Even though I hadn’t wanted to homeschool and only did it at what I believed was the Lord’s urging, I found myself wondering why everyone wasn’t doing it. Scratch that. I found myself judging other Christians for not homeschooling.
It was clearly what God meant in Deuteronomy 6:7, wasn’t it? That’s what so many speakers at Christian homeschool conferences said. It was like the 11th commandment. So why wouldn’t loving Christian parents stay home to make sure their children were raised in the faith? Yes, I knew people who sent their kids to Christian schools. But you couldn’t be too sure what teachers would teach, and you certainly couldn’t be sure of the influence the other kids in the school would have.
My husband and I had a community of like-minded homeschooling friends. When we heard stories of Christian kids gone bad, we trusted in the admonitions of Christian homeschool speakers and authors who served as mentors. If we would keep our children out of Sunday school, youth groups, and the dating scene; if we would keep them from summer camps with public school kids; if we would keep them from reading the books, listening to the music, and watching the movies that other kids did, our kids wouldn’t be like those other kids. They would be better.
If we followed the Christian homeschool plan for our families, we could rest easy that our kids would be Christians (many of them pastors and missionaries) who wouldn’t have premarital sex, wouldn’t have a substance abuse problem, wouldn’t end up living in our basements at 30, and wouldn’t reject us. That was the plan, and we felt great about it.
My husband and I frequently talked about families who weren’t following the Christian homeschool plan like we were. Many of them already had problematic children. We shook our heads with a tsk-tsk. They should have homeschooled or homeschooled the right way.
The homeschool plan failed
Our homeschool went smoothly for years. The kids were agreeable to our plans for them. They would complete a college degree while in high school. They would graduate early without debt or the negative influence of college. They would begin dating when they were ready to marry. Our kids would homeschool their kids.
And then my oldest, a smart, strong-willed child, entered puberty.
I don’t have to tell you what happened next, because you won’t be surprised. Yes, he rebelled against everything. Everything. He wanted to go to college far from home and visit us once or twice a year. He wasn’t sure about the Bible and he didn’t agree with our politics. He wanted a girlfriend in junior high. He became defiant and disobeyed us frequently.
Another homeschooling mom we had just become acquainted with talked to me about his behavior. Underlying every word she said was her judgment:
“You’re not homeschooling the right way.”
I was devastated. I didn’t see the irony at the time, nor did I recognize the truth: I wasn’t homeschooling the right way.
Through many tears, we and our son realized that we were terrified and were acting out of those fears. We were afraid our son would reject the faith, our family, and everything we believed in. He was afraid that if he didn’t see things our way that we would stop loving him.
By the time our oldest asked to go to school, he had become less oppositional. We knew that this was God’s calling for him, and we agreed to it.
But the damage had been done. Here’s what I mean: our oldest son had made our legalism clear. We cared more about our homeschool plan and looking good as parents than we did about him, than we did about our other children, than we did about Jesus. Our son’s period of acting out (which he later related to hormones) tore down our idol of homeschooling. We are so grateful.
What homeschooling without legalism looks like
The first change I noticed when we left homeschool legalism was far less judgment of others. We stopped talking about how this or that family was allowing a teenager to date. We prayed more compassionately for those whose children were struggling. We gave advice less and listened more.
The second change I noticed was far less judgment of ourselves. A legalistic homeschool is very tough to maintain. Everyone has to do good and look good because when they don’t, the parents (as the homeschool leaders) are to blame. Bad behavior led to fear which led to anger. We started taking ourselves less seriously.
The third change I noticed was a shift in responsibility. We had felt entirely responsible for how our kids “turned out.” We came to recognize that we took ownership of responsibilities that were rightly God’s and our children’s. Ultimately, we realized that we couldn’t homeschool our kids into the faith and godly living.
Is Leaving Legalism for you?
What’s funny is that at one time I would have believed it was my responsibility to help you leave legalism. I now know that if God is calling you out of legalism, He is far more effective at that than I could ever be. If the Lord brought you to this page, I do want to suggest that you read the book Leaving Legalism by Kendra Fletcher.
Like me, Kendra is a homeschooling mom who fell for the trap of legalism. She calls legalism “hope shifting.” I love that. When we shift our hope from the finished work of Jesus in our lives and our children’s lives, we are destined to wander in the homeschool desert.
It’s so disappointing, but there aren’t six steps for leaving legalism. 🙂 Instead, like the Underground Railroad, there is a Conductor Who will lead us out of it. I pray you will follow Him.
