Am I smart enough? Am I organized enough? Will I be able to discipline myself enough? Will I be able to make a workable plan and stick to it? Will I ruin my kids not doing science/history/art/-you fill in the blank- this year? Will I be able to teach high school? Will my kids be able to get into college? If they do get in, will they be able to hack it? Sound familiar?
As my oldest finishes her first semester at college and we wait for those first grades to be posted, I reflect on these questions I have asked myself over the years, and the answer is: No, I’m not smart, organized or disciplined enough! But God has blessed in spite of my limitations. Most of us would not consider ourselves brilliant, but we all have the desire for our kids to grow up to be independent learners, to be kind to others, well-rounded, responsible citizens, well-informed about the issues surrounding us, and even more importantly, to have a heart for God. Isn’t it interesting that I didn’t mention that they needed to be perfect spellers, get all A’s in high school math, or be able to remember all the US Presidents in order? Academics are important, but they are not the most important. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Matt 6:33 I know, I am taking this verse out of context and I know it doesn’t mean that if we do devotions everyday after breakfast that my kids will get straight A’s. But it does mean that we are instructed to keep first things first and place spiritual training and discipling ahead of algebra, in my humble opinion. What does this look like, you ask?
It has looked differently in our house as the kids have grown older, but one of the most important things, as parents, is that we have tried to put into practice what we are teaching. It doesn’t do me any good to require that the children speak kindly to one another when I am not speaking kindly to their father. It isn’t productive for me to tell them to be respectful, if we, as parents, are not respectful of one another and of them. That doesn’t mean that we are perfect, but we try to do our best, and we apologize when we mess up. (Which in my case, can be often.)
Have regular devotions, geared to children’s ages. That doesn’t mean to “dumb them down,“ it just means that it works best to have devotions short and include singing and object lessons when they are younger. After breakfast worked best for us, just because it was the beginning of their day before we started working on different activities. We also chose a hymn a month, talked about the words and memorized at least the first verse. Note, in our house, parents get up earlier and have personal devotions before children get up. As children get older, we get ‘meatier.’ By the time they were in late elementary and middle school, we were working through the book of Romans, a few verses at a time. Also at this age, we encouraged our kids to start having their own devotions, either when they first woke up or before they went to bed.
Model that treating each other well and following instructions are more important than getting the (academic) work done. Many a time we have put away the books to attempt to unravel a sibling squabble. Work is not continued until apologies are made and forgiveness offered. As well, work that has been done without regard to following instructions is often required to be done again. Not that I recommend being a stickler on the non-essentials–but if I have asked that someone show each step on an algebra problem, then the work is not done until those steps are included. And as painful as it is, writing a well-crafted essay always takes more than one draft.
As a family, serve each other and serve others outside of the family. Make a game out of looking for ways to serve one another each day or each week. If the parents of a household are doing all of the serving, then things are out of balance. I know it is much simpler and faster to clean a bathroom yourself than train (and retrain) a child to do it, but the investment in time and energy is worth it. Children will someday be spouses and parents themselves (God willing) and will then be required to serve, so they might as well grow up learning how to do it now. Serving others can include bringing in a neighbor’s paper and mail while he is traveling, mowing a lawn for a single mom of small children, watching a young mother’s baby so she can get something done, or helping to make and deliver a meal for someone who is ill. Include your children in all such activities. When they are old enough, give them an opportunity to minister to another culture, for example, by going on a missions trip to a poor area of the U.S. or to a foreign country. Better yet, go as a family. This can be life-changing!
Homeschooling provides such a fertile atmosphere for shaping and molding your kids’ hearts; I am very grateful to have that opportunity, and it is going all too quickly! Now as our Christmas vacation draws to an end and my daughter is making plans to go back to college, I am so thankful to see some of the fruit of our labors. And her grades, you ask? Well, let’s just say she has a lot to live up to next semester!
In His Grace,