Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling with Grace

No, Grace is not my name, nor is it my daughter’s name. “Homeschooling with Grace” refers to making homeschooling a real possibility for you. If your mental image of homeschooling (before you began) was much different from what your homeschooling reality has become, perhaps you need a dose of Grace. Sit back, relax, and lower your standards just enough to allow yourself to breathe easily again as we look at the Top 10 Benefits of Homeschooling with Grace.

10. You can provide your students with as much time as they need to truly understand a concept, and you can allow your students to skip redundant portions of lessons they have already learned. [Grace is patient, but Grace also recognizes achievement.]

9. You meet other homeschooling families who do things differently than you do, and you smile, knowing that all homeschoolers are unique. [Grace appreciates the differences in life.]

8. Every member of the family relaxes, knowing that Grace bestows forgiveness, second (and third and fourth) chances, and hugs when you need them. [Grace understands, and Grace loves anyway.]

7. You give up “flying under the radar” to avoid attracting attention as a homeschooling family and boldly traipse through parks, stores, and other public areas between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., knowing that anyone foolish enough to inquire why your children are not “in school” will have to endure a barrage of giggles, several quippy answers from each child, and at least 3 recitations from recent history and science lessons. [Grace accepts Life as a good teacher.]

6. You redefine a “clean” house to mean one that looks lived in but can still be occupied without fear of actually contracting any truly scary diseases. [Grace knows that perfection is unattainable on this side of Heaven.]

5. You no longer cringe at the thought of friends dropping by unannounced, realizing that they are more interested in sharing 5 minutes of conversation with another grown-up than in performing a white-glove inspection of your bookshelves. [Grace prefers people to things.]

4. You realize that no one who really loves you will care if the breakfast dishes are still in the sink when you start supper. Or that once in a while last night’s pizza boxes can be found on the coffee table. At least the leftovers are all gone… thanks to the family dog. [Grace knows when you need a break.]

3. The thought of seeing your family pictured on the cover of a homeschooling magazine would mean that chore-boot footprints and mud stains are being featured in that issue’s Art Corner. [Grace knows that Life is not tidy.]

2. You lower your expectations of homeschooling to include only those things your students might actually be able to accomplish in this lifetime. [Grace does not expect the impossible.]

And finally, the Number One Benefit of Homeschooling with Grace is:

1. Grace. Just when you think you’ve messed up everything beyond all hope of repair, God gives you the Grace to start fresh and try again. [His mercies are new every morning–Lamentations 3:22-23]

The Ideal Homeschool Atmosphere

More than anything else, I need (________) to homeschool effectively. What would you put in that blank? My guess is that nearly everyone’s answer would match mine: patience. I hear it from other Moms, I read it in online forums, I see it at homeschool get-togethers: patience is a primary goal for most homeschooling parents. There is that old line about the most dangerous way to get patience is to pray for it, because God will allow you to go through a very painstaking process to develop patience. Homeschooling often seems to fit that description quite well. Besides desiring patience for ourselves as teachers, we secondly wish for our students to have patience: with themselves in learning difficult lesson concepts, with their siblings, with us as fumbling, first-time teachers.

A similar aspiration to patience would have to be self-control. I may be able to find the patience to go over a lesson for the umpteenth time, trying to help my student understand the concept, but I definitely have difficulty with self-control over my initial reactions. Frustration, anger, despair, confusion, and many other emotions may burst to the surface before I can stop them. Sometimes laughter erupts at the most inopportune times, leaving my child embarrassed and self-conscious, when that is never my intention. Students also will benefit from a healthy dose of self-control — sibling rivalry starts with a lack of it and could be stopped by the presence of it. Control over self and all of self’s insecurities would propel students forward to try again and again without despairing over repeated failures.

What other attributes do I desire for my children to have as they grow into adulthood? Primarily, I want my children to have faith — a strong faith in God that will stay with them for a lifetime. Faith, an unyielding trust in God, is what keeps us going during the dark times, the hard seasons of life. Faith, a reliance upon God alone, pays its own rewards when no one else seems to notice our efforts. Faith reminds us to be humble and to look upon others through God’s eyes of unconditional love.

I also want my children to be kind to each other, to be kind to others outside our family, to be kind to animals, to treat all of life as the precious creations of God. I want them to be gentle with their younger siblings, gentle with their pets, and gentle with their possessions. Kindness, gentleness, and respect are virtues that no one can argue against.

We all remind our children to “be good.” When they go off to play with a friend, when they leave home for a weekend at Grandma’s, when we leave the room to answer the telephone, we admonish them to be good. “Good” is a relative term. “Good” is much better than “bad,” but not quite as nice as “wonderful.” Of course, I want my children to obey the family rules and to stay away from drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, but I do not just want them to be good, I also want them to do good. I want them to think of others first and offer the last brownie to someone else before snarfing it down themselves. I want them to carry the groceries in from the car instead of considering that to be Mom’s job. I want them to pick up after themselves, not just to avoid being nagged about it, but because they know they should do it. I know my children will play nicely with others, will say “please” and “thank you” to Grandma, and will not kick the dog the minute my back is turned, but I also want them to be shining examples of goodness wherever they go in life.

When my children have learned to be kind to each other, to do good for each other, to treat things gently, and to trust God for patience with me, with their siblings, and with themselves, and when I have gained self-control and patience in teaching, our homeschool days will be filled with peace and joy and love for each other. However, our personal attempts at mastering each of these things are limited by our human capabilities. I will be sailing along, having a great day, thinking that everything is finally going according to plan, and boom — it all falls apart. Something surprisingly insignificant can trigger a chain reaction of nuclear proportions, tumbling my perfect day into ruins.

