All of us wish we could homeschool with peace. However, I know (personally) that we moms struggle to find tranquility within our homes. Besides battling with dyslexia and dyscalculia, we have to fend off surly replies, sighs, whining, and worse.
Youngsters at home are comfortable, so they don’t have anything holding them back when they misbehave. No peers handy to make fun of them if they cry to get out of writing or math. They can bop their siblings and cause chaos whenever they are bored with schoolwork or want some attention because they have no fear of censure from others (and moms don’t count because we are too familiar with them).
While I am a great advocate of more natural learning, I am also a great fan of balance.
Our “natural” education at home is not one massive, chaotic free-for-all. If it were, I would be typing this from a padded cell.
If we don’t have order, we can’t have fun.
It’s the old adage:
Work Before Pleasure
Here’s a video wherein I talk about this subject:
No more of this thinking, “If we appease, we will have peace.” Giving in to demands only encourages more of the same bad behaviors and habits. We have to be willing to put the hard work it takes into training our children so that we can all homeschool in peace.
Actually, it’s a great idea to revisit the basics of child-training every few months or so. It helps everyone understand where they fit and what is expected of them.
Summer is one of those perfect times to focus in on order and behavior. This is the season when school work is light or nil and life moves at a slower pace (if you are like us, we let the kids have some slack for a week or two, then they beg us to take charge and get things back in order!).
We have tried a lot of things over the last 37 years or so of parenting our large brood, but these are the basics we have stuck with:
Use the Word.
All scripture given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.2 Timothy 3:16
Wow! It’s right there in plain speech (God, You are so awesome–You knew what we would need way back when, but that’s just because You are the BEST parent). What better source than the book written by THE Father? If we study His ways and intents, we will have the right heart for the job.
The first stop is Proverbs for basic instruction in wisdom and righteousness, then off to glean gems from the rest of the Word of God. I try and have scripture keys at the ready whenever it is time for correction, such as:
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
This one is a great reminder for times of “sibling abuse.”
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I have found role-playing (not the sicko psychology type) can be a great way to help them practice “turning the other cheek.” We concoct different scenarios to help put the theoretical into the practical.
Gain the child’s full attention.
For me, eye contact is a must. Jesus said the eyes are gateways to the heart, so it makes sense that staring into the eyes of a child energizes a heart connection that brings a calming benevolence into the conversation. This bit of sugar makes the medicine go down a lot easier.
Be fully engaged.
Parenting is just like farming; if we want a good crop, we have to plant good seed. We plant good seed when we put our children before our needs for distraction and recreation. If we want well-behaved, respectful, children we have to be willing to pay the price. Even if the pastor himself should call up and ask to divert our attention for some other “good” cause–we must make the better choice and be mommies to our children!
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Beware the “monologue.”
Kids are smart; they know if they can get us talking we will spend our energy and they will get away unscathed. It’s so, so easy, but we can’t rely on the wagging of our tongues to do the job of correction. We have to explain things, but after a child has heard the word once, action does not need to be discussed.
Our own children have been known to purposely encourage us to talk about some principle or story of illustration (remember, we are older and have a lot of these to share!) so that they can postpone (or forget) correction.
Make correction meaningful.
Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
Correction is uncomfortable, but it will save our children’s lives. There are just certain things that can only be learned through the application of the unpleasant; and these measures have to cause a measured amount of pain in one form or another. A child that has never had his will trained in this way is being prepared for a life full of misery, for everyone whom God loves receives His correction, and those who have been trained to recognize it are the most blessed.
There is a knot tied between the soul and sin, a true lover’s knot; they two became one flesh. It is true of ourselves, it is true of our children, whom we have begotten in our own likeness. O God! thou knowest this foolishness…correction is necessary to the cure of it. It will not be got out by fair means and gentle methods; there must be strictness and severity, and that which will cause grief. Children need to be corrected, and kept under discipline, by their parents; and we all need to be corrected by our heavenly Father (Heb. 12:6, 7), and under the correction we must stroke down folly and kiss the rod.
Matthew Henry’s A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 22:15
Praise and reward good behavior.
This is not always easy, as we tend to become busy or even grumpy ourselves and overlook some of the best parts of parenting. Here is a fun exercise; one morning, instead of correcting for a bad job, start passing out m&m candies to anyone you “catch” doing something correctly–I do this every once-in-a-while and it is so much fun!
Words are powerful tools–dole out the encouraging ones as much as possible.
It has been said that one critical remark should be balanced by ten positive ones. While doling out the correction, make sure and pile on the encouragement where appropriate (not empty flattery). Here are some words and phrases to use; “You are such a blessing, I am so glad God gave you to me!” “Good job!” “You did that exactly right!” “You work so well that it gives me joy just to watch you!” “I am so impressed by your good attitude, keep it up!” “You cheer everyone up by your smile and happy ways!” etc.
instruct and explain consequences.
Children do not automatically know how to act. This can be very embarrassing, not to mention disruptive, especially at times when children need to be quiet and respectful (such as at church or during a funeral).
Long before ever setting foot in a public place, young ones need some instruction. Role-playing can help here, too. They also need to know just what may happen if they do not comply.
There also need to be clear guidelines of correction for different behaviors. Lying, cheating, stealing, etc. should all have specific consequences.
I have been known to actually post these things on the refrigerator and refer to them at the appropriate times. This gives children security and a sense that justice is being done.
How very different our world would look if we understood respect. There are two types of respect; that which is expected because of position, and that which is earned. Children need to understand both, and they need to be trained in both.
There is respect for the helpless, children, and the elderly, and there is respect for authorities. They need to remember their place, and the place of others. Teaching them to say “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am” is not abuse. They need to understand submission, but in a series of priorities:
- God as Supreme
- Family and Church next
- Government and Experts LAST
(And we need to have a certain diplomatic decorum about us, even when we are standing in defiance of a corrupt, tyrannical regime.)
In our house we have been known to have special training in this type of respect. If a child fails to respond promptly to me, I require that he “practice” coming quickly 10 times. If he can’t come quickly, he is to call out, “Coming, Mother” as loud as is necessary for me to hear him (we have a large house). When being addressed, he is to be in a listening posture, not allowed to “negotiate” and must answer with “Yes, Ma’am” or “No, Ma’am”, whichever is appropriate.
Use chores to gain character.
There is no such thing as an educated person who does not have good character (some would call such a person an “educated idiot”). Ever heard of a talented and highly educated person who was lazy making a mark in the world? Me, neither. (This doesn’t include the regime currently occupying Washington.)
Having children help with the responsibilities of family life gives parents an opportunity to diagnose problems and deal with them before they become an element of a child’s personality and character. A child who refuses to respond quickly when called, who constantly talks-back, and who is not held accountable for sloppy, half-hearted work will be a constant drain and make the teaching of every subject a headache for the whole family and enable that child to reap a harvest of heartache in life.
On the other hand, a home full of happy, (mostly) obedient children is a little piece of heaven on earth!
Here are some different perspectives on this same subject: