A perfect home school? Have you ever thought, “I’ve always dreamed of having such a thing! In fact, mine is so far from perfect that I may have to give it up and put my children in public school, where they’ll get a good education….”?
Have you ever wished that your family could look like one of those families that appears sometimes on the cover of home school magazines –- the pictures in which all family members wear matching outfits and all look so calm and serene? Have you ever said anything like, “My family just isn’t perfect like THAT family! We just don’t cut it. They have it so together! I’m such a failure at this home schooling!”?
A friend of mine once shared this pearl of wisdom: “Do not compare your insides with my outsides!” Would that we would remember this exhortation when we are around our home schooling friends! Think about that cover family; there is no way that is how they always look or act! Trust me! How do I know? Hey, my family can look pretty good when we dress up and smile for the camera. However, do not look at my family and think that just because you do not see any problems that we do not have any. I know what goes on inside my own home, and you do not. We should listen to scripture when it explains that “they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12b)
Is there really such a thing as a “perfect” home school? I believe that it is possible for all of us. However, there is one catch. I get to define the term perfect.
Perfect in the biblical sense means “mature.” None of us human beings will ever attain perfection (as we usually define it) this side of heaven; it is not in our nature. However, we can be maturing, growing, ever advancing to the goal of being more like Christ.
What would a perfect home school be according to my definition, coming from the vantage point of being a completed home school mom? Just for fun, I decided to use an acronym:
P for Positive
As I look back over my home schooling experience, the major thing that I wish I had been was more positive. I focused much on what was wrong with my school, or my child, or my family. If you find yourself discouraged or realize that you are not getting along with one of your children, make a conscious effort to focus on the things you HAVE gotten done this year or on your child’s positive character qualities.
A perfect home school is one in which people are encouraging and looking for the positive side of things and people, even while dealing with the negative things when necessary.
E for Effective
Effective may mean something different for you than it does for me. I heard a speaker once say that God is not as interested in where we are as He is in the direction we are headed. Progress is moving in the direction the Lord is leading.
Some time ago at the THSC office, we got a letter from a mom that really touched my heart. She was writing in response to our Congratulations! Column in which we highlight what home school students have done and honors they have received. She talked about her special-needs child who would never get a scholarship, never get a trophy, or probably never make it into the Congratulations! column. However, she proceeded to tell about the progress—in what most people would consider small areas—that this child had made since they had been homeschooling. But because of the limitations, the progress was great success!
A perfect home school is one in which you set your own goals for your own family and then take small steps toward those goals which may seem very far away.
R for Realistic
Do you have a tone-deaf child? He is probably not going to be a virtuoso tenor. In the same way, your child who struggles with math probably will not need to take calculus. If you have several toddlers in your home, maybe this is not the year to use teacher-intensive courses for most of your schoolwork for your other six children. When a child weeps every time you make him study a subject and spends hours to accomplish what should only take minutes, you may need to consider that this might not be the right curriculum for this child at this time.
I think too many of us get caught in guilt traps, laid for us sometimes by our culture, sometimes by our in-laws, and sometimes even by ourselves. It is helpful to set goals for your school – short term (today, this year) and long term (before graduation). Ask God what HIS goals for your school and for your family are. Then ask Him to help you accomplish those goals.
A perfect home school is one in which the students are working toward being ready for the work that God has called them individually to do.
F for Flexible
Flexibility? But I have just been talking about setting goals and working toward them. However, we must be willing to be flexible in the details and sometimes in the big picture. For example, we used the curriculum from an umbrella school for the first three months we homeschooled. It just did not work like I expected. So we put aside the books that were too easy (to save for the younger children) and those that were too hard (to be used at a later date) and made adjustments in what we did. (Please note: I did NOT say that I went out and bought a whole new curriculum; we could not afford to do that every three months.) Then there were the days that I had certain things planned for school that just did not happen. Sometimes we had to stop working on academics in order to deal with character or relationship issues. Then there was the year that my husband ran for office; we did lots of political science that year. Sometimes God had other things in mind for our day –- and sometimes for our year.
A perfect home school is one in which adjustments are made as needed and in which our schedule and our goals are tools, not chains.
E for Educational
Does this not go without saying? It should; but just to be clear, I thought I should include it. The academics are important; they are part of what will prepare our children for adulthood. Part of our goals for our school should include helping our children to gain knowledge and to learn how to think. That does not mean that your home school must look like the school you attended when you were young; there do not have to be desks, chalkboards, bulletin boards, and all those other things that we associate with academia. It may mean using traditional textbooks; it may mean taking opportunities as they arise to learn about God’s creation (science), God’s story (HIStory), beauty (art), order (math), and more.
A perfect home school is one in which learning is taking place in many different forms, places, times, etc. (when we rise up, when we lie down, when we walk by the way.…)
C for Challenging
It took me longer than it should have to understand that the reason my first born son was the “class clown” was because he was bored in school. We did many of our subjects with all of the children together, but there was a five-year age spread between the oldest and the youngest. I had to look for ways to make sure that school was interesting to him, while still being able to get through to the younger children. Often our children can do more than we think; they need to be encouraged to excel.
The perfect home school is one in which the teacher is sensitive to the students’ needs and makes adjustments as the needs become apparent.
T for Training
Keep in mind that your goal is to prepare your children to live without you. You need to train them to be productive members of society, not to mention men and women after God’s own heart. I recently had a question put to me about the importance of training your children to keep the house clean. This family was focusing on excellent academics, and I certainly cannot fault that, but they were becoming concerned that perhaps they were training well-educated slobs. I think that is a valid concern. We used housecleaning (called Home Economics) to help teach our children how to work since we did not have pigs to feed, cows to milk, etc. Training in character is a very important part of the perfect home school.
The perfect home school is one in which the children receive instruction not only in academics but also in character and life skills.
Does this seem overwhelming? Too many things to consider? Actually there are other qualities that I think are important for the perfect home school, such as the children knowing that they are under the authority of their parents, knowing that their parents love them, and so on, but unfortunately those do not fit into my acronym. Besides, I really think the keys here are that we not compare our home school with others, we seek the Lord for His direction in our home school daily, and we remain sensitive to the direction we are moving and to changes we need to make to keep a good balance between being positive, effective, realistic, flexible, educational, and to challenge and train.