Should you homeschool all year long?
Let’s see…do you home all year long? You do. You home all year long. There aren’t any breaks from being in your family, from raising your kids, from your marriage, etc. But maybe you don’t homeschool all year long. Well, you’re probably not thinking about school and education properly if you don’t realize it’s going to be a year-round system anyway—the question is the curriculum.
Historically, Americans take off periods of time in the summer, which began due to the agrarian nature of our society. People had to take off from school to go home and help the family farm. That in particular was one of the drivers behind summer breaks. Maybe there are a few other reasons, so that we could hire teachers at a cheaper rate and give them a break. I don’t know all the reasons, but I’m sure someone’s done their doctorate on it and we could all read it if we’d like to. But there’s not really a good reason, in my opinion, to keep you from homeschooling on an ongoing basis.
That doesn’t mean we can’t take breaks from schooling while, for instance, going on vacation. Our family would usually spend a couple of weeks vacationing at the beach. Yet, while at the beach, we would still have the kids do math every other day, and go through a few books to keep them fresh. Math especially is one of those subjects where it’s hugely important to stay active in learning and practicing. With math, if you don’t use it—you lose it. In public schools, when students go back to school in the fall they have to study last year’s lessons for the first fourth or third of the year just to catch themselves up on what they forgot over the summer. I don’t think that’s a good strategy.
Instead, I think it’s important to simply school year-round. You can certainly take breaks, like for Christmas, or maybe some of your kids go off to summer camp, etc. But your overall orientation should be toward educating your children in an ongoing fashion. You want to help them grow in their ability to read, think, communicate, and solve problems. Developing those skills year-round is always a part of schooling, no matter what you’re doing. If you need to take an extended break, take an extended break, but do it consciously with an idea of “What exactly are we doing with this time?”
Childhood is not vacation. Childhood is preparation for adulthood. I believe you’ll find that if your mindset is, “Homeschool is ongoing. We home year-round, so we homeschool year-round,” your efforts in educating your children will be more effective and steady. It’ll really grow your kids at a much easier pace than trying to cram through schoolwork, then take a bunch of months off.
The first thing you want to do is get a new definition of balance. Our typical idea of “balance” has to do with dividing our life in terms of equal time and equal priority. But what I like to stress to people is that balance is not a matter of giving coequal time to each area of your life. Rather, balance is about giving the right amount of time to each area. For example, if you have soup and you don’t put salt in it, it’s not as tasty or flavorful. But you wouldn’t want to eat a bowl of soup that was 50% salt and 50% soup either—that’s not balanced. Balance is the right amount of the right ingredient. So when you look at your homeschool, your parenting, and your marriage, it’s not just about that right amount of time and attention; it’s really about the right hierarchy, sequence, or priorities. The leverage point to all these aspects of life is your marriage. If your marriage goes poorly, your parenting will surely go poorly, because you won’t be aligned. Your homeschooling will go poorly, because it will be a “me against them” problem. What you really want to do is have a hierarchy, and the most important thing in your life needs to be your marriage (if you’re married, of course).
After marriage, your parenting approach is the most important priority, because it sets a framework for how your family functions. The third most important priority is homeschool. Homeschooling is not going to make up for problems in your marriage; it’s not going to make up for issues in your parenting. So you can see how it’s important to get your priorities down, and then you can start figuring out how to improve each area. It’s strategic to think about constant improvement. How’s our marriage getting better than it was last month? How about our parenting approach? How’s our homeschooling improving?
What is at issue more than anything in all three of these areas is something as simple as resolving conflicts or problems. You cannot avoid conflicts in a relationship because if you’re both the same, then one of you isn’t necessary. As humans, we’re all different and we find ourselves at odds with one another at some point. We’re always going to have that issue, but we can resolve our disagreements.
So how do we take an area in our marriage and solve it so that it never comes up again? How do we solve an issue in our parenting to where we’re so united in what we’re doing that it never comes up again? Even an issue as simple as bedtime. How do we decide our approach to homeschooling so that it’s settled, so it’s not anything we conflict about? So that we really know what we’re doing? Jody and I had to battle through every one of these areas, and we still work on them, so be encouraged. But realize that the key is to have the right hierarchy and the right proportions to each area of life.
