Do you know what one of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is? You have the freedom to be flexible and mobile and do whatever you need to do to ensure that your children will be equipped for their future lives. If you aren’t part of an online academy or a school with strict regulations, then you are free to buy curriculum directly from the curriculum creators. Which means, once those resources are in your home, you get to use them however you like. You can focus on the lessons and skills that you believe will be the most beneficial for your children’s future. You can choose resources that will help them become more effective servants of Christ, their family, their community, and their employer. [Read more…] about 21st Century Skills for 21st Century Homeschooling (Part 1)
Go back in time with me. Remember that moment—it may have been 20 years ago, or maybe it was a few months ago—when you started to seriously think about what this crazy homeschooling thing would look like for you. You had a picture in your head of you and your kids learning together. Maybe you saw your children huddled in your arms as you read to them. Maybe you saw books scattered on a table, forgotten, as you talked over the moral implications of the Civil War. Or maybe you saw yourself on a nature walk with your children, looking at birds, flowers, or the shapes of clouds together.
When that image came to you, you probably weren’t thinking about why you homeschool or what you hope to accomplish in the next twelve or more years. It was just a little dream of what your journey might look like day-to-day. And you know what the most important part of your dream was? You and your kids working together to learn something. That’s really all that education has ever been—teachers and students learning together.
But the problem is, there’s usually only one of you. When looking for solutions to their homeschool needs, many parents believe that the best resources are ones that their children can use completely independently. Just give the kids the textbook and let them go. Textbooks can be a key part of your homeschool, but they’re not the most important piece. A textbook just can’t replace what you can offer your children as a personal, involved teacher.
Children miss out when they only have a textbook.
You hear a lot about learning styles and customizing your children’s education to their needs. But the truth of the matter is, there’s no magic formula or combination to tell you how your child learns. No child is strictly a tactile learner, strictly a verbal learner, or strictly an auditory learner. Some kids are genuinely good at learning by reading from a textbook, but not all are. In fact, few can learn well from using only a textbook.
Most kids can’t just sit down with a book and siphon up information. They have to work with it to get it. They need to squish it through their fingers, taste it on their tongues, watch it bounce around, and hear what other people think about it. And a book can’t do all that. A book can present information, ask questions, give assignments, or even suggest activities. But it can’t hold a conversation or let a child really experience the information. Even a well-designed textbook will leave your children wanting if that’s all they have for their education.
If you’re involved in their learning process, you can customize their education. When you’re working one-on-one with your children, you’ll know which activities will help them learn and which won’t. It’s not about assigning every activity and hoping that doing them all will help them learn. It’s about picking the ones that are best for your child.
You can encourage understanding through communication.
When I was in high school, I remember moments when a teacher would misspeak or write the wrong number up on the board. Or there were times when students misheard or misunderstood something. When the class was comfortable and open with the teacher, the misunderstanding was usually something minor to fix. All we had to do was ask a clarifying question and we could move on. But there are some students who don’t feel comfortable asking simple questions. Who don’t want to interrupt no matter how confused they are.
Children need someone guiding them through their lessons to help them through moments of confusion. Someone they trust, who they can communicate with easily. My teachers weren’t always good at recognizing when they’d lost a student, but when you’re working directly with your children, learning together, you can usually tell when they’re following or when they’re still two pages behind.
It’s time for a reality check.
Now, we’ve been talking about an ideal—how things should be, and how things are meant to be. But we need to take a good hard look at how things are. Is this one-on-one teaching really possible for you? How many students are you teaching? How much time do you really have to devote to teaching your children yourself? If you’re going to have to spend 20 to 30 minutes teaching per subject and per child, then there’s no way you’ll have time for much of anything besides teaching, especially if you’re teaching more than 3 children. And that’s why you might want to allow your kids to work independently sometimes.
But remember that this isn’t school at home. You’re not confined to teaching specific subjects to specific children at specific times. You can shape your homeschool so that you can realize that dream you had when you started. And so that you and your children can go forward learning together. What will that look like? That’s up to you. It could mean year-round homeschooling. Or it could mean supplementing your teaching with video courses. Maybe it means forgetting about grade levels and teaching everyone together. The point is, it’s up to you how you make it work.
One-room school houses didn’t work because of government regulations and state standards. Having the right rules in place has never been the thing that makes classrooms work. They work because there’s a teacher invested in the lives of the students. At the end of the day, a textbook is just a tool. What children really need is for someone to direct them and partner with them in learning. And who better than you?
As homeschooling parents, we understand the importance of clear communication. If our children don’t get what we’re trying to teach them in school and life, they’ll struggle academically, socially, and spiritually. We also understand that we have more opportunities than others to develop good communication with our children. We have them home with us all day. Each day we have hundreds of opportunities to create healthy communication habits for ourselves and for them. We all have room for improvement in our communication habits, so let’s look at some tips to help us become better communicators.
First, know what you want to say. You’ve heard the old adage, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” That’s a good rule to follow! Be as clear as you can when telling your children what you expect them to do. For example, there’s a big difference between saying “finish your math” and saying “do problems 1 through 10 on page 30.”
If we don’t tell our children exactly what we expect from them, they’re likely to get confused and frustrated. Also, we can’t always assume that our children understood or even heard all of our instructions. Distractions—other children, pets, a large house, or guests—can override what you’re trying to communicate. A good way to make sure they understand is to ask them to repeat what you just told them.
Be mindful of where you are and what’s going on around you. Background noises in the room you’re in, or another room, can make it much harder for your children to hear and understand what you say, or vice versa. As often as possible, try to be in the same room as your children when you’re talking. Of course, that goes without saying when you’re teaching, but it’s a good practice to have all the time. It can be fun to holler down the hallway to talk, but not at the expense of clear communication.
