By Julie Hamilton
Have you heard those words from your children’s mouths? I was just talking to a mom who is struggling with this with her children. Let’s get real, parents. None of us live in a perfect home school bubble, as much as we would like to hope we do. I am sure each of us have stories to tell about the struggles and the valleys. What do we do? How do we motivate our children to do their school work?
Perhaps we first need to look at ourselves as parents. I know for me, I was the type ‘A’ home school parent. My poor daughter was the first born. The home school ‘guinea pig’! When she was four, she somehow taught herself to read, and because of that, I felt she was a child prodigy. When it was time to start Kindergarten, my husband and I decided she didn’t need to start school in Kindergarten because she knew her ABC’s and her numbers, so we bumped her up to 1st grade. That first year of home schooling she did 202 days of school because we had to do each worksheet and assignment in the book. My poor daughter! By 4th grade she was really struggling in math and, because she had started so young, school was not so easy peasy. We decided to keep her in 4th grade for another year and focus on shoring up her math. We had her work through a book called, ‘Math Magic’ and she loved it! After that year, she ‘got’ math and it became easy for her. But still, I wanted her to be super ‘smart’ and so we did, ‘World Views of the Western World’ by David Quine. A very heady curriculum like the Torrey Academy. While she did well with the curriculum, it was really MY agenda of wanting her to be very academic. I never really considered where God was leading her. She loved to read and, at that point, enjoyed math but I was not a ‘student of my student’. I just wanted her to be smart.
When my son came along, he was the opposite. It took him forever to learn to read and I had to keep telling myself, ‘By the time he is 18, he will know how to read!’ The curriculum I used with my daughter in high school did not work with him. In fact, he did not want to even ‘do school’! We tried plan A… all the way to plan F where we put him in all Biola classes. He was a bright young man but did not do his home work and did not apply himself. By my daughter’s Senior year and my son’s Sophomore year, I felt like I was pushing two elephants up an incline and they were wanting to walk backwards! Frustration was my middle name!
Please learn from my mistakes. In hindsight, I would have done things much differently. Instead of pushing my academic agenda, I would have worked more on being a student of my students. I would have put my daughter in kindergarten and let her have the creative time to handle manipulatives and enjoy art, and I would have read aloud more to both of them. She has since told me that when she was in high school she was not motivated to do her schooling alone at home, but when she was in classes with other students, she thrived. She needed the competitiveness and a bit of academic peer pressure which motivated her to do her work. With my son, I would have pulled way back from the heady academics and would have worked to discover what his passion was. Helping him to focus on how God made him, his strengths and gifting,s and providing him with opportunities to work and learn in those areas would have been so much better for him. If you think about it, our children are in school for 12-13 years but if they live to 80, they have so much more of their lives to learn and grow in their understanding of so many areas. If we can teach them to love learning then they can pursue whatever God has in store for them for the rest of their lives. If you are the type ‘A’ home school mom and you are frustrated with your children, perhaps it is time to step back, pray and ask God if what you are doing is the best for your children. Seek God’s wisdom for each one and see what happens. As you give them opportunities to discover their interests and passions, they may study even harder than you require them to because they love what they are pursuing.
James 1:5 encourages us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Pray fervently and become a ‘student of your student’. Also know that we will not teach our children “everything”. They will have holes in their education and we will fail them. But as we are faithful parents God will work in them what He wants them to know. Trust Him and let Him do His work in them.
As of now both of my children are doing well. They both have a relationship with Jesus, have good jobs and I realize I did not ruin them completely! Actually, God was merciful and gracious and continues His work in their lives. It is such a sweet blessing to watch!!