Can there really be a problem with telling your child, “Do your best? Maybe, maybe not. I know that it was a terrible thing done to me by my dad, probably innocently. Dad was big on ‘do your best’, and he added that this should be applied to whatever you pursue. He used to say if I wanted to be a ditch-digger, then great; just do my best at it. Of course, this is where it get’s a little confusing. When I did my best dad would also challenge me with, “Why didn’t you do better?”
I remember after graduating with honors from a difficult master’s program (I had a 3.62 GPA out of 4.0) dad asked me, “Why didn’t you make a 4.0?” Inadvertently he had set up a standard for perfection that could never be reached. I’ve always felt it would have been much more helpful if he had simply said, “Just be better than everyone else in whatever you do.” That kind of challenge is at least possible. Do your best + you can always do better is a recipe for misery.
What about you and your parenting advice for your kids? Hopefully you are teaching them to be independent, but are you making the standard too high? On the other hand, are you a parent that offers no real standard, allowing your child to drift? Kid’s definitely need standards modeled to them, and they need challenges to grow themselves. Giving them no standards or giving them impossible ones are both off the target and into the dirt. By the way, can we really ever know if we’ve really done our best (maybe dad’s point).
Here’s an alternate way to think about it when you challenge your kids--- Do what it takes. Of course, they need to figure out what they want (or have it given to them during the growing years), but then the question of doing what it takes makes sense. Need to learn math? Do what it takes. Want to compete in a sport? Do what it takes. Want to go to youth camp with your church and need to raise some money? Do what it takes.
May I close with a question or two? Are you doing your best at parenting and homeschooling? Could you do better? Now, dump those questions. Instead, ask yourself how you want your kids to turn out as individuals and students? Do you want them to be in a position to choose their life; whether it includes college or not? Do you want them to read well, write well, do math well? Then, it seem simple:
So, how do you balance homeschool, parenting, and marriage? What a great question. It's part of our 100+ questions on homeschooling. I'll tell you, this is not as difficult as it sounds. The problem is when we don't understand two simple things. One is balance and the other is hierarchy. Okay, so balance. Balance is the right amount of the right thing.
My name is Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand and my wife, Jody and I mentor families in how to raise independent thinkers, independent homeschoolers. Well, there's nothing more valuable in all of this than a mom and dad getting their mind and trying to produce an outcome how this stuff balances, homeschool, parenting, and marriage.
So first, balance. What is balance? A lot of times we tend to think balance is 50/50. We do this for a certain amount of time. We should balance it with something else. You've read this long, you should go outside and play this long, you might say. That's not exactly the nature of balance. Balance is the right amount of the right thing. So, soup, you don't want it to be 50% salt, but some salt or flavor in the soup really helps dramatically rather than if you have unsalted V-8 Juice or something like that. So, it's the right amount. So, the right amount of attention to homeschool, the right amount of attention to parenting, the right amount of attention to marriage, that would be the nature of the game.
Now, circumstances can affect us. When people are deployed, for example, overseas, it's hard to spend that much time on the marriage, as it were. But that notwithstanding, in the normal day to day nature of things, what we want to understand is first, it's balance, the right amount of the right thing. You get to sort of figure that out, how much attention to homeschool, how much attention to parenting, how much attention to marriage, how those things overlap. But the second is hierarchy, and that is what you value first, second, third, and how you put that together is going to affect everything. If you have a family system where the homeschool is ahead of the marriage, it's going to take a certain look. If you have a homeschool in which a parenting, whatever you understand that to be, is the dominant thing over the marriage and homeschool, it's going to have a certain look.
I'm going to argue with you that from a leveraging viewpoint, the small-but-powerful thing is that the marriage is the priority. I know this comes as difficult information, because I know marriages have struggles. Jody and I coach couples and have done that for decades: and we have worked through our own challenges in marriage as well. No one's saying it's easy. And I know in particular the readers I'm talking to right now, are predominantly women. You moms are the ones who predominantly homeschool. That's just a fact. You may not know this, but in the divorce world 70% of the divorces statistically are initiated by the women. So, that kind of tells me something is amiss or strugglesome (and the women are often the more stressed) This may or may not be the case your marriage. The question is how do you get your marriage to be as good as it can be? When the marriage works, the parenting starts to work too; and that gives you room for the homeschooling to work. That would be the sequence.
