A good education is something we all want for our children. I believe that full-time homeschooling has been the best choice for my children. But I know many people for whom that is not an option. However, supplemental homeschooling is always an option for parents whose child is in public or private school. I want to explain what supplemental homeschooling is; why it matters; when you should do it; and finally, how to supplement a traditional education with homeschooling.
What is Supplemental Homeschooling?
I’ve been hearing more and more lately about hybrid homeschooling and that’s not supplemental homeschooling. I consider hybrid homeschooling any combination of homeschooling and traditional school during regular school hours. For example, I know people who send their child to a public school on certain days of the week or only in the afternoons. I know homeschoolers who are very happy with this arrangement. But I consider these types of schooling situations to be homeschooling and not traditional school. Supplemental homeschooling means you have your child in a traditional school, public or private, but you want to add to their education when they are not in school.
Why Should You Supplement Your Child’s Education with Homeschooling?
The advantages of homeschooling are clear. Not only can homeschooling produce a superior education with its focus on one-on-one tutoring, but it also builds strong relationships between parent and child. It can strengthen a child’s faith when parents provide an enriching spiritual education. It can strengthen sibling relationships, too. If you are new to the possibility of homeschooling, you’ll want to listen to the episode of The Homeschool Sanity Show called Homeschool Motivation on Demand. In it, I remind homeschoolers of the why of homeschooling.
You may wonder why I’m recommending supplemental homeschooling on a homeschool blog. There are two reasons. First, we all have friends who do not homeschool. Perhaps they can’t afford to give up one income in order to homeschool full-time. Perhaps one or more parents isn’t in favor of full-time homeschooling. Or perhaps one of your friends is just afraid to take the plunge into full-time homeschooling. Whatever the situation, we can suggest supplemental homeschooling and bless both our friends and their children with this amazing lifestyle. However, there is a second reason why supplemental homeschooling is an important topic to address. There may come a time when we send our children to a traditional school. That was the case for me. I did not expect to be sending my oldest son school, but we did. I was thankful that I had these ideas for adding to his traditional education. Even if you homeschool full-time, I think what I have to share will give you ideas for supplementing your child’s education in powerful ways.
When to Supplement a Child’s Education with Homeschooling
The most obvious time for supplemental homeschooling is during school breaks. There are substantial breaks over the Christmas holidays, spring, and summer. Another opportunity for supplemental homeschooling for some students is in the morning before school. Some traditional students have to be at school so early that this may not be an option, but for other families, it would be. Students have time in the afternoon and evenings as well. I was so surprised by how early my son came home from school. In fact, on Wednesdays, he was home very soon after lunch. Those afternoons and evenings are time available for supplemental homeschooling. The next obvious time available for supplemental homeschooling is on weekends. But I know what you’re thinking. Students in traditional school are busy. They tend to have homework and are involved in a number of activities. However, the suggestions that I have should not be overwhelming for a child in traditional school.
How to Supplement with Homeschooling
First, let’s talk about opportunities that would be perfect for longer breaks from school. The most obvious option, which many traditionally schooled kids also take advantage of, is field trips. Homeschoolers love field trips. We tend to take advantage of many of them including those that are a bit off the beaten path. We don’t just go to all the standard institutions of learning like the zoo and the science center, but we find interesting places to take our children to. If you are interested in supplemental homeschooling over a break, I recommend that you look up homeschool field trips in your area. No doubt homeschoolers near you have already put together a list of great field trip opportunities. A second aspect that makes a homeschooling field trip different than one your child might take in a traditional school is the preparation. There are wonderful materials available at some locations’ websites that you can download and work through before you take a trip. But more importantly, you can read a number of books before taking a field trip. In addition to the nonfiction books you would expect, read related fiction. Homeschoolers call such works “living books.” They teach in a more enjoyable and effective way. You can find a list of living books online for just about every topic. If you’re having trouble, request to join a homeschool group on Facebook and ask for tips. I have a safe group that you are welcome to join at HomeschoolScopes.tv. Homeschoolers also have amazing free field trip forms for your child to keep track of what they’ve learned on a field trip. Here’s a link to a free field trip form as well as to the Apologia field trip journal that you might be interested in purchasing.
During breaks from traditional school, you may also want to enroll your child in classes. Now, this is nothing new for traditionally schooled children to do. I’m not talking about the typical camps and after-school classes that kids tend to enroll in. Instead, I suggest using the opportunity to have friends or family members who have a skill in a particular area to teach that skill to your child. This is something that homeschoolers often take advantage of. We asked my father-in-law who was a businessman to share with our homeschool co-op how he got started in business. It was one of my favorite memories of teaching my children. He did such a great job. He passed out fake money to the kids that they had to use to pay their wholesalers for products and materials.
