I wrote this article for Smart Parenting last year and found out they re-published it on their website. If you stress out when tutoring your young children, check out this article. The same principles we apply as a homeschooling family are applicable to moms who tutor, too! Being Your Child’s Best Tutor
What a week we had! The kids had their violin recital and the very next day they were participants in a homeschool bazaar called “Biz Kidz.” Organized by homeschoolers for homeschoolers, this TMA Homeschool event encouraged kids to come up with a business idea, execute, and sell it.
The boys did origami art. Whew. Talk about labor-intensive. Next time, we are going to make cupcakes and cookies! (Our cupcakes topped with origami designs sold out and they didn’t take nearly as long to make.)
Three nights in a row, the boys stayed up way past their bedtime to fold paper hundreds of times. I was their quality control checker and I also helped them embellish their designs to make them marketable. So it was late nights for me, too.
We were all pleased with the finished products. But it was the process that was rewarding for all of us. My kids and I share a love for arts and crafts. We enjoy designing and creating. The kids were willing to push themselves to the limit with their lack of sleep. In fact, the evening before the bazaar, Edan fell asleep on a chair while waiting to be assigned another origami task. He was sitting upright with his eyes closed.
At the end of the day, the kids came away with P4,300 pesos. It was measly in terms of earnings, especially if we subtracted my part of the “investment.” But, the kids learned some great life lessons like…
Making money takes effort. The kids had to do the work and put in the time necessary to produce something sellable. I helped them out with conceptualization but they did the harder part. During the bazaar, the kids also discovered that selling origami products was a challenge. First of all, not everyone appreciates origami. Second, because all our stuff was laboriously hand-made, it wasn’t cheap.
Marketing and selling are an integral part of getting people to buy your product. In the beginning, we waited for people to come to our table. But after a while, I asked the kids to go around themselves. We saw other children doing this and it seemed to be much more effective. Edan learned that you can’t be self-conscious or afraid to talk to people. He didn’t want to go around with a tray at first. But, he ended up being a very good salesman! And he was very excited when he started counting how much money he earned. He told me afterwards, “It’s not scary!” (Referring to going up to potential customers.)
We also came up with a marketing idea that went something like this…Whatever origami art you buy, Elijah or Edan will give you a tutorial on how to make it. This got some people interested, especially kids who wanted to learn how to do origami.
Rejection is good for the soul. If the kids don’t learn this early, they will learn it later when there is more at stake. We didn’t sell everything. Elijah felt badly about some of his unsold goods because he thought they would surely interest buyers. But it was beneficial for the children to experience being turned down. Life will not roll out a red carpet for our kids. They receive a lot of affirmation at home, but it’s not always going to be like that when they finally go into a college or start working.
A recent Time article talked about the problems of the young people today. They jump from one profession to another because they have this entitlement mentality. They come into a job with high expectations about what others should do for them and when they don’t get what they want, they complain or leave. On the one hand, it makes corporations step it up in terms of benefits but on the other hand, there is a character flaw that we, as parents, have to weed out of our kids. Reality check: YOU ARE NOT A SUPERSTAR. I love you. I believe that God has gifted you to fulfill his plans and purposes for your life. But, honey, the world doesn’t revolve around you and your preferences. Get used to it.
Pray for success. When the kids began to be discouraged about having less than favorable sales, I told them, “Don’t worry. Just relax. If God wants us to sell our products, we will. He knows you worked very hard and you did your part. So pray and ask him to help you.” After they prayed, they started selling. But like I said earlier, they had to do what was within their control – go out and sell.
Be thankful and content. In Elijah’s words, “I learned to be thankful for the money we did make.” He wanted to earn at least P8,000, but it didn’t happen. Tempted to grumble, I reminded him to be positive and appreciative that we did make some money. We sold most of the items we had on our table.
“It’s fun to make money!” According to Elijah, it was rewarding to experience the fruit of his labor. Personally, I felt the experience was priceless for the kids for the character lessons more so than the actual money aspect. But it’s true, it is exciting to get paid for hard work.
Congratulations to the winners who received well-deserved recognition for all their effort, too! My personal favorite (besides my kids, he he), was a creative business idea by homeschooler, Isaiah Fernandez. He turned laundry clips into building materials and called them Clip Morphs. Over the years of hanging out with his mom while she did the laundry, he would play beside her and design all kinds of structures. So he turned it into a business concept. My kids are playing with his Clip Morphs right now! I thought it was a brilliantly simple idea that encourages hours of creative play.
