We often hear how important it is to give our kids wings, but in order for our children to fly well, we must also give them roots. My grandmother just celebrated her ninety-second birthday. As a child, I remember walking into her and grandpa’s house. It always smelled like one of two things (or both): a delicious, home-cooked meal and coffee.
My grandparents come from a very Dutch background. When coffee time or mealtime rolled around, anyone who was nearby was enthusiastically encouraged to come to the table and participate. As a child, I never understood the need to sit down so many times during the day, but I remember distinctly the good feeling of everyone being together, laughing, talking, and sometimes debating.
My own parents carried on this tradition, and although we didn’t gather as many times a day, we always ate dinner together around the family table. When my husband and I began to have children twenty-eight years ago, we wanted to be intentional about family dinners as well. Even though it sounds like such a small and sometimes inconvenient habit, I can tell you that it has had a deep and lasting impact on our children. It’s one of the places our children have grown the deepest roots.
Just like the roots of a plant or tree, the roots our children grow in their years at home nourish them throughout their many adult years, providing nutrition and helping to anchor them so they are not uprooted when hardship comes.
As homeschooling families, we have countless opportunities to give our kids roots by tying heart strings with them, but sometimes in an effort to give them an “education,” we forget how important connecting with our children truly is. We often are caught up in what we think the “musts” of a good education are and can easily sidestep one of the most beautiful aspects of homeschooling.
A few ways to connect with our kids and give them roots:
Eat as many meals together as possible (free of devices or television).
As I mentioned earlier, the dinner table is a great place to tie heart strings. It’s more challenging when the children are young and deep conversations are less frequent, but this is the time to establish a family tradition that will prove to be incredibly bonding over the years. There is something about sharing a conversation over a meal that touches the deeper places in our hearts. That’s probably why It’s been a common practice throughout history and across many cultures. I can’t help but think that it is something God intentionally designed to resonate within the heart of mankind.
Share life stories with our kids.
Our kids love to hear funny stories from mine and my husband’s childhoods or our parents’ childhoods. There's something about picturing parents as kids that breaks through the generation gap and makes us more relatable. Sharing stories of how God met us when we most needed it at different times in our lives testifies to our children how very real our faith is. It helps them begin to grasp for themselves the idea that God can and will meet them as well. It reveals God’s presence in our lives and makes Him more tangible. Tell them the story of your salvation, how you met your spouse, etc. By doing this we are living out Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.Deuteronomy. 6:6-9, NIV
Work on projects together.
As homeschooling families, we often find ourselves falling behind on yard work, organizational projects, etc. The reality is that those things should be part of our homeschooling/family life journey. There is something about working alongside of each other that tends to bring out character issues for both children and their parents, but I tell parents all the time that what really binds a family and makes them more cohesive is overcoming obstacles together. Projects provide exactly that opportunity.
Read out loud together.
I found this particular activity often frustrating when our kids were very young. They couldn’t seem to sit still and were constantly distracting each other. Eventually, we realized that our kids needed to keep their hands busy during reading time. They would play with playdough or a small squishy ball, color, draw, anything that was quiet but enabled them to move a little bit. I was often convinced that they hadn’t heard a thing I had read, but I can’t tell you how many times they would prove me wrong! They could almost always answer the questions I’d ask. Sometimes, days later, they would surprisingly bring up something I had read.
The important thing is not to expect perfection but to make this a fun time without insisting on a results-driven outcome. Remember, the purpose is to enjoy the adventure, mystery, and excitement of a good book together. Sometimes even just looking at the pictures and having the experience of trying to read together can be bonding!
Families can connect through sports, hiking, cooking, baking, sitting around the campfire, and so many other activities, but the key component to really connecting with our kids so much of the time means being unhurried.
After over twenty-three years of homeschooling, I can tell you that although sometimes our family connected over math or language or history, far more often roots were grown deeper in the unhurried, unscripted moments. When we leave margin in our days for slowness, we give our kids the opportunity to express their thoughts, to be curious, to ask questions free of the pressure to perform. We not only create a great learning environment, but more importantly, one that encourages connection and, ultimately, deep roots.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 Issue of Homeschooling Today. Subscribe today for more great articles like this one!
Durenda Wilson is a homeschooling mom of eight (born 1991-2004), six of whom have graduated. She has been married to Darryl for 30 years and they have 6 grandkids.
Durenda has written The Unhurried Homeschooler (a simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling) and Unhurried Grace for a Mom’s Heart. She is the owner/writer/host of her blog and podcast, Durenda Wilson. She also enjoys speaking at events where she can encourage homeschool parents to lay aside unnecessary expectations and truly enjoy this homeschooling journey!