Another option for break time would be to enroll your child in a class that is really of interest to him or her. So instead of a traditional art camp, perhaps there is a class that teaches a particular technique. Homeschool support groups in your area are an excellent place to find information about teachers and classes that aren’t widely advertised.
A final way to supplement traditional schooling during break times is to have your child do a clerkship or internship. This means you would talk to someone who has a skill that your child wants to learn in depth. For example, if you have a child who loves photography and you happen to know a photographer, ask the photographer to spend some time teaching your child on the job. Again, this is something that traditionally schooling parents could do, but may not think of it the way that homeschoolers do. Read about how to teach to your child’s talent.
Aside from large breaks from school, what kind of supplemental homeschooling could you do in the mornings before school? This time of day is perfect for some Bible or character study. Reading a short family devotional, memorizing Scripture, or simply reading the Bible out loud together can enrich your child’s spiritual education. If you’re really short on time, you could have your child listen to an audio Bible or to a sermon online. Character Building for Families, Bible Gateway Audio, and Sermon Audio are some of my favorite resources.
But you’re more likely to have time to supplement your child’s education in the afternoon and evening. Of course, the problem with this time of day is that your child is likely to be tired and to have homework to do. However, this is a great time to supplement your child’s history and language arts education. To enrich your child’s history education, watch historical movies together in the evening. YouTube has an amazing number of short historical videos that you can watch as a family. I created a YouTube playlist of videos that go along with volume I of Mystery of History, a superb evening read aloud in its own right. (Note that some of the videos have been deleted since I created the playlists). That’s a great place to start. If you are interested in full-length movies that teach history, the book Learning with the Movies by Beth Holland is a great resource. You may be able to find these movies for free at the library or on Netflix.
The evenings are also the perfect time to read aloud. Whether you are reading historical biographies or Christian missionary stories like those from YWAM that my family has adored, or you simply choose to read a favorite book aloud, your children will be getting an excellent language arts, history, and even spiritual education in the evening. I created Grammar Galaxy to be a short story-based curriculum that takes just 10 minutes to read. The fun assignments can also be completed in about 10 minutes. If you have an elementary student who does not like to read or who struggles with language arts in school, Grammar Galaxy is a great solution that is perfectly suited to use in the evenings. Download a free lesson to try tonight.
The weekends are the perfect time to supplement your child’s education with science. Kids in traditional school want to spend time with their parents, even if they act like they don’t. Working on a chemistry experiment or robotics project together will be one of your child’s favorite memories. Homeschoolers have amazing resources for doing quick and easy science experiments that use materials you most likely have at home. You can also easily turn a weekend walk into an opportunity for science education. I did a podcast with Cindy West of Nature Explorers, talking about how to do that.
The weekends are also a perfect time to enrich your child’s cultural education. If there are plays or symphonies that are appropriate for children in your area, take them to see them. If you want to supplement your child’s experience of these plays or musical performances, you might watch related videos on YouTube or do some reading about the composer or play. If your child wants to see a movie that is based on the book, read the book first. As you’re driving during the weekend, take advantage of excellent audio materials. I reviewed some historical audio dramas on CD that I think your kids would love. You can learn a foreign language, memorize facts a la Classical Conversations, and much more.
Finally, weekends make an excellent time for service activities. Participate in activities through your church, community organization, or create your own. Have your children help you take care of an elderly neighbor’s lawn or stock shelves at a food pantry. These experiences not only build character but can be added to an older student’s resume leading to a potential scholarship.
What are you waiting for?
Supplemental homeschooling can make a huge difference in a child’s life and can strengthen family bonds as well. Please share this post on supplemental homeschooling with your traditionally schooling friends and keep this information available in the event that you send your child to school. Add some of these ideas to what you’re already doing if you homeschool full-time and you’ll be blessed.
Which of these ideas will you use first? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
If you are looking for quick and easy ways to bring more fine arts into your homeschool, you will love Enrichment Studies! This brainchild of a veteran homeschool mom includes resources where all the legwork has been done for you to enjoy quick and easy Composer Studies, Artist Studies, Poet Studies, and much more. They also offer a super easy and fun approach to art appreciation, called Fine Art Pages.
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What is the number one question I am asked by homeschoolers? You may think that it has something to do with socialization because that’s what non-homeschoolers love to ask us about. You may think it has something to do with mental health because I’m a psychologist. But you would be wrong.
