This is the first article in a series by Melissa Pinkley, designed to help new homeschoolers get started in the adventure of home education. This series is largely a compilation of input and feedback from homeschool veterans, sharing their own experiences and tips on how getting started in homeschooling can be made easier.
Beginning homeschooling can be exciting and terrifying. You may know what it is you want to accomplish in homeschooling, but are not sure how to approach those objectives. Many of the Home School Enrichment readers want to help your family get started. This article and the others in this series are a compilation of the wisdom and love of homeschoolers who have begun before you.
As you choose homeschooling, your mind turns to curriculums, book titles, learning and teaching styles and much more. All of these things are important and will be discussed in future articles in this series. However, veteran homeschoolers again and again have commented that the relationships within their homeschool truly help their families to succeed at homeschooling.
So, we begin with homeschool relationships.
Relationship with God
The first and greatest relationship to remember is your relationship with God. Many veterans commented how important it is to seek God's direction and follow Him in your homeschooling. Do not let your desire to succeed in teaching your children hinder your personal relationship with the Lord. Speaking from experience, it is easy to let the demands of the school schedule come before personal time with God. For unknown reasons, we forget where our strength, patience and joy come from and try to succeed on our own. When we do this, we will find ourselves weak, impatient and frazzled. So, nurture your relationship with the Lord. Make sure to set a time to meet with Him. It may not be a “quiet” time with children constantly in the home, but the Lord knows and He will join you. As one veteran said, “Seek God's direction. If He is leading you to homeschool your children, then IT WILL WORK! His grace is sufficient.”
Relationship with Your Spouse
As well as nurturing your relationship with God, you need to nurture your relationship with your spouse. The spouse relationship was mentioned more frequently than any other topic by our veteran homeschoolers. Spouses need to discuss, pray and decide together about homeschooling. Both of you should discuss why you are choosing to homeschool. When you and your spouse are in agreement on these issues, it will help you both remember why it is worth it during tough times. Although one parent may do the bulk of the teaching, both parents' attitudes and ideas affect the success of homeschooling. One veteran commented that “Both spouses should be involved in the decision making.” Achieving this unity, does not require both spouses to wade through all the materials available to homeschoolers. In my home, I research and eliminate until only two or three options are left. At this time, I explain the choices to my husband. Together we decide what we believe is best for our children.
Relationship with Other Homeschoolers
Building relationships with other homeschoolers will also help you through some of the bumps in homeschool life. You can meet other homeschoolers through support groups in your area. Friendships with other homeschoolers can provide encouragement and a wealth of information. Your children can meet new friends and enjoy field trips and activities with others in the support group. You will find that most homeschoolers want to help each other. Don't be afraid to ask questions. We have been in your shoes before.
If you do not know where the nearest support group is, then search the internet. Homeschool Enrichment's website has a page of support groups that have signed up. You can also try typing in your county and state plus the word “homeschool.”
Relationships with Opposition
Not everyone is supportive of the Homeschool decision. Many who oppose your homeschooling decision may be from within your extended family. I have found that the number one reason for such opposition is because of concern for your child. Try to remember this concern as you endure through these relationships.
Why are they concerned? Why don't they just trust you? Although homeschooling has gained in popularity in the last thirty years, it is still not the norm. People are afraid of the unknown and they are skeptical of change. It is probably not their distrust in you that sparks their opposition as much as their uncertainty of the outcome. I encourage you to try to live out James 1:19-20 - “My dear brothers take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” As you homeschool, most opposition within the family subsides as they see the results in your children's lives. Arguing and defending yourself will rarely change their opinion. And as stated above, our anger cannot produce righteousness. Therefore, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Mt 5:44)” Although it may be difficult, allow God to fight this battle and try to be a peacemaker.
Relationship with Your Child
Last but not least, your relationship with your child is critical to successful homeschooling. If your child has been a student in a traditional school setting, your spouse and you should meet together with that child to thoroughly explain your homeschooling decision. Allow your child to make comments and answer all questions to the best of your abilities. However, if you are homeschooling a child from the beginning of his/her education, most questions will probably come along the way in their educational journey. As you teach, remember the reasons that you are teaching at home. You will need to firmly require the work to be done but constantly build enthusiasm. Try to avoid pushing so hard that the child dislikes learning. If you allow yourself to enjoy teaching, then your child will probably enjoy learning. One veteran homeschooler explained, “Teach your children to learn to love and to love to learn.”
Relationships in homeschooling are the most important building blocks for a successful homeschool. Do not allow your relationships to slip in your priorities. As your relationships are nurtured they will grow and you will find encouragement and enjoyment in your homeschool experience.
Next, how to get answers to all those homeschooling questions? Find out in Part 2 of the “New to Homeschooling” series!
Melissa Pinkley enjoys life with her husband, Wes. They learn a lot from their four children: Ben, Micah, Levi, and Abigail. Homeschooling goes on 24/7 for the whole Pinkley family. They have been homeschooling for more than ten years. The Lord is gracious and continues to help them follow Him.