Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life are not lessons I learned in school.

It’s the same for homeschooled children. Some of the most important things you’ll ever teach them don’t come from books.

I’ll never forget watching a boy become a man before my eyes. Now THAT’s something you can’t find in a packaged curriculum! Here’s what happened:

I’d just finished teaching a co-op drafting class. One of my students had a baseball game that afternoon. He asked his mom if he could drive home over lunch, change into his uniform, and knock out some homework. Then he’d come back to pick up the family for the game. She tossed him the keys.

Twenty minutes later her cell phone rang. Though I was standing several feet away, I could hear my student’s frantic voice. “Mom! The house is on fire! There’s smoke coming out the windows, and the dog inside!”

“Call the fire department,” she ordered, “and do NOT go in for the dog!”

Several friends piled into cars and drove to her home, praying all the way.

It seemed to take forever for the firefighters to arrive, then hours to fight the blazes that consumed the family’s home. There was little anyone could do but stand, helpless, and watch. It was the most wretched feeling in the world.

Our Sunday School class was scheduled to have a potluck fellowship that evening. With supper already prepared, we converged at the home site, ate tailgate-style, and waited for the smoldering remains to cool. Then God showed up (actually, I’m sure He’d been there all along!), and people began operating in their gifts and strengths. Friends with gifts of mercy offered prayers and provided shoulders to cry on. Friends with gifts of service showed up with rakes, shovels, and bins to cull through the wreckage. One lady with a gift of organization wrote down names and contact information for all the helpers and listed the items we were able to salvage before we took them home to be cleaned. It was a beautiful demonstration of the church being a community.

My student, who had been understandably panicked a few hours before, stood shoulder to shoulder with his dad. The father offered a shovel and asked, “Are you ready?” and the son nodded solemnly as if to say, “Let’s do this.” Together. As men. It happened that fast.

When we’d done all we could, the father surveyed what was left of his property and said, “I’ve lost everything…” then looked around at his wife, his children, his friends, and even the dog (who was rescued) and said, “…and I still have everything that matters.”

We may not have finished the lessons we planned for school that day, but God taught us far greater lessons.

You never know when life will call upon you, or upon your kids, to be a hero. When that moment arrives, there probably won’t be much time to think. You’ll simply react out of your core values. You’ll “be who you are.” And your children will be who they’re becoming through your teaching and example. These parents had done a fine job of instilling strength and character in their children in all the years leading up to this traumatic event. When life called for heroes, their children were ready.

Don’t neglect the “small stuff” like daily lessons, but remember that it’s the “big stuff” that makes heroes forged by fire.