To tell you the #1 question, I want to tell you a story about one of my dear homeschooling friends. She had just begun homeschooling when I met her and she was very discouraged. She told me she had spent hours preparing a lesson plan for her kids. Her daughter was doing just fine. Her son, the eldest, however, was not. I’m paraphrasing, but she said,
“I have a plan. but my son isn’t going along with my plan.”
I laughed really hard, but not because I didn’t feel for her. In fact, I had been there myself. So many homeschool moms get discouraged when their child isn’t cooperative, enthusiastic, or diligent when it comes to homeschooling. In fact, many moms tell me they are considering putting their kids in school because one or more of their kids isn’t loving school.
What did I tell my friend? What do I tell homeschool moms who have a similar question about reluctant students? There are two issues I address: One is personality and the other is parenting.
The Strong-Willed Personality
Let’s start with personality. What many homeschoolers don’t consider is the strong will that is required to homeschool. Even in today’s mainstream homeschooling culture, the choice to homeschool often requires a strong will. Preferences of extended family members may have to be rejected in order to homeschool. You are probably making an education choice that differs from your friends. The choice to stand alone and take your own path requires a strong will. Thus, we should not be surprised when one or more strong-willed parents has a son or daughter who is also strong willed. But what do I mean by the term ‘strong will’? These are individuals who are confident, ambitious, and determined to go their own way. They are often passionate about what they believe in. A wonderful example of a strong-willed person from the Bible is the apostle Paul. Strong-willed individuals usually believe they are right. Paul confronted Peter, certain that he was right about a doctrinal issue and Peter was wrong. Your strong-willed students will be happy to tell you why they are right about a homeschool or family issue. If we are strong willed ourselves, we may have high hopes (like my friend) that all our children will gleefully follow our plan. After all, we know we are right too, don’t we? Working with strong-willed children can be challenging and exhausting. But the truth is, our strong-willed children are leaders of the future. Once they have grasped the gospel and made a commitment to Jesus Christ, very little will dissuade them.
If you are dealing with a strong-willed child, you may be irritated by seeing traits that you yourself possess or that your spouse possesses. Work on seeing your child’s strong will as a blessing from God that He can use for His purposes. The Bible says that our children will make us proud when they face their enemies. Then, recognize how to work with a strong-willed personality. The temptation is to try to out will the strong-willed child. This is a recipe for disaster. A strong-willed child often needs to be reasoned with. “Because I said so” may gain your child’s obedience, but it will not gain your child’s heart. Explain your reasons for choosing a particular curriculum, a particular activity, or having a particular rule. If, as you are explaining, you realize that your argument is weak, say so and your strong-willed child’s respect for you will grow greatly.
The second approach to use with a strong-willed child is to give him or her control. This does not mean that we allow our child to dictate and it certainly doesn’t mean that we allow our child to be disrespectful. But we must give a strong-willed child as much latitude in decision-making for their lives as possible. For example, you may prefer that your child does math at precisely 10 AM. A better approach with a strong-willed child is to give him or her a list of chores and subjects to complete for the day. This allows your child to determine the best time to complete the work. Some of your children would much prefer to get up early and finish math ahead of time. Others will choose to complete it at the very last minute. The common thread is that your strong-willed child is in control. The older the child, you might give them a weekly to-do list, a monthly to do list, or even a quarterly to-do list.
When it comes to family rules, a strong-willed child wants to know that you respect him. Part of that respect means that you do not assume the worst choices on their part. Give your child responsibility and independence until such time as this child disappoints you. Even when mistakes are made, be careful to give your strong-willed child another opportunity.
Parenting the Strong-Willed Child
This leads me to the second part of my answer to parents who have a child who isn’t rubber-stamping their homeschool plans. That is parenting. More and more often I speak with parents who choose a passive parenting style or child-led home. I see kids telling their parents no, whining with good results, and even kicking them! You might think that my argument against passive parenting is at odds with what I just said about strong-willed children. But it does not. Imagine if you were a brand-new medical resident. You walked into the operating room for the first time and stood next to the surgeon who was supervising you. You asked the surgeon quite a number of times if you could participate in the surgery. You just wanted to hold the scalpel. You just wanted to make a cut or two. Imagine the surgeon growing weary of your requests and handing you the scalpel. Imagine he leaves the room, telling you that you would be doing the surgery alone. This is much like what happens in many homes today. Children ask for things that they simply aren’t prepared for or things that aren’t good for them. After much nagging, parents give in and abdicate their parental role. Like a new medical resident holding a scalpel, our children are terrified when this happens. These children will act out in more and more outrageous ways in an effort to get the parents to behave like parents. It’s as though they’re asking, “What do I have to do to get you to give me some boundaries?”
