[box]Curious about homeschooling? Want to know what you need to get started? Then this month's posts are for you. Join us in the month of March as we look at some of the things that I have learned over the past ten years of homeschooling our children.[/box] One of the comments I have often heard moms say is "I don't think I could ever homeschool. My kid would never listen to me. They do so much better listening to their teachers at school." I know what they mean. I sometimes wonder if our kids exchange places with an invisible alter ego while they are out of my presence only to switch back right before we reunite. There are times when I've had received glowing reports about my children when I've really wanted to ask, "Are we talking about the same child? Could you send them home?"
Kids are smart. They know when they need to put on their best behavior and manners. But if we are honest, we must admit that we do the same thing too. Perhaps it is part of the hiding that comes with our sin nature. We wonder: If people really knew what went on in my mind, would they still think highly of me? And so, we put on our best Sunday self so that we won't scare others off or offend unnecessarily. I don't know if that is what kids are thinking, but we learn when it's safe and not safe to be ourselves. Whether we intend to or not, we sometimes support this idea with our own similar behavior. (Who has not yelled at your kids on the way to church only to paste on a smiling face when you step into the sanctuary?)
Anyways, what has this got to do with homeschooling? Back to the original comment---if our kids only listen to their teachers and not to their parents, then something wrong is going on. God calls our children to obey us as parents (Eph. 6:1). If they only obey outside of the home and not at home, that is a problem. Sometimes I fool myself by thinking, "At least they obey their teachers!" when we should be calling them to a higher standard: obeying at home.
I don't know about you, but I want my children to learn to obey even when it is hardest. And admittedly, it's hard to obey your parents at home! Isn't it true for us too? Somehow, in the safety of home, we let our true selves come out. I'm sure it's not that much different with our children.
And yet, when we satisfy ourselves with obedient children out in public (so we don't look bad) and yet slack off at home, we are doing our children a disservice. Parenting requires us to train our children to obey---not just so we have little slaves that will do our every whim---but so that we can train them up to obey their Lord unconditionally, immediately, and completely.
If you are thinking about homeschooling, and even if you are committed to it, I would strongly recommend that you make obedience your children's first lesson. If you are pulling them out of school, and they are not accustomed to following your directions immediately (or think it's optional), then before you even crack open a book or start a unit study, I would encourage you to establish this foundational skill in your children right away. Again, it's not so you can crack the whip and get results, but so that you can begin the heart training that is so foundational to any teacher-student (and parent-child) relationship.
Now I'm not saying that you need to sit your children down in a row and lecture them about the evils of disobedience and list out all the consequences of every infraction. They have that in schools: you know, one check mark is a warning, two check marks you lose a privilege, etc. That's behavior management in a crowd. You can use that if you want, but it's not necessary.
Homeschooling is different. I'm not trying to manage a crowd. I'm trying to train a child's heart. Yes, there may be loss of privileges, time outs, etc. But I also have a love relationship with this child that seeks to train them for their good, not just so I can manage a classroom full of people and get through the day in one piece. Expecting obedience is not meant to be punitive, but an asset to our children both now and in the future.
So how can you teach obedience? If your children are young, make it fun. Play "Follow the Leader" and explain to them that in school, whether you are at home or not, we follow Mommy's directions. Of course, you can reverse the game so that you follow them, and explain that even though you are in charge, you are open to their suggestions. Read books about children who obey/disobey and what can happen (Peter Rabbit, anyone?). Ultimately, I want my children to obey me because it is good for them (Eph. 6:2), not because they are afraid of me. Invest your time and efforts in this first lesson and it will pay off later on.
If your children are older, stories and games may not be the thing, but a heart-to-heart talk, including confession on your part if you have not been faithful in calling them to obedience, may be in order. As parents, we can humble ourselves before our children and admit that we also have not been obedient to the Lord by not training them. Instead of pointing fingers, we can also confess our own need to learn to obey our heavenly Father.
I don't know about you, but wouldn't you like to know that whether they are out and about or at home with you, your children have an integrity to their character? Think about it, pray over it, and ask the Lord to show you how you are doing in this area. And as He leads you to lead your children, obey His direction. Whether we are 2 or 52, we still need to learn this lesson!