Talking about why I love homeschooling is basically asking why I love being a parent. I feel that homeschooling is an extension of my parenting, it is just part of who we are as a family. I’m writing about the parent-child relationship in homeschooling, but not because this is my favourite part of homeschooling. It may very well be one of the greatest challenges just because it can also be one of the greatest benefits. You would think that the quantity of time spent together in the homeschooling lifestyle would naturally build the relationship, but like many things, your virtue may also be your vice.
As we began the homeschool journey, my husband and I had many conversations about what kind of goals we have, and what this is going to look like for us. One question we discussed was “What would make us stop homeschooling?” In other words – how are we going to gauge whether or not this is working for our family? It all boiled down to whether or not homeschooling is building the relationships we have with each of our children. Like all of our goals for homeschooling, at the heart, this is a parenting goal. What am I trying to do in the midst of the crazy laundry, poopy pants, character development opportunities, and wild imaginations? At the end of the day, I long to say “YES!” to the question I ask myself regularly: “Do my children know I love them and do they know that Jesus forgives?” These two things are at the heart of our homeschooling life, and the parent-child relationship.
Do they know I love them?
Have I connected with them on their level, and in their interests? Do I correct them in a way that they can feel my love through it? When I’ve been unloving, do I got back to them to restore the broken fellowship? Have I made them feel special for something they have done or said?
This is a battle, by the minute sometimes, to be putting their needs ahead of my own wants and wishes. I wish for quiet, but they need to talk to me about their latest imaginary super-hero or the thing they’ve discovered in their reading. I wish for tidiness, but creative and interactive play is messy! I wish for a smooth system to keep us going from one piece of the day to the next, but they are impulsive and have no natural sense of time.
I do many things that I think are loving – cooking meals, doing their laundry, leading them in some kind of learning, pointing out some inappropriate habit, reminding them what it means to “be nice,” and the list goes on. But they don’t necessarily feel my love through those things. So the question is not “have I done something loving?” but rather “have they felt loved?” This takes more effort! This means I plan lessons or choose a curriculum that engages who they are, and who they are becoming. That I correct their behaviour in a way that communicates lovingly guiding them back to the right path. That I write down the super-hero stories that are being crafted in the imagination and let someone “invent” using a clothesline, pillows and whatever little treasures are rescued from the trash. Making sure they feel my love means finding things to compliment and praise, peeking in on them just to say “that’s a great lego creation” or “what is that book about?” “Do they know I love them?” is about my kids, not me.
Do they know that Jesus forgives?
On one hand, this is for the kids. They need to know that mess-ups are a very real, and hard part of life. But the reason it hurts is because it isn’t supposed to be this way, and we have Jesus providing forgiveness and pointing us to a better world to come. They can learn that restoration is available when selfishness or pride gets the upper-hand in their relationships. That ignoring their lessons, not bothering to try, or cheating are sometimes part of a deeper problem than me picking the wrong method or time for the teaching.
On the other hand, this is also for me. I can model Jesus’ forgiveness by not bringing up past irritations and failures over again. I can teach forgiveness in helping them see that the world doesn’t end when they don’t get what they want. And, this is a big one, I can ask their forgiveness when I forget to use my gentle words and treat them with the kindness and respect that children deserve as people. They need to know that I also seek forgiveness when I push a school lesson that really isn’t working at the moment, or if I tease them for silly errors on a math page, or get frustrated and angry that they don’t seem to be trying or just can’t get the point I’m trying (too hard) to make.
Because I have all day with my children, I have lots of opportunities – both to build our relationship or to tear it down. When I take the time to study my children over the days and weeks, I learn their particular strengths and weaknesses and can use every hour of the day to come alongside them.
The opportunities grow the more time I get to spend with my children! But when I get weary that they are always there (and maybe less-than-grateful for the work I do), and when I wish they weren’t so much work – that is my cue to remember that I’m not doing this for me, I do it for them. I have chosen to give them my time and energy so that they will know that I love them and that they can learn of Jesus’ forgiveness.