Even if we toiled and struggled to prepare for this Biz Kidz event, I’m looking forward to the next one. Hopefully, we can come up with an even better concept. The event wasn’t nearly as big as the Kiddopreneur bazaar, which draws a very large crowd. But this was a good start for our kids. Many parents commented that they want another event like this soon and I agree!
The kids always enjoy art. It’s one of their favourite activities. And it’s fun for me, too. I asked them to do two projects today — collaborative work to do a group art work. They were very pleased with the final results especially since they worked so hard. There was a big mess in the process but I suppose that meant they were having a good time!
Homeschooling 4 kids has often elicited the question, “How do you do it?” And I must admit that at times, I think to myself, I have no idea! But, there is some madness to the “science” of teaching more than one child. I don’t claim to have the best methods but I can share what has worked for our family. Hopefully, you can get some ideas on how to homeschool more than one child without going crazy!
The eldest child sets the example. Elijah, my 10 year old, is a sponge when it comes to learning. He loves to learn, primarily through reading literature, story books, encyclopedias, documents, articles, manuals…basically, anything with text. God has gifted him with a capacity to absorb and process information. And I’m saying this not to put him up on a pedestal or myself (he is waaaay smarter than I am). I’m sharing this because the time you spend with your eldest child, before any of the other munchkins come along, is very special. No other child will have as much attention. So maximize the years you have with him.
I would talk to Elijah all the time. He began conversing very early and was speaking whole sentences as a one year old. Edric and I made him attentive to the environment around him by pointing out shapes, numbers, letters, colors, objects, etc. I read to him every single day, several times a day. And I helped him to discover and pursue his interests – dinosaurs, airplanes, origami, and architecture. He was around adults so often, which greater enhanced his communication skills.
His interest in learning began early. And when you have an eldest child who is an eager learner it makes a big difference! He sets a positive and inspiring example for his younger siblings to follow.
Master the essentials. There are at least 10 different subjects that children have to cover in the Philippines. It’s just ridiculous. But only a few skills, in my opinion, are really important – reading, comprehension, the ability to communicate and express one’s thoughts and ideas clearly (writing and speaking falls under this), arithmetic, problem solving, and critical thinking. So, I spend the early years of my children’s education enhancing and developing these basic skills. These are foundational.
I don’t, for example, make penmanship an on-going source of conflict between my children and I. Three boys. They prefer not to do tons of writing work. Is that a big deal to me? Not really. I’m gentle about the whole penmanship issue. Titus is just learning how to write his letters and numbers and he is 5. He knows how to write his numbers better than his letters but he still struggles with writing. Does he know the sounds of the letters and what numbers represent? Yes. Those things are major to me. But being able to write his letters and numbers perfectly…he’ll get there.
I didn’t force Elijah and Edan to do pages and pages of handwriting practice, but they both wanted to do cursive early. Cursive? Boys? Sounds like an oxymoron. Surprisingly, Elijah wanted to try writing in cursive when he was 8. And Edan started practicing his cursive a few months ago. They developed the inclination to do so on their own.
The point is I don’t get hung up on subjects that are of minor importance. I spend more time mastering essential skills.
Add variety to routine. Some materials you may purchase for your child are workbook based and text-booky. That’s not even a word but you know what I mean. If you don’t, then what I mean is these materials can be BORING. Kids do the same thing everyday. There’s no spice.
When you homeschool, you have the liberty to incorporate more creativity, mix and match, add here, take away there, enrich, skim through…In other words, you don’t have to be bound by the curriculum. See it as a guide for what your child needs to cover but don’t make it your bible.
For example, if the book says, “Color the correct answer,” and I know that it is going to take my son 15 minutes to color one object, I will say, “Circle the correct answer.” Why? Because the objective is to find out if my child knows the right answer. I don’t care about the coloring. We can do coloring for art. If he can tell me the answer right away, then I prefer that.
Here’s another example: If your child has to do 30 math problems that pretty much cover the same concept, do they really have to do all 30 problems? I ask them to do 15 out of the 30. And if they can answer those 15 problems correctly, I don’t require them to do the next 15. But if they have a lot of errors, then I know they need more practice or I need to review the concept with them.
With language arts, I mix it up for the boys. Sometimes, I allow them to dictate the answers to their questions. Other times, I will take turns writing sentences with them. On other occasions, I will allow them to use the computer. Or, I will ask them to complete the writing assignment on their own but motivate them with an incentive for finishing. It really depends on the circumstance.
Encourage independent reading and research. I’ve often told my children that reading unlocks the door of knowledge. Once they learn how to read well (with comprehension), they can answer their what, why, and how questions without being dependent on me. If they know how to read, they can be taught how to research.
