Written by Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom
After two months of a blissful summer vacation, our little school started back into full swing last week. Thanks to several weeks of planning and more than a few book deliveries, I was excited to dive into new subjects and continue this formal exploration of the world with my children.
We were going to expand our horizons, jump into foreign language study, and engage in animated discussions of history, literature, and science. Our homeschool was going to be characterized by a love of learning and the hum of studious industry. My children and I were going to achieve academic greatness this year. My enthusiasm for learning was infectious!
Or so I thought.
By the time lunch break rolled around on that first day, I had been keenly reminded that academics, while important, were not the sole purpose of teaching my children at home.
Motivation? Attitude? Living peacefully with one’s fellow man? I had forgotten to add those subjects to the syllabus.
Character education counts.
As homeschool teachers we have unique challenges that public school teachers don’t often feel, at least not on such a personal level. We have the privilege and responsibility to help our children grow into responsible, diligent, persevering, kind adults. We are not just shaping their minds, we are guiding their characters into adulthood.
Yet, with that added responsibility comes the advantage that we get to see our children’s personalities — warts and all. And all that came flooding back to me on our reentry into formal lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, that first day of school was not bad. In fact, it was probably one of our better days. The boys were extremely excited about their new Spanish and Latin studies.
But, I had mistakenly slid onto one side of the homeschooling continuum, fixating on academics and the content we were going to cover during the year. I left character education woefully unbalanced on the other end.
I had forgotten to think about and plan for those other elements that effect the school day: the child who drags his feet over breakfast, the one who bickers with his brother over whose turn it is to use the computer for math, the student who puffs up his face when Mom says he needs to go do his science and make sure he writes out the entire lab report.
The sighs, the whines, the fussing? Oh yeah.
It’s not all about academics.
Thankfully, I’m not teaching robots. That would be quite boring, and I would miss out on the unique, fun, and amazing quirks that make each of my kids who he is. You’ve heard it before, good teaching isn’t filling a bottle, it’s lighting a fire.
Thankfully, it’s not all about academics. Man cannot live on books alone. We need to develop quality relationships, enjoy one another’s company, and learn to get along with one another. Better that my sons be godly garbage collectors than arrogant men with initials at the end of their names.
Thankfully, I can see where my children struggle. This used to bother me a lot. Then a wise mom pointed out, “Be thankful that you can see it.” Hmmm…. how many troubled kids hide their inter- and intra- personal struggles, jumping hoops for the teacher? Instead, my kids “let it all hang out” and show me where I need to help them, guide them, pray for them.
Climbing the Long Hill
When I was first homeschooling, I had even more academic fervor than I do now. Older moms would caution me, “Discipleship is more important. Character education matters more.”
Honestly, I didn’t get it at the time. It was really important to me that my children learn well and be academically strong. I wanted them to have the skills they needed to do well in the world. I wanted them to have any door open for them in their choice of future career.
I still want these things.
But, I’ve also realized that a stubborn child isn’t going to learn as much as he could if he wasn’t balking at math. Negative attitudes, faltering motivation, and good old fashioned grumpiness look no better in a courtroom or a board room than they do in my own school room. They get in the way of learning today as well as stumble success tomorrow.
Some days I’m overwhelmed by “behavior issues.” Back in my public teaching days, I could write a detention or fill out a referral slip. Today “classroom discipline” is a little more to mess with. It’s a high hill to climb and at times, it can be daunting.
Yet, I know that a high mountain offers a better view than a small one. At the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of the journey, I’ll get to see how far me and my boys have come.
And, Lord willing, the view will be breathtaking.