In this blog post, Leigh Bortins, founder and chief visionary officer of Classical Conversations, shares her vision of a year in balance between community and family life.
The Homeschool Balance of Community and Family Life
I’m often asked what I wish I’d known as my husband and I were homeschooling our four sons.
I don’t think it was possible for me to appreciate what I really needed to know, as that would require wisdom and experience that I did not have. I often heard older moms say, “The days are long, but the years are short,” to which I would nod in agreement. But I did not understand exactly what I was affirming until the children were all grown. As each son left our home, I would miss him greatly, but I was still very busy with the ones left at home.
I did not really understand how short the years truly were until all the boys had left home.
I have discussed the great sense of loss with many homeschool veterans. We were not prepared for the silence. Thank God for grandchildren and the ability to continue serving the CC communities. Thank God for the time to serve our churches, catch up on some income, and make plans with spouses that aren’t interrupted by sick kids.
But how we miss the daily noise and chaos!
A Year in Balance
Classical Conversations was designed to take about one-half of the year. We would spend that half of the year in community. Then we were thrilled to have the other half of the year available for delight-directed activities, travel, summer jobs before the other youth were out of school, and the time to focus on my children’s specific needs or interests.
A Time for Academics
During the academic half of the year, our entire family grew in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by working very hard with a community. Unlike homeschoolers who say education is about their child’s needs, we learned it is about the body of Christ’s needs.
The community required us to compromise as we worked to help other students in seminar succeed. I learned that my children had to find ways to do work they didn’t like and to notice that sometimes other children did like the work. The boys did their best in CC seminars when they put the needs of the Tutor or the other students above their own.
I learned I couldn’t always study exactly what I wanted to study with the family because other families were relying on us. I think I would have been more patient with hard days if I saw how the struggle was helping more than just my family.
I also appreciated the accountability that came with community during this half of the year. Community on earth is practice for the kingdom of heaven. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Community offered us resources and support, yes, but the true value of community rested in the way we were answerable to one another in love and honesty.
A Time for Delight
During the family half of the year, we were able to develop our strengths as individuals.
Hot days led to afternoon reading. Long cooler evenings were filled with campfires and star gazing more than team sports. Unscheduled time allowed for building decks and skate ramps. Our community always took the month of December off so we could celebrate Christ’s birth and serve the church without feeling the usual holiday stress. The free time in winter allowed us to take a lot of walks in the dark, and vacations before the schools were released.
Days that feel long are too full or too empty. I wish I had appreciated sooner the balance that homeschooling afforded our family. I loved the feel of the morning rush on CC Day, and the joy the following day of knowing it was only once a week!
Finding Homeschool Balance in the Seasons of Life
Balance is key. Our world and our lives are not fragmented into isolated facts and experiences. We cannot focus on one activity to the exclusion of the rest.
In Ecclesiastes, the Preacher writes, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” As I reflect upon my homeschooling years, those words echo back. Yes, to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose: a time for community, and a time for family; a time for study, and a time for delight; a time for work, and a time for rest.
I was blessed to find a balance between those seasons through homeschooling, and I pray that you may also know that joy.
You can find more of Leigh’s articles, books, book clubs, and events on her website, LeighBortins.com.