Sometimes it's really easy to criticize your own parenting. When you see your kids do something you don't want them to do, you may be tempted to blame yourself for their failure. The things you neglected to teach them suddenly become glaringly obvious and you regret that you didn't discipline them in the past for that one small thing that has now turned into something big. Sometimes the self-blame is deserved, but quite often it takes more than a little effort for lessons to sink into the minds of young children.
When you first discover the dreaded misdeed, you may lash out in anger or become disappointed in the kids and yourself. You may be tempted to give out more discipline to make up for the times you neglected it in the past. If there's anything that I am continually learning about parenting, it is this: Responding in anger only makes things worse.
Instead of getting angry when difficulty challenges your parenting, think of these interruptions as opportunities. When your kids screw up is when they need you most and their sinful natures have now given you an opportunity to live up to your calling as a parent. How will you respond? Will you see an opportunity to build a bridge to meet your child's need or will you react out of anger.
Sometimes opportunity involves loving discipline. Sometimes it involves listening to the needs of a child and sometimes it involves overwhelming forgiveness. Whatever the direction the opportunity may lead you in, don't let it pass by. Take advantage of the opportunities your kids give you to become a better parent. And if you feel like you have mastered the kids you have, try having another one. A whole new world of opportunities awaits!
My wife and I are normal people. Neither of us really excel at anything in particular. We can both figure things out that need figuring, but we are just average at nearly everything we do. Our house is pretty clean, but never perfect. I can fix broken things, but never quite as good as new. We can both cook well enough to enjoy eating, but we're not experts. We're definitely not volunteer doctors touring the world repairing cleft pallets and removing tumors and our super hero skills always fall flat.
So how are two average people changing the world? We're doing it the way countless parents before us have done it. We're raising good kids. Don't get me wrong, they're not perfect and we aren't without challenges as parents, but that's part of what makes us normal. Like other moms and dads everywhere we strive each day to meet the needs of our children. We provide for them, we correct them we encourage them, and we discipline them. Some days we do it better than others, but we never stop trying.
So what's our secret? That part is easy. We share a common foundation built upon biblical truths. It's upon the timeless and unchanging words of scripture that we structure our lives. As Christians, we understand that each of our children will grow up to make their own decisions, but that doesn't change the duty we have to pour ourselves into them while they are young.
As individuals, we may never change the world, but as parents, we could very well be shaping someone who will. When we keep that perspective in mind, we can't help but see ourselves as successful beyond measure.
My wife recently stumbled across a speech by Denzel Washington. In it, he made a couple of very profound statements that I think will resonate with every parent. The first statement was simple. He said, "If you haven't failed, you're not trying."
How many parents feel as if they have failed at some point? How many homeschooling parents feel as if they have failed? Raising kids is hard, but does that mean we quit trying when we fail? Look around. All of your friends have failed at parenting in some way. Did they quit? No, they kept on trying.
Parenting isn't a formula. Often it boils down to a series of adjustments made in response to the random things our kids throw at us everyday. We are constantly tweaking how we interact with our kids because they aren't all the same. What worked for one may be a total failure for another.
In the speech, Denzel went on to say, "To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did." How true that is when it comes to parenting. We all try it for the first time without any experience. And then we do something else we've never done when baby number two comes along and is totally different from baby number one. And the cycle continues as they grow, always presenting us with new chances for failure and new chances for success.
Don't let momentary parenting failures define who you are. Let your never-ending quest to be the best you can be define you. Let your refusal to accept failure be your legacy.
If you want to see the whole speech, here's the link.
Last week I received an email that made me smile. It was from a former student. Actually, it was from two students. Twin sisters. If teachers were allowed to have a list of favorite students of all time, these two girls would be near the top. I was thrilled to hear what they were up to and how I had played a small part in shaping their lives.
I occasionally hear from past students, sometimes even from kids who have moved away, but this email was a first. After leaving my class, these two girls moved to Norway. What a small world it is when a couple of teenagers can track down an old teacher a half a world away using nothing but the internet.
I've recently been reflecting on the power of relationships when it comes to teaching. I'm reminded of the time I was able to fly across the country to attend the high school graduation of an old student. Or the time a student moved an hour away and I made arrangements with his mom to visit him and take him out to lunch on the back of a motorcycle. Another student made the perfect babysitter for my kids when they were younger. All of these are kids I will never forget. They impacted me as much as I impacted them. That's what a relationship is.
And that is where you, as a homeschooling parent, have the biggest advantage known to educators. You have a built-in relationship with every one of your students. You can take them out for a one-on-one lunch any time you want. You can tuck them into bed at night. You can listen to them pour out their frustrations without anyone accusing you of anything inappropriate.
