I’ve found that one of the great benefits of homeschooling is how well I’ve gotten to know my children. I know what delights them, what frustrates them, what fascinates them, and what bores them. I also know what they are capable of. And I know the difference between their best work and halfhearted attempts.
In Colossians 3:23, the Bible admonishes us to do our work “heartily as to the Lord.” The Lord deserves our best work—anything less would be an offense to the one who gave us everything. We as parents must teach our children to do their best in everything they do. But how? Here are a few thoughts about how we can encourage careful, excellent work in our homeschooling.
Know their best work
Realize that encouraging excellence is different from demanding perfection. God, in His wisdom, made every child with different abilities. For some children, everything in school seems to come easily, but others struggle with one or more subjects. It’s unfair to expect that every child’s “best” means a report card with straight As or above-average standardized test scores. Your child’s “best” is going to look very different from my child’s “best.” Even within my own family, there are going to be differences.
As homeschool moms and dads, we need wisdom to discern between a child who is truly struggling and a child who is not giving school his or her best effort. Here are some questions that I ask myself.
- Has this child struggled with this concept or a similar concept in the past?
- Did this child pay attention to the instruction?
- Has this child put forth an effort to do well (i.e., studied for a test, taken notes, practiced on his or her own, etc.)?
Best work deserves encouragement, no matter what the grade is. Encouragement comes in many forms, but it should certainly start with encouraging words. Let your children know that you are proud of how hard they worked, and point out the progress that they have made even if it doesn’t seem that significant.
For example, one of my daughters really struggled with contractions at one point. She struggled with them in English lessons, and she struggled with them in reading. When her weekly spelling list featured a list of contractions, I knew she was going to have trouble. So we split the list in half and worked on only ten words a week. We played spelling games. She wrote the words and used elbow macaroni noodles for apostrophes (an awesome idea borrowed from Mrs. Overly’s English 2 Distance Learning course). I went on Pinterest® and found all kinds of teaching ideas. She didn’t make an A on that spelling test. But we still celebrated—with chocolate—because I knew that she had put forth her best effort. For her encouragement, I showed her the difference between her pretest and her final test and pointed out the words that she now knew how to spell.
It’s sometimes tempting to want to shield my children from the consequences of doing less than their best work. As a mom, I want to see them succeed. I don’t want to give them poor grades. But, as I explained in a previous post, my children need to learn that there are consequences for not doing their best work. Consequences, like encouragement, come in many different forms. Sometimes, it means a lower grade. Sometimes it means having to redo the work (for the same grade) or doing additional work. It ought to cost the child something.
You, as a homeschool mom or dad, have unique opportunities to develop your child’s character every day. You know what your child is capable of, and you are there to observe all his or her work. Teaching your children to always put forth their best effort takes time. It might lengthen an already long homeschool day. But it is time well spent because the experience of doing one’s best work is going to stick with your child long after your homeschool journey is done.