Those new to homeschooling would do themselves a favor by beginning a steady association with other veteran homeschoolers. Besides the mentoring situation that could develop between the moms and dads, it is beneficial to see what subjects are assigned and what expectations are hoped for among children of different ages. Observing the abilities, shortcomings and attitudes of a variety of children will give new homeschooling parents a sense of what lies ahead. It will also provide many opportunities for discovering how others deal with the various challenges that arise in any learning situation.
Here are some suggestions from my own experience:
*** Make sure you don’t confuse a standard of excellence with your own unrealistic expectations. Just because you want your child to be a violin virtuoso, doesn’t mean that God placed within him the desire or talent for such a calling. Learn the art of inspiring your students rather than dictating to them what they should or should not become.
*** Choose your words carefully when helping them strive for excellence. Comments such as, Why can’t you be more like__________?, only serve to discourage and invalidate the progress that is occurring. More appropriate phraseology such as, I see you are making steady improvement ,is a more positive way to achieve the desired outcome. Since the point of all learning should be to unearth and develop that which the Lord has intended for each child in terms of his service to the Kingdom of God, the role of the encouraging parent is vital to help the child discover where he fits in to God’s plan.
*** It is important that a child never feels as though he is stupid. The best way to avoid this (or remedy it if this self-perception is already present) is to have set goals in mind as you begin an academic undertaking. Make sure you have actually taught the material before you expect your student to get the right answer. At any point you see frustration or impatience (and you will), you can pose questions and offer suggestions to help your student learn how to figure out the problem for himself. That said, if he’s not “getting it,” feel free to offer hints or give the beginnings of an answer to get the ball rolling.
*** Never ever end on a down note. This may be time consuming, but, especially with young children, ending with a smile is very important. If this means biting off less with each learning session, or extending the learning time considerably, consider it time well spent. It is to everyone’s advantage for the next learning time to be anticipated with joy rather than avoided with dread.
*** I often suggest to homeschooling parents that they involve themselves in some new learning activity of their own where they have to exercise patience, deal with frustration, and accept slow, steady progress rather than immediate success. Then, not only will they understand on a personal level what their students are experiencing, but they have the chance to model the Fruits of the Spirit in the midst of their own learning curve – both very valuable to the desired ends of homeschooling.
As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth. (Isa. 61:11)