By Shari McMinn
The day starts off okay after a decent night’s sleep. But, before you can grab your favorite morning beverage, the chaos from yesterday returns, and it’s not even time for math facts and English! Sound familiar?
Homeschooling is challenging for all families, but what about yours and mine with one or more unique learners thrown in? How can we get through each day without giving up?
The short answer is, each of us, including our children, needs Jesus to save us even more than our students need an academic education. We need His peace to flood our homes (and more coffee!). Every morning we should heed the words of the Apostle Paul found in Ephesians 6. With these words, we are reminded that we wrestle against spiritual forces and thus must daily put on the whole armor of God — truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the Word of God — this is an excellent verse to have somewhere front and center in your home to remind you where to run in times of trouble!
Practically speaking, how do we carry out what Paul instructs?
- Pray while you are still in bed — for the Holy Spirit to fill your home all day long. Married? Pray with your spouse to be a unified team while raising and homeschooling your child(ren). Focus on each of your family members’ salvation through Christ alone and their ongoing sanctification.
- Start your day with a personal devotion — do this in the bathroom if you need to be alone! Refill yourself with His Word each day, just like money needs to be deposited in your bank account before cash can be withdrawn at the ATM.
- Read aloud a Bible passage at the breakfast table — discuss the Gospel and why we all need to be saved by trusting in Jesus alone (For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 ESV).
- Include biblical truth in your school lessons — use Christian curriculum that saturates every subject of your children’s lessons with the Gospel. My family has successfully used Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) for English and math, with text and workbooks from Generations.org for all other subjects.
- Teach in relationship — your child needs your nurturing love, especially when they are struggling. Sit beside them to work on their lessons together. Be extremely patient, encouraging, and forgiving. Walk away and count to 10 or 100 if it is too stressful for you, then return to their side. Sometimes it takes YEARS for a subject your child struggles with to sink in. Remain steadfast and consistent. Galatians 6:9 encourages us, And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (ESV).
- Work at their ability level — your student’s curriculum should match what they are capable of, not what an institutional school would say is their age-related grade level (gifted or delayed).
- Take frequent breaks for snacks, water, and exercise — outdoors if at all possible. These should be relaxing times interspersed throughout your day that will build respect and trust as together, you “walk by the way” (Deuteronomy 6:7). When these moments calm and stimulate their brain, processing and retention will increase. For younger children, this might be every 15 minutes and perhaps every 1-2 hours for older students.
- Do life together— even though your unique child may be hard to be with 24/7/365, do things with them as much as possible. Errands, meal prep, walks — they will begin to understand that you are purposefully spending time together because you love them. Eventually, by God’s grace, they will begin to thrive because of it. Remember, Jesus lived with His disciples for three years as He taught them, doing everything together.
- Enjoy daily quiet breaks — naps and quiet time every afternoon are a must for you and ALL ages of children in your household. Each individual should spend time on their own bed with an activity that keeps the house quiet. If they are beyond napping age, this could include reading, listening to music or audiobooks with headphones on, playing card games like Solitaire (with real cards not virtual!), working on a puzzle, journaling or sketching — BUT NO SCREENS.
- Teach your child to put on the whole armor of God — this will prepare them well for their whole life. Start by doing one or more of these fun activities with them.
Only in a relationship with Christ can you and your kids be saved and your homeschooling efforts bear good fruit. Remind each family member that only Jesus can save us from our sin — not themselves by being “good,” or you as their parent/teacher. Focus your teaching and their learning on the Gospel.
It’s too long of a story to tell here, but when my incredibly challenging unique learner, Destiny, died in a double homicide four-and-a-half years ago, I knew for certain that despite her sin, she was with the Lord! I could never have saved her, but she knew the One who could and did. She had learned the most important homeschool lesson of her all too brief 18-year-old life — salvation in Christ alone. Praise Him!
Remember you are not alone; CHEC is here to come alongside you on your day-to-day journey. Further, feel free to email me with questions, concerns, and even your frustrations at Shari@chec.org. My October blog post will help you navigate what makes your child unique and offer suggestions for developing their interests while overcoming their struggles.