Life Lessons Learned from Homeschooling

Recently, when my four adult children were all gathered together, I asked them to tell me the most important thing they learned while they were homeschooling:

  • 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

etched stone

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

siblings laughingBased 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.

Scritch, scritch…

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!

One thought on “Life Lessons Learned from Homeschooling

  1. I would have to agree with the read, read, read, read (!!!!) idea. Next, I’d point out that just because steiohmng worked for my kid doesn’t mean it’ll work for yours. We utilize a ton of PBS stuff for kids in the K age range, I think WordWorld is a great place to start. Super Why drives me batty, but some people like it. Starfall.com is also good. We did lots of Between the Lions, too. The earlier shows are the best; it’s like someone stepped in and demanded more edutainment out of the program, and it started to disintegrate into poor parodies of rock concerts. Sigh. We did a trial of Headsprout.com and my daughter loved it. Sadly, they wanted $200 for the program, so we went so further with that one at all! (Eeek!) We started out with the phonics program from K12.com. After that started falling apart, we had our eldest tested, and it turned out that he’s dyslexic. So we started working with Barton Reading. That went only so far and we really started to clash on reading and especially writing. So before I could make him hate the idea of the printed word entirely, I backed off. I let him play a lot of Club Penguin and PopTropica, both of which require reading to be able to advance in the game. He learned early on I wasn’t going to help him with it, and his reading picked up speed fairly quickly even his relatives were saying how much he’s progressed and, gee, what new program had I been working with to get such great advancement? Um how DO you say, I left him alone for once, without sounding callous or negligent? Maybe it was me not being there and pointing out every little mistake. Or maybe it was letting him get a little more maturity before moving forward. I have no idea. But after that he discovered Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes, and I got him the Wimpy Kid book series at the recommendation of a couple of kids from Boy Scouts. He ate those up with no issues. His dad bought him a book light and we allow him to stay up in bed and read. Somehow staying up late and reading is so very much more rewarding and attractive than reading during daylight hours. (???)With his little sister (who is so NOT dyslexic!), I picked up Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She hated it. Despised it. In fact, she can read small words now and I’m not clear if I actually taught her how to do that, or if she simply picked it up along the way. At the moment we’re using Sonlight (warning: it’s a religious program!) don’t know how well it works, as we’ve only been doing it for a week now. It will probably help a lot if you know your kiddo’s learning style. You can look that up online along with tons of suggested approaches geared towards those learning types. It’s not that a kinesthetic kid CAN’T learn from a visual program, but it’s like taking the longest and most difficult path to get there.

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