- Son: “I learned that I am responsible for my own success or failure.”
- Daughter #1: “I learned how to organize and prioritize my tasks.”
- Daughter #2: “I learned that education doesn’t happen just when you’re ‘doing school;’ it’s a part of your life.”
- Daughter #3: “I learned that Mom keeps the answers keys in the bottom left drawer of her desk.”
After we all had a good chuckle over that last one, my daughter the clown came up with another answer similar to her brother’s.
My reason for this exercise? I wanted to prove something that I had always suspected: the most important things that children learn while homeschooling are not facts, like the capital of Peru or how to find the area of a triangle. Instead, what they come away with are what I call homeschooling life lessons — skills and attitudes that affect how they live their lives and how they view their worlds.
Life lessons, though, are not taught in one day, several days, or even in the course of a school year.
Teaching: A Lifelong Process
The Hebrew word for “teach” is very similar to the Hebrew word that means “etching on a stone.” Today you may make a mark on a stone and see a small scratch. Tomorrow you mark over the same spot. Day after day you continue this process, and eventually you have a deep engraving that is virtually impossible to erase.
This is the way life lessons are taught — by repetition, over and over and over again, until one day, when your children are grown, you start to see the effect of the “etching” in their lives.
Value the Team
So what does this look like in real life, on a day to day basis? You have to start with your fundamental identity as a family. If you are simply a group of individuals, each looking only for self-fulfillment, you are likely to fail at homeschooling. The successful homeschooling family views itself as a team, where individuals work together to achieve common goals. When one member struggles, all struggle; when one member of the team succeeds, all succeed. Your job as captain is to remind the team of this fundamental truth when the going gets tough.
But Also Value the Individual
Now take stock of each of your “players” — your kids. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? If you’re like me, the weaknesses are not hard to spot: Sally is terrible at math; Johnny has trouble with reading.
What about their strengths, though? These may not be as obvious. But if you look hard enough, you will find some gems. Maybe Sally has a terrific sense of humor. Or Johnny is good with small children. The important thing is to find those strengths, no matter how small, and point them out when you or other family members are tempted to become discouraged or critical.
Let me give you an example of how this played out in a real-life family scenario in my home years ago.
Son: Mom, is she STILL working on her reading? She’s SO slow!
Me: You’re right — your sister is not as good at reading as you are. She does have very creative ideas, though. Maybe if you are patient with her now, she will give you some ideas for that science project you’ve been stuck on.
Homeschooling Teaches Life Lessons
Based on the way I see them interact with one another now, I think my children learned well the life lesson to value and appreciate one another as individuals. And homeschooling played a large part in that. Children in traditional brick-and-mortar schools spend most of their time with a majority of the people who are roughly the same age. How often does that happen in real life?
The reality is that you are preparing your children for a world in which they will be surrounded by people of different ages and abilities with whom they must learn to get along. The homeschooling environment is a laboratory where you can teach your children the important life lessons.
Do you hear the sound of etching? It’s me, once again pointing out that everyone has weaknesses, but everyone also has strengths. As team members, we help each other with our weaknesses and affirm each other in our strengths.
As a homeschooling parent, you will probably have to communicate this to your family members (and to yourself!) on a daily basis, but, one day you will see the fruits of your labors: children who have learned how to appreciate and respect others in their homes, their workplaces, and their communities. What a valuable life lesson and a wonderful benefit of homeschooling!