I love homeschooling. In fact, I haven’t really found much not to like about it. I love my kids, and I enjoy the opportunity to see them learn and grow, and to make the most out of teachable moments. I enjoy spending time with them in many different venues. This doesn’t make me a better mom than one who sends their kids to school. If you knew me like my kids do, you would quickly see how many “mom” areas of my life are in need of improvement. In all my homeschooling years, there is one area I found that really is lacking though. It definitely needs special focus. That is the area of teaching and maintaining personal responsibility and accountability with our children.
A homeschool mom wears many different hats: teacher, nurse, referee, chef, chauffeur, mom, comforter, and disciplinarian….and all that can be before breakfast! It calls for a mom to be always on her toes, and walking close with the Lord to have the wisdom and strength necessary to know when to be firm and when to step back.
With some time and experience, most homeschool families are able to develop a system that works for them, using a combination of the many homeschool systems that are available. One tendency I have noticed that homeschool moms in general seem to have though is to be very lenient on school requirements and deadlines.
When children are younger, they are satisfied with pleasing their mom/teacher by completing everything that is asked of them. They generally enjoy schoolwork, and learning new things. Most homeschool moms are very involved in one-on-one teaching with their young children, which children really thrive with. As the students get older, they may test the waters a bit to see if certain assignments really need to be completed or not, and if not, will there be consequences? They become more comfortable with voicing their opinions about subjects and assignments, especially the ones they find challenging or boring.
Moms who are busy, worn down, or just plain trying to keep a peaceful homeschool running smoothly may be tempted to slack off a bit on these students. It is easier to not make them finish, or to just let them off the hook on something they are struggling with. There may be challenges to overcome with finding a tutor or someone who can help explain more challenging subjects.
One of the main challenges to homeschooling is that we are 100% in charge of character building, 100% of the time. Homeschool parents don’t get to ‘share’ that responsibility with a teacher or school system. There is not a typical partnership with a caring teacher who will labor to make your child ‘toe the line’ and be accountable for assignments. A homeschool mom has to always be willing to take the unpopular route in the home and sometimes even be the firm one who deducts points off an essay that is not completed on time, or gives a failing grade to a test that deserves it, requiring that student to correct and redo work that is not up to the standard that has been established for them. Because of the lack of other voices telling your child what to do, they may perceive your sole demands on their personal accountability as unfair or unjust.
While homeschooling certainly demands a fair amount of flexibility, the flip side is that homeschool parents are assigned the challenge of making sure that their students experience the demands of personal responsibility in their work as well. Remember, we are training them for life. When they make mistakes, we want them to be the type of people who will take responsibility for it, and make things right. We want them to have good character, and be able to pursue whatever dreams the Lord gives them.
Perhaps they will go on to college or the military. That cannot be their first experiences with being accountable for completing tasks properly and on time. We must determine to create situations right in our own homeschools, where they will learn this necessary character trait.
It is a great disservice to our homeschooled students to not be consistent with them or not make them complete their assignments. We are doing them no favors when we look the other way and do nothing about it. We should be looking to give them some deadlines and make them accountable, just to give them some practice for real life situations.
Personal responsibility begins with us as homeschool parents. If we will be responsible to follow through consistently on the tasks we assign, and keep our kids accountable with their schooling, they will surely respect and follow our example. We will be building good character that will reap generous benefits in years to come for our students.
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