I’m a mom of six children. I’ve been homeschooling eighteen years, and with three preschoolers, I have another eighteen years of homeschooling to go! Three of my children are adults. Cory is 23 years old, married, and he and Katie have a baby boy and one on the way. He’s a working man and a caring husband and father. Leslie is 20 and graduated from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, this year. She’s a stellar student who’s living in Europe as a missionary right out of college. Nathan is 19 years old and a college freshman. After one semester of college he was asked to work as a writing coach in the university’s writing center. Even more important than how well they’re doing in life, my three older kids love God and have a deep, growing relationship with him.
We also have three more kids ages 5, 3, and 2 who’ve been added to our family through adoption. As a 41-year-old mom, sometimes I’m overwhelmed with thinking of doing it ALL again, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to focus on one day at a time. And focus on one heart at a time.
I started off by telling you of my older kids’ successes in education and life because I want you to know it is possible. If you would have told me three years, five years, or seven years ago where my kids would end up, I would have been relieved—but confused. I often fought with my kids on getting their work done. They seemed unmotivated at times. Some (most?!) of their work was done half-heartedly, and there was one child who just could not “get” the read the book and answer the questions model.
There were many homeschooling days I found myself in tears. I prayed for God to give me the answer, and when it came it wasn’t what I expected. “Throw out the lesson plans and stop trying to force learning. Look at each child individually. Focus on that child’s heart, and teach to that child.”
“But what about geography and geometry and all those other critical subjects?” I prayed (and fretted.) Still, God kept the answer that He spoke to my heart the same.
What did it look like? Truthfully, it looked completely different for each kid. I signed one up for co-op classes, one for some college classes, and one did hardly any traditional work at all. Trying to get my youngest son to answer a worksheet was futile, but I did discover he loved watching DVD courses of college lectures. Except for some math and language computer programs, for three years this kid watched DVDs for homeschool—classes about history and science and notable people. And the he told me about what he learned.
He also like to write fictional stories on the side. Stories I never edited, never graded. Stories that were focused more on his imagination than on his education.
This child hadn’t written one essay at the time he started at our local university. Yet this was also the kid who got an A on every university paper he’s ever written and was asked to be an intern at the writing center as a freshman.
Looking back, what God was asking me to do was to coach my children to grow into godly people who loved to learn. Looking back, I can see this is far more important that learning the periodic table—but at the time I was so overwhelmed and stressed that all I focused on was what my kids weren’t learning.
Why are your older kids fighting your teaching?
- It doesn’t fit their style.
- It doesn’t fit their interests.
- You’re more focused on the lesson plan than him (or her).
- You are comparing him to others—other students, other siblings.
- You are thinking of this semester—this year—instead of who God designed your child to be and God’s plan for his life.
- You’re more focused on preparation for the SATs, ACTs and other acronyms than preparation for your child to follow the great commission.
- You see yourself as a teacher more than a coach.
- I know this list because I lived it. I know this list because I’ve fought against it!
Recently, I was able to write more about coaching our kids in a book that I co-wrote with Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. Here is a short excerpt from Lead Your Family Like Jesus:
How Jesus Was Coached
There was nothing random in the life of Jesus. This includes learning the carpenter craft from His earthly father in preparation for His season of earthly leadership.
It’s interesting to note that when Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth, people quickly identified him as “the carpenter” and “the son of the carpenter.” The unremarkable nature of His local reputation would indicate that the way He learned and went about His craft wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Joseph would have coached Jesus through the stages of learning. Under the instruction of his father, Jesus would have progressed from novice to apprentice to journeyman, and finally to master teacher. Through the day-to-day coaching, the transfer of knowledge and wisdom flowed from one generation to the next.
When Jesus was a novice, Joseph would have given Him basic orientation to being a carpenter—including how, where, when, and why He was to do certain things. As Jesus worked with Joseph as an apprentice, Joseph would have acted as a performance coach, showing Him the right way to do things to produce the right results. Joseph would have given Jesus instruction, observed His behavior, provided support and encouragement, and redirected Him as necessary in the tasks assigned.
