What I Wish I Would Have Learned Before I Began Homeschooling, Part One

boundaries, fence, homeschooling

When I was preparing to begin homeschooling, I knew that I would need some kind of curriculum, school supplies, a plan and a method.  However, once I was in the thick of it, I realized there was one area where I was desperately unprepared:  setting boundaries.

Years ago, a Christian counselor recommended a book to me, “Boundaries:  When to Say Yes, How to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life.”  I purchased it, but shortly after, began dating my husband and got distracted.  It sat on my bookshelf for a decade before God confronted me with the fact that I still had issues in this area that needed to be addressed.  Once I began reading it, I was surprised to realize how much of my life was being affected by my lack of boundaries.  Having grown up with a mother who struggled with addiction, I was often placed in the position of being the mother instead of the child.  I never learned to say “no” to responsibilities that were not my own or to set limits with others.

This caused me to grow into a parent who did not know how to set the appropriate limits with my children, either.  As a result, the biggest struggle that I have faced while trying to teach my children is simply having them cooperate and obey.  In the summer edition of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, there was an article by Deborah Wuehler, entitled “The Importance of Obedience and How to Get Your Kids on Board” that outlined some of the steps that she uses to teach her children obedience.  She instills in them as toddlers that she expects them to obey immediately, completely and cheerfully.  That was mind-blowing to me, as my children never respond to any request that I make the first time, which is my biggest pet peeve.

If I would have realized my own weakness in this area sooner, I would have addressed it in counseling long ago and been prepared to lay the groundwork of teaching obedience to my children when they were very young.  Of course, later is better than never.  The challenge of doing it when my children are several years into homeschooling is that habits have been formed that need to be corrected.

If you are having trouble setting limits with your children and find yourself repeating requests ad nauseam before they obey you, I highly recommend reading Deborah’s article and the book, “Boundaries” or “Boundaries with Kids”  by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  Cooperative children are so much easier to teach!  Most importantly, we are not only teaching them reading and writing, but responsibility – understanding what they are responsible for and what they aren’t responsible for, knowing how to say “no” and how to accept a “no.”  By setting external boundaries for them now, our children will eventually develop internal boundaries, which will be invaluable to them in adulthood and ultimately, in parenting their own children one day.

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Relationship, Obedience & Homeschooling

Relationship obedience pic for blog

Recently, as we were waiting for our daughters at dance class, another mom asked if my children had started school yet.  I explained that we had begun our school year, but we homeschool.  In response, she said, “I thought about homeschooling, but in the end, I decided that my relationship with my children would be better if I weren’t their teacher, too.”

A few years ago, a friend of mine who was considering homeschooling her child shared with me her worry that her son wouldn’t listen to her if she tried to teach him, and therefore, not get his school work done.

I cannot judge either one of these concerns.  I understand them well, because I’ve had them myself.  As I’ve prayed through them, though, God has shown me His heart about these things.

Relationships require interaction and time spent together to grow in intimacy, not time apart.  The reason that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” isn’t because you love someone more when you are apart; it is because the less you are together, the less opportunity there is for conflict to develop.  God’s Word shows us that He is very relational.  He is our Abba Father.  Jesus is His son.  The church is called His bride.  How can we model for our children an intimate relationship with God unless we have one with them?

Also, it is very important that we all learn obedience to God.  How do we prepare our children for that responsibility if we haven’t taught them to obey us first?  Personally, I’ve been very frustrated by a stubborn disobedience that has arisen in my 6-year-old lately.  I warn her that there will be consequences if she doesn’t make the right choice in a given situation.  Yet, she continues to push the limits until I end up having to take a privilege away.  Then, the tears flow, as though she didn’t already know that was going to happen.

I don’t want to chasten my children or remove blessings from them.  However, this helps me to realize how God feels about me.  He wants my obedience and for me to listen to His leading, so he can bless me also.  That just confirms to me that I need to stick with it.  My daughter will find it much easier to follow God in the long run if she gets her heart right in this area now.  It also helps me to keep my eyes on Him in my own walk.  If it hurts me this much to punish my child, I can imagine how much more my Father in heaven is grieved by me at times.

If I weren’t home with my children all day, I’d have a lot less time to help them build their characters and encourage their spiritual growth, but it would still be my responsibility, even if someone else was teaching them to read and write.  So, I embrace the challenge, trusting that God will work in their hearts to bring them closer to Him.

“Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” – Jeremiah 24:7

 Note:  This post was written for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Homeschooling with Heart Blog and the intended audience is parents who feel that they have been called to homeschool.