Encourgement for the New Homeschooler
~ If You Are Pulling Your Children Out of School ~
We encourage you—Don’t delay the renewal of your mind to correct thinking about education so you can keep from going too far down an unproductive path that causes more difficulties for you and your children. If you are pulling your children from a school setting please take this message to heart.
Why have you decided to homeschool? Your decision to leave the school system may have been made as a reaction to negative situations or traits you found developing in your children’s lives. Because homeschooling is new to you, your decision could be lacking in understanding about the cause of the problems you were seeing.
While you were likely acting on conviction when you first made your decision to homeschool, you might be falling into the trap of failing to extend that conviction into the area of how to homeschool in a way that would truly help your child or be pleasing to God.
We hope you don’t proceed with the assumption that your current cultural definition of education is accurate, and as a result “bring school home.” Your plans for homeschooling (which are likely someone else’s plans for homeschooling) can often be wrought with haste, waste and panic regarding the academic aspect of your child’s education. This usually results in increased tension at home because you don’t yet understand the true needs of your children, which were not getting met while they were away at school.
If you take the time to honestly consider your reasons for homeschooling then you may more easily see the need to focus on other aspects of your child’s life for a season before jumping into a full curriculum program. Following are the most common reasons parents decide to bring their children out of the system to homeschool:
- Rebellion with your child at school
- Poor grades for whatever reasons
- Learning disorders resulting in frustration for your child
- Boredom with learning
- Negative peer influence
As you can see, these reasons have little or nothing to do with academics, yet the strongest effort moms usually make when beginning to homeschool is to bring school home and initiate a full-scale program of academics. You won’t be able to address the above listed problems with a full scale academic curriculum. Unfortunately the problems from school will likely escalate once your children are home and under your authority. Additionally, other relational problems will become apparent for the first time. In many cases the problems were there all along, they were just hidden because your children were gone from you at school. A few of them might be:
- Loss, to any degree, of parental authority
- Poor relationships within the family
- Sibling rivalry and/or intolerance for siblings
- Boredom or dissatisfaction with the new lifestyle
You might begin to feel like you will never accomplish anything if you do not get control over your children’s attitudes and responses. You might end up like many moms applying additional ungodly pressure on your children resulting in artificial compliance, and in some cases increased rebellion. Imitating the system that created your children’s problems will not now heal them. Relational and character deficits will not be solved with academic solutions. If you will have a teachable heart, you will begin to yearn for something better. Perhaps your heart holds a hope for:
- Quality relationships with your children
- A closer family unit
- Happy children who love each other
- Children who love to learn
- Children who know how to learn on their own
Developing these qualities in your family will give your home the needed atmosphere for learning, but they will also require a laying aside of your own assumptions and your own ways. You will need to lay down all your wrong cultural ideas about education if you desire to have ‘children who love to learn.’
A common American way of thinking is to picture your children seated at the table, eager to complete all assignments in the scope-and-sequence appropriate text/workbooks that you just spent hundreds of dollars on, hardly able to wait to get to the next assignment, squealing with joy at all the new-found discoveries in these work books and text books! God has an entirely different and much richer, deeper idea of what a love of learning is. This ‘plastic’ facsimile will have to be put to death in your heart in order to provide the sort of education your children need.
Education is far more than a mere acquisition of academic knowledge and basic literacy. The true definition of education is simple to know; just look into your own heart. Are the above listed desires reflected there? You can learn to recognize that every true problem with your children is one of the heart and/or one where your relationship with your children is not intimate enough to meet their true needs. Your full time effort will be required to achieve any heart-related goal. Your children’s education and the foundation for their young lives needs to be built and developed on a rich learning process that begins in their hearts and will include academics uniquely designed for each one.
As you begin to homeschool, you’ll need to embrace a season where your primary efforts are on developing relationships with your children, where mutual trust and respect are demonstrated. Both parental and child training, while usually not a strong emphasis, needs to become the primary focus for this season. Yours and your children’s training will include the important area of a love of life (learning) and life’s responsibilities. Your current cultural understanding of education and its accompanying burdens will prevent you from being able or free to do this.
As you embark on this adventure, the Lord will lead you to look at your own heart and the hearts of your children. You need to begin by focusing on the training of character (relational habits) and addressing the underlying causes (attitudes, intentions, and motivations) of any problems. You’ll need to learn to truly love your children and quit acting on fear regarding your expectations of them. I say fear because the new homeschooler’s mindset is usually one of concern for meeting all the academic requirements that are familiar, worry about being behind, worry about gaps in their child’s education, and so on. This thinking produces a lot of fear and can easily motivate your decisions. You might think these are real needs, but they’re really only perceived needs created by culture. There are other real and more pressing needs that must get your attention if you want to secure your children’s cooperation over the long term. It is time for you to become discipled to Jesus and not only get to know Him, but get to know your children as well!
If you allow your children a season to debrief from the artificial school setting and spend significant effort on these three areas of child training: (1) obedience, (2) relationships and (3) a love of natural learning, then a new lifestyle of learning will unfold that will give your family many enriching adventures and quality life purpose for years to come. Notice that academics do not show up on this list of priorities. God’s burden for you is one you can bear and which will lay the foundation on which academic disciplines can be added throughout the course of your children’s development. In essence, your effort will begin with a proper foundation. It is not unreasonable to take the first year of homeschooling to work on getting your household and family relationships in order. Simply learn to love your children, and learn to love your new life together.
As you grow in your understanding of education, as you get to know your children more intimately, and as you experience new freedom in the Lord, your own family’s unique lifestyle of learning will be sure to change, grow and blossom. This is a life-encompassing process that will unfold as time goes on.
© Copyright 2003, Marilyn Howshall All Rights Reserved