10 Lessons I've Learned from Thirty Years of Homeschooling
- Friday, July 13, 2012
4. Do not fall into the trap of perfectionism.
You have heard the stories—you know … the family with 12 children, all under age 9, whose 6-year-old has learned to solve three-variable algebra problems by studying the number of Hebrew syllables in the Pentateuch. Their 9-year-old has fully funded his college education by selling organic muffins door-to-door, using the ingredients his 7-year-old sister grew in the 40-acre herb farm she operates. There was enough money left over for Mom to run down to the fabric store (being sure to take all the kids with her so that she could teach a math lesson while buying material). She then bought enough material to make all of the girls matching dresses, all of the boys matching vests, and matching curtains to hang over the kitchen sink.
This is like a stunt in a television car commercial. Do not try this at home!
When we began homeschooling, a curriculum fair could be held in a space the size of an airplane bathroom. There was only one vendor that was really willing to sell to homeschoolers. Now, the world has exploded with choices and while it is wonderful, it can be both bewildering and intimidating.
Do not believe for a second that you can teach every subject that you would desire. Nor can you engage in every activity that you would like to have your children pursue. You cannot attend every support group meeting you would like. You cannot keep your house in mint condition 24/7. Your children may occasionally whine despite the ads you read in the homeschooling magazine that promised contented children.
This is not to say that you cannot engage in a lot of good things. You can. This is not to say that you cannot find a wonderful variety of choices for your children’s activities. You can. This is not to say that your house shouldn’t be reasonably clean. It should be reasonably clean. But do not drive yourself crazy with the lie that you must do it all.
There are nagging voices that like to whisper in the ears of a homeschooling mom—especially in your first few years. Oh, they would be doing a lot of fun things in the public schools. Think of all the enrichment. Are you sure there are no gaps in your curriculum? And, yes, I know you have heard it before but, my dear, what about socialization? Are you doing enough?
Don’t listen to those voices, even if it is your mother-in-law who is whispering in your ear. Do not listen to the lie that your children would be doing more if they were in the public schools.
A friend of mine, a public school principal, taught his daughter at home for six weeks when she was ill. He went by her school every day and got her material and taught her at home at night. He kept track of the time. Six minutes a day. That was how long it took him to teach her the first grade material she missed.
Okay? Do well. Be great. Be excellent. But forget this perfectionism nonsense, especially when it is driven by guilt about what your children might be missing.
5. Strive for mastery in just two areas: language and math.
All knowledge uses one of two languages—either the language of words or the language of numbers. Science uses the language of numbers; just about everything else uses the language of words. Although, to be fair, it is impossible to be self-contained in either of these two language worlds.
The goal of your academic program should be to achieve mastery in these two languages. For all other subjects, your goal should be a reasonably broad exposure.
Your children are not going to master chemistry. That requires a PhD—for them, not you. Your children will not master American history, or the Constitution, or the great artists of the Renaissance.
A good academic education will provide a well-rounded exposure in a broad variety of disciplines that we call the arts and sciences. But your emphasis at this stage should be mastery of the two languages.
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