The only solution is to bring in a power larger than myself to maintain the peace. God’s word says that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are the fruit of His Holy Spirit. A life filled with the Holy Spirit will bloom with these attributes. They are the direct results, the consequences, of giving one’s life over to God’s control. No matter how much I try on my own, no amount of effort will produce them with any lasting results. Only God has the ability to control my self-will, place in me the desire to be truly good or kind or gentle, to keep me at peace, to fill me with His love, and to override all the downfalls of my days with His ever-present joy. The ideal life and the ideal homeschool atmosphere are the outcome of total reliance on God for His guidance every day — and I have to remind myself of it every day.

The Bible Is Relevant to My Life Today?

“I didn’t know the Old Testament could be relevant to my life today!” She was a homeschool Mom, a good friend of mine, and a long-time believer. I was really excited to share some scriptures with her from Jeremiah that were confirmation and guidance for a spiritual battle she and I were going through together. I was floored. Could there be a Christian within my sphere of influence who did not know the power of the entire Bible? How could a believer today not depend on the wisdom of the Old Testament to supplement the grace of the New Testament? The lesson I learned that day was that I should readily share my love of God’s Word with my friends as well as with my children so that they may learn a better appreciation for its timelessness.

Short, spontaneous lessons applying scripture to daily life help our children see that the Bible touches all areas of their lives. Even if I do not know the verse perfectly from memory, I can still give my children the benefit of seeing that God’s Word is living and active by paraphrasing the verse until I get my hands on the concordance software to find the actual quote.

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”(NASB) The New Living Translation says it in a way I like even better: “Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.” I am not raising children; I am training adults: productive citizens, valuable members of society. What are you making for dinner? Water, meat, and vegetables — or soup? Children are the raw materials — responsible adults are the goals. Children are very anxious to grow up, and they will be equally anxious to learn when they realize you are trying to help them grow up.

I Samuel 15:22 “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Yes, it is a very nice drawing, and I can tell you have worked very hard on it. However, what I had asked you to do was to pick up all your Legos and put them away. You did not obey. Do you understand the difference? Now you go back and pick up the Legos while I put this picture on the refrigerator.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event [delight] under heaven…” Do not get so wrapped up in schedules that you miss taking “gorgeous days” off. If this lesson just is not working, put it away for now; in 2 days (or 2 weeks, or 2 months) things will be different and it may work just fine.

Luke 15:4-7 “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” We usually think of salvation with this parable, but we can also apply this to teaching: if one child is straggling behind, the lamb’s wool is caught in a thicket, that student is stuck on a lesson — go and find where that lamb is stuck and help him get free to move on. Find the way to help him gain understanding.

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” ‘Nuff said.

I may not have an impressive amount of Bible verses memorized verbatim, but I do know what the Bible says about many different topics. God has stirred my heart on many occasions with the perfect Bible story to share with the day’s events. Sometimes I know exactly where the desired verses are located, and sometimes I have to spend a little time searching for them, but in the end, I can read the passage with my family and show them where God’s Word speaks to today’s circumstances. The Bible is relevant to our lives today.

Biblical Model of Discipleship

It worked for Jesus, and it has worked for me. Whether you are folding laundry, making bread, or shingling a roof, this method works:
You do it with them watching you.
You do it with them helping you.
They do it with you helping them.
They do it with you watching them.
You leave with them doing it alone.

Jesus modeled this method for His disciples by teaching and healing the multitudes. As the disciples watched Jesus, they learned. As Jesus had Peter, James, and John step aside with Him to heal, they learned. Jesus had the disciples try it on their own, while He stayed nearby to assist when needed. Finally, He was able to send them out with confidence.

Now we can apply this same method to teaching many new tasks, from long division to changing a tire. First, you let your students watch to get a good idea of how the job is supposed to go when it is done correctly. For many jobs, your children have already watched you do it over and over, informally — they did not realize they were learning something, they thought they were just watching Mom do her jobs.

Second, allow the students to help with the easier portions of the job and work their way up to trying the more complicated parts. Again, you may have already accomplished this stage, simply taking advantage of the extra pairs of hands.

Third, trade places with your students and take over the role of helper, doing the easy tasks for them, but remaining close by in case the students need assistance with the trickier operations. This can be a scary step — actually turning over the outcome of the task to someone else. But if we think about what really matters, teaching the skill itself is much more important than having the towels folded perfectly straight.

Fourth, step back a little and observe your new trainees as they perform the entire task by themselves. It is often a good idea at this stage to “act busy,” involving yourself in another nearby task so that your apprentices do not get nervous from being watched. Keep watching until they are confident in their newfound ability, then walk away to your next job — or maybe free time!

Remember, practice makes perfect: your new worker will probably not do the job exactly the same way you do it, but they will get better with time, and it is important also to emphasize that to the child. “I don’t expect you to do it the same way Mommy does it because you just started, and I’ve got 20 years of practice ahead of you. But I know you will get better and faster the more you do it.” Then be sure to praise their progress!

Yada, yada, yada…

I was heading for the verses about “teach your children when you rise up and when you lie down…” (Deut. 6:5-9), but found something else interesting on my way there. Deuteronomy 4:9 instructs the Israelites to remind their sons and grandsons of all that God did for them in the wilderness, lest they forget all that God had done or was capable of doing in the future. The word for teaching the children is translated “make them known” in my New American Standard Bible. The Hebrew word used is “yada.” So now when I hear someone say, “Yada, yada, yada…” I will probably think of this Hebrew word and how God wants us to keep reminding ourselves of what He has done and can do and wants to do and will do. Yada, yada, yada, remind, remind, remind, keep talking, keep talking, keep talking about what God can do — until we truly believe it.