Don’t Be a Jerk (and Other Tips for Family Harmony)

Don't Be a Jerk (and Other Tips for Family Harmony) | HSLDA Blog

Don't Be a Jerk (and Other Tips for Family Harmony) | HSLDA Blog

No kid was dropped off in the middle of the Mojave Desert in the making of this blog post.

In other words, our trip West was a success. From the California central valley, to the salt flats of Utah, over the Rockies and across the plains of Kansas, and finally back to the trees and rivers of the East—we were in that minivan together for many, many miles. How did we keep six personalities generally peaceful and deal with eruptions of ragged nerves and tiredness?

Well, fact is, we’re used to being together.

Don’t Be a Jerk | HSLDA Blog

Four harmonious children posing in front of the biggest tree in the world, the General Sherman, Sequoia National Park, California.

A peaceful household is a high priority to Darren and me, so when we launched this trip, we’d already established compromise and coping skills. Here are some ways that we kept the peace in our “mobile household” on our trip—and at home.

  1. Don’t be a jerk. This principle is at the heart of our family—“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Living in Christ’s love starts at home.

Obviously we don’t stand for snatching, hitting, or insulting. But it also means treating everyone else politely and respectfully—even when you’re right and they’re wrong.

Don’t Be a Jerk | HSLDA Blog

But the kids didn’t all smile all the time.

(Of course, just because you show respect and kindness doesn’t mean the other person will meet you halfway. I feel that it prepares them for internet debates.)

2. Use a timer. Timers are magic in our household. We used them constantly across the country, and not just for taking turns on the electronics. For instance, Darren likes to specify how long Ranger can keep making that incredibly annoying humming noise before he has to stop for the sake of Gamerboy’s and Sparkler’s sensitive nerves.

3. Let everyone have space. This is probably our most controversial method, to be honest. We don’t set many restrictions on using electronics. Not on long trips, and not much at home either.

There are a few limits. Anybody can claim a turn to use the electronics (“Set a timer and politely tell him that you get it next”). Mom and Dad can interrupt at any time. No electronics are allowed at the dinner table—not even on weekends when we allow reading at the table.

Don’t Be a Jerk | HSLDA Blog

Sparkler finds a little space in cramped quarters

But a set of earbuds creates a virtual “private room.” In the van, we needed that space. Even at home, we need to be able to retreat from each other.

4. You can be angry. Yes, we all get on each other’s nerves. Yes, she’s being unreasonable. Yes, you’re being compelled to go along with the rest of us because you’re outvoted. You don’t have to bury your anger and dredge up a “cheerful spirit.” However, you still can’t insult siblings, sass parents, or kick the seat.

 A few times on our trip, we had to spend several miles enduring somebody’s meltdown. Bearing one another’s burdens, patience is a virtue, this too shall pass…

5. We are family. Darren and I both come from families with a strong identity. We’ve tried to give that gift to our children. We’ve got our own inside jokes (“wind turbines” can make us all fall out laughing). We have our own rhythm and style. We take pride in each other, and recognize each other’s gifts. We look out for each other. We are the Roberts/Jones family, our own unique brand.

Don’t Be a Jerk | HSLDA Blog

Jones family at Donner Pass in California. We fared better than the party it was named for, anyway.


I’m not saying that as homeschoolers, we’ve automatically got better family dynamics. But our homeschooling lifestyle does give us time (and motivation) to instill these principles of family life. That came in pretty useful during a 7,000-mile trip in a minivan.

How about you? What are your family’s priorities, and how do you teach them? Hang on, not everybody at once…

Let me set a timer.

Okay, go.


Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Sara Jones.

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