If our son hadn’t made our homeschool legalism clear, I hate to think what the results would have been for our family. We still love homeschooling but not more than we love our kids and our Lord. Have you ever fallen prey to homeschool legalism? Tell me in the comments.
I didn’t think I needed strategies for homeschooling giftedness. I thought I should just be celebrating that my child loved to read and was so quick to learn. But my lack of understanding of my children’s gifts did them a disservice. I learned where I went wrong when I was asked to present on homeschooling gifted kids for my local homeschool conference. I’ve learned three things about homeschooling a child’s gift that can allow our children to flourish.
From watching movies and television, my idea of a gifted kid was a six-year-old college student or a Doogie Howser doctor. I knew for sure I didn’t have one of those, and furthermore, I had no idea how to teach a kid like that.
In reading about giftedness, however, I learned that what is typically portrayed in the media is profound giftedness. Spelling bee winners and childhood Rhodes scholars are not the epitome of giftedness. Instead, kids who are advanced in a subject or activity, kids who are fascinated by and have a voracious appetite for a subject, and kids for whom some endeavor comes easily and joyfully are likely gifted. Gifted kids may not meet the IQ criteria (which varies by source, by the way), but have a gift or talent nonetheless.
And speaking of giftedness, you may not want to give your kids the label. When I mentioned my son’s giftedness to a relative, I was immediately chastised as though it had to be kept hush-hush. I shouldn’t upset people by bragging or causing them to compare. I should pretend like he was no different than any other child.
But the truth is I see giftedness in every child. My adult autistic nephew can outbowl me any day of the week. He has bowled 300 games, something I’ve never achieved and likely never will. My brother has several learning disabilities but has always been able to put things together just by looking at the parts. I have to read the directions over and over again and still get it wrong.
I once thought I had just one gifted child but now see gifts for writing, foreign language, music, leadership, faith, interpersonal skills, humor, sports, and more. I also began to see the giftedness in the kids in my co-op. A student who struggled with writing was an inspiring speaker. A student whose grammar wasn’t perfect possessed creativity in writing that was astounding. A student who slowly and methodically approached an engineering problem solved it well before the other students.
I also began to embrace my own giftedness. Because of painful school experiences, I insisted I was no different than anyone else. I wanted friends more than I wanted to be smart. But in preparing for that talk on giftedness, I recognized myself in the description of gifted people. God has given me a gift for writing and speaking–gifts to be used for His glory. When we deny our gifts, we can’t develop them or share them. Accepting our gifts makes us better teachers for our own and others’ gifted kids.
Emphasize strengths while working on weaknesses.
I heard Joyce Herzog say that our kids will not be employed in their area of weakness, yet we tend to focus our efforts in that area. The greatest geniuses and leaders in history had weaknesses. Had the lion’s share of their time been spent on improving their weaknesses, the world likely would have been deprived of these gifted people’s inventions, knowledge, or leadership.
We do not have to have a balanced curriculum for a gifted child. If your child loves to read, let her read. Don’t insist that she be as masterful with math as with language arts. If you have an introverted child with a coding gift, don’t schedule all his time in social activities or sports. Do we want to help our children become competent in areas of weakness? Most certainly! But we can accept average in areas we know are unlikely to be an important part of our kids’ future.
A graduate student in English told me that her English and reading scores on the ACT had put her in the top 1% of all test takers, but her math score was well below average, even though she had done well in class. The university created a custom scholarship for her. She will not be taking math tests to succeed in her language arts career.
My husband is one of the most skilled salesmen and social people I know. His college GPA wasn’t stellar, but during his college years he sold gym memberships. His parents could have insisted he quit his job and focus on getting better grades. They didn’t and his first employer was most impressed with his sales experience. He has had the same lucrative career selling library books since college.
Spend your homeschool time maximizing your child’s gift. That is one of the greatest blessings of homeschooling. We can provide a tailor-made curriculum to grow our child’s gift instead of going with a one-size-fits-all curriculum. My friend’s son took a EMT course while in high school because he wants to be a doctor. My son worked 20 hours a week in management during high school because leadership is his gift. Jonathan Harris’s son developed his own drone photoraphy business.
Challenge your child.