When Elijah wants to go in depth about a topic that he is curious about, I let him research on the Internet or we get more books. I don’t spoon-feed him by being the source all the time. And the truth is, sometimes I can’t answer his questions because I don’t know enough about the topic.
The other day, he wanted to learn about venomous snakes in the Philippines. I put the computer in front of him and said, “Here, research about snakes in the Philippines and we will print out your findings.” He showed me his findings after 30 minutes and was very pleased with himself. I was too. All I had to do was press print!
For a while, I required Edan to read a children’s encyclopedia because he needed to improve his vocabulary. I asked him to read a couple of pages everyday as part of his work. Since he was a reader but I didn’t have the time to do intensive vocabulary instruction, I handed him the book and he reinforced his vocabulary on his own.
Keep everyone preoccupied with productive activity when it is work time. I do the academics with my kids in the morning. But since they are all at different levels, I can’t have them all sitting at desks quietly doing work on their own. This would be ideal and magical but it doesn’t always happen that way. So I have to plan the day by having independent writing or reading work for one child, while I dialogue or teach another. And then we do a switcheroo.
I usually lay out Elijah’s work on a table, in a private area where the noise pollution is minimal. He is an auditory learner so sounds are a distraction. When he is finished reading his Bible, he will proceed to work independently because I mark all the pages he has to cover with tabs. If he has questions, I can come over to his side to answer them. But usually, he doesn’t need me too much for this part of his day.
While Elijah is busy, I will spend time with Titus. In a period of about 45 minutes, we cover math, writing, reading, Bible, and a bit of science. In the meantime, Edan will be assigned to teach Tiana in yet another room. Since Tiana, my two year old, wants to be included in our daily homeschooling routine, she always comes up to me and says, “Mom, can I do my work? Where’s my work?” The thing is, I need to prioritize the older kids. So, I ask Edan to help me out.
Edan is my teacher’s assistant, something that he is very good at. He will very patiently teach and explain to her basic concepts. While he does so, I handle my two other boys. And then Titus and Edan switch places. Titus will have break time with Tiana, playing, doing art, or using manipulatives, so I can give attention to Edan and Elijah.
If Elijah finishes quite a bit of work and needs a break, I let him do Kahn Academy online. He likes to do the math and computer programming. It keeps him very engaged. This frees me up to be with Edan. We do his math and language arts together and then I can give him sit down work with his science notebook or character journal. While he is doing sit-down work and doesn’t need me hovering around him, I discuss science and history with Elijah.
It’s a little bit of a juggling act but we finish by noon most of the time. After lunch, the younger kids nap, and I can continue working with Elijah and Edan if necessary. Or, they have quiet reading time in their room. This is when I get my own personal space to write or even take a nap myself!
By mid-afternoon when all major responsibilities are covered, the kids can play or practice their violin.
Make character instruction a priority. The kids cooperate with our routines because they have internalized obedience. It would be difficult to handle four children without going insane if they didn’t obey, listen, and respond to my instruction. I don’t have to force them to work because they are willing to learn. They are teachable. There are days when they don’t have the best attitudes but that is normal. They still need training.
Edric and I spend a lot of their earlier years (between 1 and 3) instilling obedience. And we introduce them to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior early, too. So, by the time they are 4, 5, 6, 7, we can move on to other traits like responsibility, having the right attitude, attentiveness, hard-work, self-control, kindness, etc., because they have a reason to internalize these traits – to please God.
I don’t think it is possible to have peaceful homeschooling if parents neglect character. At the end of the day, this is the key to teaching several children effectively and enjoying them, too!
Proverbs 23:24-26 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you. Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.
We sat around the dinner table with family some time ago and my brother in law, Joel, found out that Elijah started investing in the stock market last year. Elijah talked about what companies he had picked to invest in and the rational behind his choices. And he said this all while wearing pajamas. It just seemed a little bit funny I suppose, that a 9 year old (this was before he turned 10), would be chatting about financial investments. So Joel said, “Why don’t you write an article about it and call it ‘Pajama Stocks.’” I thought…that’s a great title. I love it. But I had put it off until today, when Edric asked me to have Elijah share about how he ventured into it to encourage parents to teach their kids to start being financially literate early.
Here is what he wrote (with some help from me):
I first became interested in financial markets two years ago. My dad had asked me if I wanted to invest in stocks and we did some research together online to understand the process better. My dad told me to fill out the online form of Citisec but I actually lost the form and forgot about it.
It wasn’t until last year, when I was 9, that I became interested again, especially since my dad was hosting a money show. He would talk about financial investments often. And since he promised to help me set up an account, he told me that I would join a stock seminar with him so we could do it together. By then, the name of Citisec online had changed to COL Financial.
