Just that one word is enough to send a little shiver down your spine, isn’t it? Whether it is tests at school, the doctor’s office, or the DMV, testing doesn’t tend to be our favorite thing. I would guess that most of us have at least a little test anxiety. Or perhaps our children do. Even my children who have never set foot in public school experience anxiety when it comes to testing.
Here in North Carolina, as homeschoolers we are required to test our students every year. This, more than any other legal requirement we have, tends to be the one that people fear. What test should I choose? Where do I get it from? How will my child perform on the test? It feels like the ultimate report card for us as homeschool teachers, and our children as students.
Can testing become a positive experience in your homeschool? I believe it can. Here are a few tips to help you overcome testing anxiety.
Keep Your Perspective
Remember that tests are just a small part of the overall picture of our homeschool and our students. So many amazing qualities are not measured by any test: giftedness in music, athletics or art, character, and leadership for just a few examples. Some truly excellent students are really awful test takers!
Do Your Research
Learning all about what is actually required by law regarding testing, knowing about the different test options, where to get them and how to choose the best one for your situation, and hearing about others’ experiences with testing all help reduce or remove that testing anxiety entirely.
We want to help! Part of homeschooling with confidence and joy is overcoming this testing hurdle. Our webinar, Required Annual Homeschool Testing, coming up on March 12 at 3 p.m., will answer all these questions and more. When the webinar is complete, you will still be able to view the recording by signing up. You can register here. In the meantime, you can find more information on our Testing and Testing Services webpage.
Help Your Kids Get Through It
There are also things we can do to help our children have a good experience with testing. Clear communication with them about the test is very important; we should explain our reasons for giving it and what to expect. We can make the time special for our students—have snacks you wouldn’t ordinarily have, or go on an outing to the park when testing is finished.
You can homeschool with confidence and joy . . . even when giving required annual tests!
– Amanda Wares, NCHE Helps Director
by Diane Helfrich
So, you’ve decided to homeschool, or you have been homeschooling for a bit. It’s quite a responsibility, yet one you gladly choose because you are giving your kids what you want them to have. Let’s take a look at a sample day in the life of a homeschooler:
- Get up early to get breakfast made and grab a cup of coffee
- Get the kids up and dressed
- Eat breakfast
- Clean-up the kitchen
- Start school
- Break to prepare for lunch while the kids play for a few
- Eat lunch and clean-up
- Get back to school
- Play with the kids outside or at the park for some fresh air
- Run to the grocery store
- Run a load of wash, run the vacuum, and prepare for supper
- Greet spouse with quick hello with a hug when arriving home
- Eat supper and clean-up
- Fold the laundry
- Read to the kids and maybe watch a little TV while grading papers
- Get kids to bed
- Talk to your spouse
- Grab a shower and set the alarm for tomorrow
Does this sound like a day at your house? Maybe it’s a different order, but it’s all there in some form. It’s productive. The kids and spouse are well cared for. But what about you? Where did anything focus on you except maybe the cup of coffee and a shower? It’s so easy to get into a rhythm of work that feels like you are accomplishing what needs to be done, but after some time, the grind runs you into the ground. One of the difficulties we homeschoolers face is that we live right in the middle of our work. If we aren’t mindful, the work never ends. A few little routines may help you refresh and reset so that you don’t run into the ground and in that process, lose your motivation. By the way, these routines are important habits to teach our kids. They too will have lives that need a little self-care in the busyness of work and family.
Breathing: Mindful breathing at any point in your day can bring calm and a few moments of rest. In the Benedictine monk tradition, a bell rings on the hour, and everyone stops their work for a few moments of prayer—thankfulness for the work of the day and all things sustaining them. Even taking a moment to close your eyes, focus on breath, and feel it go down the back of your throat—closing out the world to all else can bring calm. Breathe…
Down-time: Take an hour for everyone soon after lunch. At our house, each needed to be in his or her room. The kids could read, take a nap, or play quietly. I did the same—maybe lying down, feet up, and breathing. Maybe I read a book or wrote a letter to a friend. I sometimes played some soft music. Often, I was simply in communion with God; I was doing no work, not using the computer, not talking or playing on my phone, just having me-time. This routine breaks the work routine and forces a micro-vacation in your day even if you don’t do it every day or for a full hour.
Completion: At some point, consider your work done for the day. Maybe it’s after supper. Maybe it’s after the kids are in bed. Knock on the kitchen door three times and make a mental commitment that this is your signal to be done with work. You can’t quit being a parent or a spouse, but you can conscientiously separate from school and housework. You can even wash your face and change your clothes. Wash your work out of your mind and let your stress and cares wash down the drain—watch them go. Make these efforts holy routines in the sense that you focus on the element of self-care as you do it. Be mindful as you fold your clothes, and do it with loving care. “Feel” things as you do them. It’s a matter of calming your mind to be in the moment. Rest can come in moments. You can focus on yourself in moments. When you take the time to clear your mind, God can speak and reassure you of His presence in your life.
