As I am reflecting, planning and restructuring our homeschool, I am reminded of a fairly common theme to the homeschool complaints that pop up on the various homeschool groups I am on.
“Homeschooling just isn’t fun anymore.”
Being a little more “old school,” my first reaction usually runs more along the lines of, “Life ain’t all rainbows and unicorns.” Not that I would ever actually say that to a young mom struggling with motivation. Because we’ve all been there. There where all the joy seems to have been drained out of the day and all that is left is attitude and work and discipline and wondering where you went wrong as a parent. A teacher. A Christian.
Or at least I have. Ahem.
But I’m not sure “fun” is the problem.
I don’t know how many of you remember back to the days when all you needed to homeschool was a Bible, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and a denim dress. But the old faithful standard of American English defines fun as:
Sport; vulgar merriment; a low word
So you might rephrase the original complaint,
Homeschooling just isn’t “vulgar merriment” anymore.
All of a sudden, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, does it? Of course, words do change in meaning over time. And it is important to remember that “vulgar” really just meant “common” back in the days of Noah. (Webster, that is.) But even more modern dictionaries define fun as “light entertainment” or “amusement.”
It’s hardly the core principle behind my homeschooling goals and probably not of yours, either. So if I don’t strive for homeschooling to be “fun,” what do I think homeschooling should be?
Homeschooling should be Christ honoring.
OK, so I’m a Christian and faith is an important reason behind our choice to homeschool. But what does it mean for homeschooling to be Christ honoring? For me, it isn’t so much about devotional time and peppering lessons with Scripture. It’s less about the outward signs of religion and more about the spirit behind it. Is my teaching marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Is it spirit filled?
Ouch. And moving on . . .
Homeschooling should be engaging.
I think this is really what a lot of us mean when we complain about homeschooling not being “fun.” I don’t know how many people really expect multiplication tables and Latin declensions to compete with, say, an amusement park. But we all know that children learn best when they are actively engaged. Fun activities are the ones that we might choose in our free time to relax and socialize. To be engaging, a lesson has to appeal to some aspect of a child’s interests, be challenging enough to require thought and be active enough to keep their little minds from wandering off to birds’ eggs and play.
Homeschooling should be useful.
And I don’t just mean to the future college graduate out looking for a job. Though those lessons are important, too. As are the ones taught strictly for the purpose of expanding those little minds. (Like learning the quadratic formula. It’s good for your brain. That’s all I got.) But I think it is important to remember to make some lessons useful to children right now, where they are at. Whether it is building their own garden box and growing their own choice of vegetables, learning to sew for themselves or their favorite doll or how to start a campfire, it is important to remember that our children are not just little vessels holding information for their future selves. They have interests and passions now and at least some of the lessons we teach should connect directly to those interests and passions. And I don’t mean just using these passions to get them to practice skills we think they need to improve. I mean actually seeking out lessons that further their interests and that they find useful right now.
So when I have those days when I start to feel like homeschooling just isn’t “fun” anymore, I’m going to ask myself these three questions:
- Is it Christ honoring?
- Is it engaging?
- Is it useful?
And I have a feeling that the answers to those questions will go further in helping me to see the actual problem than wondering why it doesn’t seem “fun” any more.