Q&A answering homeschool questions

Answering Your Homeschool Questions – Part 3

In this three-part series, a panel of homeschoolers have informally shared some of their teaching tips, thoughts, and experiences on a wide variety of homeschool questions that were submitted to us, which originally ran in the Virginia Home Educator magazine. Keep in mind that each of our panelists is sharing what worked for her–and sometimes they even have opposite opinions! So just take the ideas that will work for you and ignore those that won’t. And be sure to check out the other posts in the series:

Attitudes in Homeschooling

How can I motivate uncooperative, irresponsible students?
  • Pray. Listen for clues about what motivates them. Remind them school is their work and their calling, and they have a duty to do their best. Discipline them for not doing their work. Privileges should be taken away if children don’t complete assigned tasks. Get a good friend to help with some subjects or areas if needed.
  • Sometimes an uncooperative student has a very stubborn parent. If a child learns differently or wants to try something else, discuss it. If you are too emotional to discuss it without getting upset, let the other parent or a good friend do it. One wise person told us to pick two things that the children must do (math and writing; smile and chores; go to bed by ten and clean your room—whatever pushes your buttons the most). I made a list of twenty things that were pushing my buttons and realized that picking two would bring a lot of healing. I think I picked to be pleasant and complete daily assignments by midnight. I gave up clean rooms, family morning times, and a whole lot of other things. It was better and helped us get to a real solution.
  • Look for the cause of this behavior. There are times when children are uncooperative because they are in rebellion and testing you—and you HAVE to stay at it and discipline them so they learn obedience, first to you, and ultimately to God. There is a lot more at stake than just getting motivated or getting the task done.
How do we teach children to be independent learners, love learning, and own their own education?
  • If we are excited about learning, they will be too. If we show them how to look up the answer to a question, then next time they can do it on their own. Don’t be afraid to follow a rabbit trail if there’s something that piques your child’s interest.
  • Nurture their curiosity. Children are born wanting to learn. Ask—and welcome—questions. Teach them to research and how to evaluate websites wisely. As they get older, give them bigger projects built around their interests.
  • Make it easy for children to correct their own work in skill areas such as math.
  • Consider giving them their own planners with assignments listed so they can move forward at their own pace, or try Sue Patrick’s workbox system.
  • Categorize materials into “learning stations” to make self-study more user- friendly. Some items to include might be cassettes or CDs, supplemental work- books or coloring books, games, and books on related topics.
  • Tell them if they complete the work and have everything checked and corrected in four days, they can have Friday off!
  • Remember that children do what you inspect, not necessarily what you expect, so stay nearby and available.
  • Let children pursue interests independently, make time for the things they are interested in, and enjoy their discoveries with them. One daughter wanted to know all the major wars of history but didn’t have time. When you have a kid who needs time to learn something of interest, suspend the writing assignments for two weeks and let him have time to research, work in the woodshop, etc.
  • Let middle or high school students work with you on their high school plan, deciding which subjects they want to schedule for each year. Give them their own planbook with a five-day schedule and assignments. Tell them if they can complete the work and have everything checked and corrected in four days, they can have Friday off! Who doesn’t want a three-day weekend? This is a great motivator for the student and a blessing for you, too! You can even talk to them about taking college classes as a high school homeschooler (dual enrollment) or graduating a year early if all their classes are finished. Also, encourage them to get a part-time job, volunteer, or do community service. Being with other people is often a good motivator.
How do we train our children to have a biblical worldview and have godly character?
  • A biblical worldview does not come from a course; it comes from Deuteronomy 6:5-7: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV ’84). So, to train your children to have a biblical worldview, talk about everything, all the time, from God’s perspective. And in order to know God’s perspective yourself, you as parents should be in a serious Bible study.
  • Talk it out! Expose them to the truth, truth, truth of the Scriptures and point out the fallacies in the worldviews that aren’t accurate as you go along. As your children get older, they should be able to do that. Make the discussions difficult— those are good for the parent, too.