I was so excited and nervous. I was in a room with a lot of adults, including my dad and I was the youngest person attending the seminar. The seminar took about two hours. It was very interesting. I learned about tips on investing and how the stock market works, and what companies were performing the best at that time.
For example, I learned that Jollibee had grown 40% from 2009 to 2011 because they kept reinventing. And a lot of people like to eat in Jollibee. The seminar was like a homeschool lesson for me.
When we got home, my dad told me he would give me a fund to work with but I had to do research. A lot of research. For one whole day I looked up different companies from different categories, like financial, services, industrial, property, holding firms, and mining and oil. All this information is available on pse.com.ph. My dad also gave me some advice. I was also able to study the background history of a few companies to track their performance over the years. What really helped me were the charts that showed how the companies have performed over time because I could see changes, gains and loses. One company even lost 500%! I am not going to tell you which one?
Several weeks later, while my dad and I were having one on one bonding time, he helped me set up my account and invest in my top picks. I chose BDO, BPI, Ayala Corporation, Aboitiz, Globe, and Ayala Land. Recently, I also added Meralco. My main criteria was to get companies that went up steadily for the last two years because I intended to do long term investments. That’s why I didn’t invest in mining and oil. I found their performances too wild.
The one exception was the company 2Go, which I plan to use for market timing. It will just be a short-term investment and experiment. Since it’s passport season for people going on vacation, I hope that its stocks will go up so I can sell them.
Since I invested in stocks last December, by God’s grace, my stocks have grown. I’ve earned a little bit of money and it makes me more excited. It also makes me realize that earning money is not easy!
Now, when my parents or people give me money, I think of how I can invest it again or, okay, buy online books because I love to read.
I’m still learning a lot about the stock market and actually, I just invested a small amount to get experience compared to what older people do. But I put it in as much as my dad gave me because he told me it’s not good to leave money lying idle in an account. It won’t grow. In the COL seminar, I learned that inflation rates are higher than interest rates. So it’s not good to leave money in a bank account, either.
I’m thankful for this experience. And I think it would be helpful for other kids to learn how to manage money, too. We don’t have to wait until we are older. The earlier we start, the more time our investment has to grow.
I’m praying that my investments will grow if it’s God’s will so that someday I can use it to bless others, to tithe, and to save.
I’m embarrassed to admit that Elijah knows way more than I do about the stock market. One evening, when a female relative asked him why he didn’t invest in their company, Elijah replied, “Honestly, your company doesn’t have historicals in the PSE yet, and if you look at your growth last year, you only grew by 0.2%.” Everyone who was within ear-shot of this conversation started to laugh out loud. I was slightly floored. Who are you?! I thought, looking at Elijah. At the same time, I realized that homeschoolers have unique opportunities that other children don’t have. They have the advantage of time to pursue interests. Elijah would be swamped with homework if he were a 4th grade student in a conventional school. However, our homeschooling lifestyle allows him to explore and learn beyond books.
Some years ago, I created a tagline for one of TMA Homeschool’s advertisements, “The World is My Classroom. Is it Yours?” Just like his siblings, Elijah surprises me with lessons learned that are beyond the scope of what I have taught. It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time to know that my children are not limited by what I can give as a teacher. This is one of the benefits of homeschooling — children have access to a world of experiences that no other conventional classroom can possibly give them.
I have missed teaching the kids since we lost our househelp. So I have been trying to get back into the routine of our daily homeschooling schedule. The kids were “rusty” when I asked them to do their work a few days ago. They responded a little reluctantly, but we managed to kick things off once again. I am nearly a month behind where I should be with them. But I am not going to panic. Okay, just a little. By God’s grace, we will finish it all soon!
Oh and someone asked me recently if my kids get a summer break. We don’t take an extended break away from learning because learning is a natural part of our daily life. We may take a two week break so I can regroup for the next school year. Otherwise, the homeschooling goes on. And if there are interruptions during the year due to trips, family vacations, or untoward incidences, we can take a few days off from studying and make it up as the year goes by. In other words, we are pretty flexible when necessary but we don’t need to stop homeschooling for two months straight just because its summer. And we still get to enjoy summer.
There are days when my kids have a rough time dealing with homeschooling and all they need is a big, long hug to make it through. Yesterday, I was homeschooling Elijah at Edric’s office. I took the four kids with me, armed with art supplies and a couple of their books so they could be productive while waiting for me finish some last minute details for an event we had today.
