expectations and live up to those. The rest either don't matter, or will come in time. There will never be a teacher more devoted to the success of your child than you are.


Is your child disobedient? Whining? Ungrateful? Rebellious? If so, then "real" school has begun.

Training your child to be obedient is more important than teaching addition. Don't be afraid to stop formal schooling to teach the greater lessons of life: obedience, respect, truthfulness, graciousness, and love. I have met many parents over the years who miss the true opportunity of homeschooling by focusing solely on academics. Their children suffer for it. The parents suffer too, but it's usually later down the road.

Consider Eli, who served as a priest in Israel. His unwillingness to discipline his sons brought dishonor to his family, and ultimately, grave punishment to his sons and himself.

You will not have done your child any favors if he or she is fluent in three languages, but cannot speak a single one in a loving and respectful way. When we honor God's ways first, the rest will follow.


Take the time to discover both your primary learning style and the learning styles of your children. Moms who know their learning style have an easier time choosing curriculum and a far greater success rate in teaching their children the best way.

Your preferred learning style will guide the way you learn, and it will greatly influence the way you teach!

For example, I know that I am a visual learner. If I had taken the time to discover this earlier in my homeschooling, I would have avoided many of the curricula that I chose, because I would have known that I would probably not enjoy teaching it.


• Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

• Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

• Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch.

• Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning, and systems.

• Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

• Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

There are many books and websites dedicated to learning styles. Check them out! You'll be glad you did.

It's been many years since I took my first steps as a new homeschool mom. When we graduated our son, who never went to "regular" school, I remember thinking he was likely to catch a glimpse of two wide-eyed parents staring at him in a cap and gown … not because they couldn't believe he graduated, but because they couldn't believe it went by so fast.

With four more children coming up, we are learning just how fast it goes—and how worth it the journey is.

(This article was reprinted with permission by Heidi St. John at heidistjohn.com)

Heidi St. John has been married to her husband Jay since 1989. Together they have seven children and two grandsons! The St. John's children range in age from early elementary school to adult. They have homeschooled the kids all the way through high school.

A favorite conference and radio speaker, Heidi approaches marriage and parenting with humor and grace. Her passion to encourage moms and set them free to be who God has created them to be will bless and encourage you.

Find Heidi on Facebook: Heidi St. John, The Busy Mom, Instagram: @heidistjohn

About Heidi's new book:

With the rapid-fire changes in our culture, moms are facing questions that previous generations never saw coming. Even our right to determine what's best for our own children is under fire. Today's moms need a special kind of strength, and Heidi St. John (The Busy Mom) offers help and answers in her new book Becoming MomStrong, available at bookstores everywhere this October!

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