When Jesus was a journeyman, able to work on his own, Joseph would have assigned Him tasks and then would have become His head cheerleader and supporter. When Jesus became a master teacher, demonstrating His competence in all the key aspects of His craft, Joseph would have changed his leadership to empower Him and send Him out to work on His own.
It’s reasonable to assume that Jesus mastered the craft of carpentry. Had it been God’s will for Him to teach it others, He would have done so in obedience and excellence.
What we do know is that Jesus applied His knowledge of obedience to the way He guided His disciples from call to commission. From novices to master teachers, Jesus coached them and sent them out to teach others in His name. It’s an example we parents would do well to follow.
Are you struggling with feeling that you’re lacking in productive teaching time with your kids while there is so much that they need to know and learn? If so, then answer these three questions:
- If there were no “standards” for your child to follow what would he or she enjoy learning?
- What would be an effective way to get your child more excited about learning?
- What could you do to draw your child’s heart toward God?
For each child the answers will be different, which means turning to God and learning better who your child is. God created each of us unique for His purposes. How exciting that He’s trusted you to coach your child toward that call!
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Such wisdom here. This is my 2nd year of homeschooling. My daughter is in the 8th grade and before last year, public school was all she ever knew. I am going to take all of these thoughts into consideration as I seek God for my girl this year. Thank you!
Tricia Goyer says
You’re so welcome, Barbie!! God has a GREAT plan for both of you!
Leslie Goyer says
Looking back, I realized that the majority of my homeschool time read spent reading… So much so, in fact, that my math and science abilities appeared to be severely lacking.
However, I naturally blossomed in every linguistic, composition, nonfiction writing, foreign language, editing, or communication class! Fast-forward to now, and I’m living as a missionary abroad, teaching English as a second language.
My students and friends don’t care a lick that I can hardly remember what the hypotenuse out a triangle is, that i’ve never taken a chemistry class, or that I never reached calculus. Instead, yesterday a Czech friend commented on her thankfulness for my linguistic understanding of English, so that I can explain the distinguishing differences in morphology, syntax, or phonology, where other native English speakers often can’t.
Thank-you for gearing my education towards my needs. Thank-you, mom, for pushing me to be the best that I can be, and enrolling me I’m college at the age of 16… I truly souls not be here now if that was the case! (I would still have two more years of study!)
I love you!
Tricia Goyer says
I love you, sweetie! I’m so proud of you and I know that God has an amazing plan for your life!!
By the way, this is the best comment on one of my blogs … ever! 🙂
This reminds me so much of my own journey in homeschooling…. my first three boys have followed a similar path as yours… one now has an associates degree, another is getting one… the third is getting ready to graduate, but we have really struggled to educate him. We have had learning disabilities on top of the normal struggle. I now have 5 more children after them, and I can tell you, I am a lot more relaxed about the process with them than I was with the first ones. 🙂
Tricia Goyer says
Jennifer, I think it helps our children when we’re not so stressed!
Laura Jenkins says
Thank you so much for this, Tricia! God used your article today to once more turn my face toward Him and away from “my” lesson plans. I have a 9th grade son who is a classical pianist and a 7th grade daughter who is a chef. Neither of them has any interest in anything else. I prayed diligently that the LORD would show us His plans for them and He did, but it is so easy to become fearful when SATs loom ahead. I am so happy to have found your blog!
Tricia Goyer says
So glad to connect with you here!!
im glad to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel! I can totally relate! I have 3 teens as well and when I was told about the teenage years I thought nothing of it! Can you tell me what DVDs did you use and where can I get them?
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Thank you for your post! I appreciate that you were “real” about your struggles and how you gave details about ideas to incorporate unconventional learning. I really needed this inspiration! I too have been homeschooling eighteen plus years with one college graduate, now married and two currently in college. My fourth just wasn’t getting it, but that’s because I’ve been approaching this wrong. I’m glad you shared and thank you for being real on your challenges, even moms that have been homeschooling as long as we have don’t have all the answers and it’s nice to find someone that encourages us like you have!
Tricia Goyer says
So glad this was helpful to you!