It was my brilliant idea to have no help with me but I thought, it will be a good chance for the kids to step up and take care of one another. They were great. I was at the office from 8:30 AM to 7 PM and they made it through. In the morning, I sat them around a small table and assigned them their tasks for the day. There was a little bit of complaining, but for the most part, they did as they were told. Titus, who needs more one-on-one instruction, only got through 1 page of math work. But I thought, aw heck, it’s okay, we’ll make it up another day. I didn’t have time to sit down beside him. Elijah looked at his Language Arts material and started to get upset. “I can’t do this, mom! I can’t do this right.”
I came over to his side and said, “I know what you need. All you need is a big hug. Come here. Come to me.” Since Elijah is an affectionate child, he will never turn down the opportunity for a hug from mommy or daddy. He stood up, collapsed into my arms and I held him really tightly. “I love you, hon.” And I hugged him in the most reassuring way I could and he began to smile. “Do you feel better?” I asked him. “I do, mom. Thanks.” He sat back down in front of the same book and completed his work.
Titus (who is also very affectionate), called out to me, “What about me, mom? Can you hug me, too?” I also took him in my arms and gave him a very big hug.
Touch and affection have proven to be helpful remedies to my children’s frustrations, especially when they are studying. During many occasions I have used a back rub, massage, hug or kiss on the cheek to calm my kids down so they feel relaxed when they are learning. I’ve had instances when Edan has cried out, “Mom, I need help!” And I will come over to where he is sitting and he will say, “Can you massage my back?” So I will rub his back for a while and then, when I forget to keep going, he will point to his back again and say, “Mom…massage…”
Sometimes, I don’t have the spiritual presence of mind to be so tender towards my kids, especially when I’m focused on accomplishing a goal. I can be a verbal “slugger” used in the sense of “someone who delivers hard swinging punches.” Like, mouthing out bible verses, lecturing about attitude, yakking about what they ought to do and how they ought to behave. But after attending a talk on the power of touch, I thought that maybe I could use it with my kids during homeschooling. And it has worked wonders to motivate them when they are struggling through a lesson. It also helps to keep me composed so I can respond in a gentle, spirit-filled way. Hugging makes me relax, too! How can I be annoyed while I am embracing my kids?! When I hug them I realize how much I do love them, how much I want to be a mom that is an encourager. So it is mutually beneficial!
My children can be “weak” emotionally speaking because they are still in the process of maturing so I like how 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15 reminds me to,” admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia
Last weekend, I was in Cebu with Edric and the kids. No yaya. Wow. It was slightly crazy and wonderful at the same time. Part of the reason we were there was to talk about homeschooling. I was asked to give a testimony as someone who is in the trenches of it. That’s definitely me! So here is my take on homeschooling in a nutshell. I’ve broken up my testimony into two parts and taken bits and pieces from old posts to summarize What I like About Homeschooling and What I’ve Learned as A Homeschooling Mom
What I like About Homeschooling:
Free-flowing Lessons. Learning happens very naturally in the home. Teaching and training my children are not confined to a set period of the day. It doesn’t just happen in the study room of our home. I have four kids at different stages of learning so if I were to do a classroom set-up, I wouldn’t have enough time in the day to teach my kids like a conventional school would. Instead, I let my kids’ learning happen outside of textbooks and workbooks. Learning happens naturally through dialogue and discussion, hands-on experiences, modeling, games, reading and telling stories, socializing with family members or friends, and lots of creative play. I do give my kids workbook and textbook time, as well as writing exercises and tests. But, these conventional learning methods don’t dictate how, what, and when my children learn.
A typical day for our family would be the kids waking up at 7 AM and we have breakfast as a family. By 8:30 or 9 AM we start our lessons. With each child I will cover three to four subject areas. My older son, Elijah, is a pretty independent learner so he can do most of his work on his own. We will read History and Science together because he likes the discussion and interaction time we have when we go through these subjects. In the meantime, my second son, Edan, will be doing his lessons with lots of breaks in between. And when I’m preoccupied with my youngest son, Titus, Edan act as my teacher’s assistant or entertainer. He will help teach Tiana, my fourth child, and keep her busy. I work more closely with Titus because he needs one-on-one instruction. And after about 45 minutes he is done with his “academics” and will work with manipulatives or have free play time with his sister. Everyone is doing something productive between 9 and 12 noon, but it isn’t always sitting down at a desk. In the afternoons, the kids can read, pursue their hobbies, practice their violin, and rest. I rest, too!
