It takes all day to homeschool. I’m not talking about the part where we use books and workbooks or do homeschool “projects.” I’m talking about everything in between.
For example, today I had a talk with my second son, Edan. He was in a difficult mood yesterday when I was homeschooling him. But I knew that if I had tried to correct his attitude then, it wouldn’t have been effective. He was not ready.
He hovered over his math book like it was some form of torture. I looked at the page he had to complete and I knew, as his teacher, that it wasn’t anything beyond his capacity. It was merely a review of concepts he had already understood just a few weeks prior. I took the book away from him and told him to go to his room and pray about his attitude.
The last thing I want to do when I’m homeschooling my kids is force them to learn when they aren’t spiritually ready. Since I am available to them almost 24 hours, I know we have many more moments in the day to address the heart issues they face. I am not going to ballistic over a page or two of math work. But I won’t let my kids’ negative attitudes linger without addressing them either.
When they act de-motivated, I take a step back, compose myself before losing my cool, and let my kids isolate themselves to think and pray about their actions and attitudes. When they are ready, they will come back to me with some sort of resolution. If not, then I pursue them relationally and sit down with them to talk.
I had asked Edan in the car yesterday if he would like to explain to me why he didn’t want to do his work. He asked me if we could talk privately. This morning, I invited him to a conversation, just the two of us.
It’s amazing how a serious dialogue between a parent and child, without time pressure, can do much to unlock what’s going on inside a child’s heart. I suppose one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that I’m not rushing my kids off to school or stressing out at the end of the day about their homework, test-preparation, etc. We can be together for extended periods of time to deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. Top on my list is the discipleship of my kids…their character.
So we sat there, on the bed and I asked him a few questions. He can be a tough nut to crack because he tends to be quiet about his feelings. When he is upset, he will go lie on his bed and cry. Rarely will he display dramatics. My eldest, Elijah, tends to be the more intense one so he’s more entertaining to watch when he is upset. (Did I just say that? What I mean is, it’s not difficult to guess what he’s feeling.)
With Edan, he has to be pried open gently and the right factors have to be present. When I asked him to come to my room to talk, he knew it was a safe place to tell me whatever he was thinking or feeling. “Can you tell me why you didn’t feel like doing your work yesterday? Mommy wants to be able to help you.” The conversation began along those lines. At first, he wanted to bury his face in a pillow and look at me out of just one eye, while the other one was covered. But I asked him to look directly at me. After a few seconds, he began to share about how he didn’t like books that only had two colors. That made absolute sense coming from a child who is a visual learner. I just didn’t know it made such a big difference to him. And so, I asked, “Do you think it is okay to have a bad attitude if you don’t like your book?” We talked some more about how he was feeling and then I reminded him about the character trait of gratefulness.
A couple months ago, we had covered this topic for our family bible study. My husband, Edric, had asked the kids to memorize the verse, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I shared with him that it was important to thank God for the blessings that we do have. We talked about how we could apply this in our homeschooling.
In between, Titus tried to spy on us. He poked his head around the door and stood there for a while, hoping to find out what we were talking about. I asked him to close the door and leave us for a bit. He acted like he was closing it but kept a part open so he could still spy on us. I saw his shadow, and said, “Titus…close the door.” Curious little Titus finally shut it.
The conversation between Edan and I resumed. It took a while but we finally arrived at a conclusion. Edan said he would choose to do the right thing and change his attitude. We prayed together. I also shared with him that there are times when I don’t have good attitude…like when “Daddy asks me to do something,” so I also have to work on this area. We both confessed our sins and Edan was back to his old smiley self.
Was he ready to be instructed after that? Yes.
When parents ask me, “How long do you homeschool for?”, I usually say, the kids do their work in the morning. But a more accurate answer to that question would really be, homeschooling takes all day. It’s not just about covering subject matter and saying, “Yes, it was a good day. We got all our ‘work’ done.” So much of what happens in between the work, throughout the many interactions I have with my kids, is the actual homeschooling. I consider this to be the more important part of what I do.
It’s very hard to explain this to parents who are on the outside looking in. And I understand where they are coming from because their concerns center around, “How many subjects do I have to teach? How much time will it take?” After all, this often seems like the most intimidating aspect of homeschooling. Many parents feel inadequate before they ever begin because the very word “homeschooling” sounds a whole lot like school-at-home. And we associate “school” with school-related work like learning about math, English, science, history, Filipino, social Studies, geography, music, art, etc. (Oh and don’t forget Bible and character!) We look at the line up of subject areas and it’s like, “How the heck am I going to teach all that?” I’m not a professional teacher!”
My encouragement to parents who feel this way is this…teaching subjects is the easier task when discipleship is a priority. Discipleship is primary. Once we make the acquisition of knowledge the priority, we start homeschooling for the wrong reasons and we can start teaching the wrong way, too. Outbursts of anger, irritation, impatience will surface when we feel that our “academic” goals for our kids are blocked. For example, when they aren’t cooperative and they aren’t motivated we get annoyed. And we want to push, push, push. What are we pushing towards? They may comply externally and complete ten pages of their math workbook in one sitting but their heart is far away from us, far away from the Lord.
I can’t settle for that kind of education in our home. My prayer is that each year our children grow deeper in love with Jesus, that their hearts remain teachable and receptive to our instruction, and they make leaps and bounds in the area of godly character. That is homeschooling. And that takes all day, every day, until God says they are ready to go out into the world to be his instruments of change, to bear his gospel, and to pursue the mission he has called them to.