Children need boundaries and they require discipline in order to feel loved. The Bible says that he who loves his child is careful to discipline him. Children are very sensitive to the fact that if their parent does not discipline, they do not love him. I have talked with teens personally and professionally who have said this word-for-word. Does discipline have to be physical? Absolutely not. Does discipline have to be harsh? Absolutely not. But there must be consequences for misbehavior.
Let’s talk about what this means with respect to homeschool. Let’s say you have a strong-willed child who consistently says she doesn’t want to do school. Perhaps you have gotten worn down by this behavior. You imagined that your children would love homeschooling. You just knew that that fun curriculum you bought, the new class, or the computer program you bought would do the trick. Your children would stop complaining about school and they would bounce out of bed every morning, ready to take on learning. When that doesn’t happen you begin to get discouraged and also to question yourself. You wonder what is wrong with you and consider that you just aren’t cut out for homeschooling. The real issue is this. It is normal for children to push boundaries. This is what children do.
I have an adorable dog. She is a Coton de Tulare and she is so much fun to have around. She has a great life. However, given an open gate or front door, our sweet dog will escape every single time. This behavior does not mean that she does not love our family. It does not mean that we are doing something wrong in caring for her. It means she’s a dog and she is going to always seek more freedom. I can stretch this analogy even further by telling you that she is constantly challenging the rules that we have for her as well. If your children are challenging you, complaining, or otherwise resisting your homeschooling and parenting efforts, congratulations! You have normal kids. The question then becomes not what’s wrong with your children but what is your response?
There are two foolish choices to make when kids are challenging us. The first is to be passive. I could just surrender and allow my dog to run loose every time she gets out. The result will certainly be her death as she is not wise to the ways of cars. In a very real way, when we stop enforcing rules with our kids, the consequence will be death. I know examples of people who did not have any discipline and become either actively or passively suicidal. Passive parenting is dangerous. Your children can complain and they can question you, but they cannot be allowed to take over the surgery. Children must complete chores. Children must get an education. If your child doesn’t like a curriculum or a class, this does not mean that you cannot require them to complete it. You are well within your rights to do so. If you send your children to school, do you believe that your children can opt out of assignments or classes they don’t like? There will be consequences for those decisions in school. Good, healthy parenting simply means that we provide consequences for choices. Consequences are not only negative. Consequences are also positive. If your child finishes work early, she can have more free time. That’s a positive consequence. A negative consequence is not having free time if work is completed late.
A lie many passive parents believe is that there is simply nothing they can do to enforce their rules. Young children who are living in your home, eating your food, and requiring your transportation have no power to run your home unless you give it to them. I am absolutely not suggesting that passive parents switch gears and move to the opposite end of the parenting spectrum.
Let’s talk about that opposite end of the spectrum now. That is the authoritarian parenting approach. Many strong-willed parents use an authoritarian approach with strong-willed children. This approach is unlikely to go well. The authoritarian parent will often point to a passive child who complies with all of her demands as evidence that the strong-willed child ought to be doing likewise. The real danger is the parent can begin to think of the strong-willed child as evil or unlovable. They wonder if there is something characterologically wrong with the child. The child knows that this is the parent’s perspective and it’s devastating.
Authoritarian parenting is rules first, relationship last. Authoritarian parenting is like passive parenting in that both approaches are focused on the parent. The passive parent is focused on her own time, energy, and self-esteem and just gives up so as not to have to feel tired and discouraged anymore. The authoritarian parent is also focused on self. Compliance of the child makes the authoritarian parent feel good about herself and more powerful, something which is very important to her. But self-focused parenting, parenting that is not focused on love for the child first, is likely to breed anger, depression, and more conflict. The authoritarian parent is often overly concerned about what other parents think of their child. Fear that their child will not make them look good drives authoritarian parents to use ever greater punishments for what is perceived lack of compliance. Oftentimes what would have been dealt with using a reasonable consequence becomes a child acting out even more because of anger over the unjust consequence that was given.
How Would I Answer Your Question?
