By Guest Author Marcia Washburn
What is a successful homeschool? What does it look like? Is it defined by children who score highly on standardized tests? Is it one in which everyone can’t wait to start school each day?
As we begin a new year, let’s enlarge our vision a bit. Let’s examine the habits that lead to highly successful homeschools.
HABIT #1: Keep the heart in homeschooling
Christian homeschooling is distinctive in that, in its ideal form, it is Christ-centered, parent-directed, and free from government control. When all three of these factors are in place, the homeschool rests on a solid foundation.
The most important thing we teach our children is to love God and to serve Him in body, soul, and spirit. If we believe that God is everywhere and knows the number of hairs on our heads, shouldn’t we expect that He will show up in our children’s education?
If we have bright kids with weak character, what have we gained? Better the child cannot do calculus or diagram sentences than that he doesn’t know and obey the Lord Who created him (although, of course, we want to teach both!).
We are commanded in Deuteronomy 6:7-9 and Psalm 78 to teach our children God’s ways. Knowing and serving God is not an elective — this is the core curriculum. Everything else is an elective.
A secular curriculum that ignores God is a weak substitute for Christian materials that acknowledge the One who created us from nothing.
Education is not about stuffing information into a child’s head. Education is discipling him/her. A one-size-fits-all approach may work well for building cars in a factory, but not for educating children.
God did not use cookie cutters to make our children. When the parent selects teaching materials based on the child’s unique abilities and needs, the child thrives. We follow the model Jesus used with his disciples, teaching them as they walked together, ate together, talked together, and rested together. In my view, a child, especially a young child, is better served by the companionship of the parent working alongside them and helping them to learn the material, than by sitting in front of a computer. There is a place for computers in the homeschool, but not all day, every day.
- Free from government control
No one except God loves or understands a child better than his parents. A government-controlled homeschool cannot provide the optimum education for the child because it cannot be individualized for the child’s needs in the ways that a parent can.
Homeschooling succeeds not because it is at home but because of parental involvement — parents who can move beyond simply plugging their children into a canned curriculum on a free computer will discover the beauty of parental discipleship. It’s more relational, meaningful, interactive, and fun!
Homeschooling has been astonishingly successful due to these three elements we’re calling the Heart of Homeschooling: parent-directed, Christ-centered education, free of government control. When these three aspects of the heart of homeschooling are removed, we return to the old assembly line ways of educating children and the phenomenal successes of homeschooling vanish.1
HABIT #2: Keep your priorities straight
Homeschooling offers incredible opportunities, but don’t allow your children’s education to become an idol. Cultivating your personal relationship with the Father is essential and must be your top priority.
Next is your marriage. As important as your children are, your relationship with your spouse must come next. Don’t center your home around your children; a child-centered home is not a healthy home. They are much-loved members of your household, but must not take precedence over the Lord or your marriage.
Your parenting/homeschooling/discipling responsibilities come next. If you still have time for additional ministry outside the home, that’s great, but know when to say “no.” You will have to say “no” to many worthwhile activities, including some learning opportunities for your children. Learn how to keep the home in homeschooling.
HABIT #3: Keep on learning
Some of you loved every minute of school and even played school in the summertime. Others, for whatever reason, didn’t thrive.
Whether you thrived or dived in school, you will now get the education you missed. You will experience the excitement of seeing the subjects come together in new ways.
You learn what you teach — by repetition and by trying to think of ways to teach it to a struggling child.
Parents who homeschool soon learn that homeschooling is not simply an academic choice, but a unique lifestyle that allows every family member to be all that they were designed to be. Both parents and children are daily learning to serve and follow the Lord. As parents we learn that we are not only teachers, but students, not only disciplers, but disciples.
Set aside time and resources to in-service yourself. Subscribe to good homeschooling magazines. Sign up for free encouragement at internet sites specifically for homeschoolers. Budget for the books you need as a teacher for your own professional development.2 And do whatever is necessary to get yourself and your spouse to your state’s annual homeschool conference; you will return refreshed and recharged.3
[Editor’s note: For Habits 4-8, see “Eight Habits for Highly Successful Homeschooling, Part 2.”]
© 2012-2021 by Marcia K. Washburn. Excerpted from Managing Your Homeschool from the Management for Moms Series. Reprinted by permission. See www.marciawashburn.com for more articles, books, and resources.
1Swanson, Kevin, Upgrade: Ten Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child (Generations: Feb. 1, 2006).
2Swanson, Kevin, Upgrade: Ten Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child (Generations: Feb. 1, 2006); Klicka, Chris,The Heart of Homeschooling (Loyal Pub: Feb 1, 2002); Beechick, Ruth, You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully (Arrow Press: Aug. 1, 1988); Thomas, Gary L., Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes Our Souls (Zondervan: updated edition Aug. 29, 2017); Moore, Raymond, Home Grown Kids (W Pub Group: Nov. 1, 1984).
3See www.hslda.org to find your state’s website leading to info about your state’s conference.