Homeschooling is a bit like parenting on steroids. We wear more hats than simply Mom or Dad — principal, project manager, teacher, event coordinator… Plus, we’re spending the majority of our days together, and this proximity is often a pressure cooker.

Take a step back though. What is the whole goal of this homeschool effort, if not to encourage our students to grow in responsibility and to be curious about the world around them? We committed to this journey with joy and excitement, but being constantly mired in conflicts muddles our progress. Let’s recapture the secret power of a home-based education: togetherness.

The Bible mentions two times a warning that comes into play for homeschooling parents. First, “Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged,” and also “Do not exasperate your children.” What can we do to encourage our kids, to give them our energy and enthusiasm for learning? How can we avoid conflict and exasperation?

Communication Tools

The most powerful component that affects our family and homeschool is communication.  Clear communication creates order. Order reinforces that education is a priority. When we put the effort into conveying our expectations clearly, we create accountability. In our home, we use a lot of communication tools:

  • School planners: In high school, they now fill these out themselves and I sign off. This is our agreement for what we will accomplish. How they fill out each day is based on the Google calendar.
  • Google Calendar: Everyone’s events are added to this so our students can structure their day and be ready on time.
  • Class schedule: we create this together every fall. It prevents chaos. We start M/W/F morning with Bible time and a pow-wow of what is going on today.
  • House rules: I created these when they were young, so the last few are outdated. The majority are a code of conduct we all agree to.
  • Chore boards: these are white boards on the refrigerator for daily chores. Older kids are busy, so they may catch up on the weekend.
  • Morning Routine: In elementary school, this chart helped them to start school on time.

Physical Health and Maturity Levels

Regardless of the best-laid plans, some school days will just bomb. When this happens, step back and examine how their physical health may factor in. Be an intentional listener and watcher; slow down and really observe your students.

Sleep and proper nutrition are key. Did they have a late night and or not sleep well? Are they going through a growth spurt? During a sports season, kids may be achy and tired. Daughters having a cycle may not feel well or be even-tempered. Adjust what you can and lower expectations as necessary.

What is their current maturity level? Have we overestimated what they are capable of? When they struggle, it’s okay to pull back and give them time to acclimate and grow in abilities. Our patience and compassion in the face of their weakness build rapport. I promise you from experience that they do notice, and parents will reap what we sow into the relationship.

Student-led Homeschool

Personally, I think of myself as less of a teacher/principal and more of an education manager. I empower my students to own their homeschool experience. What are their educational goals and how can we work towards that together? For example, our daughter’s aim is for a degree in biology and the environment, so we did as much natural science as possible, coupled with documentaries and field trips. Additionally, our son loves all things math so he started algebra fairly early and many electives are in computer tech. I also designed a Russian and arctic history class for him because he was so curious. Step back from total control, share the reigns, and I guarantee it will positively impact curiosity levels and responsibility.

Praise Them Often

Yesterday at the end of a hard day, I pondered what message my kids are absorbing from me about themselves. Think of yourself as holding a bullhorn; what you communicate to your child impacts how they view themselves. Was my bullhorn broadcasting frustration or affection and appreciation? Praise builds up a relationship, especially when it is strained. We all want recognition for the hard and helpful things we do. Furthermore, taking the time to express gratitude makes kids more willing to listen to correction.

Call out the gold! What areas do you see them being extraordinary? Adrienne notices people around her who feel out of place and goes out of her way to be kind. She has a gift for building relationships. Addison is driven to master challenges. He is a born leader and he loves to teach others how he excelled. Award words of respect and honor to your kids and they will become stronger students.

Schedule Time for Fun

Family playtime is to our relationships what sleep is to the human body. During sleep muscles repair, cells renew, our minds relax, and our limbs recover. So, having fun together is a therapy that helps us recover from all kinds of stress. Even if the budget is tight, there are plenty of options like hiking and biking, or a scavenger hunt. Check social media or the library for free community events. Baking or crafting together is perfect in poor weather. Our family uses ASTC and NARM to take advantage of the reciprocal benefits of our museum memberships.

The Secret Power of Homeschool

If you are in a season of struggle as a homeschooling family, or your energy is waning from conflict, I hope that you will take the time to make adjustments after reading this. Recapture your excitement about education and growing a connected family. We Brendtros are nearing the end of our homeschooling years, but we’re making the most of every day. We will always retain the power of connection and teamwork as our secret weapon.

Written by Melissa Brendtro