We’re surrounded by things that suck up our attention and block out the rest of the world. Buzzing phones and blaring TVs, crying children, dishwashers, washing machines—there are so many noises surrounding us at all times. Those noises can be the death of clear communication. If you want to have a meaningful conversation with your children, make sure you have their full attention. If they’re distracted while you’re talking to them, chances are, they won’t remember what you say.
On the flip side, make sure your children have your full attention when they want to talk to you. Texting, talking on the phone, scrolling through Facebook or checking email can wait when your children are trying to talk with you. They need to know you care enough to stop, look them in the eye, and listen. If you have to finish a text or an email before you can give your full attention, use a signal to let them know that you know they want to speak and that you’ll stop and listen to them as soon as you can.
Watch Your Tone
How we say something is just as important as what we say. It can be hard to teach children how to control their tones, especially if we struggle to do the same ourselves. Our tone of voice can communicate something entirely different from our words, and it certainly affects the way our children respond to us and how we respond to them. Children are excellent at picking up on attitudes and thoughts we have hidden in our tone. As impatient or frustrated as you might be with a situation or a certain kind of behavior, remember that letting that frustration into your tone will change the meaning of everything you say. A reminder to finish homework can come across as a punishment or an expression of disappointment—even if you didn’t mean either.
Remember the exhortation in Colossians 3:21. According to the Amplified Bible’s translation, it says, “Do not provoke or irritate or exasperate your children . . . so they will not lose heart and become discouraged or unmotivated [with their spirits broken.]” One unkind remark can undo hours of loving instruction. One snappy retort can erect a wall of resentment between you and your child. We must rely on the power of God to help us. Only He can master our tongues (and voices) so the law of kindness can reign in them. And when we do speak in a harsh tone of voice, we need to make it right as soon as possible. Immediately confess it to the Lord and ask your child to forgive you. Yes, it’s humbling (as I can well testify!), but if we are to maintain a right relationship with our children, it’s imperative. The best way to show our children how to control their tongue is to become masters of our own.
Communication in Body Language
If you have a teenager, you’re more than aware of how frustrating it is when your children roll their eyes or sigh at everything you say. It’s like they’re shouting “I don’t care what you say” or “you can’t tell me what to do.” In addition to our tones, what we’re saying, and our environment, we also need to be mindful of what we’re communicating through facial expressions, posture, and gestures. And we need to help our children understand what their bodies communicate, too.
How we use our bodies while we’re talking can influence our conversations in either a positive or negative way. For example, try not to cross your arms, roll your eyes, sigh, shake your head, or tap your foot during a discussion; all of these gestures can undermine healthy communication. By using positive gestures, like nodding or leaning forward, we can encourage a healthy conversation despite what either party might be feeling.
The Main Goal for Communication
Remember the purpose of communication: to glorify God by building others up with our words. God has given us the gift of language so we can encourage, motivate, and inspire others toward greater Christlikeness. He has also given us His own Word, Holy Spirit, and power to guide our communication. A wonderful scripture to pray each day is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”
• • • • •
Jennifer is a pastor’s wife and mom of two young girls and loves homeschooling them. During her own twelve years of being homeschooled, Jennifer developed a passion for reading and writing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and relishes writing during her free time.
If your child hasn’t asked this question yet, he will. You probably asked it yourself many times while you were in school. And it is a valid question.
I don’t know many adults who do long division without a calculator or go through the newspaper underlining subjects once and predicates twice.
But consider how many of those grade school subjects have played important roles in your adult life. Were you thankful for your multiplication and division facts while standing in the supermarket last week deciding which brand of detergent to buy? Or when you wrote that important letter for your boss, were you glad you had finally grasped some of those tough spelling words? Did you still think music entirely unnecessary when you had to lead your Sunday school class in the opening singing time?
Depending on our individual fields of interest, we find much of what we learned as children is useful in some way. Even if we never use a particular skill again, learning it builds our overall knowledge and enhances our scope of appreciation. Practice develops our self-discipline, and knowledge develops discernment. How can we communicate this hope-giving truth to children?
Talk about the practical uses of school subjects as you encounter them in everyday life. Around the house, point out the ways you use math: measuring wall space for hanging a picture; adjusting recipes for cooking; balancing your checkbook and paying bills; figuring out medicine dosages; doing simple home repairs or rearranging furniture; measuring and cutting fabric for sewing. Let your child help you do some of these chores as part of his math lesson one day. Or encourage him to count the number of times in a day that he encounters the need for grammar in ordinary tasks—such as making a phone call or writing a journal entry. Have him write a letter to a family member on the computer and use the spell checker to correct his spelling.
For a practical idea on teaching your child how his school subjects may impact his life in the professional world, read How Would I Ever Use This?
How do you share practical uses of school subjects with your child?
We’re celebrating forty years of BJU Press art! An integral part of our products is the art our employees create to further communicate the meaning of the text that our authors write. Create, Communicate, Illuminate: The Art of BJU Press presents more than sixty pieces that show how the work of our employees in the department of art and design furthers our educational mission. Art media represented include colored pencil, watercolor, oil, acrylic, gouache, fiber, collage, digital, and polymer clay. If you’re in the Greenville area, come see the show in the exhibition corridor of the Sargent Art Building at Bob Jones University. It is on display until January 29. You can find directions here.
For those of you who are unable to attend, here are some photos of several pieces included in the show.
Images by David
What’s your favorite image from a BJU Press textbook or JourneyForth book?