When I spoke to parents of gifed kids, the most common question I received was “How can I challenge my child?” These parents understand that just giving a child the next grade level of curriculum isn’t the best practice.
resources for kids who are weak in an area or twice-exceptional
Sometimes we need a new approach to homeschooling our gifted child. Perhaps we are using textbooks or an online learning platform when we have a child who needs to do, to research, and even to teach in order to learn best. There are incredible options available to us now that can save us time. Sometimes we just need to tweak the curriculum we already have. We may be teaching kids together with various gifts and we need to find a way to save time and our sanity. Homeschooling Gifted Kids has you covered.
When we have a twice-exceptional child or just a child who is weaker in a subject, we need to know which options are best. That’s another reason I love Homeschooling Gifted Kids. It’s a fantastic resource for getting the challenging subjects in as well as for finding ways to stretch your child in her area of strength.
If you have a child who is profoundly gifted, there is even a section of the book on college. Cindy doesn’t tell you what to do but gives you important questions to consider in that case.
When you rethink what giftedness is, allow your child to focus on an area of strength, and challenge your child, your child will flourish as a homeschooler. Homeschooling is a fantastic option for teaching a gifted student. With these tips and a copy of Homeschooling Gifted Kids, you can feel confident as your gifted child’s teacher.
When we struggle in our homeschooling, it’s easy to look for answers in a book, online, or from friends. The answer is usually as close as a prayer.
Here’s how to pray powerfully over our homeschools. Of course we can pray using any words. We can pray from our hearts. We don’t need a formula. However, sometimes we don’t have the words. I am using the Lord’s prayer as a model for praying over our homeschools because we have it memorized. I’m including commentary on the prayer to help us think in alignment with God about our homeschooling. Please join me in praying over your homeschool right now.
Our Father, who art in heaven.
Some of us didn’t have loving, supportive fathers. Some of us still may not have a father who is supporting us in our homeschooling or providing loving, godly leadership for our kids.
Some of us may not have believing husbands or husbands who are our partners in home education. We may feel all alone in our work and exhausted.
Some of us may lack homeschooling friends, who know the challenges of the homeschooling lifestyle. We may not have anyone to co-op with, do play dates with, or just chat with on a regular basis.
But each of us has a Father in heaven who is far more of an encouragement and help than any earthly father, husband, or friend could ever be. He is our father, our husband, and our friend.
Hallowed be thy name.
We often forget what holy means, which is a synonym of hallowed. Holiness means that our God is not only sinless but so awesome that in His presence we would fall to our faces. We may never have been in the presence of anything that evokes that kind of awe. I know I haven’t.
God’s power and holiness aren’t just awe-inspiring though. They are available to us in our homeschooling. Every single trial and difficulty and weakness we have is tiny in comparison to the power of God. Our God is ever present with us in our homeschools. But when we pray, we experience him fully.
His kingdom is characterized by the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control — all things we desperately need in our homeschools. We often think about the future kingdom at his second coming, but his kingdom can be present in our homeschools today when we pray.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We are often confused about what to do with a child who struggles academically or behaviorally. When we pray, we can be confident that God’s will will be done in our homeschools. Of course, God’s will is always done in our lives. But we worried homeschooling moms need reassurance. We can relax knowing that God is arranging our circumstances to ensure that His will is done in our homeschool and in our lives.
Jesus is the bread of life bread and represents everything we need for life. In 2 Peter 1:3, God promises us that we already have everything we need for life and godliness. If we have more month than money, if we have need of medical care to diagnose and treat a troubling condition, or if we need friends in our homeschooling journey, we can be confident that God will give us this bread. We can go about our day joyfully, knowing that our Father in heaven cares about us and our every need.
And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
We have an opportunity every day to forgive our children for their shortcomings, their immaturity, and their foolishness just as God forgives ours. In the process of asking for forgiveness, we model for our children how they should parent our future grandchildren. We model the humility that God can use to lead others to Christ.
And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.
Unlike every false God, our Father does not tempt us with things that will harm us. He does not tempt us to spend too much time online, too much money, or too much emotion on small matters. Instead, our God makes a way out from temptation. When we are ready to yell at our child for fighting with his brother once again, when we feel tempted to pull into the fast food drive-through, though we’ve already visited twice this week, or when we feel like skipping math because it makes us anxious, we can call on our God for the grace to do what we know is the right thing and He will provide it.
Although it’s easy for us to become preoccupied with avoiding evil and protecting our children from it in the form of media and peers, we can know that our God will deliver us from evil. Why?
For thine is the kingdom and the power
The power for homeschool parents to lead lives worthy of our calling does not come from us but from Him. We have only to ask for it and believe that we have it.
