by Lynna Sutherland
If you are going to take on the calling of homeschooling your children, having a supportive community around you is essential for your homeschool journey! We all long for help, input, and advice. On the other hand, sometimes we dread it! What does it look like to seek and give helpful homeschool advice? I’d like to propose that the best model for homeschool support goes along with that old proverb: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Homeschool Journey: Beginning of the Road
Maybe you’re just starting out on the homeschool journey, and the responsibility is daunting. The choices are overwhelming! How do you know which curriculum to pick? How do you know what kind of approach to use? And what should your daily schedule look like? If only there were a magic book or super-expert who could just tell you how to do it all, you’d be set!
There are plenty of places to find people with lots of experience and information to share! See if there is a local homeschool support group in your area. Find out if there are other homeschool moms at your church. Seek out some of the many supportive and helpful online homeschool communities.
Definitely ask for help. Definitely look for suggestions and support. But look for someone who can coach you in knowing your own children and your own strengths and weaknesses. Of course, those two alone are the lessons of a lifetime. But those two alone also lay a powerful foundation for a dynamite homeschool. Do some research, ask some questions, and then just pick sometime and try it. Expect to learn as you go. The best mentors are the ones who are prepared to walk along this learn-as-you-go journey with you.
Homeschool Journey:Middle of the Road
Maybe you’ve been on this journey long enough to find some tools and strategies that are really useful. And you could probably save other moms some time by sharing what you’ve discovered. Share what you’ve learned; no one wants to reinvent the wheel! But use discretion in how you share. You’re still on that journey of knowing yourself and your kids, as are the other moms around you. What works for one family may not work for another.
Look for opportunities to help, but be careful not to expect your validation to come from others deciding to adopt the methods you share. It is so flattering and encouraging for someone to take your idea and put it into practice. But what is even better in the long run is to watch a mom take an idea, and then adapt and modify it to fit the needs of her homeschool. We’re not looking to make disciples (of ourselves), gaining followers that will be dependent on us long-term.
Homeschool Journey: Nearing the End
Maybe you’re in the homestretch of homeschooling. It’s been a long, tiring journey, and you’ve been around the block enough times to know that there isn’t a one-size-fixes-all answer to most of those homeschool questions. Gone are the days of starry-eyed idealism where you had a whole bag of tips and tricks to share, certain to solve every mom’s dilemma. And maybe you feel even less qualified to offer wisdom or advice than you thought you were five or ten years earlier.
Friend, knowing your own weakness and limitations makes you a better guide and counselor, ready to extend to others the grace and patience you know you need! And, if you know there isn’t a one-size answer, it’s probably because you’ve tried a lot of different things! You have variety and options to offer. Share different approaches that have helped at different times. And above all, encourage and foster each mom’s confidence in making decisions for her own little clan.
Maybe you’ve finished homeschooling. Perhaps your children have all moved out. You’re totally out of the loop on the latest curriculum fads, and parents are making use of digital resources that you couldn’t have imagined when your children were little. The only questions the younger moms are asking are about the difference between these two spelling programs or where to find the best deals on e-bundles, and you feel like an out-of-date encyclopedia.
Seasoned mother, you have the most valuable wisdom of all: the long-term view. Sometimes we younger moms aren’t looking for that kind of wisdom because, frankly, we don’t know that that’s what we really need! But be patient. Bide your time and build relationships. One day (or many days!) all of our perfect schedules and programs will come crashing down. And you will be there to remind us of what is of ultimate importance—knowing ourselves, knowing our children, and, together, knowing the Lord who has called us to this awesome task.
Teach a Mom to Fish
Sure, you can tell a mom what to do. You can give her a bullet list or a blueprint. But the best advice of all is the kind of advice that bolsters her confidence and returns the decision making to her hands so that she can continue to grow as a woman well-qualified for the task before her. Teach a mom to fish for herself, and you equip her for a lifetime!
Lynna Sutherland blogs at Homeschooling without Training Wheels where she loves to remind moms (and herself!) of the freedom and flexibility that comes with homeschooling! Lynna and her husband have seven children. The motto of their homeschool is “Wisdom is the Principal Thing” from Proverbs 4:7. You can follow Lynna on Instagram, Facebook and Periscope.