Do you wonder if I really say all this when parents ask me about their child’s behavior in homeschooling? No, I don’t. Instead, I ask questions about what is happening. I say things like, “I wonder if you…” and then suggest an alternate approach. I do believe there is hope for parents whose children refuse to rubberstamp their homeschooling plan. I believe that it begins with prayer. Even with people I know personally, I’m not in their home every day observing their behavior. I don’t know exactly what’s happening. That’s certainly true with you. I don’t know what the root of your problem is. Your child may have a physical, emotional, or educational challenge that complicates matters. Because I don’t know all of the details and the day to day, I have to send you to the best counselor I know. His name is Jesus. He doesn’t charge any fees but He does insist on complete honesty. He wants to lay bare your heart and show you where there has been fear and anger. But he doesn’t want to know this to shame you or to discourage you. Instead, he wants to show you a new way of relating to your child. Jesus modeled for us how to teach. And if you think your student is bad, read about His students! Ask God to show you how to relate to your child differently. Ask Him to show you if you have a strong will or if you’re relating to your child’s strong will as though it is a parent’s or spouse’s.
Ask Him to show you if you’re a passive parent. If you handed your child the scalpel and walked out of the operating room, confess it. Commit to being an authoritative parent–one who is firm but loving and flexible. Never allow your child to tell you that they will not do something. Never allow your child to disrespect you. You may wonder how your child can express themselves without being disrespectful. One of the best techniques I read about early on in my parenting is something called the wise appeal. If I tell my child that I want them to clean the bathroom and they are playing a game at the time, my child can say, “Mom, I know you want me to clean the bathroom, but would it be okay if I finished my game first?” The wise appeal acknowledges and respects the request that the parent has made but allows the child to make a respectful argument about when to comply with that request. If your children are not used to the wise appeal, you will have to remind them many times. This is child training. If your child says, “I don’t want to do math” or otherwise whines and complains, remind them to use the wise appeal. You may have to give them an example of what to say.
In the same way, ask the Lord if you have been an authoritarian parent. Consider how you have viewed God. So often authoritarian parents believe that we have an authoritarian God. In this view, God is much more concerned about performance than He is about our relationship with Him. This just isn’t the case. You may need time to heal your own hurts from childhood or your experience with your church in order to feel that you can be more grace-based as a parent. If you have been an authoritarian parent you may want to ask for your children’s forgiveness. Admit that you have been too concerned about appearances. That you wanted to look like the amazing homeschooler whose children jumped at their every command. This will be especially powerful for your strong-willed child to hear. Take time to listen to your child without interrupting if you have been guilty of authoritarian parenting. You may want to detox your home by doing some child-led learning for a time. You will get to know the heart of your child and isn’t that the greatest blessing of homeschooling?
There is so much more that I could say on this topic but I will end by saying that I believe there is hope for you, your child, and your homeschool. Sending your child to school will not change these issues. Humbly and prayerfully parenting your strong-willed child can.
Are you homeschooling a strong-willed child? Let’s talk about it on Facebook
If your student is struggling, the solution may be in finding the right story to tell.
The Power of Story
Storytelling is the first and most powerful way of teaching. The ancient Greeks taught with stories. Jesus taught with stories. Marketers today teach with stories.
Stories arrest our attention when a speaker finally looks up from the script and gets personal. Stories inspire change in people and even whole cultures. Stories are memorable.
Some of the world’s greatest leaders were inspired by the biographical stories of men and women who went before them. Abraham Lincoln read George Washington’s biography. Uncle Tom’s Cabin inspired abolition of slavery. Stories have changed my life.
Years ago, a seminarian told our Bible class the story of a woman he met in South America. She lived in a tin shack near a garbage dump. The shack was filthy and crowded and was in proximity to a river of human waste. The woman had recently come to faith in Christ. But she was also dying. She had excruciating pain in the last stages of pancreatic cancer. The seminarian and his team asked what they could do for her. “Nothing,” she said, “I have Christ. What more do I need?” I was not able to retell this story without weeping for a long time. I have never forgotten it and her faith has never ceased to inspire me in my darkest moments.
My personal stories of wasting my education to homeschool and sending my homeschooled child to public school are two of the most popular posts on this blog. Stories resonate. They also teach.
I read stories from Mathematicians are People Too to inspire my children to learn math. I then successfully used Times Tales stories to teach my children their multiplication facts. Stories are much easier to remember than plain numbers. When I discovered Life of Fred curriculum, I utilized the power of story to teach my children more advanced mathematics.
I used the power of story to teach my children history. Homeschool history curriculum is often written in story format. But I extended the use of story to teach history with historical novels and biographies.
I even used the stories behind musicians and artwork to teach fine arts.