You have a (1) good marriage and (2) good parenting, so you're a (3) great fit for homeschooling. If you're using homeschooling to make up for the parenting and the marriage, you're going to have struggles.
So, the reason it works this way, as you can imagine when you were a kid, if your mom and dad actually were secure in their love and creating an environment which you didn't ever think, “Are they going to get divorced?”--- that world gave you a context for growth as a child. I know both Jody and I had those struggles growing up, worries when our parents were conflicting. My parents did finally divorce though Jody's didn't. But those kinds of insecurities on the child will drive some acting out, some struggles, or some distractions and stress of various kinds. So that kind of marriage, just from a safety viewpoint, creates a context of something awesome in the family.
The challenge here, I think, is that when we come around to parenting and homeschooling, we tend to think 50/50. So, dads should be 50% involved. Moms should be 50% involved or something like that. It's never going to work that way. Somebody is going to be better at certain things than the other. Somebody is going to be available for more of the full-time context. It's not uncommon for the dads to work and the moms to have that great gift of nurture. So, I would say that's probably very traditional in homeschools, but not unique. In our context, I did a lot with homeschool but Jody certainly did that greater portion, especially in the early years. She was home with them and focused on growing the kids; that was OUR game plan.
So, how about you and your marriage and your homeschool and your parenting? I'd argue it needs to work as follows. Work on the marriage. You do that largely by what you model and focus upon. Is the marriage the priority? How do you show that to the kids? Do you two ever go out without the kids or spend any time alone without the kids? Is it a family room and a family bed and a family everything? If you do that, you're making no distinction to marriage. And in my experience, you're not modeling to the kids to go out and to be independent, to find themselves a spouse, to build their family. That's really what you want to do. Of course, I realize you might be a single parent homeschooling, but doesn’t the principle hold? If your ex is in the kid’s lives, then the better that relationship, the better for the kids. Aim for peace and cooperation always, even if you can’t have it.
Jody and I would model it this way: Our bedroom is not for the kids. That was our place. Our focus was to let that be our place, and they can wonder what went on or not; and hopefully, we came out happy from being in there. It was a refuge. It was our place. At the kitchen table, we didn't sit across from each other because that's oppositional. We sat beside each other. In church, we would sit by each other and put the kids around us on either side, not corralling the kids between us. It was just our understanding. But in doing that, we were saying to the kids, our marriage is central to this thing. And so, figuring out how to make sure we spend time together, to learn how to resolve things together, to learn how to be like-minded about homeschooling and parenting together. That's the key. It's the centerpiece of the marriage. And if you don't have kids aren’t you still have a family? Marriage is family and kids are added for a time. That's the game.
So, what I would challenge you to understand is that whatever you need to do, you began by making the marriage the priority. And then inside of that, you're like-minded about how you approach parenting, what are you modeling to the kids, what are your standards of what you're trying to do. And then, inside of that, the homeschool game can begin to make sense. I hope that helps.
Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. This topic of parenting and marriage is fully covered in our book, The Absolute Quickest Way to Help Your Child Change.
So, how about you and your marriage and your homeschool and your parenting? I'd argue it needs to work as follows. Work on the marriage.
I want to a comment a little bit on Jordan Peterson’s principle from his book about the 12 Rules for Life concerning children. His thought on rule Number 5 is “You don’t want to allow your kids to do anything that will cause you to dislike them (I think ‘hate’ for emphasis from my experience as a counselor)”.
