Updated: Oct 9, 2020
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.” Deuteronomy 6:5–9
When I first started homeschooling, someone once told me that my child would become my greatest teacher. I thought that was quaint advice and mostly ridiculous. What could I possibly learn from a 4th grader — my child, a 9 year-old?
It turns out, I had loads to learn. Lessons in doing hard things, discovering my greatest weaknesses, how homeschooling bonds your family in surprising ways, becoming a humble learner. I could go on for pages. That ridiculous advice turned out to be one of the greatest truths I learned along the way.
A friend recently asked me to share my favorite lessons from ten years of homeschooling. Since many are schooling in multiple ways at home right now, I thought I would share as a source of encouragement.
1. Some is Better than None.
Just like exercise, a bit each day can go a long way. If you only have 5 minutes for Spanish, make them an amazing five minutes. If you only can read one page, read one fantastic page. Some is always better than none.
2. Start Your Day in the Best Way.
Our goal is always to start our day in the word and in prayer. I figure if nothing else goes right the rest of the day, we have spent time with God. Sometimes it’s five minutes, sometimes it’s longer. We have had pretty basic conversations and we have had life-changing conversations. But our day always goes better when we start with the word and in prayer.
3. If There are Tears, Stop.
So many times, I thought if I just pushed through on a math lesson or if we just hunkered down a bit more on the writing, my child would get it. I wish someone had told me that if you see tears or emotion in your child’s voice, it’s time to back off. The beauty of homeschooling is that we have time and flexibility. When tears come, take a break, go outside, have a snack, step away and snuggle with your child, regardless of their age.
4. It’s the Learning, Dummy.
I think sometimes I mixed up with the importance of learning with the importance of my way. Allow your child the freedom to learn things in a way that suits them best. Challenge them, partner with them, encourage them in the learning process — but don’t force it to be a certain way because that is your style. When I gave up forcing my child to plan his day my way, he took more ownership of what he needed to do on his own. It’s the learning that matters, not the form — find what works.
5. Point Out Their Strengths.
Recently, I was reading a book that challenged me to come up with a list of my child’s strengths. When I first did this, I shared it with my son and he was visibly humbled. It reminded me how much our kids need to know that we believe in them. For several weeks later, he would come across something that he felt he was good at and he would say, “Mom, you need to add it to my strengths’ list!” What a blessing to find a sweet point of connection in the teen years. I wish I had done it sooner.
6. Understand the Importance of Duct Tape.
Lately, I have learned the importance of not saying a word about things and letting life be the teacher for my teen. As someone who loves to remind, micromanage, help, fuss, smother mother, this has been the hardest lesson of all to learn. Duct taping my mouth has become my new mindset. If I know he has an assignment or project deadline coming up, I may check in, but I do not micromanage it. If I see laundry rotting in the machine, I know he will have the consequence of stinky smelly clothes. I have found the more I apply the duct tape, the more he becomes the independent person God intends him to be.
7. Don’t Let Hard Stuff Be the Hill You Die On.
I realize not everyone homeschools forever. I get that different seasons bring different things. Homeschooling isn’t always right for everyone. What I find disappointing is when people leave homeschooling out of fear. They fear having to put together a transcript or they feel inadequate in their ability to prepare for hard classes or college. All these things are simply another thing you can learn how to do together. It does not have to be the hill that you die on. Your God has called you and He will equip you. But you have to trust and ask for His help. If Jesus can put together a ragtag bunch to save the world with his disciples — He can equip you to figure out a high school transcript or find a mentor in chemistry. You can learn alongside your child to figure out the college prep maze. It is just one more thing to learn together.
Bonus — Ask What You Want Them to Remember in 20 years.
When I get tired of homeschooling, I ask myself what I want them to remember about this day, 20 years from now. Will they remember the conversation we had about World War II? Will they remember the book we read together by C.S. Lewis? Will they remember how we took a break from the Algebra and went for a walk by the lake? Will they remember all the mornings we spent in the Word, discussing how God is at work in their life? When I get tired, it tells me I need to take a break. But I know deep inside that I will never regret having spent time with the people I love. That relationship of love can never be lost. Those days can never be lost. They are homeschooling gold.