The Power of Story to Teach Language Arts
But one day a few years ago I realized something shocking. I wasn’t using the power of story to teach my children language arts. I certainly read to them. But literature terms, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and composition were divorced from story in our homeschool. We learned parts of speech by dissecting meaningless sentences. Even the rhymes and songs I used to aid memorization told no story. How had that happened? I didn’t know, but I knew the results of it.
When I pulled out our English materials, the children groaned, complained, and begged to skip the subject for the day. English was their least favorite subject. As an avid reader and writer who enjoys every aspect of language arts, this broke my heart. That’s when I had a crazy idea. What if I created my own language arts curriculum using story to teach the concepts? I share the story of not feeling qualified to write curriculum here.
I wanted a curriculum that would harness the power of emotion and not just repetition to aid retention. I noticed that the majority of the same grammar concepts are taught from first grade through twelfth grade! No wonder kids hated it. I wanted to tell funny stories that sometimes used language arts terms as characters. Kids couldn’t forget what a prefix was when Prefix was an evil programmer who introduced the re- virus into the computer system.
I wanted a curriculum that gave kids a powerful why. Textbooks merely defined terms and rules. I wanted to use story to show the results of not having books labeled fiction, of not having pronouns, and of not having adequate handwriting speed.
I wanted a curriculum that used story to make kids feel like participants in something bigger than themselves. I wanted them to see that the kids in the story struggled with reading and writing, too. I wanted them to see that by reading and completing short missions, they could defeat the Gremlin and save the English language.
This is what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t know the end of the story when I started writing Grammar Galaxy. I had no idea how it would be received.
Then I heard the story of a boy who was very unhappy learning language arts prior to receiving Grammar Galaxy. “He’s never hugged curriculum before,” his mom said.
Another mom wrote, “I really can’t say enough or put into adequate words just how much Grammar Galaxy has changed our entire homeschool experience. Other subjects like History, Science, Health, etc. have become so much easier to teach now that their reading ability and comprehension have improved. They actually ask to dress in their vests [that I made them] the minute they see the mission manuals come out and wish they could work in them every day.”
A mom wrote to tell me she had misplaced the storybook and had to buy another because her eldest was begging to do more missions. She said, “Thank you for your help and your program. You’ve made a subject that I hated as a kid into a weekly lesson through which we ALL giggle.”
Finally, a mother told me they started Mission 8 of Volume 1. “Let me tell you, it’s been fun, but my son lost his mind on this lesson! I have NEVER seen him laugh so hard during any lesson, for any subject since we started homeschooling. When the queen told Ellen, “I hate you” with tears in her eyes, he fell off his chair. He actually begged me to read the story to him again! I laughed equally hard at your instructions to try mixing up synonyms and antonyms at dinner (but to let your parents know what you are doing). Our 5-year-old was so offended when he told me dinner was just terrible! LOL You really did it. You truly made grammar fun. I didn’t think it was possible but you obviously deserve some kind of medal! THANK YOU!”
The second volume of Grammar Galaxy, Protostar, is now available and on sale. It is specifically written for third graders or students who have completed Nebula level or its equivalent. I would love to hear your child’s story of success in using it.
I had just met a woman in ministry when I told her that after I finished my Ph.D. in clinical psychology, I wanted to be a Christian psychologist.
“You can’t just be a Christian psychologist,” she said.
I tried to listen to what she said after that about qualifications and training, but I was stuck on that sentence. I was annoyed. How did she know? Why couldn’t I be a Christian psychologist if that’s what I wanted to do? What I felt called to do? At the same time, I was scared. When I entered graduate school, my classmates and I were stunned to learn all the requirements we had to fulfill in order to be practicing psychologists. Maybe this woman was right. I would have another whole list of requirements to meet to be a faith-based counselor.
When I finished my internship and graduated, I applied for a job with a Christian practice. I had to complete a questionnaire about my faith as part of my application. When I was interviewed, I worried that it would become apparent that I didn’t have the qualifications. I had earned my degree in a secular university. My father wasn’t a pastor. My family hadn’t even gone to church most of my life. Maybe he would say, “You can’t just be a Christian psychologist.”
To my surprise, he said nothing of the sort. I was hired and given my own office. Then I was scared again. I had never brought my faith into the counseling room. How would I do that? Fortunately, there were books on Christian counseling that I bought and read. I also had a Christian psychologist supervising me for my first year. But many times I found myself at a loss as to what to say or do with a client. I would say, “Let’s pray!” To my surprise, my clients were pleased with that idea.
