Recently, my teenage niece posted a video of herself jumping off a rocky cliff into a rather menacing river below. (Well, it looked menacing to me, anyway.) She had a few false starts as she began to jump, hesitating at the final moment. As I watched her, my heart raced! I wanted her to abandon the venture, but also couldn’t help but cheer her on- hoping that she’d go for it! Finally, she took a deep breath, smiled as she anticipated doing the impossible, and JUMPED!
Maybe you’re a little like my niece today. You’ve made all of the necessary preparations to homeschool your child–you bought the curriculum, you’ve prepared your schedule, you even attended your first homeschool conference earlier this year. But as you stand at the edge of the proverbial cliff ready to make the leap into home education, you find yourself second guessing your ability to do it. I want to help you see that you have what it takes to do this job, and do it well. You will need some essentials, however. But don’t worry, I bet you already have them!
1. Enthusiasm –
You set the tone in your homeschool. For the most part, your children will love what you love and despise what you despise. When you open a book like it’s a treasure, watch a science experiment unfold with wide eyed wonder, encourage questions, and celebrate new discoveries–you are doing what no curriculum program could ever do. You’re instilling a life-long love of learning.
But what if you really weren’t an enthusiastic student yourself? How do you get past the mindset that ‘history is a waste of time?’ or ‘I’m not a math person!’? If this is where you are, let me suggest some slight modifications in your thinking.
• Instead of thinking of history as a long list of facts and dates, think of it as an opportunity to draw parallels to the present, and to see God’s hand throughout time.
• Instead of thinking of science as a subject best left to someone else, think of it as an opportunity to reveal the creativity and extreme brilliance of God to your children. Think of science as your ‘hands-on, eyes open, minds wondering, pencils recording’ time of day.
• Instead of thinking, “Oh no! Math is intimidating to me.” Think, “Math is interesting. It’s all based on patterns and builds upon itself. It’s rather like solving a puzzle, and who doesn’t love puzzles?”
I was intrigued when I heard author and speaker, Debra Bell, www.debrabell.com, speak on this topic several months ago. She quoted Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Debra believes that when we nurture the curiosity that God has placed within each one of our children to ‘search out a matter’ ultimately, that searching becomes a quest to discover God. I can get enthusiastic about that endeavor! What about you?
2. Patience, Kindness and Humility–
Don’t stop reading! By God’s grace, you can do this, and so can I.
All children learn best in an atmosphere of patience and kindness. When your child is upset, crying, and anxious it will be very difficult for learning to take place. As a parent educator, you have a quality that will foster the best environment for learning that exists. You have a God-given love for your child. I have said many times that no one loves your child like you do. No one is as committed as you are to seeing your child succeed. Children that struggle to learn especially need a strong advocate on their side. They need someone who won’t give up on them, who will give them the time and space that they need to grow at their own pace. Who is better equipped to meet those needs than you? No one.
Is that to say that every day is beautiful, productive, and fulfilling? No. Sometimes we have to review again, and again, and again. Sometimes we have to take the time, to explicitly teach what seems painfully clear to us and it’s frustrating! Can you relate to what I’m saying? Sadly, I have said to my precious gift from heaven, “YOU KNOW THIS! Pay attention!” Those times are followed with humble apologies on my part and gracious forgiveness from my child.
I once heard this advice concerning teaching, “A teacher on her feet is worth two on her seat”. Although I haven’t always followed that wisdom, it has stayed with me through the years. Being involved in your student’s learning is important, even if he is older, because it provides you the opportunity to give immediate feedback. When you’re checking in with your student, you can offer encouragement that he’s on the right track or offer additional guidance before he has completed 15 math problems incorrectly. If your student is using a computerized program, your involvement is still critical. In my experience, I have found that even highly recommended programs aren’t perfect. For instance, the program may cover material too quickly; skipping critical background knowledge that it assumes your child has in place. You know your student better than a computer ever could.
Next, I have found that our designated school time, has to be just that- school time. It’s not my time to check emails or take a quick scroll through Facebook. For our family, it isn’t even a time for me to do housework. Once, I attempted to give a spelling test to my child while I was doing the dishes. It didn’t go well. My daughter was distracted as I called out the words above the sound of clanking dishes, running water, and roaring food disposal. Needless to say, she didn’t do well on the test. I too was distracted and ultimately frustrated because she was doing so poorly. We both ended up in tears! Later, I realized that I was sending out a dual message–this exercise is important and I want you to do well, but it’s not so important that it requires my full attention. I apologized (again!) and promised to do better next time!
An involved teacher just naturally knows more about her students. It is through observation and listening that we discover our child’s learning style, their approach to solving problems, and behavior patterns that help or hinder their progress. This information is priceless, and helps you to be a more effective teacher.
Of course, there are other characteristics of great teachers. They’re passionate, they’re committed, they’re conscientious and more. But I hope you see that these intangibles are not the result of training or experience. They come with the territory when you become a parent! You really do have what it takes to provide a wonderful education for your child. So…1, 2, 3, JUMP!!!!
Photo Credit: First photo graphic design by Charity Klicka, second photo by Alex Winn.