After watching her children leave their dirty dishes on the table, I asked my friend, “Don’t they help with dishes?” She explained she did all the dishes since they didn’t get them clean enough. I later found out she did all the laundry because they didn’t know how to use the washer and dryer, and—due to their complaints about being slave labor—they didn’t do housework. Needless to say, my friend is always exhausted.

A mom I knew did almost all the work for her daughter’s scout patches and then boasted about her daughter’s achievements. A co-op history teacher I know gets calls from parents who challenge their children’s grades but refuse to believe they did not read the books, complete assignments, or take part in class discussions. Another parent grumbles that her son didn’t get a major role in a musical put on by homeschoolers, even though he can’t sing in tune. Needless to say, these gals are always irritated.

Helicopter homeschoolers. In another age they were called “smother mothers.” In an attempt to make their children’s lives safer, better, and easier (than what?!) they try to control and direct all actions and interactions. They choose everything from clothing to curriculum to classes to confederates. They are exhausted from hovering 24/7 and complain incessantly about how hard they are working.

They didn’t read the memo that told them to prepare their children for life by giving them choices, responsibilities, and consequences. 

I saw a different philosophy of homeschooling illustrated by a homeschool dad who explained that a quiver full of arrows (à la Psalm 127:5) doesn’t do anything. The arrows must be loaded in a bow. “Shoot them high and far,” he said. “Let them go!”

TWANG!!!

Letting go is difficult. Homeschoolers (myself included) often have unrealistic dreams of family always being together. Aren’t we going to choose spouses, help buy big houses (for all the grandchildren who will, of course, be homeschooled), and run a family business that will make us all financially secure? First, we must let go of our illusions.

Homeschooling is hard! It is hard and time-consuming to train children to work. It’s hard to encourage independence when the world we are sending them into is so wicked. It is hard to say “good-bye,” only to watch them flounder and sometimes flop. It is hard to remember that homeschooling was just one vehicle to transport them further down life’s road and not the end of the journey. But arrows have to be hard so they don’t break when shot from a bow…

Train your children to help at home. If you see something that needs to be done, DO IT! My friend, a midwife, has trained her children (all ten of them!) with this statement and is able to do short term mission trips as well as deliver babies from home, because her kids cheerfully keep the house clean.

Teach your children how to judge the truth or reasonableness of ideas and opinions in order to choose trustworthy resources. “Because I said so” loses power quickly. Since our homeschooling was based on excellent books, our children were educated with the observations and insights of previous generations. They did not need to ask me all their questions—they learned to find information from books and other people as well as the Internet.

Talk to your children about finances, and let them work. Our kids babysat, mowed lawns, and assisted older folks. They led tours and ran day camp with me at a historical site. They started working at a grocery store when they were fifteen (Gary was one of the managers). They used their money for car insurance, clothing, and fun with friends.