And the glory
We remember that the glory for smart, polite, talented children belongs to Him alone. We pray that we would ever remember how weak we are and how great He is.
Forever and ever.
The math, literature, and chore lessons will not last forever. But the discipleship will. We are raising up missionaries who will share the Gospel with others, no matter what their chosen vocation. In homeschooling we are laying up treasure in heaven. When we homeschool in faith, we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
We believe what we just prayed and we ask the Lord to help our unbelief as we continue to pray. Consider praying the Lord’s prayer with your children and talk with them about how the prayer applies to our homeschools. These are powerful words that grow our faith.
My thanks to our sponsor KiwiCo for supporting The Homeschool Sanity Show. Remember to go to: http://kiwico.com/homeschool to register for your kit by paying shipping only. If you would like to read a copy of my commentary on the Lord’s prayer, go to homeschoolsanity.com/Lordsprayer for the link. If you know a homeschooling friend who could use some encouragement, share this episode with her.
Do you regularly find yourself at the end of the school day with nothing to show for it? Do you feel like you aren’t getting anything done? If that’s you, you’re in good company. I regularly hear from homeschoolers just like you and I can’t wait to share the solution I give them.
Before I tell you why you aren’t getting anything done in your homeschool, I want you to know that I’ve been there. I started homeschooling my oldest child for preschool. Yes, I had a toddler and a baby at the time, but I could not understand why I wasn’t getting to the preschool curriculum I looked forward to teaching. My laundry piled up, my house was a wreck, and I had no idea what was for dinner. My husband was frustrated and so was I. That’s when I knew that I couldn’t homeschool my kids. If I wasn’t going to be able to teach them the important subjects beyond preschool, I did not want to risk being arrested for educational neglect. I also knew I could not have any more children and that made me sad. But I obviously couldn’t handle any more than I already had.
I hope you understand from my story that I can relate to you if you feel like your children are behind, the house is cluttered, and you feel like a failure. When we are in this place, we tend to think that there is something fundamentally wrong with us, our kids, or even with homeschooling. Please hear me when I say there is not. Instead, there are three main reasons we become stuck in chaos. Fortunately, the fix is simple.
Three Reasons We Aren’t Getting Anything Done in Our Homeschools
Reason #1: We believe we can get things done.
The first reason we aren’t getting anything done is because we believe we can. What a crazy statement, right? You may think I’ve finally lost it because you know I have said before that you can do this. Allow me to explain.
When we believe we can overcome the chaos, we raise our expectations. Tomorrow will be different, we tell ourselves. We’re going to have a plan and our family will follow it. We will be the patient, loving mother of our homeschool dreams. We typically don’t give our families the memo that tomorrow is going to be a miraculously awesome day. And as a result, they don’t cooperate. They whine and cry and fight you over everything you have planned. And don’t forget the interruptions. The diaper blowout, the dog escaping from the yard, and the dishwasher that starts leaking.
If we believe we can overcome the chaos, we’re going to be disappointed. We’re going to blow our top. We’re going to decide that we were right in the first place and conclude that we can’t do this homeschooling stuff.
Another reason we ought not to believe that we can get things accomplished in our homeschools is because we’re going to be exhausted. Even though I wasn’t getting anything done when I began homeschooling, I was tired. I was worn out. And the thought of staying up later, working harder, and giving it more of an effort exhausted me. The harder I tried, the harder I fell. If you believe you can do this on your own, there is one benefit to this approach. You’ll come to the true solution faster. So if I haven’t convinced you that you can’t conquer the chaos, go right ahead and give it your best shot. Just remember to come back and listen to this podcast again. I know of what I speak. I am a self-made homeschooler. I want to do it all my way without help, thank you very much. But I can’t do it. I honestly can’t.
If you want to get things done in your homeschool, if you want to spend time with your preschooler, teach your first-grader to read, and help your third-grader master long division, you’re going to have to admit that you can’t. You’re not capable. Instead if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have to believe that God is your help. God can change you. Believe that He can empower you to do all the things that count.
This is the point in most articles like this where I tell you that you need to pray. But if you stop and pray one time, “Lord, help me,” you’ll see very little difference in your homeschool. You’ll go back to depending on your own strength. And the chaos will continue. Instead of throwing up one desperate prayer today or even asking for help each morning of your day, ask for help constantly. And you have to rest in believing prayer. Here’s what I mean.