He could soften it or stretch it or whatever he’d like to do, but he said it the way he did perhaps for a really good reason. I’m not only inclined to agree with him, but I've kind of been saying that for about 22 years or more. Here’s the point; he understands, as I understand, that you’re not a saint and when you allow your children to do things which you don’t like, you’re going to come around to being frustrated with them. I think he would say you ‘take revenge’. He also observed, and he’s right, that other people are not going to like what your child does either. But we live in a world where we think we can’t do anything as parents. We’re kind of into fads and trends and we think these little crazy creatures that have been given to us are just ‘how they are’ and there’s nothing you can do. Well back 22 years ago I wrote a little book called “The Absolute Quickest Way to Help Your Child Change” and in there I basically say, “Hey! You can help your child change. It’s based on principles that we can find in the universe and amazingly and wonderfully you actually have a creature that is desiring this guidance!” What we tend to do is not understand that these babies want us, whether they realize it or not, to guide them. They’re not qualified, they’re not adults yet, they don’t know anything. That’s what we’re doing here; we’re wanting to guide and shape and develop their behavior. We don’t take away freedom that way, we actually empower them.
In my 2014 release I put four questions together that let you look at behavior in a fresh way:
I’ll walk others through these questions and Peterson does the same kind of thing because it’s profoundly ‘common-sensical’ --based on one fundamental thing he and I share in common; we think this universe is designed, that there’s design for maleness, there’s design for femaleness, and there’s a design for things like personality and the way things function. Because of those designs we can actually anticipate and work with principles. That is where the secret is if you are inclined to awaken and continue to add momentum to life. In parenting, you’re going to see the opportunity to structure things around your child so they really learn.
You already use this principle innocently and perfectly with language. If you’re from Alabama like I am (I now live in Texas and I don’t think it sounds much different) or if you’re Jordan Peterson and you’re from Canada, you can see they say cool things up there or down under or in the UK or who cares, true? What you need to know is language has been a subtle reward-and-discourage training that you do with your children. When they say something in a proper way you give them what they want. When they say it in an improper way you correct them or you don’t know what they’re talking about. In this way they learn to pronounce and communicate properly in that context, in that dialect, and so they can master language in the region they’re in… so that they actually can circumnavigate life well. That’s what training is and it works with language, so why not do it with [other] behaviors? You have a great future out there, but please equip your child with some self-discipline. It comes from the outside first and then they internalize it. Look at Peterson’s book. Look at my book. Think for yourself. Grow a kid who can do the same. Bless you.
Logic is important for your kids as they grow. Frankly, if they don’t learn to make sense of things, they are going to have a tough time in this world. The makeup of humans helps, as they start arguing around 12 years old (known as the Logic/Dialectic Stage in Classical Education). Really, there isn’t that much to logic…but there is enough to demand we think clear about it! Today’s podcast will get you started 🙂
TODAY’S PODCAST CONTENT:
One of my mentors, Robert Fritz, pointed out to us that ‘romance’ is really based on the unusual. Of course, that means that our ideas about relating can get messed up because most of life is about the usual, true? It’s the math of relationships that helps us out…realizing it’s an equation when two people agree or disagree allows us to respect one another’s freedom. Understanding this math is especially important for our kids, since they are in a world of constant decision about who they befriend and what they do together.
TODAY’S PODCAST CONTENT:
In this tense, sexual equality world, we are having a hard time talking about differences between men and women, which sadly keeps us from seeing what makes men men, and women women. Just because there are differences, it doesn't mean either is inferior as a person.
This issue explodes when it comes to how moms and dads affect the family. We are so busy trying to pretend we don't need each other and children are just fine with a single parent, that we don't really appreciate the amazing impact a Mom and Dad can have together.
Are we saying kids are hopeless without two parents? NOPE...but we are saying that God's preferred parenting plan includes a Dad and a Mom (who are actively involved). Here are a few thoughts that might help:
Fred Ray Lybrand
The most important thing for mom and dad to discover about their own kids fighting with one another is that mom and dad are ALSO PART OF THE PROBLEM.
If you are not aware of systems, then you'll tend to miss the different factors that contribute to what's happening.
Basically, how you respond to sibling rivalry determines how they fight. There are TWO WAYS to respond (essentially)...this video helps you choose a new path, if you're up for a change in family conflicts 🙂
Off to learn,
Fred Ray Lybrand
Yes, we need rules for little ones. But as they age, rules don't help grow wise-and-mature young men and women. In this quick video I explain why building principles into your children is far more important than getting keeping them under the rules of the house.
Off to learn,
Fred Ray Lybrand
I'd love to hear your comments or answer your questions