Sibling rivalry. Teenage rebellion. Peer pressure. Depression. Failed marriages. So many broken relationships. These are just a few of the problems that plague our culture today.
Is there something different about the homeschool environment that spares us from the troubles of the “outside” world? Not necessarily. The secret may be in our approach to these problems.
In a world that glorifies snark and considers sarcasm a fine art, the gift of encouragement is often snickered at as banal. Homeschool families, on the other hand, tend to value encouragement because there is less reason for competition and more opportunity for cooperation when we’re living and learning together.
I consider relationship-building to be one of the homeschooling essentials in our family, which I wrote about recently. I made up my mind early that attachment parenting was the method I would use for raising my children. Homeschooling has always felt like a natural extension of that. It’s guided by the principle that Jesus gave us in Matthew 7:12, also known as the Golden Rule:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Most people regardless of their belief system can usually agree that this is a good standard to live by.
With our focus on academic goals, planning, running the home, and all the many demands for our time and attention, we can get off track with our relationships. It becomes too easy to say, “I’ll talk to the kids about this later” or “I’ll read to the kids after I finish the laundry or the dishes or plan this lesson.” Believe me, I understand. It’s happened to me more times than I care to count. It’s never too late to slow down and make quality time a part of our daily routine. I realized that by including my girls in my chores, letting them work alongside me even though it often slows me down, can be a special time to share together. We have some great conversations that way and can even laugh while we work by singing silly songs or playing music on the radio. It gives me a chance to encourage them as they work together and learn new skills, too. I also realized that letting that load of laundry go till later or even the next day was okay. It’s better to stop and read that story because that is what counts in the end — those are the memories to treasure.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
Nurturing relationships can’t be checked off a to-do list. You can’t schedule your interactions with your children. It requires an intentional attention. It requires being in the moment with them. It is not a do-it-once-and-I’m-finished feeling of accomplishment. It is a long-term investment.
What are the dividends of that investment? Maybe it sounds like an idealistic notion to say that some of those cultural problems like teenage rebellion and peer pressure are avoided to some extent by homeschooling. I think the evidence bears this out, though. When I have a chance to talk to other homeschooling moms, I find that they overwhelmingly agree that the time investment has paid off in closer relationships with their children, fewer arguments among siblings, and fewer issues with teenagers. There is a environment of mutual respect that grows out of listening to one another and learning not just academics together, but also life skills with a focus on the things that really matter in terms of lasting significance. We take our example from Jesus, who desires to be in a close personal relationship with each of us, not as a distant authority figure that we must fear and avoid angering.
Many of us feel like we’re busier than we should be. We rush to meet deadlines, sometimes self-imposed, and lose sight of what we were trying to accomplish things for in the first place. Time is an essential ingredient in nurturing relationships and it’s an area where we have a distinct advantage over “traditionally” schooled families. No matter how busy we are, we still have more time to spend with our children by virtue of homeschooling them.
We should capitalize on that gift of time and use it wisely to build each other up through encouraging relationship.
How do you encourage one another and spend quality time as a family?