This article is not intended to minimize the bigger breaks we all need. We do need time with friends, time alone with our spouse, and vacations where the entire family gets out of town for a bit. I’m a firm believer, however, that if we can breathe and build moments into our day, and bring conscious closure to the end of our day, we can flow through our schedule a bit easier. The eighteen steps above may not change, but step nineteen may no longer say, “collapse.”
Diane Helfrich is a veteran homeschooler of fourteen years. She now serves as the NCHE development director. She is active in her church music program and loves teaching confirmation to middle schoolers at her church. Outside of church, she has taken up playing the ukulele. She is married to newly-retired David. They have two children. Ian is working on a Ph.D. in economics at Georgia Tech, and Anna is a case manager for trafficked and abused children in Yakima, Washington.
Middle school is often a confusing time for kids. Even though we lived through it, it is really no easier for parents. One reason it is challenging (besides puberty!) is because they are at a critical transition point as we move from discipline to discipleship. This is a shift from external motivation to internal motivation. We want them to grow up by learning self-control and discipline. We want them to learn to make good choices on their own. I’d like to offer three tips for how to move through this transition.
Offer new responsibility and freedom in response to obedience and respect.
Create an economy in your home for freedom. Help your children understand how to earn freedom and how they will lose it. When they are obedient and respectful they earn new responsibility and freedom.
For example, if my 14-year-old son consistently fails to complete his chores, then he loses some of his freedom to socialize on his own time. If my daughter does not follow the rules about using the computer, then she loses the freedom to use it for anything aside from work.
Correction can take the form of discipleship, instead of discipline, when there is respect and teachability.
The way our children respond to correction is very important. We often find ourselves getting sucked into an argument with our kids and wonder how we got there. When my kids respond with a disrespectful and argumentative spirit, I let know there are two paths forward.
One is the path of discipleship. If they choose to be respectful and teachable, then we can have a discussion. Sometimes, we can even negotiate. The other path is discipline. If they are going to be argumentative and disrespectful, then there will be no discussion. If they try to argue and do not immediately follow instructions, then they will receive consequences (usually the removal of freedom or privileges).
Give them freedom to make their own choices so they can develop conviction.
I wrote a blog post about the time my son wanted to live in the woods for 24 hours . . . on a cold, rainy day. In the post, I entertained the question: When Should I Let My Children Make Their Own Decisions?
Instead of always giving or not giving permission to do something, sometimes we ought to let our kids make their own decisions. We can help them understand the situation, including their responsibilities, and then let them learn to process what is wise, right, or effective. Often in these situations we can even give them counsel but then give them genuine freedom to decide. Doing so gives them an opportunity to think and pray about their decisions. They can consider counsel and process what is right and wrong. These are abilities they will need for the rest of their lives!
If you would like to hear more about these principles (and many others), please join us on Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. for our next webinar, Discipleship at Home. Learn more and register for free here.
– Matthew McDill
You know that tension between what we say we believe and what we actually do? Sometimes it is a healthy gap that we are always working to close. Sometimes it is a gaping chasm of hypocrisy.
One topic for parents that often seems to fall somewhere on this spectrum is discipleship. This is the churchy word for helping our children follow Jesus. Most Christian parents I know would affirm their responsibility to disciple their children and the importance of family Bible reading and prayer. Most would confirm that this is the most important thing for parents to be doing. But what is really happening in our homes?
Wherever you fall on this spectrum of tension regarding discipleship, we would like to help you close the gap. Even if you are consistently taking steps to help your children follow Jesus, we would like to encourage you.
Discipleship at Home Webinar
First, I’d like to let you know about the next NCHE Webinar that is coming up on February 16, 3 pm: Discipleship at Home. In this webinar, we will talk about foundations, some practical strategies, and suggested content for discipleship at home. We will discuss these questions:
- How do parents transition from discipline (external motivation) to discipleship (internal motivation)?
- How do parents build a strong relationship with their children?
- What are some basic strategies for discipleship?
- What topics should parents discuss when discipling their children?
If you’d like to join us for this free webinar, you can register here.
NCHE Blog Posts on Discipleship
Second, I’ve pulled together a list of blog posts that we have offered on the topic of discipleship.
Learning to Rely on the Lord
God gives us an amazing promise in 2 Corinthians 9:8.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiently in all things at all times,
you may abound in every good work.”
The key to being faithful in our responsibility to help our children follow Jesus is not just being more focused and determined. The key to faithfulness is admitting our weakness and learning to depend daily on the abundant grace of God that enables us to abound in every good work!
Last year we launched the NCHE Blog for the very first time! This is just one more way that we help parents homeschool with confidence and joy. We hope it has been a great source of information and encouragement to you. We’ve looked back and found our top ten most popular posts from 2020. They are definitely worth reading (or rereading).