For the sake of cohesiveness, this post should be named ‘Successful Homeschooling: Know Thy Kids.’ It is, indeed, the second of my 2-part attempt at sharing successful homeschooling tips for both parents and kids. The part of me that is snarky and cynical chose the numbers because after all, as a blogger, numbers brings numbers, yes?
When I stepped back to see where this post was headed, it occurred to me that much of what I would list as key to knowing your children was an extension of knowing yourself. I don’t see this as a coincidence. Much of what our children will produce is based upon us as parents setting an environment–a stage, if you will, such that they can perform.
Being Mom or Dad is markedly different than being their teacher. Ideally, we want our children to be loved, nurtured, and supported in any environment in which they are supervised by adults. As our children’s church pastor says, when people hand off their child to you, they are giving you their most prized possession (regardless of its current condition—my words, not hers). Realistically, however, no one will ever love and care for that child the way you do—even with the best of intentions. You are anointed to teach your children—an anointing you need to receive in Jesus’ name if you have not already. Yet, as a teacher, that anointing might look a bit different, to include the following behaviors:
- Understanding learning styles and what they mean for both you and each of your children—one size will not fit all
- Regulating expectations as a student in “class” versus what is acceptable when school is not in session
- Taking on the sole responsibility and accountability for what they learn, which might include failing them on an assignment or a class (gasp!)
I remember a homeschool blogging friend writing about balling up a piece of her daughter’s work and throwing it in the trash. Reading the post, the heart of a mother immediately sympathized with this child as I thought about my own children and the aftermath of throwing away something they created. The teacher’s heart, however, understood where this mom was coming from: there is a standard of excellence in this home, and less than your best will not be tolerated.
Everything will not be fun. There are so many posts within the homeschooling community that depict an environment where kids are having so much fun until they hate that school ever has to stop. And they all presume to teach you how to develop that kind of environment in your home, too. It sounds lovely. There is just one problem: it’s a lie. If it were the truth, the equal number of memes that suggest math is evil, or that suggest we as homeschooling families must put on a certain “face” for family and friends, would not exist. Moreover, the impact of such a lie is that there are scores of families who abandon homeschooling because they are convinced when they have bad days that they are not doing something right. The truth is that it is as ludicrous to think that your children will always have fun as it is to think that you will dance through every single aspect of your life. Lest we forget, comfort does not breed comforters. Perseverance through hard times and determination are good lessons to learn, too.
They will get it. I can remember a season of angst in which I wanted our oldest to be the ‘model’ homeschooler (whatever that is). I fretted that other kids were having a much richer experience than we were, and I would change our whole lesson plan based upon someone else’s enthusiasm about what was happening in their home. Years later, I now realize that this is a homeschool rite of passage; many parents I know get caught up, especially with oldest children, in trying to develop the kid who cures cancer or finds a remedy for the common cold. Having homeschooled for a minute now, I tell moms of littles all the time to not fret if their kids don’t read by the age of 4, or understand certain math concepts by the age of 6. What is key at that age is not to frustrate a child and give the devil any foothole to introduce low self-esteem or confidence issues. Sometimes we all—kids and parents alike—just need to take a breath and try again later.
They don’t have to know everything. Our “job” as home educating parents is to create a set of experiences by which our children can learn how to learn. Consider the way most of us gained knowledge in a traditional school system: we learned most of what we know by rote memorization. At later ages, when different information became more pertinent, we “cleared the path” and replaced those earlier bits of wisdom. I conclude that this is why many of us are not smarter than a 5th grader (that’s a television game show for the unplugged who think I’m just being snarky). The other side of this coin is that there are some areas which everyone should know, and it is worth the time and effort to persist. As a personal example, our college senior recently completed a required statistics class. To say the least, I was anxious, knowing that if there is any area in which she struggles, it is math. She actually “aced” that course, and in conversation with her professor, she learned at least a part of the reason why: she knows her math facts—well. Many children don’t.
You bring you everywhere you go. I alluded to the fact earlier that I would change homeschooling methods on a slight whim once I heard of something that was going stupendously well for someone else. I had to learn to use myself as an instrument, and to celebrate our uniqueness as a family. Just as you have been anointed by God to teach your children, your children have an anointing, too: to love and honor you. Their hearts are with you, whether you are a drill sergeant in your teaching style, or captain of crunchy, or just plain confused. Their desire, even when it does not look much like it, is to please you. Love on them, encourage them, and lean on them; you need it as much as they do, and in doing so, you model for them how to operate as a unit—a home/school, homeschool unit.