(Family Magazine May 2012 4th Issue)

Stephane Tran

Homeschooling? Me? No way! With no teaching background, average English, and limited knowledge of the American education system, I am doomed to fail!

That was my initial reaction when I first heard about homeschooling on the Focus on the Family radio program back in 1998. Like many Asian parents of the time, I held a very skeptical view of homeschooling as an alternate education choice. It would be too difficult, nearly impossible for me to homeschool my two boys, ages seven and one-and-a-half at the time. My older son, in second grade, was attending a nearby private Christian school. From that first encounter with the notion of homeschooling, God started to call me to take up this additional role of full-time teacher to my two kids. Possessing little faith, I followed the prophet Jonah’s path and ignored His nudging. But His inner voice grew louder with each passing year; and after three years of devoted prayers and numerous confirmations, just on the verge of being eaten by Jonah’s big fish, I finally surrendered to His sovereign calling. Thus, in 2002, when my older son was entering fifth grade, and the younger one was still preschool age, I embarked on this journey of faith, with God’s promises as my sole guidance.

When we first started, we did not know what to expect. After four years in traditional school setting, my older son and I had to take time adjusting to each other, both psychologically and pragmatically. He did not grasp my expectations, nor did I understand his style of learning. We clashed so much during class time, to the point where I often doubted my decision to homeschool. The first three months proved toughest, flooded with a lot of tears and prayers. But God is faithful. As long as I am faithful to Him, He will take care of the outcome! So, with a supportive husband who acted as school principal and resource researcher, the many-hats-wearing teacher (me!) learned to relax while relying on and collaborating with God to mold my children’s future.

In the homeschooling environment, close encounter was the norm. I became the prime model to my children. My thoughts and deeds were unintentionally yet constantly shaping their character and emotions. They knew whether we as parents walked the talk or just talked the walk. Many times, I had to humble myself, ask for their forgiveness for my imperfect walk, and point them to Jesus as the ultimate model.

Setting boundaries was one of the most important aspects in spiritual character development. Each evening, we took time to read Bible stories and pray together to the Creator of the universe. Each week, we borrowed from the library inspiring works of literature and missionary biographies and immersed the kids with wholesome reading. I also brought them to Bible Study Fellowship and enrolled them in the annual church-sponsored Bible drill. During his high school years, my older son even spent a summer week-long retreat with Worldview Academy. Over the years, all these activities have left an undeniable imprint on their character. I recall one incident when my then 15-year-old son got a last-minute invitation from his friends to watch a movie. As we dropped him off at the entrance of the theater and were about to leave, we saw him come running back to our car. “R-rated, Mom. I’d rather not watch.” At that instant, my heart overflowed with thanksgiving! He remembered our disapproval of R-rated and pornographic media and took a stand against peer pressure. I later learned that movie was rightly labeled R-rated for its sexual content and extreme violence. As I strived to anchor my children in God’s Word, I truly understood why God gave us the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These commandments that [God] give you today are to be on your hearts. 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.”

Apart from spiritual formation, homeschooling also helped our children learn practical life skills and explore individual interests. Due to the one-to-one nature of instruction, my children could work at their own pace, often finishing academic subjects quickly in three to four hours. As a result, they could afford extra time exploring subjects that fascinated them. My older son, for instance, loved to play around with computers and would spend hours fine-tuning or troubleshooting. He groomed himself as our in-house technical support. He also developed some interest in cooking and has surprised us with a few dishes. Recently, out of the blue, the younger one requested my husband to find him some Spanish learning material and has since been toying with “hablo español”. What touched me most was their joy of learning and sharing what they have read or heard. With the flexibility that homeschooling allowed, I trusted that my children would mature into young men with effective skills and life goals.

With homeschooling sounding too good to be true, inquiring parents naturally turn to the question of socialization, arguing that our family has been sheltering the children from the reality of traditional schools. However, our kids got to interact with different school-age children during the bi-weekly park meetings and group field trips as part of a local support group of many homeschooling families. At these gatherings, they learned social etiquette and made acquaintances, while the moms shared their up-and-down moments, their curriculum ideas, and their prayer requests. In addition, my older son volunteered at the library, joined short-term mission trips, and competed in speech and debate tournaments. All these activities greatly broadened his social network and prepared him well for college and beyond.

Psalm 127:1 declares that “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” What seemed to be labor in my homeschooling journey God used as an invaluable lesson for me to trust in Him. Whatever my children turn out to be, it was all by God’s grace! I often tell my two sons that the little step of faith ten years ago turned out to be a spiritual awakening, a platform to test my patience, an eyewitness of God’s vision in raising up a generation of elite army for His kingdom, and a unique opportunity for me to a be part of His plan. He truly is faithful and equips the Called. I am deeply thankful, and all I can do is to give credit where it is due. May the glory and praise be to You, O Sovereign God!

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