  • Let them see and hear you applying the Word to the news, the movies you watch, the novels you read, and the songs you listen to. Read and discuss great literature. My favorite Christian author is Jane Austen, who shows her faith more than she tells it. She helped my son learn to study character. After my son discovered that one friendly, funny homeschooled boy wanted him to join in insulting people and sneaking, my son told me, “He’s a Wickham,” remembering the charming, self-serving character in Pride and Prejudice.
  • I strongly recommend choosing your curriculum wisely! (Do your research, and choose programs and books written by experts who share your worldview.) Then read together, learn together, and discuss the issues together with your children.
How do I balance mom versus teacher roles?
  • You can’t separate the two; God made you to be both. The first time teaching is mentioned in the Bible is in reference to a parent teaching his family. In Genesis 18:19, God chose Abraham because he knew he would “command” his family to keep His ways. Being a mom and a teacher means you have a high calling: a calling to “command” or teach them. There is no one who will love them more than you, be willing to correct them consistently, teach them godly values, train them in the right way, or mentor them by example. And you get to do this while you are teaching them academics!
  • For me there was no dividing line between these two roles. I didn’t lecture like a schoolroom teacher; our homeschool atmosphere was a natural extension of parenting.
  • Don’t homeschool 24-7. By that, I mean don’t correct their grammar every waking hour, don’t drill math all day, and don’t feel obliged to make them analyze everything you read or watch together. Have some down time. Laugh. Do fun things together. But when you teach, put on your teacher face and voice. Don’t let them wiggle out of their responsibilities, no matter how cute or funny they are.
  • Balancing roles is easier when children are younger. For the older ones, start stepping out of teacher into advisor and facilitator. Let children fail with consequences and not with your anger.
How can I have a life of my own when I’m with the kids 24/7?
  • I participated in a weekly morning ladies’ Bible study in a church that had a children’s program. I also belonged to a monthly evening book club. I suggest you choose one or two activities that you love, and work with your husband or friend to do child care so you can go to them. Schedule the activities on the calendar and remind everyone when they are coming up. Don’t think you are too tired to go. Freshen up and leave the house—it will do wonders for you, and that means it will do wonders for your family.
  • Homeschooling was my life and I loved it. But I do “re-juice” by being alone, so we had quiet afternoon times. They were usually only fifteen minutes long, but still worth it.
  • Make it a point to assign work if anyone follows you to the laundry room. Very quickly, you’ll be able to set up a camp chair in there and read a good book!
  • Remember that your life isn’t over if you can’t do all the things you want to do. Children do grow up, and you will have more time.
  • Make breaks. Ask your spouse to take the kids a few hours a week, preferably at a regular time you can count on. Trade babysitting with a friend. Enjoy fifteen-minute micro- breaks: on the phone, with a book, online with a support group, on short walks, etc.
  • With careful planning, I had a couple of evenings a week to pursue other interests. The mobility and flexibility of our homeschooling also allowed us to travel (we often camped) during the off-season. We just packed our books and took them with us.
  • There are seasons of life, some more challenging than others. Right now you’re in a season of mentoring and teaching and training your children. While we’re in the midst of homeschooling, diapers, crying children, and arguing siblings, it’s hard to see the value of our everyday routine. But it’s really one of the most important times to be there for our children. This season will soon be gone, and you will look back on it with joy or regret. Regardless, you can never get it back.
  • Borrow or rent books, use non-consumable books rather than workbooks, use multi-level curriculum, and buy your yearly paper supplies in August when the price is lowest.
  • Some curricula provide an extensive book list, and wherever possible, I borrowed these from the library.
  • We once had so little money that for two years all workbooks were done on plastic sheet protectors so multiple children could use them. What a pain, as they couldn’t keep their assignments. But homeschooling on a tight budget can be done, and it is still a privilege.
  • Don’t look too hard at homeschooling catalogs. Get what you need, make do with what you have, and fill the gaps in with faith—God will provide everything your children need for their future.
  • The Internet has a plethora of free educational resources. Scouring the Used Curriculum Sale at convention each year as well as local homeschool co-op sales can also significantly reduce the cost of curriculum.
  • Subscribe to HEAV’s weekly Updates and check out the “Cool Sites” there and in the archived versions online. You can get a LOT of free resources there.

Helpful Video: “Homeschooling on a Shoestring” by Vicki Bentley (

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