Without a healthy student/teacher relationship, curriculum doesn't matter. How well you present information doesn't matter. Textbooks are worthless, but you are valuable. Kids listen to you because they know you. They trust you and feel safe around you. There may be days when you say that your kids would be better off with someone else, and that may be true for specific subjects, but the relationship you have with your kids can never be replaced.
Cherish the moments you have with your kids. Shape them. Grow them. Guide them through their young years as you walk beside them. And always know that you are the perfect person for the job. No one could ever do it better.
As parents we have all had moments of quality time with our children. Whether it be a trip, a conversation, or a moment of snuggling, quality time happens. But does it happen enough? Do periodic moments of quality time make up for a lack of quantity time?
Every family is different and our thresholds for quality and quantity are likely as various as the personalities of our children themselves, but I bet that every one of us would say that we could probably do better with either one of these categories. As a homeschool mom, you may say that you spend more than enough time with your kids, while the homeschool dad may feel that he doesn't spend enough. Either way, it's a challenge.
Recently my wife had a moment of clarity regarding this topic. She noticed that quantity time leads to quality time. It became clear to her while she was driving with one of the kids. Their destination was about an hour from home and the whole way there was marked by intermittent banal conversation and silence. It was the drive home, however, when things changed and the conversation got personal and real. Had that relatively quiet drive not taken place, the more meaningful conversation would have remained forever bottled up.
Just because you offer your kids periodic moments of quality time, doesn't mean they're ready to immediately jump to revealing their innermost struggles when those moments occur. Those conversations often come to fruition as a result of patiently and continually investing in their lives. This takes time, and often lots of it.
While quality time is important, relying on it as a sole source of connection with your child is folly. Pursue quantity time and the quality will follow.
There are several milestones that kids reach as they journey toward adulthood. There's the first word, the first steps, potty training, driving, and so many more. The milestone I most look forward to in those early years is the day the kid spits up for the last time.
In our family we are currently embedded deeply in the spit up phase with our youngest. He's a fountain that bubbles over on a regular basis. As with all of our kids, he loves being held backwards, which is fortunate because this allows the puke to launch away from the person holding him.
Everyone in the house knows what just happened whenever the familiar "splat" sound hits the floor. A while back we were out to dinner and the baby started acting fussy. I decided to walk around to settle him down. As I walked, an older couple was admiring him, so I stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes, never even thinking about the fact that his mouth was aimed right at them. Sure enough, without warning, the little guy let one go and spewed toward the kind gentleman. Fortunately, this guy was much more agile than I had expected and he jumped back in the most nimble fashion, dodging the fountain and keeping himself dry.
Slightly chagrinned, I grabbed some napkins and wiped up the slick floor. Fortunately the couple was very understanding. As I headed back to our table, we shared a good-natured chuckle and I even complimented the guy on his athleticism. Someday we will pass the no-puking-in-public milestone, but this was not the day.
As you homeschool, there are all kinds of milestones that your kids will pass. Some of them will be a messy process that might embarrass you a little. Others will just sort of happen without you even thinking about them.
The best part of homeschooling is that you can be there for your kids to cheer them on as they reach each milestone. As for me, I plan to throw a huge party as soon as Jake goes a full day without puking and you should do the same for your kids. Celebrate their milestones. Make them feel proud of what they accomplish. Have fun along the way and enjoy each day.
Raising kids isn't always pretty, but it's always worth it.
I've had people ask me what the Love of Learning looks like in action. For many people, the "look" is very different than what they are used to. We have a kindergarten-aged son who, like many young boys, is not known for his interest in sitting quietly for long periods of time, yet that doesn't stop him from learning. It certainly makes his learning look different, though.
If you've read the book, you know that reading to your kids is one of the most important things you can do. Math, on the other hand, isn't as simple. Or is it?
My wife is really good at matching learning materials with kids. She recently bought several math story books and we've read them to the littles numerous times. They teach counting and number recognition. There may be some basic adding and subtracting built into a few of them. They aren't complex at all, but they are interesting to kids.
Our little guy can write his name on his paper (and even the coffee table), but that's all we've ever encouraged him to do with writing letters or numbers. He'll get it when he's ready. Here's where the Love of Learning philosophy kicks in. The other day I walked into the kitchen to find him sitting at the counter with a paper in front of him and a pencil in his hand. He also had a ruler and was neatly copying the numbers one through twelve on the paper. We never asked him to do this. He saw the ruler (an opportunity) and decided he could make one of his own.
Granted, this is one vignette is not going to make him a genius. What it does do, however, is demonstrate how a child who loves to learn will find opportunities to learn in his own time. That little ruler incident provided more opportunities for me to talk with him about numbers. At that point, he was interested in learning, so the time was right.
