Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ten Tips for a Terrific Home School Year, Part 1

Unbelievably, it's that time of year again -- time to start back to school.  Many of us are still peering down from the high dive, gathering the courage to jump in, while others have already taken the plunge.  Regardless of which camp you fall into, perhaps you will find some helpful ideas in my new series that offers tips for a terrific homeschool year!

Tip #1:  Know why you are homeschooling.

It is imperative that you know why you are choosing to homeschool and that you count the cost.  It won't be easy, but it will be worth the sacrifice!  Some days will be immensely rewarding; other days you will bang your head against the wall and cry out to God asking Him why you ever had children in the first place, let alone thought it would be a good idea to homeschool them!  I know. I've done my share of locking myself in my bathroom to cry!  (Mostly back when my sons who are now 22, 20, 18 and 16 were around 12, 10, 8 and 6 and I had to struggle with them constantly to stay on task, plus I had a couple pre-schoolers to keep constructively occupied and a high-maintenance baby, and if that weren't enough, I was trying to figure out how to homeschool my two oldest daughters through high school!  Those were definitely demanding years!) 

If you don't have a clearly defined vision and mandate for homeschooling, it will be too easy to quit when the going gets rough!  That's why you need to identify why you are homeschooling and what your goals are. Taking the time to write up a vision or mission statement for your homeschool can help you know where you are headed and keep you heading in that direction even when discouragement threatens.  If you feel that God has called you to this lifestyle, that in itself should help you to persevere through the rough spots.  

However, I've also found it helpful to have a file folder entitled, "Why I'm Homeschooling."  Then, every time I see an article in the newspaper about declining test scores in the public schools, bullying, teen pregnancy or school violence, I just clip the article and drop it in that file. Then, on those days when I ask myself why on earth I'm doing this, I grab that folder and remind myself of a few good reasons!

Identifying key Scripture verses that defined my homeschooling efforts have also given me the motivation I needed to keep plugging away through the years.  I chose theme verses for our home school back in 1990, which clearly expressed my long-term goals for our children.  Found in Philippians 2:14-16, I particularly like the wording in the New American Standard Bible: 

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

These verses outline my overwhelming desire for my children to do all of their school work and chores without grumbling and complaining, for them to be blameless and innocent, to live lives that are above reproach even in the midst of a dishonest, sinful and perverse generation, so that they will shine as lights in the world, as they hold fast to the Words of Life.  Why?  So I would not have spent my life toiling in vain.  The next verse in the passage (verse 17) talks about being poured out as a drink offering, and that is exactly what a homeschooling mother of a large family does -- pours herself out daily on behalf of her family.

I've changed our school name a couple times through the years.  (Our original name was Sonbeam Academy, but that no longer seemed fitting when my kids started towering over me!) In keeping with the above passage, our school name is Lighthouse Academy.  I hope each of my children will be like lighthouses, as they shine brightly in this dark world, lighting the way to Jesus for those who are lost and struggling in the dark and stormy waters of this life.  

To me that epitomizes the reason we homeschool -- I don't want my children to "fit in" or to be like the rest of this generation -- I want them to stand out, and to shine brightly for Jesus!!

Homework Time:

If you have chosen to homeschool your children, why?  Have you written a vision statement for your homeschool? If not, take some time to write one. 

What are your goals for your children and how will homeschooling help you achieve them?  If you have chosen a different educational method, does it support your goals for your children?

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of this series.

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