Used with Permission
By Zan Tyler
“Mom, can I go to real school?” I remember my 8-year-old asking me that question like it was yesterday. I feared that our homeschooling journey might end that day. But God was faithful, and my son graduated happily from our home school ten years later.
During our twenty-one years of homeschooling, I could sometimes trace my children’s dissatisfaction or boredom to my own attitudes—at times I needed new vision, a change in focus, or a little more creativity. At other times, I simply needed to alter a child’s course by discerning his needs and strengths. The following pursuits brought energy, motivation, and life into our home year after year.
1. Set aside a half-day at the beginning of each year and ask the Lord to give you fresh vision and inspiration for your home school. God boldly promises: “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3, Amplified).
In Isaiah 28:23–29, God teaches a farmer to farm in very specific ways. Additionally, we learn that “God teaches him order; He instructs him” (verse 26) and “God gives wonderful advice; He gives great wisdom” (verse 29, HCSB).
If God is willing and able to teach a farmer to farm, He is willing and able to teach us how to home school. God promises that when we call to Him, He will answer us. As you read the Bible and pray, wait expectantly for God to answer and reenergize you. Write down what you learn in your time with the Lord.
2. Realize that any good educational plan begins with the child, not a cold, impersonal scope-and-sequence chart. Become students of your children and ask these questions: What are their learning styles, personality types, spiritual gifts? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are they interested in learning? What encourages or discourages them? In the process of recording this information for each child, you will find clues as to why he or she might be discouraged, disinterested, or unmotivated. Choose curriculum, areas of study, and teaching methods based on the answers to these questions.
For instance, auditory-kinesthetic learners need freedom to move and to talk while they learn. Forcing them to be still and quiet during instructional times will require most of their focus, leaving little energy to expend in processing new information.
Remember—the educational power of homeschooling lies in the ability to tailor-make each child’s educational plan and learning environment.
3. Add field trips and travel to reinforce topics of study and to inject vitality and variety into your home school. If you are studying electricity, tour a power plant. If you are studying history, explore museums, battlefields, and historic landmarks. If you are studying civics and government, visit your state capitol and meet your senator and representative. God created a fascinating world; encourage your children to explore it. Homeschooling should be an adventure.
4. Focus on your children’s strengths. When my sons were 6 and 4, I read a book that provided some defining principles for our home school. In it, author Dr. Walter Barbe made this observation:
In many academic settings, they [our children] are tested and confronted with their failures. They are given endless hours of practice, not in their areas of strength, but in their areas of weakness. Eventually this can destroy their self-confidence and their willingness to learn. At home, too, we expect our children to do things the way we do. If our learning strength is different from theirs, we may not be reinforcing their strengths.#
I often think of Scotsman Eric Liddell, who was preparing to go to China as a missionary when he ran in the 1924 Olympic Games. Even though Liddell refused to run in his best event because it was on Sunday, he won a gold medal and set a world record in the 400 meters. In the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire, Liddell remarked: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”
We should always be observing our children so that we can help them identify their true passions and strengths—the areas of their lives where, like Eric Liddell, they “feel God’s pleasure.” We should be constantly asking God to use our children’s gifts and abilities to display His glory to a watching world.
5. Practice hospitality and serve others. Nothing rejuvenates us like focusing on the needs of others. One theme in this edition of TOS is the military/wars. Do you have family members or friends in the military who have been deployed to other countries? Pray together as a family for their safety. Have your children write them letters and send them care packages. Invite the spouse and children of a deployed soldier into your home for a meal. Your children will learn eternally significant, life-changing lessons from this type of outreach and hospitality.
6. Make a habit of reading aloud to your children, or listen to audio books together. Reading together creates an inexplicable bond and excitement about education that is contagious. This month I suggest The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. This classic by Lewis contains a climactic battle between good and evil. After finishing the book, choose one of the plays, movies, or audio dramatizations that have been made based on the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and enjoy it with your children.
Zan is the Director of Apologia Press, a division of Apologia Educational Ministries; the author of 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential; and an international speaker. Her goal is to empower and encourage parents in the eternally significant task of homeschooling. Zan and Joe homeschooled their three children from kindergarten through high school, for a total of twenty-one years. In 1984, Zan was threatened with jail by the South Carolina State Superintendent of Education. She founded the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools in 1990 and served as its president for ten years. She also served as the National Grassroots Director for ParentalRights.org.
1. Walter B. Barbe, Ph.D., Growing Up Learning: They Key to Your Child’s Potential (Washington D.C., Acropolis Books, Ltd, 1985).
7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential by Zan Tyler
Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Kids by Rachael Carman
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for home school families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
How do YOU reenergize your home school when your kids are bored or unmotivated?