Encouragement for the New Year

contemplative momBy this time of the year many homeschooling families are in a slump, suffering a lack of energy to continue their homeschooling adventure with purpose and excitement.  The new year is also a time that parents, frustrated with the public school system, consider homeschooling their students. Whether homeschooling is a brand new idea or you are suffering burn out, there’s something for you here. Having finally completed my homeschool journey with my nine children (more than 30 years total), I will share some thoughts that will provide encouragement and help to those in need. Included in the remarks below are a few suggestions to consider as well as links to recommended resources and websites.

Let’s start off with three reading recommendations:

  1. This article, Building Soul Spaces, will touch your heart. Seriously, take the time to read this. You will be glad you did.buildingsoulspaces
  2. The book Mere Motherhood, by Cindy Rollins, is a must read especially for those with large families or for those who feel as if they are not accomplishing enough. Cindy’s description of morning time may be the motivation you need to make changes accordingly.
  3. Sarah McKenzie’s book, Teaching from Rest, presents a great picture of what a restful homeschooling experience looks like. If you are stressed and anxious about your homeschooling journey, this is a great read for you.

Now, for a few practical suggestions. Make homeschooling an extension to life rather than a separate beast to overcome.  Curriculum is a tool we use, and not something to which we should be enslaved. You taught your child from birth to age 5 without any curriculum, right?  Teaching came naturally during the early years! If what you’ve been using is not working, consider dropping it, saving it for later, or replace it with something better.

Encourage your children to love learning and then teach them how to ask questions and find the answers. Three-year-olds love to ask, “Why?”  It may get tiring, but encouraging constant questions keeps your child in a state of wonder, always eager to learn more. As you discover your children’s gifts and talents, family fishingmake opportunities for them to excel in those areas.

Prioritize character! Respectful and obedient children are much easier and less stressful to live with! Be sure you include ministry opportunities that involve your children. Again, do not be afraid to switch gears and try something else if what you are doing is not working. Provide opportunities for your children to give presentations so they can hone their public speaking skills. Teach from a biblical worldview. Take field trips. Visit museums. Play games. Read aloud often. Get together with friends at least once a week (join or start a co-op). Enjoy the years while your kiddos are home because, in the a blink of an eye, they will be grown!

Making school an extension to life does not mean you have to avoid curriculum. Being a huge fan of unit studies we did not separate our studies into separate subjects (for the most part) but, rather, integrated most subjects into a unit of study. When homeschooling is an extension to life, then learning takes place everyday and the pressure to keep a record of school days is relieved because every day provides opportunities for learning.  Our children did attend co-op one day a week and we often took part in additional classes thatchildren by fence interested the children. Homeschooling co-op style was a huge blessing for our family due to sharing the workload, offering socialization, and providing a safe and friendly audience for presentations (and I loved, loved, loved having all of my children together). (For free podcasts on homeschooling co-op style, go here!) During the elementary and middle school years there is much freedom for homeschooling families to determine what works best with your family. Once a student begins high school a parent must be intentional about preparing the students to succeed after high school whether that is college, career, ministry, marriage and parenting, or a combination of several options!

Many parents are often perplexed by their children’s lack of ambition (with the exception of desiring to be on a phone or playing video games). How does one encourage a strong work ethic? Children these days have it easy compared to those who lived years ago or as compared to those who live on a farm, having to get up at dawn and work until evening. If jobs are not readily available then families need to gardeningcreate work and demand excellence, according to the child’s skills and maturity. One of my friends (who has 11 children) makes her child repeat a job 10 times if he/she does not do it right the first time. She discovered that it does not take very many times before a child becomes determined to do a job right the first time.  I have another friend whose motto was, “If someone’s working, we all work.” My children will tell you they heard me say, repeatedly, “Many hands make light work.” Let your children know that work comes before play. Demand obedience, excellence, and be consistent.

Even when everything is going as planned, parents often worry that their children might be behind. Behind what?  Behind who? I suggest you strike those words from your vocabulary. Every family is unique. Your children may excel in some areas while they may be slower in other areas.  It is not a race.  There should be no comparison.  When life gets in the way and formal academics are neglected the schedule may change, but lessons are still learned.  Whether it’s a move, a death in the family, an emergency, working on character issues, or for any other reason, switching gears does not mean that your students are getting behind.

Below are fifteen lessons I learned over the course of my many years of homeschooling:

  1. Your child’s relationship with the Lord and with the family is more important than anything else.
  2. Children of all ages love to be read aloud to, especially when the book is a great book.
  3. Instilling a strong work ethic goes a long, long way (both in lessening the work load at home and in preparing a child to be a responsible adult).
  4. Children can do chores at quite a young age. Their work may not be perfect, but boy cutting carrotstheir skills will improve (eventually).  Hint for large families:  Assign “chores for life or until you state otherwise” so that you always know who is not doing their chore or who is doing their chore well! (No more chore charts.)
  5. Stress is lessened when learning is fun and exciting. Read Cheaper by the Dozen to see how one dad made learning unique and oftentimes fun (this book is nothing like the movie of the same title, by the way).
  6. We speak every single day so be intentional about planning speaking opportunities with your children and public speaking skills will be honed at a young age. (As mentioned, once a week co-ops are perfect for this.)  There are many Christian homeschool speech and debate leagues. Two of the most popular are STOA and NCFCA
  7. Planning studies around areas of interest to you and your children facilitates learning.
  8. Identifying false logic and avoiding the use thereof is a great skill and something that should be taught during the high school years, if not before.
  9. Learning how to properly debate is invaluable and very helpful with conflict resolution.  Whether your students compete, or not, joining a speech and debate club will provide much insight and experience with speech and debate skills. (See clubs mentioned in #6 above.)
  10. No one can know everything. Being curious and knowing how to find information is more useful in the long run than memorized facts. If you teach your child how to find information then you never have to worry about what you may have left out. Listen to  Sir Ken Robinson talk about how schools kill creativity!
  11. Having (or starting) a home business is a wonderful way to teach students practical consumer lessons (while earning money).
  12. Knowing what to expect during the high school years is a must.  One of my regrets is missing out on opportunities that I did not even know about until it was too late.  For this reason I have put together a free E-Resource for homeschooling parents.  (Request a free copy here.)
  13. Whether you agree that college entrance exams are adequate indicators of a student’s ability to be a good student or not, the reality is that most colleges award academic scholarships according to test scores.  For this reason it is important that you prepare your students accordingly if they are headed to college and financial scholarship is needed. Although every student will not go to college, it is better to be prepared and not go that route than to not be prepared and end up scrambling to make it work at a late date.
  14. There are no black and white formulas for success.  (If there were I would write a book and make millions.)
  15. Parenting is hard, but God is good and prayer is your best friend.

If you find yourself suffering from burn-out mid-year, do not despair. Take a deep breath, prioritize, and make changes that will lessen your stress and increase the enjoyment of your homeschooling journey. If you are brand new to homeschooling, welcome to our world! And, if you did not read the first article referenced above, here’s the link. Read it right now. You’ll be glad you did!

I am the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College and love telling families about Bryan. Feel free to email me if you have questions or if you want to know more about Bryan College! Email:  pat.wesolowski@bryan.edu

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