Until COVID-19 disrupted our entire world, children went to school.
The only educational responsibilities most parents had was getting them to school every day and making sure they did their homework in the evenings. Our kids didn’t know how good they had it until school went online. Then, everything changed. If you were lucky, your child had a great teacher who stayed connected, continued to teach, and answered the many questions your child had. If not, you suddenly found yourself in the role of “teacher” without any control over the material you were supposed to teach your child. Super frustrating!
Children across the United States had their school year disrupted and interrupted. Stress for your kids and for you began to skyrocket. In addition to managing your bills, changes in work, shelter in place orders, and the shutdown, you had to take on a substantial role in your child’s education. If you are like most parents, the tension between you and your children escalated, and school became a major source of irritation. To add insult to injury— school went from an interactive social experience that included opportunities for sports and other extra-curricular activities to a virtual prison with no escape. Could it be any worse??
Homework began to dictate your family schedule and the level of peace in your home.
The all-important grades took precedent over your other parental responsibilities. It is easy to hyper-focus on your child to get good grades. However, that should not be, cannot be, the goal of education. I had the privilege of homeschooling my sons for most of their school years while Ron was in prison. Yes, I chose to homeschool them. I can honestly say I do not regret my decision for their education at all.
One of the most important lessons I learned through that experience is that a good education is not demonstrated by grades alone. The goal of education is to help your students learn new information and instill a love of learning so they will pursue learning for the rest of their lives. I am proud to say that my goal of inspiring a love of learning was accomplished. Both of my sons love to learn and see it as a lifetime pursuit. Graduation was not an end of knowledge, but the beginning of their self-exploration and journey to devour information they knew would help them achieve their dreams.
"The most difficult and time-consuming season of homeschooling is when you teach your child to read, write, and use arithmetic basics."
These are skills that are needed for your child to grow into a self-motivated learner. I remember these years well. Many days I wondered if my sons would ever read. My patience was tested every minute. Every. Single. Minute. Now, I remember those days as some of my favorite years with the boys. I spent so much time trying to find ways to make learning fun; we laughed together and played together while they learned to read, write, add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
During my later homeschooling years, I was busy building up our ministry and developing programs to help others change their lives. Obviously, I did not have hours a day to sit alongside my children and teach them information. I helped them by pointing them in the right direction and encouraged them to explore and find the answers themselves. They had their syllabus for the year and had the freedom to set their own schedules. I checked in on their progress each week and provided guidance to ensure they were tracking toward completing everything by the end of the school year. My only other contribution was to plan field trips that supported the lessons and made learning more interesting as the concepts had context.
I will never forget when Ron came home that first time and joined us in our homeschool adventures.
I left for work, and he sat down with the boys to see what they were working on. One of them was struggling to find the answer to an algebra problem and asked him for assistance. As Ron reviewed the material, he found all of the answers were in the back of the book. He asked the boys why they didn’t just write down the solutions from the end of the book. Their answer surprised him.
Without any hesitation, they answered, “why would we do that? We will never learn how to do these problems if we just write down the answers. We might get some wrong while we figure it out, but we will learn it. If we just write down the answers, they will be correct, but we will never know how to do it. We would just be cheating ourselves.” That answer made my heart soar! They were learning because they wanted to KNOW, not because they wanted to get a good grade. Their confidence continued to grow. They mastered information and discovered the concepts of what to do, when, and why.
Learning is the goal, not perfection.
As we look to next fall, the CDC and the Dept of Education are skeptical that school will be able to function as we knew it in pre-COVID19 days. It will once again hold challenges for teachers, parents, and students. I want to encourage you to start preparing for a beautiful season of learning. To be successful, you must change your vantage point and see the importance of loving the art of learning as more important than getting good grades. When the goal is to acquire knowledge across a lifetime, the objective is to learn how to learn. Education becomes an adventure full of curiosity instead of a dreaded responsibility.
Remember that practice makes permanent. Help your children practice good study habits and inspire them to become self-motivated learners. These two things will lay the foundation for their successful futures as adults.
I am rooting for you!