This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…




20 thoughts on “This Is What It’s About

  1. Thanks Joy! It’s always a pleasure to read your blogs. I am sure that your kids will never depart from these Godly instructions. Fast forward when theyre older, by His grace, they will be speaking about these moments, and people will be blessed, seeing how much impact the word of God has made in their lives, it would be something worthwhile to look forward to.

  2. The more I read your blog the more I want to homeschool my future kids. Thank you Joy for inspiring us always. Gob bless you and your family more each day. Praying for Elijah’s eyesight! 🙂

  3. Hi Joy,

    I would like to know how you teach obedience to Catalina. We are at that point now. My baby just turned 1 and he can be defiant at times. What are your suggested ways to correct this?

    Thanks in advance!


  4. Hi Joy. I just want to ask how can we teach obedience to children 0-2 years old? I too, am experiencing resistance and defiant behavior from my 17-month-old. Thank you and God bless you!

  5. Hi Joy! Thank you for sharing about this. God bless your children. I am touched by how their lives are so rooted in the word of God. I have a 2 year old daughter and another one coming anytime soon. Like the others, I would love to teach them about obedience. I hope you can share something about that here. Thanks!

  6. Hi Ms.Joy, My kids are all grown up but I still love reading your articles. I think all the lessons and circumstances presented are true even for someone like me and my children! Obedience is relevant at any stage in life. I thank you for taking time, despite your crazy sked, to share your invaluable home schooling experiences! God bless you and your family abundantly!

  7. Hi, Joy!

    Please share tips on instilling discipline and obedience in children between 0-2! It would be plenty helpful.
    Thanks a lot!

  8. I second Vanessa’s comment! I only have a 2 month old, but I want to be ready when dicipline issues surface. Do you already a blog written specific to this topic or any additional advice? Thanks! 🙂

  9. hi joy, thank you for writing about obedience, and also mentioning the 0-2 window. my daughter will turn 10 months tomorrow, and she has been exhibiting brattiness as well… i’m not sure how to teach her obedience and keep her in check. she understands “no,” but does things she knows she shouldn’t anyway. how did you teach your children obedience at that age? i really, really, REALLY want to know. i don’t want her to turn out spoiled and bratty… 🙁

  10. Hi Joy! I am really fond reading your experiences about your kids & issues about homeschooling. I also have an 18 months old daughter who is showing defiance & sometime acting like a brat at home. She really wants to catch everyone’s attention by throwing toys/books or even spanking someone near her. I tried to talk to her because she can somewhat understand me but same thing happen the next day. She wants to do what she wants & would cry if I won’t give what she wants. I am really serious when I talk to her about her fussiness. I am a first time mom & would appreciate your comments & teachings on how to discipline a tot. May God bless you abundantly.

  11. Hi Joy! Thank you so much for posts such as these! I am always inspired by your blog posts. I am a first time mom. And I’m always apprehensive on how to guide my child to be the best person she can be… to the point that it even gives me sleepless night. But I’m trying to enjoy it one day at a time. My current dilemma right now is when and how to start with the obedience part. Hope that you can blog your thoughts on this. Thank you so much in advance!

  12. Hi Joy!

    I share the sentiment of all other moms who have commented on this post 🙂 I want to raise a good, godly child and even if my son is only 13-months old, I know that disciplining him has to start NOW. Suggesting a separate post on teaching discipline to a young child, if you have the time! 😉 Thanks and God bless you!

  13. Hello Joy,

    Just wanted to let you know that I am half the world away from where you are but I am totally enjoying reading your thoughts and experiences. I too home-school my children and I cannot agree more to what you have to say! Keep up the great work and may God bless you and your family even more!

  14. Hello joy, thanks so much for inspiring us. Just wanna share , I was having second thoughts of homeschooling my kid, she is already 5 yrs old and currently enrolled in a preschool. Few years back, she was diagnosed to have GLobal developmental delays. She is also into speech and occupational therapy. I’m afraid if homeschooling will be beneficial for her. 🙁

    1. Why don’t you ask her developmental psychologist what he or she thinks about the pros and cons of homeschooling your daughter 🙂 so you can get an objective opinion about it:) and then let me know what he or she says

  15. Thank you for sharing. The reason I want to homeschool my turning 6 old daughter is I really want to personally teach her about the Bible and mold her character in Christlikeness. I am still praying that God will give my hearts desire and financially be adequate for me to stop working full-time.

    1. God makes all things beautiful in his time! I’m sure if it is God’s will, he will make a way for you 🙂

  16. Hi. I see that your kids are homeschooled. Is that right? Can you please extend to me which homeschool program you are enrolled in. I have decided my twins (girls) to get into this program. I hear a lot of good feedback. Please give me your advise as to how, where, what. Thank you!

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