"Fun can be an ingredient in the total life of the child, but the training of the child should be preparation for adulthood." - Jessie Wise

I love learning from home educators who are farther down the path than I am. Maybe it is a birth order quirk. As the younger sister, I quickly learned the good ideas and not-so-good ideas of life without skinning my own knees in the process. With home education and all the individual personalities and learning styles in a family, it is more often required that we learn through trial and error. But there are still time-tested methods and ideas that veteran home educating parents can share that will bring encouragement to the "younger siblings" of the homeschool community. I recently enjoyed taking some time to talk with Jessie Wise. Mrs. Wise is the mother of three and the co-author (with daughter Susan Wise Bauer) of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. Not only does she have the experience of home educating her children from elementary school through high school, but Mrs. Wise also communicates in a no-nonsense way that has brought me great reassurance. I recommend you get comfortable, pour a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy a few minutes with Jessie Wise.

Q: How do I know if I am doing enough academically for my children?

A: I worried about my children's academic progress until they became National Merit finalists in high school. In fact, I worried about a lot of things. And even though homeschooling is now very common, and homeschoolers are doing well, I think all conscientious parents worry. The inexperienced parent is wise to start with a curriculum or guidebook like our Well-Trained Mind to prevent the child from avoiding areas that are difficult or unfamiliar to him. After awhile, the parent should feel comfortable adjusting and changing to help the child fulfill his potential.

I am concerned that parents are being encouraged to think that all learning has to be fun. Fun can be an ingredient in the total life of the child, but the training of the child should be preparation for adulthood. And living a responsible adult life is not all fun and entertainment.

Q: How can I teach my children, take care of the house, serve at church, love my aging parents, and still sleep enough at night? Can you share how you set priorities during your homeschooling years?

A: When our son was a baby, we were fortunate to have been advised, "Live your life in chapters." You don't have to do everything you want to do in life while your children are small. There are priorities: God first, husband second, children third, then other family responsibilities, which would include honoring parents' needs. For homeschoolers of small children, I don't see how there is much time or energy left for long-term commitment to other things. In thinking about "God first," I think we need to realize that marriage, parenthood, and caring for mother and father are forms of worship when they are practiced in accordance with biblical principles. Parents who are training and educating young children should not be made to feel guilty about not taking leadership roles in the formal organization of a church.

Practically, you must take the time to teach your children to do chores. If your children have not been doing all that they are able to do, shorten the academic day until you have trained your helpers. Two books that helped me are 401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home and Bonnie's Household Organizer, both by Bonnie McCulough, published by St. Martin's Press, New York.