Trivium Pursuit

Classical Q & A -- Part Three

Our relatives are not supportive of our homeschooling and are always criticizing us. How much contact should we have with them? Mary

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were surrounded by our own parents, and grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters? And what if all these relatives loved us and held the same values as we did. Grandparents could add so much to a family's life. They could help us with child care and homeschooling and teach the children all kinds of things. Unfortunately, this is no longer the prevailing reality in this world. But, Lord willing, we will recover some of this for our own children. When the children are married and raising families of their own, we, their parents, will be around to help, along with their siblings. The socialization which is common in classroom schooling works to break the bonds between parent and child. From an early age, parents and children are separated from each other for a good portion of each day, and they soon become accustomed to the separation -- they accept it as normal and good. Children become bonded to their peers, and parents become secondary in their minds. The parents become accustomed to their children being detached from the family and attached to other interests. They may even imagine some "freedom" from always having to care for the children. Parents and children are pointed in different directions. This whole sociology breaks down the structure of the family. When we homeschool, we work to reverse this trend by strengthening the natural parent-child bonds. We need to work to reduce or eliminate those things in our lives which weaken these bonds. Each situation is a judgement call, but the overall effect must put our family first.

I have a boy who manifests several of the following behaviors: 1) Hates to hold a pencil and has terrible handwriting. 2) Isn’t motivated. 3) Does the minimum required -- seems lazy. 4) Wanders around with seemingly nothing to do. 5) Has to be continually reminded. 6) Doesn’t read much. 7) Doesn’t like academics. 8) No project appeals to him. 9) Has a narrow field of interest. 10) Has a short attention span. 11) Often seems “hyper.” 12) Always has to be doing something with his hands or his feet. 13) Doesn't want to do any of the things I suggest. 14) If enrolled in a classroom school he might be "labeled." What do I do with this boy? I feel very frustrated.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Keep him away from television, movies, computer games, music which contains any kind of a syncopated beat, sugar and caffeine, and allow him only supervised contact with peers.

2) Make him repeat back to you what you’ve told him to do.

3) Work with him until you’re satisfied with his obedience. This is of the utmost importance.

4) Make a list of the things he needs to accomplish each day, and have him check them off as he does them, and hold him accountable daily.

5) Don’t pile on the formal academics until age ten or eleven. Read to him at least two hours each day. If he hates to write, allow him to dictate to you his letters and journal entries, or use a tape recorder.

6) Make use of the child’s one or two chief interests. Use them as avenues to other things. (e.g. Link guns to the second Amendment, to the Constitution, to principles of sound government.) Start him in his own business which involves his interests. For example, if the child's interest is fencing with a sword, then you might suggest that he give fencing lessons to other children, develop a web page on fencing, write a newsletter on fencing, do a display at the library on fencing, write an introductory booklet on fencing, produce fencing equipment, do a fencing seminar for 4-H. He can become the homeschooling expert on fencing.

7) Give him lots of physical work to do -- regular household chores and special jobs. But don’t dump it all on him at once -- he probably is the kind of person who is easily overwhelmed and frustrated. Break everything down into parts and meter them out one or two at a time. Use a chart to keep him accountable.

8) If possible, move to the country so that you can raise animals. Then there will be more outside work to perform (raise rabbits, goats, or chickens, display these projects at the fair, obedience train your dog and show at fairs, raise earthworms to sell or for your garden, raise berries to sell or barter, raise some specialty animal such as a certain breed of horse, and become the local expert on this breed, practice carpentry skills by rebuilding a small shed or outbuilding).

9) Involve the child in community service (visit the nursing home every week for one hour, cook meals for the elderly, do repair work for the elderly, pick up the trash around your neighborhood, make small wooden toys and give them to children in the hospital, make greeting cards and give them away, write letters to relatives or others).

10) If possible, have Dad take him to work once or twice a week.

11) Do unit studies instead of the traditional academic textbook approach.

12) Involved him in history re-enactments (Civil War, Buckskinners, Medieval, WWII), make costumes and equipment, and attend events.

13) Teach him to hunt and fish.

14) Buy him a good mountain bike so he can explore.

15) Keep the child on a regular schedule (flexible, but regular).

16) This suggestion we list last, but it is really our first -- the child should be part of your daily family Bible studies led by the Father.

Sometimes, if the child persists in refusing to be interested, then you must simply insist. The key is to recognize early on that your child is a "late bloomer." You don't want to wake up to this fact when the child is seventeen or eighteen and has already developed numerous unprofitable habits and wasteful ways of thinking. Motivating a seventeen-year-old is much more difficult than motivating a ten-year-old. Molding a seventeen-year-old is much more difficult than molding a ten-year-old.

With any child you must build a solid foundation before you begin academics. With a "late bloomer" the foundation takes longer to build, and more patience must be used, because the bricks tend to be less than square. But by the mercy of God, if you persist, the structure which is built on this foundation will be worth all the blood, sweat, and prayers.

