There’s an adage that says, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” True in life, true in parenting, true in homeschooling.

Want an example? Imagine two sets of parents. The first parents let their children lead the way. The kids choose the activities they want to be involved in, how much effort they put into their schoolwork, what time they put themselves to bed, and who their friends are. The kids set the tone for the home, and the parents follow along. “Kids will be kids” is the household motto.

Now, imagine a second set of parents who lead their children toward extracurricular options, establish expectations for schoolwork, identify meal and bedtime routines, and impact their sons’ and daughters’ social interactions.

The second set of parents purposefully develop their family and its course. These parents have a target in mind and help their children hit it.

Notice that neither set of parents is more Christian than the other. But in this scenario, only one family is living with an end in mind. Only one set of parents is taking the reins, leading their kids, and saying, “Here is where we are going.”

Because homeschooling affords 24/7 interaction with our children, many embrace homeschooling but mistakenly think homeschooling is the target. They think homeschooling, in itself, will get them where they want to go. They adopt the homeschool model and then put their homeschool on autopilot, sit back in parenting, and hope for the best. They might rely on XYZ Curriculum exclusively, thinking it alone will get them to their desired destination. They either forget or have never realized that they must be diligent parents who purposefully disciple their children. By default, they become the first set of parents.

When my husband and I first decided to homeschool our children, we made a choice to be like the second set of parents. We resisted the urge to go with the flow; to allow others to dictate the when, where, what, how, and why of our kids’ education—and their lives. We decided to be the ones to chart the course for our family. We determined to be intentional.

But we are far from perfect. In twenty-one years of parenting, we have sometimes been lazy and lulled into thinking that homeschooling is enough. At times, we tire of pursuing our family’s larger mission. In our busyness, we allow our desired target to slip down in the ranking of our priorities. The good gets in the way of the best. Then along comes a necessary reminder from a child—perhaps unkind comments toward a sibling, a pattern of disrespect toward us, or ongoing bad attitudes toward schoolwork or household chores. We are faced with a choice: purposefully return to the pursuit of our primary goal or continue to coast as parents, presuming that homeschooling in and of itself is enough.

But homeschooling as a method is never the ultimate goal. It’s often the means to get there, but we can’t expect homeschooling to be a four-leaf clover. Parents, homeschooling is a battle that’s daily, relentless, and often draining! We must develop a marriage, a parenting approach, and a homeschool plan according to our overarching purpose, then diligently implement it.

Only parents, with life experiences and hopefully God’s wisdom gained over the years, can intentionally direct a family toward a long-term goal. Children simply don’t have the maturity to live in light of a bigger picture. Like the parable of the builder counting the cost of his tower, we must stay engaged in order to raise and educate our children—in other words, we must aim at something if we want to reach our desired outcomes.

Homeschool With A Purpose

If you are going to homeschool or otherwise parent with a purpose, you’d better know your target. Do you? Do you know the “why’s” for your homeschool and for your children? Does your family have an end in mind? Remember: “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

Many years ago, my husband was challenged by a job-related seminar to develop a mission statement suitable for himself and later for our family. He labored for months over our family’s mission statement, prayerfully writing and rewriting a “why” for our family. When he was done, he had created the acronym LEMILOE, which stands for “Live Every Moment In Light Of Eternity.” Ever since, it has provided the framework (for now) and the goal line (a desired outcome for the future) for our family, our parenting, and our schooling decisions. A simple motto, but also so much more.

Rather than restricting me, our family mission frees me to give myself fully to opportunities that align with it. If a curriculum aligns with our mission statement, I will select it for our kids. For example, in light of eternity, I want each of our children to fully develop into the people God created them to be. I want each of them to maximize their abilities and God-given gifts because I believe that glorifies Him. So a science-minded daughter got a thumbs up when she considered her CPR training and eventually her EMT license—it aligned with our mission. It was easy to say yes to a physically active son when he got the chance to be an assistant basketball coach in a youth league—it aligned with his development in light of eternity.

Having a clear purpose also gives me the freedom to confidently say no to homeschooling options that don’t line up with our target. I think about a very popular homeschool curriculum, perfectly suitable for many Christian families. Yet I never felt was a good fit for our family because it didn’t line up time- or money-wise with our mission. I recall a few years when we said no to being involved in a homeschool co-op because it would have required more commitment (and homework) than we felt our family could give at that stage. If it doesn’t align with our mission, I am confident to pass on otherwise excellent opportunities.

If you don’t have a family mission statement, now would be the time to prayerfully write one. The start of a school year, a winter break, or a new year are all great times to develop a purpose statement. Dads, please get involved in developing this statement for the sake of your family. Moms, please prayerfully ask God to inspire your family’s future. Ask God to give both of you unity in this process.

Lead With Intention

Once you know where you’re aiming, it’s time to move toward the desired end. Some things I have learned about leading with intention are:

Consistency day by day: I want to model a Christlike life hour by hour. If I’m not walking with Jesus, it’s all for naught. For me, homeschooling is the way God exposes my heart and my children’s hearts. When a child has a meltdown over her math workbook, I see it as a chance to bring Christ into the situation. I can integrate a faith-based, Christ-oriented approach to all subjects—Christ can even be Lord of writing and spelling! You might say ours is an intentional approach to discipleship disguised as schoolwork.

Learning isn’t limited to “school time”: I try to convey that life is full of learning, 24/7, not just formal bookwork. As parents, we intentionally model lifelong learning. My husband learns how to code a website. I attempt a new recipe. We learn how to operate an RV. I begin to market our business on social media. Books, webinars, and e-learning are resources we often turn to, and our kids see that.

Honorable choices: We strive to select curriculum, books, and friends that are edifying, true, and God-honoring. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

God is sovereign: I don’t want to become too heavy here and move into major theological ground. And yet, it’s clear that God alone determines the future. Just because we set goals, create family guidelines, pray, and tenaciously work as parents, we have no guarantee our objectives will be achieved. But because we live in Christ’s freedom, we are choosing to homeschool so we can be intentional about raising our children, which we believe will yield good fruit in their lives for decades, and generations, to come.

Whether you are a veteran homeschooler, new to homeschooling, or just considering it for your children, it is a blessing to do it with a purpose in mind. 

This article was published in the September/October 2015 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine.

Melanie Hexter and her husband, Matthew, started their homeschool journey in 1998. With two graduates and four children still at home, they ask the Lord to teach them how to uniquely educate each child. The Hexters love to travel the US, using their Colorado Springs home as a western base. Melanie is working on two books and offers several homeschool curricula, including the U.S. National Parks Unit Study, for download at LEMILOE is their family motto: Live Every Moment In Light Of Eternity.