Not Qualified to Be a Teacher
I was, in fact, able to just be a Christian psychologist. But that lesson didn’t stick with me. I struggled with it when I was hired to teach developmental psychology at the university. I had a Ph.D., but I had never taught students of any age before, let alone college students. I ordered the recommended textbook, did some of the things my professors had done to teach me, and came up with some of my own ideas. I had a good response from the students, ended up loving it, and my supervisor said he would be glad to hire me again. I quit teaching to have a baby, though, and faced a whole new round of qualification issues. I really didn’t think it was wise for the hospital to let me take the baby home. I hadn’t even done much babysitting!
I muddled my way through parenting the same way I had counseling and teaching. But when God called me to homeschool, I worried that I didn’t have the qualifications for that either. I had taught college students, but I had never taught anyone to read. What if I couldn’t do it? I had never taken an elementary education course. Once again, I managed to do it with reading and wisdom from others. I even began to feel qualified to teach my own children. In more than one discussion with people who asked about homeschooling, I was told that it was fine for me with a Ph.D. Other people, though, weren’t qualified to teach their children. I did what I could to educate them. “There are books, curricula, and support groups to help anyone homeschool,” I would say. And I believed it.
But when it came to me, I still believed that woman who said I couldn’t just be something. I had to be qualified. I had to be trained.
Not Qualified to Be a Homeschool Publisher
When I had the idea for writing my own language arts curriculum, I started off in the true spirit of homeschooling. I just jumped in and learned as I went along. I started writing the curriculum I’d always wanted to have for my kids. But as I came closer to finishing it, I got stuck. I made excuses. I quit working on it. I didn’t feel qualified.
I then had the opportunity to meet with a small group of homeschool publishers. I figured I could at least say that I was a blogger if I chickened out in admitting that I was writing curriculum. I met Charlene Notgrass, whose history curriculum I had used with my children. She was so warm that I decided to tell her what I was working on. I told her the concept behind it — that I would use story to teach language arts concepts and make them funny and memorable.
I expected her to ask me about my experience in writing fiction and curriculum. I expected her to ask me about my experience in homeschool publishing. I expected her to tell me what I needed to do before I ever thought of trying to publish. I expected her to say, “You can’t just be a homeschool publisher.”
How foolish of me. I recently read the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright in another history curriculum my kids have enjoyed, Mystery of History. The Wright brothers were high school dropouts. Apparently, no one told them that they couldn’t just be engineers, or they couldn’t just be inventors. Because that’s exactly what they were.
The heart of homeschooling is that we can just be our children’s teacher. Not only that, but our children can just be whatever God calls them to be. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised when Charlene’s face lit up when I told her about my curriculum. She got her husband’s and others’ attention and told them about it, too. That encouragement gave me the extra confidence I needed to finish Grammar Galaxy. Charlene found me at the homeschool conference where I exhibited it for the first time and hugged me.
Taken the day the books arrived
That was just nine months ago. Since that time, many moms who have used Grammar Galaxy with their kids have told me their kids beg to use it every day. They’ve told me it’s changed their homeschools because now their kids love to read. They tell me they are using it to learn grammar themselves because it was not their strong suit.
I will be launching Volume 2 of Grammar Galaxy, specifically designed for 3rd graders or students who have completed Nebula (for beginning readers), on February 6th. I will offer special pricing on it and on bundles of volumes 1 and 2. Sign up to be reminded of the sale date.
I now believe I can just be a homeschool publisher. I also believe you can just be a home educator. I believe you can raise excellent readers and writers, even if you don’t think you can.
What don’t you believe you can just be? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
Unlike most other careers, homeschooling doesn’t come with built-in assessments for teachers. Some homeschoolers are required to meet with teachers and these meetings may help gauge progress. But many home educators don’t have that requirement. So, how can we assess our progress as homeschool moms?
I’m going to take a different approach than you might expect and use this Scripture as a framework:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
What does it mean to act justly as a homeschool mom? I think it means two things. First, we have to obey the homeschool laws of our state. If we are to provide a certain number of hours of education, a homeschool plan, and work samples – even if we do not have to turn these in to anyone, we ought to be above reproach. If we aren’t homeschooling in such a way that we would be confident having our homeschool evaluated, then we need to change. What grade would you give yourself in the legal requirements of homeschooling? If it’s not an A, what can you do to improve? If you need help, Google how to meet the homeschool requirements of your state or ask a veteran homeschooler in your community. Often, we make the requirements seem insurmountable in our minds when they’re usually not a big deal. If you have everything in order, you’ll feel so much more confident in your homeschooling.
The second thing that acting justly as a homeschool mom encompasses is providing the best education for your child. After a call from God, this is why I started homeschooling. I believed it was the best education I could provide for my children. Are you giving your children the best in terms of:
- A school schedule
- Your teaching approach
- Involvement with others?
