The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. For Cheryl and me, our season of homeschooling three sons recently came to an end.
After thirteen years, our chapter is closed and, while no family’s journey is identical to another, we picked up a few lessons that might add value to your home. These are the things we wished we’d been taught or had the heart to hear in our earlier homeschooling years.
1. Be humble and teachable
No matter how long you’ve been teaching and no matter how many children you’ve raised, there is always something new to learn and always someone who can impart a new kernel of wisdom. As homeschooling parents, we never arrive. Each year, God’s grace brings us a chapter of new insights and perspectives. We should be ready and prepared to catch them when they come.
2. Live in the moment of a season that only comes once
Everyone who has gone before us reminded us how quickly these years go by, and they were right. Even in the midst of difficult and crazy days, you can step back and remember this is a unique and blessed season of your lives. When we were struggling and overwhelmed, we prayed for hearts that would cherish the sweet moments with our children, because we knew they would never come again.
Homeschooling is not a “side-job” or hobby—it is a full time investment
3. Treat homeschooling as a profession
Homeschooling is not a “side-job” or hobby—it is a full time investment. Give your children’s education the daily priority and time you would give your professions. Also, give yourselves the freedom to say no to daytime activities or events that distract from your educational mission and take away from your classroom in the home.
4. Be adaptable and seek the Lord for direction
As each year approaches, seek the Lord for fresh direction. Your children change each year and you might too. We should ask Him to show us the best path for each school year because this one might look very different from the last. Our children might thrive in different educational environments. They might need to spend more time at home, join a co-op or take an online class.
Just because you begin homeschooling your children with a certain template doesn’t mean the template never changes. We should be adaptable and welcome changes that benefit our children and their overall growth.
5. Work to understand your children’s learning styles
Most of us who have a few children are often amazed they actually come from the same gene pool. They can be so diverse, not only in their behavior and temperament, but in the way they learn and see the world around them.
Being able to tailor curricula and learning environments to their unique styles is a huge advantage of homeschooling. Rather than the one size fits all model that many of us grew up with, we are uniquely equipped as parents to study our children, know their hearts and minds, and reach them in amazingly effective ways.
6. Choose a curriculum and stick with it
While occasionally appropriate to make mid-year course corrections, we’ve found that generally, once we’ve decided on a course of study for the year, it’s counterproductive to change directions. Resist the immediate urge to go swim in other lanes when confronted with the latest rage.
At the beginning of each school year, we’ve found it helpful to write down the reasons for choosing the curriculum we did. These lists can be reminders when we’re tempted to second guess ourselves and our choices. Consistency throughout the year is very helpful to our children.
Our goal should be obedience to God’s calling and what He uniquely wants for our children.
7. Avoid comparing ourselves to other families
We might admire another family and their outcomes, so we study what they do and begin copying them. We are tempted to think that, if we mimic them, we will have the same results. It doesn’t work that way.
Family dynamics differ in every household. Learning styles differ, giftedness differs and outcomes differ. No story will be like another. While we should learn from those we respect, our goal is not to become them. Our goal should be obedience to God’s calling and what He uniquely wants for our children.
8. Listen to our children and hear their hearts
We should regularly remind ourselves to be teachers who are kind and respectful to our students. Because they are our kids, they are often the easiest to run roughshod over.
As homeschooling parents, you have unique freedom to stop during a difficult lesson and find out what they’re really struggling with. There is freedom to pause and pray together, to encourage one another. Avoid being overbearing taskmasters who plow over a child getting in the way of the schedule. While schedules and structure are important, and while parents do have ultimate authority, our children also bring wisdom that can edify us all. Take the time to listen—really listen—to their minds and hearts often.
9. Be respectful of those who don’t school like you
Just as everyone dislikes being ridiculed for homeschooling choices, we should avoid ridiculing others who choose differently. Homeschooling is a great blessing and homeschoolers should be a pleasing aroma of God’s grace. Unfortunately however, we sometimes succumb to airs of superiority and enjoy ridiculing those who select different paths. This is rarely emblematic of Philippians 4:8 and usually an unhealthy example for our children. Express the value of homeschooling without belittling others in the process.
10. Keep your eyes on the mission
At the beginning of our homeschooling journey, we wrote a simple mission statement which reads, “To train up humble servants of Christ with a passion for his church.” This might or might not involve being honors students who kill their SATs and are accepted into the finest colleges. It might or might not involve being standout athletes, musicians, robotics masters or any of the plethora of achievements offered today.
While achievements are important, they are not the ultimate. To become lovers of Christ and His people is ultimately important. In the final analysis, we believe our greatest homeschooling mission has less to do with what our children achieve and more to do with who our children become.
Lane and Cheryl Cohee reside in Indialantic Florida. They have three sons – Chase, Cale and Chane to whom Lane wrote “Letters to Our Next Generation: Life Lessons from a Father to his Sons” available to all parents at Amazon.com.
This article was originally published in an issue of Homeschooling Today Magazine. Get more articles like this full of homeschool tip, resources, and encouragement when you subscribe to Homeschooling Today Magazine.