Have you ever been in training for a new job? I have. I had to ask how to do everything. I did not believe that I knew best how to do the job. I asked for help and supervision every step of the way. If I had customer with a question I didn’t know the answer to, I immediately turned to my trainer. This is how we must be in our homeschools, no matter how long we’ve been doing it. When the kids are squabbling, when a student is dawdling, or and interruption changes your day, you go to your supervisor and say, what now?
I believed my supervisor had the answers to my questions and could make me into a competent employee. Believe that God can advise you, help you, and make you into the homeschooling mother He wants you to be. Yes, I advise you to either start or end your day in prayer and God’s word. Reading God’s word is like reading the training manual for your new job, except we never get out of training. You won’t understand how God is making things work in your homeschool and in your life until you live in complete believing dependence on Him.
When you stop believing or stop asking and you blow it, simply ask for forgiveness. I once worked in a sub sandwich shop that had excellent training. The first night that I closed the shop on my own, I had a problem. I blew it! I locked the front door of the shop as I was supposed to. I finished all of my cleaning chores and did the last chore of the day. I took the trash out to the dumpster behind the store. As I added the bag of trash to the dumpster, I remembered my supervisor saying to make sure to prop the door open, so I could get back in. That’s when I heard the click of the door locking. My purse and keys were locked in the shop and the shop’s lights were left on. It was the middle of the night and I had no phone. I found a pay phone, called 911, and the police called my supervisor. I was certain I would be fired. My supervisor had been awakened in the middle of the night to come get me back into the store. Instead she laughed and told me it was fine. I kept working there and became a trusted employee.
When we mess up in our homeschools, God doesn’t mind if we come to Him, confessing, and asking for help. We simply go on with our work as I did at the sub sandwich shop.
Reason #2: No routine.
The main reason we aren’t getting anything done in our homeschools is because are trying to do the work in our own strength. We are not believing that God alone can give us success. The second reason we aren’t getting anything done is because we do not have a routine.
At the end of a day when I was first homeschooling, I had no idea what I had accomplished. That’s because every day was different. I woke up at a different time, prepared meals at various times, and did not pick up or teach at any particular time. You have likely heard me or FlyLady talk about the importance of routines. Routines, once I’d adopted them, are the reason I could identify what I had done during the day. Routines gave me and my family a sense of control.
You may be similar to me in that I wanted freedom as a homeschooler. I didn’t want rules for how my days went. The truth is that freedom does not come in unpredictable days. Freedom comes from predictability. When you know what to expect each day, you are free to be present with your children. You know you will have an opportunity to do the things that matter. You know your house and your school are in order, so you are free to enjoy conversation with your husband and family time in the evenings.
When our homeschool is out of control, it’s very difficult to determine what your routine should be. I can relate! When I found FLYLady, I copied her routines. Her routine, even though she wasn’t a homeschooling mom, gave me the structure I needed to get started. I was soon able to modify her routine for my purposes. I found that my husband, my children, and I thrived with a routine.
I want you to get started today with a routine. I’m going to share my routine with you and I’m going to give you that routine in a download when you click the button below. You’ll also receive a blank routine form, so you can modify it for your family’s needs
My recommended homeschool routine
My routine for you includes morning activities prior to the children getting up. If your children are early risers, check the alternative times for your time later in the day.
First, mom gets up and exercises or walks
Next, mom has breakfast and chats with husband if available
Mom has quiet time with the Lord and plans her day
Kids wake up and have breakfast. This is where moms with early-rising kids begin their day.
Mom and kids do chores
Family time school, including Bible, read aloud subjects, and memory work
Quick exercise time. Have the kids do jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups to get the blood flowing to their brains. You better join them or they’ll complain.
Individual time with kids. Children who are not with you are working on a subject like math together near you. They may also be reading or playing assigned games or activities together.
Lunch break. After eating and cleaning up, kids go outside if possible or play inside while mom does email, social media, or other tasks.
Loop schedule. Subjects like art and science experiments are looped here. Every day you are home to do school, you’ll do the next subject. If you are home for school on Monday and Wednesday, for example, you would do art on Monday and science experiments on Wednesday.
Worktime. This is nap time for youngers, more individual work time for olders, and mom’s work time. Children may also be occupied with educational videos and games at this time. Mom may have her quiet/planning time here if she has early risers.
Flex time. This is a time left open for leftover tasks, unexpected demands, or outside activities. Mom may choose to work out here if she has early risers.
Dinner and family time.
Kids’ bedtime routine.
Adult time. This is time for you to read and relax with your husband.
