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A Practical Approach to Home Education

A Practical Approach to Home Education

Are you considering home schooling your children? Parents often have many questions. This week I will answer a few of those.

A Virginia couple considering home schooling their five-year-old daughter wrote to me for advice. The mother was a former teacher with a master's degree in reading and ten years' classroom experience. Their questions included: How do we keep the younger children occupied? How do we manage our home in addition to teaching children? And, the real question: do we want one more area of potential conflict with our strong-willed five-year-old?

I commend this couple for asking those questions. It's wise to count the cost before making the commitment to home school. Today, I'd like to share with you how my wife and I have solved the problems foreseen by this couple.

First, use the younger child's nap to accomplish academic work with the older child. Or, plan a purposeful activity to keep the toddlers busy while you teach. Try breaking the teaching sessions down to thirty-minute segments, taking a break to focus the younger children; but if you have older children, have them watch the younger kids for short periods of time.

Second, plan one day a week for major housekeeping duties. Don't try to be Martha Stewart. A regular schedule will help you maintain your home at a level everyone can live with.

Finally, there's no question that a child with a strong personality presents extra challenges at times. Such a child needs more, not less, interaction with his or her parents so that stubbornness can be dealt with consistently and lovingly. Home schooling involves commitment and sacrifice, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Another parent wrote to ask: “I’m convinced that home education is best for my child. But he doesn’t want to be taught at home. What should I do?"

First, remember that home schooling isn’t the answer for the problem of sin. While it’s a wonderful vehicle for teaching children to love God, it isn’t a substitute for a daily Christian walk. If Jesus Christ isn’t Lord of your child’s life, home schooling or strong rules alone cannot turn him around. Praying for and with your child is vital.

Second, it often takes time for children to adjust to the lifestyle change of home education. If your child has just left traditional school and wants to go back, don’t panic! Although it’s difficult to see your child struggling, remember that love means acting in their best long-term interest. Encourage them to remain active in community activities, home school groups, and in friendships. Get them excited about the fun side of home schooling—field trips on school days, doing math class in pajamas, special family projects, and even the reduced school hours.

Talk to a few home school graduates, and you’ll almost certainly find someone who didn’t like home schooling at first. Then ask them if they’re glad now that they were home schooled, and you’ll almost certainly hear a very enthusiastic “yes.”

 Mike Farris is president of Patrick Henry College, as well as chairman of Home School Legal Defense Association and the executive producer of the HomeSchool Channel for