Laying a foundation of character is essential if you are to successfully move your child from dependence upon you as the teacher to independence and self learning.
Obviously, children that are not yet reading need a lot of supervision. The same is true when teaching elementary students new concepts. In addition, when a student is struggling with a concept, such as long division, the teacher (though she may have moved into the role of coach) will need to stand over the child as he works through the formula until he completely understands the algorithm and can do it on his own.
Yet the question remains: how do you move into the role of coach—and from coach to facilitator, and finally mentor? Well it’s done in a deliberate fashion over several years. There are a few keys to promoting independence in your children. Let me discuss one of the keys now, perhaps the most important one.
In order to move our children into this next phase of independent learning, we need to spend the better part of their younger years teaching character and instilling in them a sense of personal responsibility over their lives and future.
Many homeschool parents neglect training the hearts of their children in the early years. They choose academics over Bible time and character discussions; this is usually because of fear. They are afraid their child will fall behind his peers if they spend an hour on Bible and character each day. This can result in overlooking small indicators of poor character in order to move forward academically. Parents hope their child will grow out of it one day. Sadly, a child who has poor character in elementary school is in great danger of having even worse character (when mom isn’t around) in high school.
On the other hand, a child whose heart has been trained is able and often willing to fly ahead of his peers academically when it really counts: in high school. Thus, the early years are extremely important for building the foundation of character. Poor character (lying, cheating, small dishonest acts, sneaking, unkindness, rudeness, anger, laziness, sloppy work habits, disrespect, incomplete obedience, or disobedience) should be considered very serious in the early years.If you’ll give attention to your children’s character flaws early—considering heart training more important than math and English—they will excel in math and English when they reach a more mature age. Otherwise, school work will be a struggle for them their whole lives. Poor character training will result in a student that cannot be independent because he or she does not have good habits.
A child should be taught that he must be trusted. He must always, always, always be truthful—especially when mom is not around. If he would sneak an M&M from the bowl when you leave the room, you need to work on character. This is usually best trained through reading good books, discussions, and asking your child to consider his actions in light of God, the value of character, and the person your child hopes to be in the future.
We must explain to our children that the man (or woman) they will be as an adult is decided by them today—day by day, moment by moment, decision by decision. Each time they choose right over wrong, or wrong over right, they are laying down the structure of the person they will be as an adult. We had very serious discussions about this. I told my little children that if they chose to lie to me that day, it could affect their entire lives. If I couldn’t trust them that day, I would not be able to trust them to have their own car, to have a job outside the home, or to live away at college. They saw a big picture of their lives. If they said they didn’t leave the milk out, but they did, the deception was addressed immediately.
You need to trust them completely. We explained to them that once a person loses trust, it is so hard to earn it back. Discussions like these were ongoing in our household. The children understood these things well.
Another important value we must pass on to our children is responsibility. It is our job as parents to help them understand they are ultimately responsible for their education and what they do with the life God has given them. Our children must know they are responsible to learn. If they don’t grasp this truth early, it will affect their entire lives. No teacher is responsible for a student’s education. She can lead him to water….but the student, whether at home or at school, has always been the one who is truly responsible to attend to the material he is given to learn. If students choose to neglect their education today—at nine, ten, or eleven years old—they are choosing a hard life for themselves, a hard future.
Yes, sometimes people can change their course. Yes, God is merciful. However, it’s a much harder road to travel later on if they fail to lay down good habits and work hard today.Thus, our children all felt a certain level of responsibility to work diligently whether they were still being taught by me each day, had moved on to being coached, or were established independent self learners.
I believe that moving to independence begins with laying down these foundational mindsets in the home. A child that is honest and obedient and believes he is accountable to himself for his choices—and that his choices can very easily affect his future—moves much more readily into the role of an independent self learner than a child who has not been empowered with this knowledge.
Take time to train your children in these things early. Be intentional about it every day. You will be so glad you gave them a firm foundation from which they can launch into the plans and successes God has prepared for them.
Read on for more about the benefits of homeschooling.
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