If you already know that you need to change an aspect of this routine now, go for it. But I recommend that you try it before concluding that it won’t work.
When you have a working routine ready to go, post in a visible location. Share it with your kids and your husband and walk them through each part of it.
When you are ready, you can create routines for days you attend co-op and weekend days too. The most important thing is developing a realistic routine. I’ve used this routine and I know it works.
Reason #3: Your children don’t respect your time boundaries.
When you believe that only God can help you get things done in your homeschool and you have a routine you’re following, you are beginning to see results. But this third reason you’re not getting things done can stand in your way. It is incredibly common. Your children do not respect your time boundaries.
If you are beginning morning time, and kids start clammering to do science experiments, you either give in and do them or you throw up your hands in despair and say that the routine doesn’t work.
You are working with Junior on his phonics when sister interrupts to ask for help with math. If you stop what you’re doing to help sister, you’ve just taught Junior that he is welcome to interrupt any time too. You’re in your work time and the kids’ bickering or demands are keeping you from getting anything done.
Early on in my homeschooling, I was a frequent radio guest. I would be on the phone and live on air. I had to ask my husband for help when he was home to keep the kids away from me. On one of these occasions, I was in my basement when my oldest came creeping down the stairs. I was waving wildly to get him to go back up and he did not. Fortunately, he was quiet. As soon as the station took a break, I put the phone down and bolted upstairs to see what was going on. I saw my toddler walking through the kitchen, steak knife in hand. My husband was sitting outside, chatting on the phone. I had to explain again what watching the kids while I was being interviewed meant.
It can take time to convince your family that you mean business, but don’t give up. Post signs as reminders that you are working. Create consequences for unnecessary interruptions. One I particularly like is to assign some of my work to the kids because they wasted my time.
If you question whether your children can be trained to respect your boundaries, think about whether there are people whose boundaries they do respect. My kids knew not to walk into my husband’s office when he was on the phone, for example, because he had enforced those boundaries.
If we are meeting our children’s needs for attention, comfort, and education, they are more likely to respect our boundaries of reasonable work periods. The younger your children are, the shorter those work periods need to be.
If you believe you are incapable of getting things done in your own strength, if you create a routine for yourself and your family, and you establish and enforce boundaries, you can find that you are getting more done than you ever dreamed. That’s been my experience!
Which of these reasons is the main reason you aren’t getting things done in your homeschool?
The first one is the most important. If you don’t have a discipline plan for your homeschool, you will struggle. Having disobedient, unresponsive kids is the number one complaint I hear from homeschooling parents. Nothing has the capacity to waylay your homeschool plans like not having a plan for discipline.
Without a discipline plan, disrespect and disregard for parents’ authority are explained away as a result of a child’s immaturity, a stage, or a diagnosis like Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Failure to respond to kids’ tests of your authority, for whatever reason, is a recipe for disaster. A child who isn’t disciplined feels unloved. I have had kids tell me this word for word. A child who isn’t disciplined will struggle in school, career, and relationships. Their risk of imprisonment is high, and their life expectancy is low. God commands us to discipline children for a good reason.
Choosing the wrong discipline plan is ineffective too. There are parents who have no discipline plan because they don’t understand the importance of discipline. However, there are parents who do understand the need to discipline. They adopt a plan they read in a book or hear about from someone else. But it doesn’t work. So they typically flail around trying to find a plan that will work.
I was firmly in this second camp. I did discipline my kids, but I was constantly trying plans that weren’t a good fit for me and my family. I would create a chart of consequences that I really didn’t agree with and truth be told, knew I wouldn’t implement. So I felt like a failure and my kids knew they could get away with misbehavior, as long as it wasn’t disrespect.
My discipline plan now is to tell my child that I will get back to them with the consequence. At times, I know what I want to do. I will fine them, take away a privilege, or make them work for me to pay me back for the time they’ve cost me. But when I don’t know, I no longer have the anxiety of wondering what the right consequence is. I can calm down, pray about it, discuss it with my husband, and give the consequence. I have older children and infractions aren’t commonplace.
If you have young children, decide how you’re going to discipline the common issues now. Come to agreement with your spouse. One strategy I commonly recommend is from Dr. Kevin Lehman’s Have a New Kid by Friday. If your child misbehaves, the next time he or she wants something, the answer is no. It works.
Develop a discipline plan or you risk losing your temper. If you struggle with anger in your parenting, listen to the podcasts I did on this topic.
