Yes, I know your immediate reaction to the title of this article—that’s only one lesson every three years. And, of course, that is true. But you must give me grace as a slow learner since I attended public school.

This fall will be our family’s 30th year of active homeschooling. To achieve 30 years, you must have either a very large family or very slow learners. We have the former.

Nine of our 10 children have graduated from high school. Peter, who is 14, is entering the 9th grade—using the homeschoolish meaning of grade. You know—he has already taken chemistry, which is usually a 10th-grade subject, and is at a different grade level in virtually every subject, depending on his aptitude and what books we already had on the shelf.

Okay, for those of you who are too literal and for the three truant officers in Oskaloosa, Walla Walla, and Poughkeepsie who subscribe to the Court Report to “monitor” the homeschooling movement so that you can pounce on the weak, let me say that, while Peter is at a variety of grade levels, he is not below grade level in any subject except advanced multiculturalism.

The 10 Lessons

So, let’s scamper right over to the list of 10 lessons that our family has learned in the past three decades. They are not listed in any order that might be fairly described as “the order of importance.”

1. Get an answering machine and use it.

Proper use of an answering machine in the homeschooling context begins with the greeting. I recommend a Bible verse. Job 5:1 is a good choice: “Call if you will, but who will answer you?” (New International Version). If you are worried about people coming over after you refuse to answer, then Proverbs 1:28 might be the better choice: "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me" (NIV).

Okay. Here’s the serious point. You can’t homeschool when you are on the phone. And as unfair as this may sound, even if you are giving advice to a caller interested in homeschooling, it still doesn’t count as homeschooling.

Cell phones, email, and Facebook have only served to exacerbate the problem. The new version of this maxim is—and I know this may sound like heresy to some—you can’t be on Facebook and be homeschooling.

Homeschooling requires that you focus all available attention on your children. Do not let other people interrupt your schedule with phone calls, texts, or Facebook messages.

It is perfectly fine to take time to do all of those other things later, when your planned time with your children is over, but be the master of your schedule or I guarantee that the world will move in and steal every available minute.

2. Dad, if you are going to teach P.E., make it something more than three hours of an NFL preseason game followed by an hour of Sports Central.

Physical activity and sports are an important part of homeschooling. Having your child play on a recreational sports team can be a good thing—especially if Dad is the coach. But whether or not it’s through organized sports, dads should make sure that kids are getting enough exercise. My father gave me a bodybuilding course when I was 14. I had to dig a ditch that was about 200 feet long, a foot wide, and a foot deep one summer. By the end, I was in great condition and had a terrific tan (True story).

3. Be fair to your children when you are using “hands-on manipulatives” to teach math.

One day, when the kids were becoming just a smidge irritating—or as we say in the Farris home “acting like little pips”—I suggested that Vickie use a math game that I had heard of on the homeschool speaking circuit. You throw 99 pennies out into the front yard and tell the children that when they find all 100 they can come back inside. Vickie rolled her eyes and chose another activity.