A Customized Education – tailor fit to my child’s needs. At home, with one-on-one instruction, it is much easier for a parent to adjust to the learning needs of her child. Titus is a kinesthetic child but like my two older boys, he learned to read early because I modified my approach with him. Phonics instruction was kept short and sweet. We didn’t do too much writing until he was really ready. And I let him have lots of time to play with dough, scissors, glue, marbles…basically anything to help him develop his fine motor skills.
My simple philosophy for teaching my kids is this: All children are equipped to learn and they can develop a genuine love for learning, but a parent must be willing to discover and investigate how her child learns best, welcome the adjustment it requires on her part, and look to the Lord for the supernatural creativity, insight, wisdom and ability that this kind of inspired teaching requires.
At home, children have true play. They can engage in self-initiated activity without the pressure of outcomes. They are challenged to be creative, to conceptualize, and to problem solve while they play. And they have hours and hours to play! I really feel like they get to have an extended childhood that isn’t cut short by the over scheduling and time consuming homework that school-going kids have to deal with.
Learning along-side my children. I have never been excellent in math. I used to dislike it immensely until I started homeschooling my kids. When I became a “math teacher,” I had to re-learn math from the ground up. From pre-school math to upper elementary math (where I find myself now), I am both student and teacher to my kids. When Elijah was in 3rd grade, I peaked at the answer key in the back of his math book when we encountered a word problem I was stumped on (can you believe it?! 3rd grade?!) and he got really upset. He said, “Now you won’t solve the problem with me!” He enjoyed the fact that we solved the problems together. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t a math expert and this didn’t keep him from learning. He wanted me to learn along-side him. Nowadays, he uses Kahn Academy to teach himself math.
I call this approach to homeschooling the “teamwork” approach. It is experiencing the process with my kids, encouraging them and inspiring them to learn by making it fun. And often times, their definition of fun is having me beside them.
Cultivating relational intimacy between siblings / between parent and child. Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. My kids are growing up to be best friends and they often say they are. Homeschooling has a lot to do with it because they are together so often and have to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. God has really knit the hearts of my children to one another. They hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin practice, reading their bibles and praying together. And they have each other’s backs. Elijah recently told me, “I protect my brothers and I stick up for them.” Someday, they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. Developing a loyalty to one another when they are young will have a lot to do with that.
My siblings and I were homeschooled for a time. And it proved to be such an amazing bonding experience, we remain close to this day. We enjoy getting together with our families, sharing meals and conversations, watching movies, playing games and sports, etc. My parents taught us to prioritize loving your family members before friends and this has carried on into our adulthood.
Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a foremost child developmental and clinical psychologist from Canada made this statement during a talk he gave on Why Home Education Works. ”Homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature into a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him – his parents.” He is not even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.
He cites the following reasons:
- At home, children have continuity of contact with their parents. Schools separate children from their parents and foster competing attachments with peers.
- At home parents taken on the responsibility of pursuing their child relationally. This gives a child rest from the work of attachment. He doesn’t have to strive for the attention or affections of his parent. When children have to work for love or affection, they do not grow or mature.
- At home, a child faces less separation and less wounding (ideally) so that his heart stays soft and pliable. At school a lot of wounding occurs, especially among peers. This causes a flight from vulnerability and a child develops hardness of heart.
- At home, parents can support the maturity process. They can handle the stages a child goes through, the questions and the struggles.
I would like to add that at home, parents can continually assure their child, “nothing will separate you form my love…not your attitude, not your behavior, I love you no matter what, but because I love you, I am committed to helping you change and improve.”
Homeschooling has most certainly turned the heart of Edric towards our kids. And he has chosen to be very involved in their lives. This has been a special blessing for our family. The conviction to be a hands-on, intentional father came when Edric began to think about the goals of our parenting and homeschooling.
Influence. Dr. Neufeld also explained that children want to be like those whom they are attached to. They will give their heart to those whom they are attached to. They want to be known and reveal their secrets to those whom they are attached to.
He brought up this very important point: When did your child fall in love with you? When did you child give you his heart? We were never meant to deal with a children whose hearts we did not have. If you do not have the heart of your child, you will not have the context in which to bring him to his fullest potential. If you do not have his heart, you will not have his mind.
Homeschooling allows Edric and I to impact the hearts and minds of our kids because they are very much attached to us. Because we spend the most time with them, we naturally have the most influence, too.
Teaching a Biblical World-view. No education is neutral. No child is neutral. Every child has an orientation towards God or away from God. Edric and I don’t want our children to be bombarded with secular messages and worldviews that will turn them away from a God-ward orientation. So we filter what they learn through the word of God. We protect our children from wrong kinds of indoctrination by peers, teachers, school curriculums and systems that promote humanism vs. theism.
