Educating for Real Life

A few months ago, we were asked to write an article for CHEC’s homeschooling magazine about how we were homeschooled. We have, of course, talked a lot about how we were raised, the ways we want to imitate our parents, the things things we would like to do differently, and the many differences that we see between our two families. However, when we sat down to condense all those conversations into this short article, we were a little surprised by how many identical conclusions our respective parents came to, and how many of them we want to stick to.

When Heidi and I were born, our respective parents began to pray about how we should be educated. When they choose to teach us at home, it wasn’t for lack of options; Isaac’s parents lived in Washington D.C. suburbs completely surrounded by private schools, and Heidi’s father was actually teaching at a well-respected Christian school in Ohio.

And even in those early days of home education, there were various co-ops and pre-packaged curricula that they could have used, ways of moving a “regular” education from classroom to home without any other major changes. These would have been easier, faster, and in many ways cheaper than how our parents ended up teaching us. But they wanted to give us educations that were completely different in their focus, not just their location.

To do so was hard, time-consuming, and expensive in many ways. We’ve watched our parents change careers, take massive pay cuts, and move across the country (or around the world) just so they could teach us diligently and according to their understanding of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:7). Today, they would say that it was all worth it, and so would we. Their efforts have perfectly prepared us for where we are today, and what we are doing.

First, our educations prepared us for our work. By figuring out how to teach us at home, our parents demonstrated discipline, and taught us to be self-disciplined. More importantly, they taught us how to learn; how to teach ourselves. Isaac has worked as an employee, freelancer, and manager, in several different fields. Even though he wasn’t trained in every one of those areas, his parents equipped him to train himself and do the work.

Second, our education prepared us to be parents. By having us, and all of our siblings, at home, our parents gave us a front row seat watching how parenting works. We were around to see great parenting in action, all day, every day. Now that we have children of our own, we still feel overwhelmed a lot, but we also have an excellent example to guide us.

Third, our education gave us unique opportunities. Instead of being stuck in classrooms with our peers, our parents took us interesting places and introduced us to fascinating people. Our flexible schedules allowed us to work alongside our parents, serve the Body of Christ, and fight spiritual battles in Kingdom work long before we “graduated.” All of the academic and book-learning parts of education had a very real, practical, hands-on component.

As important as all of those, and so many other things are, it was the way that our parents went about teaching those things that really mattered. Our parents used our home education to show us the real meaning of success, and prepare us for a life of service, sacrifice and a life lived devoted to the Lord (1 Timothy 1:5). They could have told us these things when we got home from government school, but by devoting so much time to us, and making so many sacrifices to keep us close to them gave us an example to follow.

Our parents modeled personal sacrifice by gladly giving up high-powered career options to pursue jobs that would include us kids, work that would provide more opportunities for real-life character and training. They illustrated the meaning of service by bringing us to widow’s homes, pro-life rallies, nursing homes, orphanages, and homeless shelters. They showed us that true success can’t be measured in college degrees, paychecks, number of cars, or even spheres of influence. Success can only be measured using God’s standards (James 1:27).

This is not to say that we had perfect parents, or a perfect education. In fact, our parents would be the first to point out that the first thing that they demonstrated to us was their own imperfection, and their need for repentance and humility, and prayer, and to be constantly relying on the Lord. Thankfully, they daily demonstrated that repentance, humility, and reliance on the Lord.

In short, they saw home education as more than just an alternative to other kinds of school. It was more than just a way to keep us from getting bullied in the locker room, or to make time for other activities, or to get us into a better college. They were trying to make us a part of their daily lives, to involve us in the real world, and teach us to love, honor and glorify the One who made us.

Now, it should be noted that our two families are very different in many ways, and the actual mechanics and subjects of the education were pretty varied. One family taught Latin with varying levels of retention, and the other family had better success with math. Within each family, every child was different, and everyone got a different education, tailored to them.

In fact, our families are different enough that the only things that our respective educations really had in common were those things that we mentioned earlier: being completely involved in our parents’ lives, an emphasis on discipline and character, lots of real-life ministry that allowed our parents to demonstrate our place in the world while still working to protect us from worldly influences (Romans 12:2), a trust in the Lord and study of His Word, and reliance on Him.

This is why we are confident that our parents were able to prepare us for our adult lives, not just for where we are today, but but for wherever we will be tomorrow. We are also confident that if we can teach our own children these Biblical principles that our parents emphasized, and be the same kind of example to them, we will be able to give them the tools they need for wherever the Lord calls them.

Reprinted from the CHEC Homeschool Update
(Volume 2, issue 98, 2017); 720.842.4852,

  1. Thank you Isaac and Heidi, this was fantastic! I’ve always had quite an admiration for the way in which the Botkins went about education, and its thrilling to me that you were both able to identify the key components of why that was successful, AND that you’re passing that on to your own children. As a homeschool graduate and father of 9, I’m attempting by God’s grace to do the same myself. My hope and prayer is that the generational faithfulness will continue to the glory of the Lord.

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