Parenting Trap #2: Excusing a child from discipline for special circumstances
The second trap is related to the first. It’s deciding to give a child a pass on discipline because of special circumstances. Perhaps your child has special needs, has had an illness, or has had parents divorce. The effect of having no discipline is much more of a handicap than any physical, emotional, or social struggle your child may have. The story of Helen Keller is an excellent example.
I feel sorrier for children who aren’t disciplined than those who have some type of disability. If you have more than one child and you aren’t sure if you are neglecting discipline with one of them, ask your other children. They’re likely to tell you that you aren’t correcting misbehavior when you should be. Discipline does not mean being angry, harsh, or unkind. It means correcting and training in appropriate behavior. Even children with developmental disabilities can be trained to respect others and the rules you have in your family.
Parenting Trap #3: Not requiring chores
The third parenting trap that will limit your homeschool success is not requiring your kids to do chores. I have had parents be amazed by my kids’ chore chart or ask me how to make kids do chores.
Chores give kids self-esteem, important life skills, and teach discipline. If you don’t expect your children to do age-appropriate chores, you are denying them an important learning opportunity.
I’m often asked how to get young children to pick up toys. First, give kids a warning of when you’ll clean up. Even better, make picking up a part of your routine. Routines get much less flack than unexpected clean-ups.You may want to use music to motivate. And most importantly, have a happy, energetic attitude about doing chores. I often used my hand to guide little ones in picking up until they got into the spirit.
With older kids, I have found that changing the way we do chores regularly keeps the kids motivated. Just about any approach can work for a while.
Parenting Trap #4: No screen-time limits
Parenting trap #4 that can interfere with homeschool success is not having limits on screen time. I am not going to prescribe what those boundaries are, but if you allow screen time when chores aren’t complete and school work isn’t done, you’re going to have problems. If screen time keeps your kids up late so they’re too tired to do anything else, you’re going to have a problem with that too.
Decide on a policy that works for your family. We have had a lot of policies over the years. We only allowed gaming on weekends. We only allowed gaming on special occasions. We have had time limits and schedules. The best policy for us has been no screen time until other responsibilities are complete. We have only instituted limits at night for our older teens when a problem occurs. If you are interested in alternatives to video games for your kids, listen to the podcast episode I did on that topic.
Parenting Trap #5: Not inspecting what you expect
The 5th parenting trap that can interfere with homeschooling success is not inspecting what you expect. If you decide to make screen time contingent on doing chores, you are avoiding three parenting traps I’ve discussed. Yay you! But if you don’t make sure the chores are actually done before you agree to screen time, you’re likely to be disappointed and even angry. The fact is, our nature is to see what we can get away with. Kids will always test boundaries. If they can get away with not cleaning the bathroom and watching TV, they’ll do it. So, it’s up to us to monitor and check that the work is done. If we do this consistently, we’ll have disciplined kids and we’ll be happy too. I shared in a blog post how I failed to check my kids’ math homework for too long. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy. To help ensure homeschool success, inspect what you expect.
Parenting Trap #6: Not making your marriage a priority
Finally, a parenting trap you may not expect is not making your marriage a priority. When we focus on the kids, their activities, and their lessons, and we have nothing left to give to our spouse, our homeschool is at risk. The #1 reason we will have our homeschool records drug into court is because our spouse is suing us in a divorce.
Giving to your spouse is important to keep him happy. We don’t want him longing for the pre-homeschooling days when he got more of our attention. At the same time, investing in the marriage makes us happy too. The more I withdraw and focus on parenting and homeschooling alone, the worse I feel. Even though my husband doesn’t do the teaching, I rely on him as a colleague in this homeschooling journey. I feel better when we’re close, when I share struggles I’m having with particular kids or classes, and when my husband encourages me.
I hear from many homeschoolers who boo and hiss when date nights are mentioned. The money and help required make them difficult. I understand that. I never saw my parents date when I was a child. Instead, our entire family would go to another’s house to spend time or vice versa. It’s not the alone time we desire, but it allows for adult time. Alone time can be achieved by scheduling it into your day – early, late, or on weekends during naps. Or use screen time to occupy the kids so you can be alone. Listen to the episode I did with my husband on a healthy homeschooling marriage.
If you avoid these six parenting trips of not having a discipline plan, not disciplining a child with special needs, not requiring chores, not setting limits on screen time, not inspecting what you expect, and not making your marriage a priority, you are much more likely to have a successful homeschool year.
Which of these parenting traps has been an issue in your homeschool? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.
