When we began homeschooling our sons in 1984, neither my husband nor I were Christians, but we valued academics and loved the idea of raising life-long learners. Thanks to the intense love I received from other homeschooling moms early in our journey, I gave my life to Christ when our oldest sons were preschoolers and did my best to grow in Christ right alongside my children. From the start, it was clear that a firm foundation in Christ and the accountability of a supportive community were essential to our success – not only as homeschoolers, but also as a family.
In 1997, we started Classical Conversations, a K-12 educational support service to help local homeschool leaders organize classical academic communities attended by homeschooling families. We hoped to imitate the homeschooling pioneers who inspired us to know God and to make Him known. Guided by Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” our family has found purpose in building an international community of homeschooling families with a shared vision.
It’s the power of community that has influenced my ability to pass on the love of God to our sons. Incorporating faith into the life-long habit of learning was modeled to our family through the lives of faithful believers who intentionally chased Christ’s life lessons. I’m thankful for the numerous interactions with people God brought into my life at just the right times that taught me so many valuable lessons about educating and parenting my children, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share those with others.
When I started Classical Conversations, a mom who had children with special needs joined me as a tutor. She worked hard to train herself how to teach her own special needs children, and I admired her calm, respectful manner towards children. I asked her if her experience in special ed was responsible for her nature with children, and she responded with a story about her family and a dairy farm that taught me a valuable lesson. She taught me that, like milking the cows, teaching children a little every day builds habits that allow success for learners of any ability. The Lord said in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
When visiting a new Classical Conversations community, I met a mother of four children, three of whom were killed in separate accidents. I wondered, “How does a mother live through that?” She told me she realized that our children are God’s, not ours. Our responsibility is to pour the Holy Spirit into their lives for as long as He lets us. She helped me realize my mission was much more than academics. It was to strive to honor Christ’s trust in me to raise His sons to honor Him with every single day I am given.
In an airplane, adults must put on their own oxygen masks before helping children. It is the same in a broken world. Children imitate their parents first. If parents imitate Christ, children will imitate Christ. If we imitate secular systems like government schools, entertainment and business, they will imitate secular systems. Our difficulty is finding true, good and beautiful systems to imitate as secularism replaces Christian culture. Raising children is always a struggle and I’d rather wrestle with God’s purposes for raising my children than purposes and mandates from a school board.
Classical Conversations homeschooling parents, with the help of the Holy Spirit, are entirely rediscovering Christian realms of thought and sharing them with their children. Many people say to me, “But my children have to live in the real world.” To which I respond, “Do you mean the world where every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord?” (Romans 14:11). It is very easy to prepare our children for this world, if we think and do what the ungodly do. Christian education prepares children for a different world. Christian education requires parents to contemplate the great classical Christian conversations of history to maintain a culture that prepares our children to be servant-leaders and heirs to the King of Kings.
Leigh Bortins is a nationally acclaimed educator, known for her ability to demystify the fundamental tools of learning. As founder and chief visionary officer of Classical Conversations Inc., Leigh is credited with helping to launch the “home-centered learning” education movement, and she has published several books including The Core, The Question and The Conversation, a series which explores the classical trivium from a parent’s perspective. Her emphasis on the enjoyment of learning, fundamentals of education and critical thinking skills originates from her experience homeschooling her four boys.