A man who lives without honor will not gain from education.
FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES Hebrews 12:6 (NASB)
Discipline Is a Good Thing
Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest. When we educate our children at home, we have to overcome a scientific law just to get going each day!
It’s normal to feel mentally and emotionally spent after a session with our children. Besides the natural inertia that we have to overcome, we are fighting a spiritual battle each day for our families.
So you, dear parent, will be tired and often discouraged, because you are in a marathon. The finish line is in your heart but not in your line of sight. Every day you are fighting the good fight. Many days are just hard. But you’ve moved a bit forward every day.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. -Hebrews 12:5b-11
It worked for us to begin each day at about the same time. The length of the study day varied widely, depending on such factors as the difficulty of the assignments, any extra projects, the age of the children, and our own will to concentrate. This time frame protected us from outside demands on our time and gave us a sense of structure. A routine gave us a sense of peace, order, and security. After a hectic weekend, we often looked forward to the peace and quiet of Monday morning.
A man who lives without honor will not gain by education.
It’s Okay to Breathe
The beauty of a home education is in its flexibility. Some days God had plans for us that differed from those I had made. There were days that an illness, death, unplanned visitor, or impromptu field trip invaded upon my neat lessons plans (yes, I made lesson plans) for the day. Then I tried to take a deep breath and flow with God’s plans. After all, this was a good way for my children to get a taste of real life uninsulated by the artificial culture of an institutional atmosphere.
Here, again, were the opportunities for learning as our children watched us interact with others and respond to life’s pressures and demands.
Please have fun.
We loved to occasionally surprise our children with time off for a special family field trip. And yes, we even took days off just to relax at home. It usually didn’t take long to recover lost ground. I just tried to not make it a habit to let trivial distractions consume our days. It took determination to keep going every day, year after year, and to keep moving toward our goals.
Daily experiences are wonderful teaching resources. Often the best lessons emerge from odd moments or spontaneous conversations. A lunchtime discussion of the news or the discovery of a bird’s nest during a morning walk can provide happy memories and direct our attitudes in a life-changing way.
This happened to me.
The Walk that Changed a Life
As a teenager, I was already an avowed evolutionist, well-trained by my public school teacher to scorn as backward anyone who believed in special creation by God. But one beautiful day, my beloved Irish grandmother came to visit us. She and I took a walk in the sunshine, just basking in the joy of each other’s company and conversing in the natural way that sometimes only grandparents and grandchildren can.
That day, we fell into the subject of evolution as we walked. I defended it with youthful egotism; she opposed it gently. At that moment we happened upon a bird’s nest perched in the branches of a dwarf fruit tree, lying low enough for our inspection. Our movement disturbed the young birds, and in unison they raised up their fuzzy heads and opened their wide red mouths for breakfast.
As Grandma Jean and I chuckled over our discovery, she suddenly and urgently cradled the rough nest in her hands, looked at me tenderly, and softly asked, “Now, Pam, can you look at this and tell me there is no God?”
I was cut to the quick. This was no scientific debate, no angry exchange of facts and theories. It was nothing less than the Spirit of God, using a little mousy-haired woman to draw my heart to Him.
To this day, I can’t explain why her simple statement touched me so deeply. I can only say that when I looked at the nest and those little birds inside it, I knew without a doubt that I was wrong. Only much later would I read the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans and learn that creation itself testifies to the reality and nature of the Creator.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. -Romans 1:20
It was not many years later that Grandma Jean died. But that one day sent me on a journey to find her God and to know Him as she did. It also taught me to never underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit in the simple things we do with our children.
It’s okay to breathe, take a walk, and let God lead your path through parenting.
A certain disservice has been done to parents by some who have portrayed home education as a kind of perpetual wonderland. We are given the impression that if our children are not always having fun, it’s because we are two structured, stiff, and formal. While this could be true at times, and certainly there should be time for fun and pure adventure, parents should be prepared for many routine and tedious days. This in itself is not inherently evil. Children need to gradually learn how to stay with a routine job and see it through.