David Sant said, “All education is indoctrination into a religious worldview…All education is undergirded by presuppositions about the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the purpose of man, ethics government relationships between men, and the continuing existence of the universe in an orderly and predictable manner. It is an inescapable fact that all of these basic assumptions are fundamentally religious. Therefore we must view the schoolroom as the place where children are indoctrinated into the religion of their society. The school is, in effect, a temple.”
In a climate of postmodern thinking which has removed God from the picture and promoted the ideas of moral subjectivity, pluralism and relativism, there is a need more than ever before to teach our children the truths that God has given us in his word. When Elijah was 3, he asked us, “What if there is no God…what will happen?” It was a valid question. Who would have answered this for him if we weren’t around?
As parents, we need to be able to answer key questions that will impact our children’s belief system and determine their choices and actions: Who is God? Who Am I? What on Earth Am I here for? Edric and I aren’t willing to gamble our children’s future convictions by leaving this task up to others.
The faithfulness of God. We chose to homeschool in faith, in obedience to the Lord. We continue to do so, despite our limitations and imperfections to find that God is faithful. Every year that I teach the kids, I look back and think, how did we survive last year and manage to finish everything?! I’m always in awe of how God comes through for us. He is the one who makes my kids excited about learning. He is the one who helps them to learn. They are doing well inspite of me!
Parenting has hit a 10-year anniversary for Edric and I, with our eldest, Elijah, turning 10 today. We are still in the trenches of parenting without the horizon of our children’s adulthood yet in sight. But, Elijah often pushes the boundaries of the parenting frontier for us as the eldest. He brings on new challenges, new doubts, and he surprises us with his ever-maturing perspective on life.
Elijah, like all my other children, is an incredible gift to Edric and I. We have enjoyed his personality — his passion, intensity, zest, deep love for the Lord, and his insights. He is an intellectual child, a fast learner – a sponge, really. If he had a superpower it would be his capacity to read or listen to content and comprehend it right away. And with a voracious appetite for reading, he’s like an unstoppable force at times. I can’t keep up with the stock knowledge, facts, and information he has stored in that brain of his.
I remember asking him once, “Do you really learn anything from what I teach you or do you learn more from what you read?” He told me, “Honestly, I learn more from what I read but I still like to learn from you. But what I really like about you teaching me is that we can be together.” I felt both useless and special at the same time. As a homeschooling mom, that’s sort of a good thing. Independent learning in a child is a blessing when you have several kids to teach!
More than academic input, what he really needs from Edric and me is consistent discipleship. Like any child with intelligence (I think all children are gifted with unique abilities), he could become a Megamind without a moral compass. Therefore, he most definitely still needs guidance and mentoring.
Our parenting style with him has had to change over the years. The biblical goals remain the same, but we have to implore different strategies with Elijah. He has taken “training course 101”: obedience and respect. He knows what it means to obey and respect us, and, more often than not, he does. There may be occasions when he says things that can be rephrased in a more courteous way, but it doesn’t happen often. For the most part, he has internalized both character traits. The last time he received a spanking was years ago. He gets why it is important and necessary to obey and respect those in authority. Ultimately his obedience is to the Lord. So if he has a problem with that, he is accountable to him, too.
At this stage in his young life he needs help with identifying character weaknesses and how to combat these with spiritual means. For example, when there is a mismatch between what his brain can imagine and what his motor skills are able to do, it leads to emotional chaos. He will groan, become self-deprecating, negative, and upset beyond reason. I used to try to lecture him and mouth out bible verses to convict him to change, but these did not help. This would, of course, aggravate me, which only made matters worse for our relationship. So I learned to turn him over to the Lord. When he would act up, I would ask him to quietly excuse himself and take a moment to pray and process his feelings.
Early last year, he finally recognized his heart issue as pride and admitted this to me. During a week of prayer and fasting held January 2013 for our church, he made a list of things to pray for and one of them was, “Be controlled by the Holy Spirit.”
When he starts to be angry with himself, he will voluntarily step out of a room and be alone for a while to pray. He will return about five to ten minutes later ready to resume the task that he was in the middle of. I asked him what he does when he isolates himself and he said, “I pray that God will help me not to be irritated, to remain focused.” This has been his most effective coping method yet.
As for me, I give him spiritual space to let the Lord speak to him. From past experience, I know that telling him what to do and saying things like, “You need to stop that and change your attitude,” works 1% of the time, if at all. I can still do this with the younger kids because they are in “training course 101” but Elijah is growing up. He needs to internalize certain spiritual truths on his own.