My experience as a psychologist and homeschooling mother of six leads me to highlight three keys to motivating homeschool students all year: discovering motivators, deprivation, and consistent rewards.
The first key to motivating homeschool tudents is to discover what motivates them.
We know some motivators instinctively, but sometimes it seems like nothing motivates our kids. Here’s how to narrow it down.
First, what does your child ask for? Is there a snack, an acitivity, or a person your child wants to spend time with? My kids have always loved Pop-Tarts, screen time, and having neighbor friends over. Instant motivators.
What does your child spend time doing? My kids love to read books in a series, jump on the trampoline, and watch YouTube videos.
That gives me another list of motivators. You should have a list too. But you may be doubting whether or not your list of rewards will really motivate your kids to do what you want. And you should doubt if you are not using motivational key number 2.
The second key to motivating homeschool students is to deprive them of the motivator.
I worked with rats in a lab as a psychology student. I was able to easily teach a nonverbal rodent how to play basketball, swing on a trapeze, and pull a light switch on. How did I do it? With food pellets. But that’s not all.
Rats will do nothing for food pellets if they’re full. Absolutely nothing. Most of our kids are effectively fat rats. They have access to loads of snacks they love. They have plenty of toys, games, and diversions to keep them happy. They may even have more money than they know what to do with. So, no wonder they aren’t motivated to work for more.
If we want motivated kids, we need to deprive them of these rewards to a certain extent. Rats in a lab are starved to 75% of their body weight. Don’t worry! We aren’t going to deprive our kids by not giving them enough to eat. That’s abuse! But we can and should deprive them of some of the rewards they enjoy. Let me give you an example.
I used to take my kids to sports events and would buy them a snack they wanted. But then I deprived them of this privilege by telling them they had to pay for these with their own money. Suddenly, money became important. They were motivated to earn more to get the snacks they wanted. In the same way, having a free-for-all screen time policy wouldn’t motivate kids to work for more.
A failure to deprive kids of a potential reward is why parents often struggle to motivate their kids. Deprivation is also introduced when we refuse to give the reward without the desired behavior. If my rat didn’t pull the light switch, he got no food pellet. If I had given the food pellet anyway, my rat wouldn’t have learned.
The third key to motivating homeschool students is to consistently reward them.
When you have a reward and you deprive your child of the reward at least somewhat, you have her ready to be consistently rewarded. When I stopped giving my rat food pellets for pulling a light switch, he stopped pulling it. He really should have been willing to do it for me for nothing, but he was an ungrateful rat. No, he was a normal creature who is motivated by consistent reinforcement.
A big mistake we make in motivating our kids’ behavior is not rewarding the correct behavior immediately. We’re on the phone, in the middle of something, or just tired and we don’t give our child the promised treat. I was bad about this with sleepovers. Sleepovers were a motivator for my kids but not for me. I would put off having a sleepover, even though my child had earned it. I lost the motivating power of that reward as a result.
When you are first training a child’s desired behavior – finishing math, cleaning a room, speaking respectfully, you must deliver the reward quickly and consistently. After your child has learned the behavior to the point that it is a habit, you can delay or even miss a reward and not lose the positive behavior. Your daughter learns to like having a tidy room. Your son realizes it’s easier to get his math done early. Your child trusts you to deliver the reward, even if you’re delayed in doing it.
Troubleshooting the Motivation of Homeschool Students
The three keys I just described work with rats and they work with kids too. Let’s troubleshoot a bit though.
Some parents tell me that a reward works for a while and then their kids don’t care about it. If that’s you, your child may be satisfied with the reward. Make sure there’s enough deprivation. If your child has earned 40 hours of game time, there’s no motivation to earn more. But a second reason may be that what your child really likes is variety and surprise. In that case, make the reward variable. Create a reward jar your child can draw from with slips of paper where you’ve written a variety of rewards. You can accomplish the same thing by using an app. I use the Random app on my iPhone.
Next, you will have a challenge if you reward your child without making sure the behavior was performed correctly. Make the time to verify the work has been done or your child will lack motivation.
Some motivational efforts break down in the deprivation phase. My rat wasn’t able to complain about being deprived of food. But kids can complain. Don’t allow whining, complaining, or fits to get you to deliver a reward without the expected behavior. In fact, the complaining is evidence that you’re using the right reward.
Use these three keys of finding what motivates your kids, depriving them of the motivator, and consistently rewarding good behavior and your kids can stay motivated all year. Which of these three keys has been the most challenging for you in motivating your student? Comment below.