By Julianna Dotten
Growing up homeschooled, I was oblivious to the fact that my upbringing wasn’t normal. It wasn’t until I went to college that I discovered having a stay-at-home mom and an involved dad was the exception, not the rule. While I came to see God’s redemption through many less-than-ideal situations in the lives of those around me, it’s caused me to be incredibly grateful. I’m also all the more determined to give my own children the kind of upbringing my parents gave me.
Looking back, there were a few key principles that shaped the way my parents approached our family culture:
- They made faith a central topic. Looking back on my family culture growing up, I’m incredibly thankful that faith was never merely a private issue. My mom was always ready to talk about a recent verse she found, and we were encouraged to ask each other what we were learning in our devotional times. This created an atmosphere where we could not only spur each other on but also realize that the Gospel applied to every area of life.
- They prioritized serving alongside school. There’s no better way to learn real life than to have to live it. That was my parents’ philosophy when it came to service. If someone needed help, my sisters and I often dropped our schoolwork to cook a meal, watch children, or clean house for someone in the church. That meant a lot of summers I was still catching up on school, but I’ll never regret the opportunities to see real life in action.
- They redefined entertainment. I’m thankful my dad had the wisdom early on to realize the power of appetites. In order to deliberately shape our young appetites toward wholesome things, my parents read aloud to us for hours, played games as a family, and provided supplies for us to create with. We grew up thinking these pass-times were the most fulfilling entertainment. I’m thankful that’s a legacy all of my siblings and I have continued as we’ve learned to enjoy the simple things of life.
- They emphasized productivity. We children always knew (much to our chagrin) that when my dad walked into a room, he would ask “are you being productive?” In other words, “just hanging out” wasn’t allowed. So instead, we started taking up hobbies: farm animals, sewing, woodworking, music, and other interests to fill in our spare time. His emphasis encouraged us to develop skills that would serve us later on in life.
- They took our individual giftings into consideration. I’m so thankful my parents never tried to put any of my siblings and I into a box — because we never would have fit! Nor did our education ever fit the nice scope and sequence charts that you find in the curriculum pack. My brother loved math, and so he spent almost the entirety of his high school years studying the subject, while one of my sisters focused most of her time on music. That didn’t mean we didn’t have to do subjects we didn’t like (or were required by law), but that my parents allowed us to focus most of our time on what we were passionate about.
Homeschooling was an incredible blessing for my family, providing the context in which my parents could shape their own family culture. No doubt the opposition was immense: the world pulls relentlessly. But every sacrifice was worth it; and as the second generation of homeschoolers, it’s an incredible privilege to endeavor to carry their baton forward.