Many parents are currently home-schooling who never had any inclination to do so before. You may be one of them. COVID-19 has turned our world upside down in every aspect of life. If you are distraught about this unforeseen change to your schedule, I completely understand. I didn’t want or plan to home school either–my world changed because of insistent pleas to be home schooled by an adorable blonde with sparkling blue eyes.

Even with her winsome requests, I probably would have said no to my daughter if not for God’s intervention. I began the summer trying to convince Him I was the last one who should be teaching her children at home. After a while I began to interview people we knew who home schooled and check out curriculum. Eventually I realized God was calling me to teach my children at home. Despite my inadequacies, for the ten years we home schooled my daughters scored in the 90th percentile, and none of us killed each other. In fact, they were wonderful years.

Whether you have chosen to home school on purpose or been forced into it because of the current crises, I want to encourage you. YOU CAN DO THIS. But, not because I can do all things, as Philippians 4:13 is often misquoted as saying, but that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  If ever there was a venture to make you feel more unqualified and overwhelmed, educating your children at home has got to be in the top five! However, that’s a good thing, because it forces us to rely on God for wisdom, patience, creativity, love, and perseverance. Every day.

Here are ten things I learned from our years of homeschooling. I hope the following advice will be a help and encouragement for you in the year or years to come:

  1. Take Care of Yourself

This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to burn out. Possibly by the end of September! If you try to operate on an empty tank you might soon find yourself blowing up at your kids, your spouse, or random strangers at the store. So resist the temptation to turn to comfort food and go for delicious and nutritious. Exercise, make time for friends, refuel with your husband (or wife if you’re a home schooling dad), and above all—begin every day with Bible reading and prayer. Pour out your concerns and fears to God and let Him fill you up for the needs of the day.

2. Be Serious, but Not Rigid

It’s tempting to wear sweats or jammies every day with your hair in a messy bun since you’re not going anywhere. But if you want your kids to value their education, approach it with respect. Set a start time when everyone meets in the “classroom” dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, with whatever materials are needed to begin. Make sure your kids have plenty of time to get ready; avoid or limit television before school. My girls liked it when I called out a “two minute warning” before our official start time. Some days, however, beg leniency—last minute phone calls, out of town visitors, or when one of your children is sick. And allow for occasional gloomy days when everyone needs an excuse to relax and be cozy.

3. Get Outside

For athletes and nature lovers, this is like breathing. If you would rather stay inside with a good book this can be a challenge. However, taking a break from academics, and getting fresh air and exercise can ramp up learning time significantly. My girls and I usually went outside after lunch. We played croquet, badminton, and kick ball; hop-scotched, hoola-hooped, roller-bladed, and puddle-stomped. On longer breaks we walked the neighborhood or drove to the park. Later, the girls played soccer, t-ball, and took, and even coached, gymnastics.

4. Enlist Help

Probably the hardest part of homeschooling is feeling like you have to know everything. But the truth is you don’t. You are surrounded by people who might be willing to share their knowledge or skills with your kids. Math has never been my strength, so when one of my daughters struggled to grasp algebra I found a college student from our church willing to tutor her once a week. I also asked family members to teach an elective class to my girls. My artist husband did three-sessions on chalk drawing. The pictures our girls drew were amazing and are still on display. My dad showed them how to draw a house to scale on the concrete floor of his and Grandma’s garage. They surprised my dad by drawing in tiny scale-appropriate furniture when they finished.

5. Grade Fairly

If your kids are meeting with teachers online, you can be supportive by explaining why grades are necessary to measure their work. Most subjects have standards to meet. Whether you’re their primary teacher or at home facilitator, help them view learning as objective—if you do the work and learn the material, your grades will reflect how well you’ve done. If you give in when your children throw a fit or offer excuses, they will learn to play on your sympathies rather than strive to learn. On the other hand, your kids need to know beyond a doubt that your love for them does not depend on their school performance.

6. Schedule Fun Days

Everybody needs to laugh and be silly, so try to put one fun day on the calendar every month. We had Pajama Day, Backwards Day (wearing and doing everything backwards, including eating dessert first!), Doll Day, Crazy Hair Day, and Teddy Bear Day (loading every bear the girls owned in the stroller for a walk around the neighborhood). Plus every Friday we got together with other home school families for group lessons, outdoor sports, and field trips.

7. Teach Through Experience

Since I’m an auditory learner (I actually like lectures), I had a hard time figuring out how to teach my kinesthetic learner. She needed to move, touch, do, or voice the material in order to comprehend it. And the truth is, most young kids learn best when they can wiggle a bit. So I tried out different ways we could “experience” what we were studying—acting it out, creating flashcards or games, drawing pictures, or doing experiments. If this sounds exhausting, it is! But it pays off when you overhear your child excitedly tell your spouse or grandparent what they learned today.

8. Schedule, Then Adjust

Maybe you’ve heard “plans are made to be broken,” but a school schedule provides an essential framework for your days, months, and school year as a whole. They map out your goals, timetable, and give you room to dream. Once you’ve nailed down the basics, you can move pieces within the structure without having the whole thing collapse. You can adjust your daily schedule to fit the needs of the season, or move an elective you had planned to do later as a reward after a particularly difficult study.

9. Begin Each Day with God’s Word

Start your school day with praise and prayer, and read a portion of the Bible. Ask your kids what they think about what you just read and discuss how God wants us to respond. And don’t forget to memorize scripture—you’ll be amazed how quickly children can quote long passages, especially if you combine the words with motions!

10. Seek Balance

You will notice how easy it is lean toward extremes—too strict or too lenient; too much emphasis on grades or too much on character development; too active or too sedentary. Home schooling, like everything else in life is a constant series of adjustments. Which is what makes it so beautiful and rewarding. Not only are your kids growing, but the teacher is too. It’s not always comfortable or tidy, and hardly ever quiet. But when you commit to do your best to teach your children well, empowered by the One who made them (whether geometry or the facts of life), it is a holy act of love. None of your efforts will be wasted.

This may be the only year you home school, or you may choose to continue for a number of years. Either way, it will not be easy; godly parenting never is. It’s up to us to choose our attitude and the words that escape our lips. The attitude of our mind impels our will, and when we choose rightly, joy will follow.

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