Unless education promotes character making… it is not worth the trouble taken to furnish it.”
― William Howard Taft
In the last blog article (Part 1), we discussed assumption #1 of two assumptions people often make when they say they could never home school: because I home school, I must be a naturally patient person, not prone to anger or frustration. Hopefully we dispelled that myth.
In this post, we will focus on assumption #2: If I don’t enjoy my children now, or find them easy to be with, that will never change. I believe the answer to this speaks to the heart of homeschooling.
When you home school, you must address character. In fact, if your children are lacking in self-control, you must address this or you won’t be able to teach them. Raise your hand if: your child has ever thrown a fit doing his/her school… cried over a math problem… thrown an object… spoken rudely to you when you tried to help… or declared school “stupid.”
If you’ve experienced anything close to that at all, then you know that the school subject becomes secondary and the lack-of-character issue is of primary importance. The Bible says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,” (Mathew 15:18). Kids (and parents) act the way they do because of what is in their heart, so that is where we need to focus: changing the heart.
At this point I would like to say that ultimately it is God who changes hearts. We are born self-seeking and wanting our own way. If you acknowledge your sin and your need for help, God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone (stubborn/hard) and give you a heart of flesh (tender/responsive),” (Ezekiel 36:26). This is what my husband and I pray for in our children. It is why we use God’s Word to teach them character; who knows us better than the One who created us? He knows our sinful natures and has the best advice in how to parent our children and how to transform our own behaviors.
Here is an example: when Joshua was 5, he struggled with fine motor skills and thus, hated handwriting. Every day, handwriting time was a frustrating struggle in which a battle would ensue. In desperation I pulled out the book For Instruction in Righteousness. This gem of a resource categorizes sins by topics (anger, complaining, hurtful words, etc.) along with corresponding verses and ideas for implementing. I looked up “Self-Control” and read the verse, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he who conquers a city,” (Proverbs 16:32).
I followed the book’s suggestions, and this is what we did: Josh made a crown from foil and decorated it. We discussed what the verse meant and I explained to him that as long as he ruled himself, he could wear the crown while he did his handwriting. But as soon as he began to lose control (and I gave him specific examples) I would simply remove the crown. I was amazed at how well it worked, and I didn’t even have to go into nagging mode. He was quietly reminded of how he was behaving and what he needed to do instead. (The crown bit wouldn’t work on a 15 year old, but you get the idea.)
We pick whatever issue is greatest in our family at the moment and memorize an applicable verse together for a week. Then we can use it as a gentle reminder when that particular sin is popping out. Here are some examples of verses that address particular character issues:
Arguing: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” ―Proverbs 15:1
Complaining: “Do everything without complaining…” ―Philippians 2:14. And for the opposite of complaining: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ―I Thessalonians 5:18
Not receiving instruction: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” ―Proverbs 12:1
Being selfish: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than your selves.” ―Philippians 2:3
Unloving behavior: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” ―I Corinthians 13:4-7
Those are just a few examples of how to use Scripture to address behavior and character. When God’s Word is memorized, it is implanted in the mind and can be recalled to remind us how to act and think. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and instruction in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16).
This is not an exhaustive discussion on child-training, but it may give you a taste of what you can do. I will address other issues in future posts. Hopefully you will have the same attitude concerning the character of your children as a friend of mine did. She was trying to decide whether or not to home school, with her biggest concern being the bumpy relationship between her and her daughter. After discussing the above information, I was so proud of her when she said, “I want to home school if for no other reason than to address the relationship between me and my daughter. I don’t want to give up on her.”
Let’s not give up on our kids or just put up with their behavior. Let’s strive for a family where we like each other and enjoy being together. It is a truly a goal worthy of our time and effort.