I’ve been working on putting together a book featuring myself and ten other christian homeschool authors. The book will feature several thought-provoking questions, answered by the various authors, according to their personal experiences. This article is taken from that book, in answer to question #6, which reads “If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, what is something you know or understand now that you wish you had known from the beginning?”
I did a lot of research and planning before we started school. I had a pretty good idea of what my style and educational philosophy were. Also, I came into it with a good level of determination that homeschooling was best for our family. Because of this I can’t really say that I’ve learned something that I wish I had known. What I can say is that I’ve experienced something that I wish I had believed and trusted.
I have been blessed from the beginning with some valuable advice, including “In the younger years, go on as many field trips as you can and have as much fun as you can” and “Build relationships and read great books.” I was easily convinced of the the importance of real books, real people, and real life. I never wanted our home educating experience to be driven by text books and state requirements. I wanted it to be spirit-led, in keeping with my children’s gifts and talents. I knew from the beginning that my first priority was to instill character and model godly living for my children.
Somehow, even with all of the best advice and godly wisdom, I have managed to neglect some of the most important things while giving our valuable time and attention to things of lesser importance. If I could start all over again, here are some of the things I would change, not necessarily in this order.
- I would incorporate a lot more reading — and read from a wider variety; e.g., science picture books just for the fun of it, art, music, source documents, biographies, etc. instead of relying mostly on historical fiction.
- I would approach my child’s education with the conviction that learning should be enjoyable, or gratifying. I have come to see that this is different from being “fun.” I have always received the council that learning should be fun. Strangely enough, this proved to be a stumbling block for us. I found that in trying to make it fun we often were not really learning, just making things. We also discovered that many of the things that are marketed as “fun” just weren’t all that fun to us: they felt more like busy work. I decided then that we needed to be either really learning or really playing, not some watered-down combination of both. But we were still unsatisfied. What I’ve recently come to realize is that while learning cannot always fun, nor in my opinion does it need to be, it can always be either enjoyable or gratifying. That is what we’ll aim for in the future.
- I would truly endeavor to teach my child in a way that is enjoyable, caring less about what is taught and when than how much the learning is enjoyed. Just to clarify, what I teach is important. It all has to be of value to my child and honoring to God. What wouldn’t matter to me if I could start over, is the timing (or the scope and sequence) of what we learn. In the past we have pushed through something boring just because it was the next thing to learn. We have skipped more enjoyable ways to learn because they seemed at the time to be too scattered and unorganized. Now I can see that as long as we are learning and growing, it will all work together for good.
- I would spend more money on resources and less on curricula. I would buy great videos, audios, and games. I would invest in good resource books, hobby guides, costumes, and even better art materials. I would take the time to study things like art, music, nature, poetry, and domestic skills. I would fill our home and life with things and people that inspire.
- I would focus more on character development than skill development. It’s so easy to say that and it almost sounds like I’m just stating the obvious, but it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Character isn’t as easily measured as mastery of the times table. It isn’t as easy to ensure that your child learns to be diligent and purposeful as it is to make sure they can spell. Character is not as easy to teach or measure, but it will do immeasurably more for your child than any set of skills. Equipped with godly character, your child can then go on to do whatever it is that they need to do, and learn what they need to learn. They will be blessed with a fullness of life that can’t be gained by any amount of knowledge. Without it, learning — and home schooling — will always be a frustrating struggle and an empty pursuit.
- I would spend a lot more time in prayer-alone and with my husband- and a little less time on curricula review sites. I would approach my child’s education with a deeper trust that when I ask God for direction he will be faithful to provide. He is indeed able and willing to give me individual council concerning what is good for my specific child at any given point in her life.
I’m thankful to report that there were a few things that I understood from the beginning. Embracing these truths is probably what has kept us from giving up. They include;
- My child’s time is every bit as important as mine. No busy work.
- My child is a whole, real person. If I minister to her heart and get to know her on a personal, individual level, the learning will come, and not at the expense of our relationship.
- Playing (and doing nothing, as Christopher Robin puts it) is a crucial element to a child’s development.
- God gave each person a set of interests and gifts. Allowing her to pursue these things is enabling her to step toward her calling.
- My husband is not the principal. He’s my husband and our children’s Daddy. This just means that homeschooling is not just a method of education featuring daddy as the rule maker. Instead, homeschooling is an extension of our lifestyle, featuring daddy as a faithful, godly role model who enjoys and instructs his children.
- Homeschooling can’t, and shouldn’t, look like school in the general sense of the word. If life isn’t interrupting your homeschool, then you are missing out on some of the best things in life.
The good news is, it’s never too late. I can start right now with my seventh grader, and in a few years, I’ll have all this newfound wisdom guiding me as we begin another homeschool journey with our youngest.
*The book will be ready soon and will be offered as a free gift to anyone who signs up for my email list on my upcoming homeschool site. If you’d like to receive updates about the book and the website, sign up to the right for my current mailing list, and watch for my posts on Facebook. If you have a friend who is homeschooling, or considering it, feel free to forward this to them.