Homeschooling is hard. Parenting is even harder. We homeschool parents probably have it the hardest of all—we have to be both the teacher and the parent all day long. This dual role can be a blessing. We have the opportunity to deal with character issues that would likely not be addressed if our child sat in a traditional classroom. But wearing both hats can also be deeply discouraging. Without a positive tone in our homeschool, we may feel like we are constantly having to correct our children. We’re correcting their schoolwork, their attitudes, and wrong behavior. Correction, correction, correction. All. Day. Long.
We homeschool parents have a unique superpower—we set the tone of the atmosphere in our homes. Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling grumpy everyone in your house gets grumpy too? The same phenomena happens when we are full of joy. It’s contagious. So if we want to change the tone in our home away from the constant doom and gloom of correction, we are going to need to change both our words and our actions. Here are some ways to get you started on creating a positive tone in your homeschool.
1. Set a Positive Tone by Managing Your Expectations
I’ve learned that sometimes the “faults” that I see in my children are really not faults at all. Sometimes my expectations for them are not realistic. It’s not wrong to have high expectations for our children, but we need to consider their own abilities and take care that we don’t end up criticizing them out of impatience or frustration. We need to be careful to reserve correction for real wrongs.
2. Praise Often.
Our children need to know that we take notice of more than just their failures. We need to talk about their wins too. In fact, we need to make it a goal to praise far more than we correct. On the really bad days, it might be hard to see the wins, but they are there, even if they are “small.” Did your child show initiative? Did he or she share a toy or speak a kind word? Did your child complete a chore in a timely manner or work diligently on an assignment? All of these actions (and more like them) deserve praise, but too often, in the busyness of the day, we let these wins pass by unnoticed. Encourage your children when they do right. It will go a long way to establish a positive, loving tone in your home.
3. Reward Right Behavior.
Sometimes our children need an incentive to motivate them to do well, and it is completely appropriate to offer one. For example, we went through a period in our homeschool when we could tell that our children were not putting forth their best effort. Their handwriting was sloppy. They weren’t taking the time to look up answers in their books. They were writing one-word answers to complicated questions. We could have spent a lot of time correcting them. But correction isn’t always motivating.
So in order to encourage them to do better, we decided to offer an incentive. They could earn screen time for diligent schoolwork (screen time is pretty limited in our home outside of school). We started seeing better-quality work almost immediately. And we found that we didn’t have to offer the incentive forever. Soon they learned that faithfulness in their daily work saved them from having to cram before assessments. That became its own incentive.
4. Watch Your Words.
The words that we use during times of necessary correction are important. We must choose them wisely. The apostle James compares our tongues to flames of fire that can set entire forests ablaze. Think of how destructive some of the recent wildfires out West have been. Our words have that kind of power. Our words can crush a child’s spirit, but our words can also lift it up. When we do have to correct, we should do it with gentle, self-controlled words, and never in anger or with harshness.
We’re never going to be perfect teachers or perfect parents. We’re human—we’re going to fail. There will be days when our words will be harsh, when we’ll be impatient with our children, when we will cry a river of tears over frustration with our own sinful souls. But it’s important not to give up. Daily—even multiple times a day—we must humbly go before the Lord for help as we teach and parent our children. He will not turn us away!
By setting a positive tone in your homeschool, you’re also teaching your children communication skills by example. To learn more about teaching communication by demonstration, check out “Communication: The Key to Parenting.”