I was asked this week what advice I would give a new homeschooler. My best advice is two-fold: one, go in with your eyes open, with as realistic expectations as possible. Ask friends who homeschool what they really think about homeschooling. I predict that the honest ones will tell you how wonderful it is, how life-changing it has been, not only for the children, but also for the parents, for the family; but also that it is a lot of work. Good teaching takes committment and dedication, just like good parenting, just like good marriages. That committment sees you through the rough spots (and you will have them; we all do) in teaching, just as it does in parenting, just as it does in marriages.
And two, the thing I found that makes homeschooling hard is not the academics, surprisingly. The curriculum available today does a good job of addressing the academics. The hard part is that as families, Americans do not know how to live an integrated life with each other, because our modern
society is so fragmented. In “normal” families where the children attend public school (don’t get me started on the definition of “normal”), Dad is gone all day, Mom is alone all day (or gone all day), the kids are in their separate worlds with their friends, the family all lives in the same house, but they don’t see each other a lot or share their lives.
Homeschooling changes that, because all of the sudden families are around each other. You have to learn how to live together with love and respect and harmony. This is harder than it sounds, because – in my experience – most of us don’t have the role models for that (there are blessed exceptions, of course). Most of us were raised ourselves by parents who both worked outside the home. Most us were those kids who were in their own in their own little world with their friends.
But homeschooled kids will still
give their mother attitude and complain about having to do school and be a smart
aleck – just as public school kids often do – if the father
and the mother
allow their children to act that way. It is attitude, complaining,
discipline issues that make homeschooling hard. And I bold ‘father,’
because I believe
that if the kids are disrespecting their mother consistently and over
term, it is because the father is allowing it on some level. Yeah, call
The difference with public schooled and homeschooled families (of course this is very simplified) is that
the public school kids spend so much of their time away from home, away from
their parents, that they tend to get away with the attitude until they get in
trouble in junior high or high school, and by then you may have already lost
your kid. With the homeschooled families, the parents have to figure out early
on how to deal with the attitude, how to teach their children to be civilized
and respectful, and how to keep that heart connection between the parents and
children in order to survive and thrive being around each other all the time.
new homeschooling families do not solve that problem, the character and discipline problem, then they will
not homeschool for the long term. Solving how to be respectful,
civilized, and love each other from the heart is the hardest part
of homeschooling for most homeschoolers. Most new homeschooling families are worried
about finding the best
math curriculum or English curriculum. As a veteran who has been there
that, the number one thing to be concerned about is not teaching math
science. It is teaching the heart of your children to love virtue.
heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks
knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15.
A thirteen-, fourteen- or fifteen- year- old who has not acquired the heart of the
prudent, the heart of wisdom, the heart of virtue, closes their heart
to knowledge. You can try to teach such a child algebra, but if they
have an unteachable heart, it will be a miserable experience for both
of you. Teaching your
children character and virtue is the most important thing you can do,
a child’s heart so trained will readily seek out knowledge on his own.