In an earlier post, I talked about the ongoing impact of non-traditional entrants into the traditional homeschooling community. One dynamic I discussed is that there are more conferences that are specific to these non-traditional audiences, where mentorship is strongly encouraged and race, color, and ethnicity are relished as valuable attributions for teaching.
I spoke to such a group within the last two weeks. I had the unenviable task of opening the day with a 15-minute speech that would normally take me an hour. (No pressure, right?) My topic was “Notes to My Younger Self.”
With 15 minutes, I could not detail my 30-point list, so I hit what, at least in my mind, are the highlights for a successful homeschool–if I only had a short time to explain:
- be your own first student
- learn your student(s)
- establish an environment for learning
Each of these main points had numerous sub-points, but in speaking to primarily young women, the one point that I wish I were given more of an opportunity to speak on is pursuing peace.
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8, NIV
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12: 17-18, NIV
Why is peace important?
Peace will set the environment for learning. That is why, in my opinion, it is important to be somewhat organized, clean and neat (those two are separate and unique). As a personal example, we do not have a specialized schoolroom; we school in our kitchen, at the kitchen table. So, if you show up at our home unannounced, you are likely to see books, papers and pencils all over the table; that does not include the unwashed dishes, the loaded countertops, plus the various gardening projects on my southern windowsills. But I do try to start with a cleaned-off space at the table with room to spread out, and a clean kitchen sink. Even minimal elimination of distractions ushers in peace, and helps us focus. Use of the phone would be a post all its own, but it is worth stating that we as parents need to master self-control so that we can mentor it in our children.
When I speak to groups, especially primarily African-American groups, I often address the history of our relationship with the public school system. Jim Crow and separate-but-equal education had a profound effect on a certain generation. I said that to say that having the “we decided to homeschool” discussion might be difficult with older relatives and friends who mean well, but just come from a different way of thinking.The sad truth is that you might have to love some people, even at times Mama, from a distance as you settle into your particular routine. Pursuing peace as a goal will help you establish boundaries with people and help you be okay with saying “no.”
Finally, pursuing peace aids in modeling desired behaviors for your children. I think that in this age of “clap-backs” and “come-fors” there is an opportunity that we miss. Striving for something else settles in the minds of each family member that homeschooling is a part of the family structure. It instills confidence about homeschooling as a lifestyle no matter where you go. And it teaches children that an arguing is always secondary to understanding. What is most important to understand are your feelings as a parent, first of all; sometimes people hurt feelings and “tick us off” because they expose sensitive areas that we have not yet turned over to Christ. A part of processing anger is to realize that most people don’t question or challenge, or interrupt your day, or belittle your activities to be unkind; they genuinely do not understand what you are trying to do. Seeing your world from their perspective will allow you to respond in love. This is a powerful point of growth for you, as well as those younger eyes watching you.
Of course, my writing has assumptions throughout. Sometimes people around you can be messy. I did not address siblings who don’t get along, or deep-seated dysfunction that can derail any family endeavor. There is no substitute for bathing your homeschool in prayer. My prayer for you is that you pursue peace–for the benefit of your entire family.