In 2010 I was asked to go to China to help parents and children become more united. While there, one question kept coming up, no matter whether I was speaking on the radio, or speaking to parent or school groups. “How do I help my children succeed in school?”
Studying education has been a passion of mine for years, but I didn't feel like spouting off my knowledge of the proper learning environment and usage of belief based materials to enhance character development was really what these families were asking. They wanted to know how to get their children to listen to them. They wanted to know how to get their children to care as much about their academic success as their parents cared about it. To answer this question, I had to ask myself some other questions. “What is the parent teaching the child, and how is the parent relating or connecting to the child?”
Every Parent is a Homeschooling Parent Really
It is no secret to most people that I homeschool my children. The BBC showed the world my homeschooled family in 2009 and ever since then people have wanted to know about homeschooling as well as our principles and beliefs.
All parents are homeschoolers. Yes, you read that right. I believe that all parents are homeschool parents no matter where they choose to have their children learn math or science. The only issue is many parents don't know they are homeschool parents.
The narrow definition of a homeschool parent is someone who is replacing the instruction given at school with instruction given at home.
The broad definition of a homeschooling parent, which I am focusing on today, is a parent who knows it is their responsibility to inspire, direct, lead, and teach their children what it means to live a fulfilled life and to accomplish the purpose of their existence. In short, the parent knows it is their job to prepare their child to become the person God intends them to become.
Good homeschooling parents teach their children despite the fact that the child might have other professional teachers. The parent sees themselves as the lens the child needs to see the world through and discusses everything possible at home. These homeschool parents take their child along the journey of life and don't consider it a burden. Gardening, cooking, working, projects and stories are all part of the journey of these deliberate families.
The good homeschool parents surround their children with truth, goodness, and virtue, which will be their protection in the socially wayward world they live in. Every moment in the life of a good homeschooling parent is discussed and valued as an educational experience. Life is exciting for these children. They love learning and develop a sense of purpose and passion to make a difference early on. All children (and people) want purpose. The question today, is often who gets to instill this purpose. Clearly, by virtue of how children arrive to this world, parents are the intended leader for a child in his pursuit for life's meaning and their personal missions.
Many families now days are choosing to officially follow the more narrow definition of homeschooling and conduct academic instruction at home. In fact, in the United States approximately 1,475,282 kids were homeschooling two years ago. But, every single parent is still a homeschooler.
Bad Homeschooling Parents
The bad homeschooling parents do not really know that they are a teacher. These are the parents who teach their children that the meaning of life is pleasure or distraction by electronics. These parents often disconnect from their children and allow society to be the primary influence in the lives of the children.
Children still learn from bad homeschooling parents. They learn laziness, selfishness, disconnection, distraction, entitlement, greediness, comparisons and often times even dishonesty. These lessons are powerful lessons for an impressionable youth. They see these things as the way life is, the way adult life should be. If only the bad homeschool parent knew they were teaching such influential lessons to their young ones.
Good Homeschooling Parents
Good [homeschooling] parents know that their time with their children is important. They realize that they have a sacred stewardship to teach, influence and nurture the children God gave them. So, they take their jobs seriously. Fortunately, now days there are more and more parents who are falling into this category. Good homeschooling parents turn the TV and media off. They play, work and learn as families. They discuss together and schedule regular time to have family time.
Remember those two questions I asked myself in China? “What is the parent teaching the child, and how is the parent relating or connecting to the child?”
The Chinese parents were working hard and sacrificing everything to make a good life for their children, but many of them didn't know they were homeschool parents. Not only were many of them not teaching the children important lessons of life, family and relationships, they were often not even able to be with their children. Many Chinese see their children only a few times a year. Some parents, only one time a year. Lucky families get to have parent time on the weekends. And a select few, are choosing to raise their children the old fashioned way and see their children every day and live full time as a family unit.
So, the most important lesson I felt I could teach the Chinese families was to have weekly family activities together. Some of the parents were shocked that the family should need to get together every week. But, I assured them that if they put the family time as a priority the children would do better in school.
The Facts About Academic Success
People learn through connection and conversion to truth. This means that a person needs to connect to a person a book or a digital device etc. to start the learning process. What person do you think the deepest connection should exist with? The parents of course. If the connection to truth isn't the parents, then the child will become distant from parents and possibly even be confused as they draw closer to friends, teachers or media that they are connecting to.
Often times when people hear about the meetings our family has each week they think we are talking too much and making life too organized. I am not a really organized person by nature, but I have a commitment to our Sunday, couple's meeting, family meeting and the individual mentor meetings with the children. I have seen the proof, the impact, of good family communication and connection and will not stop now.
When children get the opportunity to talk deliberately about academics, relationships, goals and their individual progression it is life changing. These conversations lead to conversion and commitment to succeed. They get inspired to accomplish more and achieve more. I see it every week.
Life changing conversations like these happen in family and mentor meetings as well as when the family is working and playing together. If having meetings sounds hard, start with weekly family activities. Put them as a priority. Connect with your family and they will learn from you and excel in school.
The Current Change
This month is the beginning of the official school year for most of the country. It is a time when children and parents renew their schedules with excitement and get back to the business of academic learning again.
This is not to suggest that learning hasn't been happening all Summer long though. Indeed, learning never stops. We learn lessons every day no matter what we are doing. There are teachers all around us.
Friends, teachers, media, people in the community, books, family members and parents are all teachers. Of this list of influences on our learning and living, the parents are the only teachers who have a life-long mentor relationship. In fact, parents are the most influential teachers for children.
Whether they want to be or not, parents are homeschoolers. We need to support and empower each other in this grand, God-given calling. As we see ourselves in this light, we will act differently and connect with our children more deeply. Go ahead, enjoy teaching your children. Any good homeschooling parent will tell you teaching their children and connecting deeply with them is the most rewarding thing they have ever done.
Read Educational Success a book that teaches parents how to help their child take ownership of their education at the different levels of academic development.