When I first started homeschooling, someone once told me that my child would become my greatest teacher. I thought that was quaint advice and mostly ridiculous. What could I possible learn from a 4th grader—a nine-year-old?
It turns out, I had loads to learn from my nine-year-old. Lessons in doing hard things, discovering my greatest weaknesses, how homeschooling bonds your family in amazing ways, how to be a humble learner. I could go on for pages. That ridiculous advice turned out to be one of the greatest truths I learned along the way. With the end of this school year now in sight, I began thinking about what else I have learned so far.
Recently, I was reading an article by a homeschool mom that had graduated the last of her children. Now that she finished her homeschooling years, she shared some of her favorite lessons she learned along the way.
Reading the article encouraged me to consider what I might say in a couple years, when my homeschooling journey was finished. I then thought, “Why wait? What wisdom would I share now? What have I learned from my homeschooling journey so far?”
I decided to give it a whirl. Believe me, I’m no expert and I don’t have it all figured out. I created this list as an exercise to see “what have I learned so far” and I hope it inspires you to create your own list too. I limited it for seven things, but believe me, it could have been seventy!
7 Lessons I Have Learned So Far in Homeschooling:
1. Some is Better than None.
Oftentimes, I think that if I can’t do a subject perfectly or do it all the way until the book is finished, it isn’t worthy. But just like exercise, a bit each day can go a long way. If you only have five minutes for Latin, make them an amazing five minutes. If you only can read one page, read one fantastic page. Some is always better than none.
2. Start Your Day in the Best Way.
Our goal is always to start our day in the Word and in prayer. I figure if nothing else goes right the rest of the day, we have spent time with God. Sometimes it’s five minutes, sometimes it’s longer. We have had pretty basic conversations and we have had life-changing conversations. But our day always goes better when we start with the Word and in prayer. I know this will be one of the things I will look back on as a favorite joy from homeschooling days.
3. If There are Tears, Stop.
So many times, I thought if I just pushed through on a math lesson or if we just hunkered down a bit more on the writing, my child would get it. I wish someone had told me that if you see tears, hear emotion in your child’s voice, or sense stress, it’s time to back off. The beauty of homeschooling is that we have time and flexibility. When tears come, take a break, go outside, have a snack, step away, and snuggle with your child.
4. It’s the Learning, Dummy.
I think sometimes I mixed up with the importance of learning with the importance of my way. Allow your child the freedom to learn things in the way that suits him or her best. Certainly challenge them, partner with them, encourage them in the learning process—but don’t force it to be a certain way just because that is your style. When I gave up forcing my child to hand write his schedule on the whiteboard the way I wanted it, he took more ownership of what he needed to do on his own. It’s the learning that matters, not the form— find what works.
5. Point Out Their Strengths.
Recently, I was reading a book that challenged me to come up with a list of my child’s strengths. When I first did this, I shared it with my son and he was visibly humbled. It reminded me how much our kids need to know that we believe in them. For several weeks afterwards, he would come across something that he felt he was good at and he would say, “Mom, you need to add it to my strengths list!” What a blessing to find a sweet point of connection in the teen years. I wish I had done it sooner.
6. Understand the Importance of Duct Tape.
Lately, I have learned the importance of not saying a word about things and letting life be the teacher for my teen. As someone who loves to remind, micromanage, help, fuss, smother mother, this has been the hardest lesson of all to learn. Duct taping my mouth has become my new mindset. If I see my son forgets his lunch for community day, I leave it. If I know he has an assessment or project deadline coming up, I may check in, but I do not micromanage it. If I see laundry rotting in the machine, I know he will have the consequence of stinky mildew-smelling clothes. I have found the more I apply the duct tape, the more he becomes the independent person God intends him to be.
7. Don’t Let Transcripts, Hard Classes or College Prep Be the Hill You Die On.
I realize not everyone homeschools forever. I get that different seasons bring different things and homeschooling isn’t always right for everyone. What I find disappointing is when people leave homeschooling out of fear. They fear having to put together a transcript or they fear that they can never figure out hard high school classes or they think they are inadequate in their ability to prepare for college. All these things are simply another thing you can learn how to do together. It does not have to be the hill that you die on. Your God has called you and He will equip you. But you have to trust and ask for His help. If Jesus can put together a ragtag bunch to save the world with his disciples—He can equip you to figure out a high school transcript or find a mentor in chemistry. You can learn alongside your child to figure out the college prep maze. It is just one more thing to learn together.
Bonus – Ask What You Want Them to Remember in 20 years.
When I get tired of homeschooling, I ask myself what I want them to remember about this day, twenty years from now. Will they remember the conversation we had about World War II? Will they remember the book we read together by C. S. Lewis? Will they remember how we took a break from the algebra and went for a walk by the lake? Will they remember all the mornings we spent in the Word, discussing how God is at work in their life? When I get tired, it tells me I need to take a break. But I know deep inside that I will never regret having spent time with the people I love. That relationship of love can never be lost. Those days can never be lost. They are homeschooling gold.
What is on your list?
As we head into the final weeks of the homeschooling year, my encouragement for you is to make your list too. Consider what your greatest teachers, your child and your Creator, have shared with you so far. You don’t have to wait until you are finished to take in all that you have learned. My guess is you will be astounded at all God has taught you and your family in this amazing, beautiful journey of homeschooling.