Written by contributor Jena of Yarns of the Heart.
When our kids are grown and look back on their homeschooling years, what will they say about it?
Melissa and I were in the car recently, talking about her college classes. She’s a political science major, so she likes to think about current events and our political system. As we rounded a curve, she concluded, “People are like sheep … they just want someone to lead them without having to think about it.”
I laughed and agreed with her.
Then she added, “I think the greatest thing you taught us was to think for ourselves and to question everything.”
Wow. That made me stop and take a breath (not literally. I was still driving, you know).
When we started this journey 20 years ago, one thing compelled me: I wanted our kids to be leaders. I didn’t want them to follow the crowd and live blindly. I wanted them to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions.
If you ask how we did it, I guess it boils down to three principles.
- Be humble. This means we parents don’t have to be the experts all the time. Of course sometimes you just have to tell them Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but other times you can say, “That’s an interesting question! I bet you’ll figure it out.” And my personal favorite, “I don’t know.”
- Respect their thought processes. This is also part of being humble. What they think and how they think is to be taken seriously. Encourage them to ask more questions, to look at things from various perspectives, and to experiment. They learn how to think by our example and by considering everyone’s input. As they experience you taking them seriously, they will return the favor and take you seriously.
- Respect their conclusions. You might not agree with them all the time. That’s OK. Remember, you’re not the expert anyway. If you have a relationship based on mutual respect, you can explain why you think the way you do, and if they are humble too, they will consider it.
The best learning situations can be family discussions. We had them all the time, standing around our gas log fireplace in the living room.
Someone would have read something interesting and wanted to talk about it. That would lead to thoughts about this or that, and off we’d go. I liked to call those sessions “solving the problems of the universe.”
A couple months ago we helped Peter move into his new apartment and had a few hours the next morning to just sit and chat. As usual, our conversation took us a million places and Peter remarked, “Talking to you two is interesting. People don’t understand how I like to consider all the angles and all the options. I see now where I got it.”
As homeschoolers, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of “filling the bucket.” We want our kids to learn all the facts and finish the curriculum. That’s good but it should be secondary to learning how to think, how to treat others, and how to learn.
Stop once in awhile and reflect on what you’re doing with your kids. Make a New Year’s resolution that charts the course for the future. Write it out and frame it, if necessary.
It’s never too late to keep the end in mind.
What do you hope your adult kids will say when they look back at homeschooling?