My mother began homeschooling me in 1999. Though I graduated in 2012, she is still homeschooling my youngest sibling. Now I homeschool my children. As a result of my background, I’ve known many homeschoolers. The best of them had a few key characteristics.
The first characteristic of a successful homeschooler is decisiveness. This characteristic plays out in two ways.
First, be decisive in your curriculum. If you’ve found something you like and that works for you and your child, stick with it. Do not allow the fact that Jane Doe’s kids are thriving with another program to distract you from the task at hand. Your job is not to educate Jane Doe’s kids. Your job is to educate your kids.
I grew up in the homeschool community, which blessed me in many ways. I saw many programs come and go, but the number paled in comparison to the great selection we have available today. I would be overwhelmed if I were just entering the homeschool curriculum world now, and I have enormous respect for those of you who have navigated it!
Here’s what I know about myself: I gravitate toward products that withstand the test of time. Thus, I use The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and Saxon Math because they’ve been successful for years. These products aren’t flashy, but my boys thrive with them.
Second, be decisive in your decision to homeschool. Not everybody is going to approve. That’s okay. You weren’t put on this earth to please everyone you meet, and you’ll drive yourself batty if you try. I answer to God and my husband, and as long as they are happy, we’re doing okay!
The flip side of decisiveness is doubt. Doubting yourself, doubting your materials, doubting your children—we can doubt any number of things. Doubt will suck you into a vortex of misery. Resist!
The second characteristic is devotion. We are a Christian homeschool family, so we seek to model devotion to God to our children.
How can I expect my children to repent if I don’t model repentance? How can I expect them to show grace if I am harsh? How can I expect them to obey God when it’s hard if I don’t do it?
Devoting our lives to God is a decision we make over and over again every day. We make it when we answer the 400th question of the day at 8:32 am with patience. We make it when we set aside what we’d rather be doing to serve our families. We make it when we choose diligence over slothfulness, which leads me to the third characteristic.
The third characteristic of a successful homeschooler is diligence. I know, I know. You’ve heard that the best part of homeschooling is the flexibility. It’s true, but there is a difference between having a flexible schedule and just never getting anything accomplished.
Diligence does not mean that we never have fun. It means that our day is rightly ordered. In the spring of 2022, my son had finished all of his kindergarten work except math. So each day we would do his math lesson, and then move on to a fun outdoor activity. We drove all over town to discover new parks and gardens and swimming holes, but we finished that math first. Work hard, play hard.
The fourth and final characteristic of a successful homeschooler is delight. Every child has strengths, and it’s our honor as parent-educators to find those strengths. Delight in what your child does well. Praise him for his kind heart and celebrate his perseverance in a difficult concept. And also delight in his impossibly long eyelashes that are just like his father’s, how her hair falls in soft toddler curls, and how his eyes sparkle.
Share your passions with your kids and delight in things together. Participate in your kids’ passions and be pleasantly surprised when they turn out to be interesting. (I am a certified indoorsy mom of sons who are passionate about hiking and gardening).
When I struggle most with delighting in my children, the root is discontent. I think that if such and such a thing was different, then it would be easier. And maybe it would, but it’s more productive to focus on today’s joys.
Be decisive. Devote your heart to God. Practice diligence. Pursue delight.
I believe in you.