We would do well to ask ourselves these questions for each of our children regularly. What grade would you give yourself? How can you improve the grade?
It’s also wise to discuss these issues with our children. My kids often give me excellent feedback and ideas for ways to improve. I’m not talking about complaining, but constructive suggestions. Next, discuss them with your spouse or another family member who is involved in your homeschooling. What suggestions do they have for improvement? Finally, ask other homeschoolers. It’s been so gratifying to see worn-out moms have new inspiration after asking the women in HomeschoolScopes for advice.
God requires us to act justly in our homeschools by abiding by the law and providing the best education we can. He also requires that we love mercy. A short path to discouragement is expecting our children to get everything right and to do so quickly. They should learn everything we give them and love it. Assignments and chores should be completed immediately and perfectly. There should be no conflict with you or with their siblings. Anything short of that means they are failures and so are we.
Good teachers are firm. They do not allow a child to shirk their responsibilities or to behave disrespectfully without consequence. But they are also merciful. They know their children are immature. They know they will make many of the same mistakes they made as children, even though they wish they wouldn’t.
A merciful homeschooler preserves the relationship with her child. I have had very stern teachers in my life. I didn’t like them. I didn’t want to visit them as I grew older. We want our children to know that they are more important than their performance. My oldest son helped me see that I valued his outward behavior more than him as a person. Because I did, we had serious problems in our homeschool. I was failing. When I focused on mercy and love for him as a person, everything changed. I started getting A’s again.
There is a second important aspect to being a merciful homeschooler. That’s the mercy we extend to ourselves. Being compassionate and forgiving of our weaknesses and failings does not mean that we give up and settle for substandard homeschooling. On the contrary, mercy is most likely to help us succeed. If we have the highest standards for ourselves and are harsh in our assessment, we are more likely to quit. I hear from many homeschool moms who say they are failing and have to send their kids to school as a result. Good teachers don’t just say, “You have an F and you’re expelled.” They say, “I believe you can get this grade up and I’m going to help you.”
If you have struggled as a homeschool mom, I believe you can improve. If your home is in chaos, listen to the podcast episodes I did with FLYLady here and here. Comment on this post and tell me where you need help and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. But extend mercy to yourself. His mercies are new every morning and so should ours be.
Walk humbly with your God.
Scripture also tells us that we are to walk humbly with our God. Somehow I went from not wanting to homeschool though God had called me to do it to not wanting to let my child go to school, though I believed God had called me to do that, too. I wasn’t walking humbly with God in my homeschooling.
Are you walking humbly? This means that our homeschooling isn’t about us. It’s not about our kids making us look good. It’s not about proving the naysayers wrong. It’s not about our identity. What grade would you give yourself in this area?
I worried what my blog readers would think if I sent my child to school. I worried about what my friends and family would think if my children didn’t turn out well because it would be a reflection on me. I was getting an F in this area, but I’ve improved a lot.
Are you walking with our God? I read an excellent book called Joining Jesus with our small group Bible study. The book’s point is that sharing the gospel isn’t about memorizing a script or forcing yourself to have a deep theological discussion with someone you’ve just met. It’s about joining Jesus in what He’s already doing in people’s lives. Our homeschooling journey is the same.
God was already at work, preparing my son to go to public school. It was up to me to join Him in that journey. Thankfully, I did and we experienced a number of blessings as a result. You can read more about that here.
We can’t walk humbly with our God unless we are with our God. Our desire, our focus, and our time have to be on Him through prayer and the Word. I know when I’m going through the motions of prayer and Bible reading. You do, too. I’ve had times I was earning a failing grade in this area. It was obvious because I was failing in other areas, too. Getting an A in walking with our God has nothing to do with law. It doesn’t require devotions at a certain time of day, for a certain length of time, or using a certain program. Just as we know when we have our children’s hearts, God knows when He has ours.
If we’ve wandered away, we can confess it and come home to Him. Take a moment right now to pray. Ask Him for forgiveness and a word of blessing and encouragement. He loves you so much, regardless of the grades you’re getting as a homeschool mom. He longs to lift the burdens you’ve been carrying–if only you’d ask. I’m praying for you to have joy in your homeschool journey. With God’s help and provision, you can be a grade-A homeschool mom. On the days when you fail, you have God’s forgiveness, comfort, and encouragement to start again.
Download this progress report and make a plan for improvement now.
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What will you do to raise your grade as a homeschool mom? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.