It’s mid-August and the back to school ads and displays have been going strong for well over a month. In the state where I live, schools are already in session, so the “back to school” bombardment is winding down. It is always a bit sad when the daytime hours are devoid of children. There is something unnatural about having them absent during one portion of the day and then seeing them swarm after three o’clock when school lets out. It doesn’t take long for the charm of the first week of school to wane. When asked, “How is school going this year?” The answer (if you get one) often is, “The same as always — boring.”
I’m not sure my children ever called our homeschool boring. They may have had other choice words to describe it during those seasons when things were not going the way they wished. Nevertheless, I do not recall boring being a part of the complaint. For you see, I made a concerted effort to relate whatever was being studied to real life with real application being a very important part of the mix. Whenever we found ourselves in the midst of any activity that had no bearing on real-world application, I replaced it with another that fit the requirement. Boredom is the enemy of learning.
From a Biblical standpoint, every subject should excite and encourage a student to know more about God and want to serve Him eagerly. That said, not everyone in a teaching role has the ability or inclination to bring enthusiasm into all subject areas. This is where the homeschool setting has an advantage: you can outsource. I have done this for my children with piano lessons, karate classes, dance instruction, choirs, golf coaching etc. I have also utilized teaching videos and online instruction to bring master teachers into my home to teach my students. I developed some guidelines/rules over my 28+ years of active homeschooling that I feel very strongly about:
Rule #1 – Never place your student under the instruction of someone who does not love the subject he or she is teaching. The letters after the name or the certification received from a school of higher learning are no guarantee that the teacher has what it takes to impart a standard of excellence or purpose.
Rule #2 – The best teachers will be those who share your view about God, creation, the presence of sin in the world, and the reality of and necessity for Biblical atonement. Granted that is not always possible, but should you choose to receive help for your children from those not of the faith, be sure you have ready access to sitting in on lessons and maintain a hands-on approach to what is going on.
Rule #3 – Monitor your student’s eagerness for lesson times with these outsourced instructors. If there is a reluctance to practice or work on the assignment, be sure there is nothing “wrong” with the situation itself. I can remember as a child taking guitar lessons after begging my parents to let me start, only to want them to end when the instructor kept getting “too friendly” during the lessons. Not having the understanding that I should share this information, I merely acted as though I really didn’t like the guitar after all.
Rule # 4 – Don’t be surprised if your children come back quoting the outside teacher over and over with comments like, “Mr. Jones says that when he was a kid…,” or “Miss Smith told me she thought I would be good at…” Instead of feeling discouraged that your offspring don’t talk about you that way, realize that they are being acclimated to the idea of mentors and being mentored. Besides, you will often find that the “experts” say many of the things you have been saying all along. Instead of responding, “I’ve been telling you that for years,” smile and appreciate the fact that even Jesus acknowledged that, “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (Mark 6:4).
In the homeschool setting, you must stay abreast of curriculum choices and new ways to breathe life into seemingly boring subjects. Homeschool conventions and curriculum marketplaces are easy ways to do this, as is the internet. In addition, within most church congregations there are people whose jobs involve utilizing the very things your children are learning. Seeking out these folks and asking them to spend some time with your children can be helpful.
Lastly, if you as a teacher find a subject area boring, apply the steps outlined above to yourself. Your kids know how to read you like a book. If they can tell you are disconnected from the material, you will never be able to convince them that it is a worthwhile thing to study and learn. You have to practice what you preach.