Know what? I have seen some of the same behaviors happen in groups of homeschooled children on field trips and during park days. The children in either group are not better or worse than the other. The difference is in the little things. When those behaviors occurred in the homeschool group, a parent (or another parent) was generally standing by, able and willing to step in at that moment and correct the behavior. The parent was there to disciple her child immediately. That little thing didn’t get lost in the crowd, wasn’t able to slip by unnoticed and thereby harm the one who committed the misbehavior, as well as the recipient.

In our home, one of the little things was daily chores. We chose for a season to assign chores for “mastery” rather than to rotate weekly. It was my son’s job to sweep the kitchen floor once every day. I am sorry to say that he had this job for almost six years (!), since we insisted that he master the ability to sweep and not leave visible material on the floor. Every day he had to go back into the kitchen and sweep it again at least once, often more frequently—for six years! Yes, it became contentious. Yes, we doubted ourselves.

The Lord gifted us with some insight when my son went to church camp. When he came home, his cabin had won an award for cleanliness—and of particular merit was the floor. He said, “Mom, I guess it’s a good thing you taught me to sweep the floor the right way, because that’s why we won!” That was twelve years ago, and it still makes my day to think about it!

Conversely, I also see ways I have failed my children and my responsibilities in the little things. I cannot breach my children’s privacy to illustrate them. One error I made was in too much forced obedience, and too little “talking” about the insights from Scripture and other places. I have also let some behaviors slide by instead of addressing them early, when they were truly little things. It’s so much harder to correct something when it has grown into a habit!

Of course none of us, nor our children, will be perfect in every little thing; if we were we wouldn’t need redemption through a Savior. When we discover our failures, we can take them to the throne of mercy and grace and find help in our time of need. Plenty of little things exist that slip by as a result of our own ignorance or blindness. The course of wisdom says it is much better to be faithful to the things we see and know are right than to have to deal with them later or have our children deal with them as adults.

We parents are responsible before God to raise our children in His admonition and nurture, not frustrating them, but raising them in the way they should go. In these little things we are even to instill delight in the obedience, so that they may proclaim, “O how I love Thy law!” If we nurture and direct them in the little things, helping them see the reasons that faithfulness and integrity are good, we will be infusing them with a wholehearted response to us, and to God, of willing obedience. This is a process, and that process happens every day, every moment, in the little things.

Take heart, homeschooling parents! When you face the hundreds of decisions in parenting and homeschooling, when your children have to sweep the kitchen floor for the third time in a day, when they have to redo math problems due to carelessness and you have to endure a meltdown, know that you are training your children to be faithful in the little things. By such diligent and loving training, you are raising men and women in the Lord who will be faithful in much. Who could ask for more?

After homeschooling for twenty-three years, Marji still learns something new every year! She serves on her support group board; speaks at her state convention; administers the Woodcock-Johnson test; has authored a booklet of sneaky grammar (Homeschool Ad Libs, Rainbow Resource); teaches Spanish, Marine Biology, and Speech at area tutorials; and still tries to find time to do the dishes.  

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: September 27, 2013