When he goes off and brings his frustrations before the Lord, he returns ready and able. I offer him a hug, an encouraging word, a back rub, and I pray for him instead. If he comes back smiling, all credit goes to the Lord’s work in his heart. After all, these instances are beyond my control. I can enforce consequences and get angry so that he will listen out of fear, but I’m looking for a different kind of fruit in him — a compelling desire to please God more than Edric or myself.
If there is anything that 10 years of parenting have taught me it is this: There is a spiritual tug of war for the hearts of our children. The reality of Satan’s attempts to turn them towards ungodliness and use their weaknesses to his advantage is so apparent. Even if my kids are homeschooled and seem to live in an environment where they are, for the most part, protected from negative peer, media, and worldly influences, the battle is most certainly within. Satan is a master infiltrator, intent on destroying every seed of faith that is planted in the hearts of our kids, and snuffing out the love they have for Christ.
I encounter this reality often, not only with Elijah, but with my other kids. Most of the time, they will do as they are told, but there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to deal with one of the following in at least one of my children – selfish attitudes, hardness of heart, manipulation, laziness, wrong thinking, etc.
There is no such thing as a cocoon or bubble that can really shelter my kids from evil or their own carnality. And I really don’t think that parenting or homeschooling needs to be about paranoid over-protectiveness. I don’t homeschool for those reasons, though an undeniable benefit is that our kids aren’t subject to the same sort of undesirable influences that most children who go to school are. (Not all schools, okay?)
Homeschooling lets me be present and available to better understand, help and disciple my kids for the purpose of spiritual fitness because I have more time with them. How can I do this if I am not around to identify what’s wrong in the first place? What if I can only see what’s happening on a surface level because my interactions with them are minimal and reduced to a few hours each day? How will I pass on the love for the Lord if I can’t model or encourage it often enough?
I already feel that the number of years that have been given to me for a season of parenting are too short. Celebrating Elijah’s tenth birthday was a reminder once again that I don’t have forever to prepare and equip my kids for the harder battles that they must face. His real battles are not completing a composition assignment that he doesn’t want to do, or getting annoyed because he can’t finish a 20-sided origami polyhedron with a single sheet of paper better than he thought he could. (Both of these have the potential to make him emotionally ballistic.) The greater battle is between his two natures.
On the one hand, he desires to please God, to love him, and be an obedient and loving son to Edric and I. He wants to do his best in everything that he does for God’s glory. But on the other hand, he knows that he can be an emotional yo-yo, ruled by his feelings, and unresponsive to correction and teaching when his heart is overcome by pride and irritation. I praise God that he is learning to yield to the Holy Spirit as his best weapon for the war within. But it has taken a good long while for him to come to this point of awareness.
There are no quick fixes to our children’s character and even our own. There is no fast-forward button that can be pressed for immediate transformation. God allows us all to go through a refining process where we become more aware of our helplessness apart from his grace so that we can live with power through it.
When homeschooling moms fret about uncompleted daily assignments, unfinished workbooks, unmet academic goals, I want to say, “Have you considered the possibility that you are focusing on a minor battle when there is a greater war at hand?” But, how can I say this without sounding like a crazy person?
The reality is, if the enemy can get us to be impatient, annoyed and stressed out by the little things he can make us…
a. act in ways that nullify the positive influence we want to have on our children
b. doubt our decision to homeschool because we begin to focus on our inadequacies or our child’s
c. pressure our children to learn when their hearts aren’t ready so that the joy of learning is taken away
d. seek to motivate them externally when what we really want is internal motivation
e. give the evil one victory because he has successfully channeled our efforts and energy away from discipleship.
The greater battle is not giving them the intellectual capacity to cope in the world. That is certainly part of our responsibility but it isn’t the most important thing. We need to prepare them for the spiritual war – the real world – where the foundations of their faith, their convictions and values will be tested and tried. Will they stand? Will they falter? Will they recover?
As Elijah moves towards young adulthood, his struggles will also grow. It has given me hope to witness his strategy for self-correction – learning to pray and surrender himself to the Lord. But that is not the guarantee I have for my fears. What allays my fears is knowing that God is a gracious, ever-present, and faithful father. He loves Elijah and all our children more perfectly than Edric or I ever could. If we can teach Elijah to keep walking with the Lord, if we can parent him in such a way that his heart is continually turned towards the Lord, if we can encourage him to keep studying God’s word and grow in wisdom, and if we do our part to model a love for the Lord contagiously and pass this on to him, then I believe that God will surely do the more difficult part of causing Elijah to become the man he wants him to be — spiritually fit and able to be a light and testimony for Him.
May these verses encourage you as they have me…
The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers that we are only dust…But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! Psalm 103:13-14, 17-18