Originally Sent: 9/3/2015
September 3, 2015
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Starting a New School Year: Will You Walk in Fear or Faith?
With the new fall semester starting soon, there is excitement over curriculum packages arriving, co-op classes organizing, online courses beginning, and schedules coming together. Homeschooling parents start the school year with such anticipation and optimism, and we applaud these thriving families.
But we know that some parents are on the fringes of losing hope. Anxiety and fear can eat away until you have no peace, and hope evaporates quickly into wishful thinking. We are quite familiar with these anxieties, and we offer up wisdom earned during hard-fought battles with fears of our own. These vicious little bugaboos feed on one another. Mostly, they rob you of joy and peace, so let’s address some of these fears head on.
Fears of Inadequacy
If only I had more money, then I could purchase the new curriculum I need. Although wishing for more money to purchase the “best” material to simplify teaching and grading seems a no-brainer, this isn’t always true. The more prescriptive the curriculum, the more it may stifle your teenâ€™s learning ability and hamper actual progress.
When you as a parent exercise control over assignments, this allows you to cut out busywork and focus your teen’s efforts on developing new abilities and honing skills. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, remember that God gives you exactly what you need for this day. Take time to inventory the curriculum and resources you own or that may be found at the local library. Thank God for the resources He has given you and pray for wisdom to use them effectively.
Family, friends, and acquaintances may have resources you can borrow. Are there school resources you own that you may be able to sell so you can then recycle the funds into the purchase of new curriculum? If the Lord ultimately does not provide funds for new curriculum, perhaps it is His way of redirecting you to other options.
I’m so busy with younger children, I wish I could enroll my high school teen in online courses or co-op classes. Online courses are a great blessing for certain subjects, but they require your teen to spend hours in front of a computer, which can be grueling. Select online courses for your teens in subjects they feel confident in rather than in areas of weakness.
For real-time courses, supervise your teen’s efforts to set aside sufficient time in which to complete the significant weekly homework. For self-directed online courses, supervise your teens’ progress and help them manage the workload within their weekly schedule.
Most teens need interaction with interested adults to fit new ideas together and see how concepts connect, so co-op classes are another good option. However, not all co-op classes grade student homework, so talk with the teacher about assignment goals and standards because these are the best ways to grade student work. If the co-op teacher doesn’t have assignment standards, make your own. Start simple. Observe the results. Then make some adjustments.
I don’t think my teen will ever learn this concept or finish this textbook. What should I do? Please take a good long look at your teen. In 10 years, will your young adult’s life be defined by any of these challenging academic subjects: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, biology, chemistry, Spanish, French, German, Latin, Greek, history, literature, essay writing, etc.? Only in the four years of high school are teens judged by academic prowess across all subject areas! When graduates enter vocational schools or colleges, students don’t major in everything, just one thing.
Now that you have a more balanced perspective, let’s admit that all of us find some of the high school academic subjects challenging to teach. Veteran homeschooling parents can recount mistaken approaches and lessons learned by enslavement to lesson book assignments. Even if you are not a person of “faith,” most parents recognize that their children are a gift from God, and He chose you for them and them for you. Take time to consider the immense value of this child and contemplate the way God has created and gifted your teen, who has a special place in your heart. Offer thanks daily for her God-given talents, personality, humor, perspective, understanding, and interests. By giving thanks for the whole person, you will no longer fixate on a few failures or shortcomings. God didn’t make a mistake when He gave you this daughter. Actually, God gave her to you to greatly bless you!
In high school, I had trouble understanding _____ (fill in the blank), so how can I teach what I don’t know? We have a deep secret to share from our personal homeschool experience. We were not always the best teachers in the subjects we are most qualified to teach. For those subjects that came easily to us, we tended to be impatient when teaching them to our children. After we had explained various concepts logically and thoroughly, our teens didn’t grasp ideas as quickly, so we assumed the problem must obviously be with our student’s ability to comprehend. Sometimes we expected our teens to just inhale vast amounts of knowledge from being in our very presence.
So you can see why we needed God to humble us in our areas of strength and encourage us in our areas of weakness. We were far more compassionate teachers in subjects we found challenging. We actually looked for ways to make ideas understandable, taught rhymes or silly songs to imprint important information, and sympathized with student’s efforts to complete difficult assignments.
Humble adults willing to learn alongside their teens make wonderful teachers. Just for the fun of it, add humor whenever you can to help ideas stick and enjoy your teen’s company. When you take the time and effort to find ways to help your student understand ideas and comprehend concepts, your son begins to believe that he can learn. If not, he will hear the silent message of disapproval and begin to believe that he is stupid and can’t ever get it. This just isn’t true. Be encouraged that humble teachers inspire students to reach their highest potential.
Fears of Self-Doubt
If I were a better teacher, then homeschooling would be easier. Nothing of vital significance is ever easy, so we should not expect homeschooling our teens to be simple. We have a real enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion and desires to destroy all that God is building. As you instruct your teens in the knowledge of God, the intricacies of His vast creation, and the history of mankind, you are knocking against the gates of hell because your homeschool is spreading the kingdom of God.
After all of Paul’s hardships in the book of Acts, he states in Philippians that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Now juxtapose this with the American dream: “If I work hard and do everything the right way, then all should go well for me.” One’s the truth while the other is a clever deception.
Homeschooling is probably ruining my teen’s chance for a bright future. You know how pivotal the high school years were in shaping your future, so sometimes you can see yourself as the primary obstacle, which blocks God’s perfect plan for your teen. Truthfully, God delights in partnering with very imperfect people. Just pick a book of the Bible and read about one of them. As a child of God, you bear His image because you have been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ—a lamb without spot or blemish. You wear Christ’s royal robe of right standing with God and there is nothing you do to ruin this.
Speak to God of your fears and shortcomings, and God promises to always extend grace upon grace and overwhelming love towards you. He has called you to homeschool your children, and He who began a good work will not quit until He finishes His mighty work. You will not do this job perfectly because no one can. God will take your fumbling obedience and turn it into something far more significant and precious than you could ever accomplish on your own. Walk closely with Him this day. Teach precept upon precept as Scripture advises.
Please remember that you walk with a great shepherd who understands your temptations, is compassionate towards you, has good plans for you, and will never forsake you. So be faithful in the little, daily things because God will be faithful in the big, significant things.
Homeschooling parents are especially vulnerable to fears because they often feel very alone. At HSLDA, we have the privilege of talking with many of you, and when you hear that your situation is within the normal variation of homeschooling experiences, the relief in your voice is wonderful.
If you are walking your first teen through high school or your current teen’s pathway doesn’t align with the hewn track established by older siblings, please call and talk with us. We know that the rigor of high school subjects often frightens homeschooling parents. The elementary and middle school years now seem easy by comparison, but you are not alone.
As you contemplate the college application process, workforce employment, vocational training (November 2015 newsletter), military enlistment, developing a four-year plan, transcripts, diplomas, and graduation, you have an advocate here at HSLDA.
Join us next month as we explain practical ways to evaluate high school credit.
Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
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