Is it necessary for my child to do all his schoolwork on his own? I sit on the couch with my 10-year-old son and help him with the introduction to his assignments. For example, with his math lessons, I go through the lesson with him (takes us five minutes), and then I'm off and he continues totally on his own. We do basically the same thing for all of his subjects. Today, I told him that at some time he must begin to do his own "intro" work. Just after I mentioned it to him -- he didn't say anything -- big teardrops fell one by one on his papers. How does one do the weaning? Sonja

Your child apparently likes very much having you help him begin. Let him know you love doing the introductory work with him, and continue doing it. He does not want to be left totally on his own, and these minutes of introductory work may be providing a measure of accountability which he feels he needs. Don't "baby" him, but don't abandon him either. Tell him that it is to his best interests to learn to do his own introductory work. Help him through the transition. Soon this will all change, and he won't need your help -- indeed, he may even resent it if you tried. I would give my right arm to have my boys want me to sit next to them for my help. Enjoy it while you can.

I grew up in a home where everyone was always fighting (not Christian), and I don't want our family to be this way. Our children are much better behaved than my siblings and I were, but they still spend too much time fighting and crabbing at each other. If the goal is to have peace in the home, how do we accomplish this? Teresa

All families struggle with this question. Some more than others. In our travels we have stayed with quite a few families. Here are some of my observations:

In families where there is more peace, we notice that the children have respect for the parents. We can see in the faces of the children that they respect their parents. The child wants to please the parent. The child knows that the parent is in charge. The child looks to the parent for answers. The child knows that the parent is in control of all things in the house. Of course, I am speaking generally here. A wise parent will rule his household as a good king would, with kindness and gentleness -- not as a selfish tyrant.

In families where there is less peace, we notice that the children lack respect for the parents. Again, we can see it in the faces of the children. The child knows that the parent is intent on pleasing the child, and thus the parent can be easily manipulated. The child knows, maybe intuitively, that the parent is afraid of making the child angry or displeased or uncomfortable or inconvenienced. The household revolves around the child and his likes or dislikes, his moods, his desires. The parent dreads to see a frown on the child's face.

We must communicate with our children. This must be begun in early childhood and continued until who knows when. We cannot assume that they will come to us and tell us what is bothering them. If we detect something wrong with an attitude or an action, then we need to discuss it with our child. Don't wait until the action or attitude becomes unbearable. One of our daughters began to treat her younger sister very coldly. She was excluding her from things, not confiding in her any more, siding up with the youngest daughter, etc. It began slowly, and we didn't really notice it until it had been going on for perhaps four or five months. The younger daughter had to point it out before I could see it. When I finally began to address the issue, the younger daughter was angry with her sister for treating her this way. It took several weeks to straighten the whole thing out. As it turned out, the older daughter didn't even realize what she was doing. She repented, her sister forgave her, and we had to go through several weeks where I pointed out to the older daughter when she was exhibiting the undesirable behavior (acting coldly to her sister). She had developed the habit of treating her sister this way, and I had to help her break the habit. Praise God, He put the desire in her to change. What if the older one did not repent, but preferred to treat her sister coldly, for whatever reason. I must be resolved that our children will not be allowed to treat one another coldly (or cruelly, or whatever). The Lord will show us, in His time, how to accomplish this.

I am a father of one (three-year-old girl) and I am interested in homeschooling -- perhaps even more than my wife. What are some ways in which a father could adjust his schedule so that he could support his family and homeschool his children? Joshua

Perhaps you could begin with leading family worship in the mornings before you go to work or in the evenings when you get home. Take time every day to read aloud to your child, help her memorize some Bible passages or poetry, and begin looking for a phonics curriculum.

As parents of an only child, we would be interested in good solid answers to the socialization arguments which we endure from family and friends: “he needs to learn to play with other children; to be patient with others who do not catch on as quickly; to tolerate others who are from very different backgrounds than he; to interact with children who have social or physical disabilities; to raise his hand and wait to be called upon; to patiently listen to others answer; to understand that it is not always his turn.” Chris

What does it take to learn how to properly relate to and interact with other people? It takes other people. So if you have some other people around, then you probably have everything you need to accomplish what you want. One child plus two parents makes three people. Do you need any more?

There will be plenty of opportunities to relate to and interact with other people. Indeed, there will be too many opportunities. You will need to limit those opportunities, though you may desire to plan a few. What your only child is really missing is brothers and sisters. So do you have a brother or sister who believes like you, who homeschools, who lives close by, and who has an orderly family, so that you can spend a day together every now and then and your only child can adopt his cousins as part-time brothers and sisters? If you don’t have a blood brother and sister whom you can do this with, then how about a brother and sister in the Lord?

Remember, in the sovereign providence of the Lord, He has chosen to make your child an only child. He has a unique purpose in this. The Lord wants you to learn something different with this child. As far as learning to play with other children, to be patient with others, to tolerate others who are different, to interact with those who have disabilities, to wait patiently for an opportunity to speak, to patiently listen to others answer – what’s the big deal? Just think of all of the people in the world who have to learn to get along with an only-child! With a firstborn! With a last-born! With a middle child! Not to mention the families which dominate our culture today – multiple divorces and multiple marriages, etc. Being an only child is not nearly as unique nowadays as being one child of twelve. So how does the one-of-twelve child adjust? Well, as a matter of fact, each of us is rather unique in some way or another, so how does anyone ever survive? This is the kind of worrywart thinking promoted by social-psychologists. None to worry. God is in control. Just follow His lead and you’ll keep on the right path. He knows what your child needs more than you do. Remember, your child was His before your child was yours! You only have him as a temporary stewardship.