Not Just for Greek Heroes:
The Importance of Mentorship
Did you know that the word mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey? Mentor was the name of the “loyal adviser of Odysseus entrusted with the care and education of Telemachus [Odysseus’s son].”1 Though mention of Mentor himself is scant in the Odyssey, the goddess Athena disguises herself as Mentor several times throughout Homer’s epic, giving advice and encouragement to Telemachus and even Odysseus.
Courtesy of the Pent FamilyTaking mentorship overseas: Some of the Pent children hang out with homeschooling friends in South Korea.
More importantly, examples of mentoring abound in Scripture: Moses mentored Joshua, Elijah mentored Elisha, Mordecai mentored Esther, Jesus mentored the disciples, Paul mentored Timothy, and Barnabas mentored John Mark.
The help of that “loyal adviser” is as important for families today as it was to the spiritual growth and equipping for ministry of Joshua, the disciples, and Timothy, as well as to the success of Homer’s mythical heroes.
“Being mentored and mentoring are natural ways the homeschooling community has grown over the past 25 years,” say Becky Cooke and Diane Kummer, Home School Legal Defense Association’s high school coordinators. Behind the growing numbers of homeschoolers around you today, stand parents who advise, encourage, and share with each other. As homeschoolers band together to advance better homeschool legislation and laws in our country, we need to continue to band together in support of each other.
Why Do I Need a Mentor?
“Moms are giving and giving and giving to such an extent that their tanks frequently run on empty. Refueling comes by attending to your personal well-being through the study of God’s Word and the encouragement of a mentor-friend,” advise Becky and Diane.
Everyone—especially a homeschooling mom (or dad)—needs an encouraging word and a listening ear once in a while. Each day you’re on call—teaching kids, maintaining a home, cooking meals, running errands. It’s easy to feel like buckling and flying to Bermuda.
Mentors are there when you have questions—when you want to know how to motivate your teenage son to finish his creative writing assignment or balance your schedule between teaching two high schoolers and two elementary-aged children. An older mom or dad who has already successfully taught his or her kids through high school can offer advice, instruction, and encouragement.
“As we share our problems and frustrations, we find out that we are not alone in our feelings or the problems we face. We also learn that others have found solutions to these very problems,” says Luanne Shackelford in A Survivor’s Guide to Home Schooling.
“Both of us were blessed by mentors during our homeschooling years,” continue Becky and Diane. “Not only did our mentors give us practical advice about courses, methods of teaching, curriculum suggestions, and more, but they also encouraged and prayed for and with us.”
How Do I Find a Mentor?
You might be surprised—you could find a mentor around the corner or across the country through the internet! Here are some places to look:
- Homeschool support group
- Homeschool conferences
- Extended family
“Look for someone who has homeschooled their own children successfully,” advises Brad Miser, author of Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling. “Look for someone whose kids you admire for their personal characteristics, academic achievements, and so on.”2 (See sidebar "Helpful Resources.")
What Does a Mentorship Relationship Look Like?
Your mentorship can take many different forms—what works best for you and your “loyal adviser”? You may choose to meet once a week, or once every two months. You might choose to frequent a local coffee shop, meet in each others’ homes, or talk over the phone.
If you would rather have group sessions so several parents can encourage each other and share ideas, spring the suggestion at your next local homeschool group meeting, or contact some homeschooling friends.
Being the “Loyal Adviser”
“There is no one formula to being an effective mentor,” says Timothy Pent, a homeschooling father and mentor to South Korean homeschoolers.* “It is, rather, who the mentor is and if he practices what he preaches. . . . It is not just what we know, but who we are.”
Think about when you first started homeschooling—chances are your decision was strongly influenced by families who were already home-educating. Just as they came alongside you, seek out opportunities to be that “loyal adviser” and friend to others.
Look for a younger or newer homeschooling family—maybe they just started homeschooling, maybe they are a few years into it, or maybe they’re considering homeschooling through high school. Look for this family in the same places where you look for a mentor for yourself.
If you’ve been homeschooling longer than your mentoree, you have enough experience to be a help to them. Bruce Shortt, founder of Homeschooling Family to Family, suggests that potential mentors ask themselves four questions: “Can you take someone along with you to a homeschool co-op meeting? Can you take that person with you to a homeschool convention or book fair? Can you introduce that new family to some of your homeschooling friends? And, can you spend some time helping the new family decide on curriculum, and provide some periodic encouragement?”3
Marilyn Rockett, a homeschool veteran, professional speaker, and author, says, “I didn’t have a mentor when I was a young mom and when we began homeschooling. How much easier things would have been if there had been someone to learn from! I hope to be that mentor to those who need that now.”4
1 Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, Inc.: NY, 1998.
2 <“Finding Homeschooling Mentors,” reproduced from Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling by Brad Miser, www.familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,1-33735,00.html.
3 HSLDA, “Investing in Others,” Home School Heartbeat, Volume 67, May 12, 2006.
4 “Author/Artist Review,” www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=44854&netp_id=458442&event=EBRN&item_code=WW.
* For more about the Pent family’s ministry and
how you can mentor international homeschooling families, see “How You Can Help”