For you, this will take much time, effort, and creativity. It will also require your decision to sacrifice other interests for this goal. Why not let someone else chair the church committee? For our own good, it will be better if we don’t take on too many outside responsibilities during this season.
Commit yourself to doing one thing well.
It’s hard to put our own ambitions aside for the long season it takes to raise a child. Society has told us that we’re not fulfilled unless we work and serve outside the home. But it’s for the welfare of the entire family if we resist the urge to get involved in too much stuff. If we commit ourselves to doing one thing well, we won’t feel so scattered or have torn loyalties.
Throughout the ages, those who have made great achievements in sports, the sciences, music, and other fields have done so by the single-hearted concentration to their goals. Think of the goals you want for your children. Understand the commitment that will take, and be prepared to pay the cost.
When I was homeschooling, that meant that within a certain time each day, I dedicated my energies to my children. Without apologies. People eventually learned that I wasn’t generally available to chat on the phone, babysit, or run a church ministry outside the home during those hours. While it’s healthy to include a broader community in your homeschooling and have time for your own emotional health, trying to “do it all” will do you in. Set your eyes on the prize, commit yourself to the race, and put on spiritual blinders to keep you from getting distracted.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare for the distance.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. -1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NASB)
A man who lives without honor will not gain by education.
Yes, Virginia, there will be difficult days.
It’s a tough to find the right balance of work and fun in homeschooling, but it’s important to have both. Children feel honored and cherished when a grown-up takes real time with them, especially when that time is divided between work and play. Play more with the younger ones; slowly add work as they mature from level to level. But always insist on respectful attitudes toward you and each other.
If the child has never been outside the home for schooling, there may be fewer adjustments for both parent and child. But difficult days must be expected. They will come. Learning involves discipline, and our natures hate the pain of training.
The twin ideas of discipline and learning are so intertwined that the New Testament word for disciple actually means “learner.” The Greek word for discipline is suphronismos, which comes from the root suphron, meaning “to save the mind.”1.
Young children easily incorporate learning and play. They need much play time in an atmosphere that is free from intimidation and stress. Most discipline for them involves learning to do simple duties around the house and learning how to respect others. They should have plenty of room and time to play. Then increase their work load as their need to be challenged grows. Older children need enough work to stretch them without breaking their spirit.
When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; When I became a man, I did away with childish things. -1 Corinthians 13:11
Society already has too many forty-year-olds who have never learned how to grow up into maturity. Our job as parents is to guide the growing-up process of our children. Living things do not bear fruit until they are mature.
Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 308.
Early homeschool advocates Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore once noted that homeschooling is not for the fainthearted. That, my friend, was an understatement.
It is a demanding job that will test a parent’s strength and patience to the very limits. Probably beyond. Any commitment runs on determination and not on feelings. Most married couples lose that initial first electrical attraction as their love moves to a more mature stage. Many times in marriage a couple has to work hard to keep their relationship vital and alive. That same hard work is needed in developing our relationships with our children and in training them for godliness.
Particularly if a child is older and been in a different schooling atmosphere, a parent may have to deal with some serious attitude problems. It will likely also bring to the surface any relationship issues that already exist in the family. An honest parent will admit so some disturbing attitudes of his/her own to battle. Many days, especially at first, a parent may spend most of the time each day working through personality conflicts. This is exactly what we should be doing. Forget the math quiz. In it’s proper role, rote learning is important, but secondary, to character-building.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
A man who lives without honor will not gain by education. If we have to spend a whole morning working through a bout of sibling rivalry or teaching our children that they can’t manipulate us, the time is well-spent.
It will help if the child learns from the start that the parent won’t allow study time to become a power struggle. The grown-up should be the grown-up in the room. Exert gentle but firm authority. The child has to learn to complete a task, even a distasteful one. This is the only way he will develop respect for others and the patience that the real world is going to demand. We should just make sure that the task isn’t so far beyond his abilities to the point that he becomes frustrated.
If he is still very young and unable to concentrate long enough to complete the work given him, he may not be ready for the intensity of study that the parent is attempting. At this point, a wise parent will back away from pushing him and resort to more informal activities. With practice, it isn’t hard to tell the difference between a child who is a complainer and one who is truly frustrated.