You may have heard me discuss the need for the homeschool parent to provide opportunities for learning, but the concept goes both ways. Sometimes we provide the opportunities and sometimes our kids provide the opportunities. That's when it's up to us to seize the moment.
By now most of our kids have started their Christmas vacation and the end of 2020 is now in sight. Whether you are of the homeschool persuasion that slows down your schooling during the holidays or you are the type that uses this as a chance to make up for lost time, the end of a year presents us with the opportunity to reflect.
What has worked? What hasn't? What can I do differently in 2021? Which of the changes brought on by COVID will I stick with? One thing that has stood out to me lately is the fact that education is about far more than just learning academics. While reading and writing are important, education is also about shaping character. Have you used a year of loss to sharpen the edges of your child's character? Are you taking advantage of the time you have with your kids to mold them into the men or women God has designed them to be?
Change, disappointment, and fear can all be channeled into one amazing opportunity after another. Each time something goes wrong, we as parents have the chance to turn it around. Sometimes all that's needed is a long hug. Other times it's wise counsel and sometimes it's up to us to create a new opportunity.
What new opportunities will you be seeking in the new year? How will these opportunities shape the character of your kids? Don't get so focused on the curriculum and the lesson plans that you lose sight of their character. Teachable moments abound in the homeschooling world. Take advantage of them. Sometimes it's best to put the books away and just talk. Or go do something fun with your kids so that talking can happen more naturally.
You know your kids. You know what makes them tick. Make it a goal this year to talk with your kids in new ways. Quite often, when we look for new ways of talking, we learn new things and, in turn, create opportunities to shape their character.
For many Americans, summer vacation begins its transition into the school year in the first part of August. That time is now upon us. It's do or die time for the traditional public schools. Will they be virtual or in person? Will they combine the two approaches or will they force you to choose one over the other and stick with it? Will they have plastic dividers between the desks? Will kids have to wear masks all year? Will kids be kicked out of class for not keeping the mask on? Will they be allowed to play together on the playground? Will your kid be the one getting into even more trouble this year?
These are big questions that are actually being considered all over the country. For those of us who have not been impressed with the classroom teacher's portrayal of distance "learning," there are other options. Masks and partitions are not required at home. Dr. Fouci has yet to suggest we don goggles around the breakfast table. He hasn't mandated Plexiglas partitions on bunk beds so, for the time being, true homeschooling is the best option for many families.
There is a huge difference between distance learning and homeschooling. Distance learning puts your child into a system that has been designed by a school and a teacher for the sake of efficiency. It takes your child from step to step on a predetermined path, regardless of interest or ability. True homeschooling, however, builds a system around your child. It accommodates, and even promotes, personal interests. It's designed to challenge your child at his ability level and to push him even further.
Yes, homeschooling is a challenge. It's a sacrifice and it's a commitment, but you didn't have kids because it would be easy. You had kids because you want to shape the next generation by sharing your wisdom and experience. You want to impart your worldview to your children. You want them to be successful and happy. What better way to accomplish all of this than to design an educational plan with them in mind.
Homeschoolers exist all around you. Seek them out. Get plugged into the homeschool community. Learn from those who have gone before you. And if all else fails, contact me. I'm happy to help!
With seven kids at home, our family touches on every level of education at any given time. As with much of the rest of the world, we're on the tail end (hopefully) of a massive quarantine. Combining education with a quarantine has been a daunting task for a lot of families. Parents have been forced to become teachers while also working from home or, worse yet, stressing because they can't work at all.
As a result of the rapidly changing circumstances in our communities and in schools in particular, a lot of these families are now considering homeschooling full time. Perhaps they found that homeschooling fits into their lifestyles more easily than they had once thought, or perhaps they're not excited about the plans the local schools are implementing as children return to campus.
As a homeschooling dad, one of the things I most enjoy about our lifestyle is the lack of major transitions that we face. When quarantines or summer vacations come our way, there is very little change to the daily routine. Our kids read, they write, they play, they do chores, they help out with life regardless of the season. With the exception of the occasional five year old who's in a bad mood, we never hear a kid say, "I'm bored."
Throughout our homeschool journey, we've found that it's a lot easier to mitigate boredom with a big family. If you are considering homeschooling, my first recommendation would be, if at all possible, have more kids. If you don't have a large family, you might want to consider teaming up with another homeschool family or getting involved with a local homeschool group.
Opportunities abound for the homeschool family. Seek them out and enjoy the robust homeschool lifestyle!
Don't forget that you can order a copy of The Love of Learning from Amazon to help you get started.