There are so many choices out there for your homeschool: Charlotte Mason, unschooling, unit studies, student led…to name but a few. And then there’s the curriculum choices, with multiple options in each category. What’s a homeschool mum to do? In this post, I will share one simple tool which will show you how to make homeschool decisions for your family, confidently and effectively.
How to Make Homeschool Decisions
Five Decisions Earlier
It started out innocently enough. We were a young couple with three children. I was a first generation Christian, and desperate to do right by God, especially regarding our children. Gary and I worked hard at putting little routines and rhythms into place to make the most of every opportunity to share God with our little ones. One such routine was reading a devotional book out in the car on long journeys to the beach.
Of course, I’m not talking some heavy theological book which bored the children and sent their parents off to snoozy-land. No, we’d tried that and failed miserably. Just because a book is about the most fascinating subject in the world (God), does not make it a fascinating book! No, on this day, we’d picked a great children’s devotional. Short, simple and, on this occasion, very, very sweet.
You know the ones. Short Bible passage. Even shorter commentary about said Bible passage. Done and dusted in approximately a minute and a half (insert self- congratulatory pat on the back). Except, this one, on this day, was different. This one, on this day, would change the way we all thought of the world and our place in it.
Decisions and Their Consequences
One of the greatest lessons we can teach our children is that there are consequences to our actions and the choices we make. To paraphrase Newton’s third law of motion, ‘for every action there is a reaction’. Actually, Newton’s law more accurately states that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. But that doesn’t suit my illustration…
My point is that nothing happens in a vacuum. No decision is made without there being a direct affect somewhere, at some time. It’s just how it is.
Okay, back to the devotional in the car story.
The basic premise of the devotion I read out that day was this: any given circumstance or situation is usually the result of a decision made five decisions ago.
Is this it, Claire? You’ve made me read through all of that, for this?
Yup! Because this is child-rearing gold, I promise.
And it is also the key to how to make homeschool decisions.
Five Decisions Ago
I had read this amazing wisdom out to the children, expecting them to fall at my feet, thanking me gratefully and profusely.
Unfortunately, they did not seem to pick up just how meaningful this moment was. So, I read it out again, sure they would understand its magnanimity on reflection. Nope! Just hopeful stares that they could now get back to reading their books.
Okay, so at this point I was wondering if I was bringing up imbeciles. I looked to Gary for support, and caught his hand as it made a movement to turn the radio back up, convinced our duty as Holy parents had been fulfilled. The fleeting thought that maybe I had also married an imbecile crossed my mind. Why was no-one getting this? It was, after all, Biblical gold.
I suddenly yelled, ‘examples! Let’s look at examples!’
In the corner of my eye I could see Gary’s shoulders slump as he put his hand back on the steering wheel. Premier Praise would have to wait. His wife had an example.
Both my long-suffering husband and my equally long-suffering children sat agog wondering what prime verbosity would be leaving their mother’s mouth. My mind, which let’s face it, is like a broken and confused telephone switch board much of the time, scrabbled for a useable example. A past misdemeanour which would no doubt have been prevented had they applied the Principal of Five Decisions Before (yes, I had elevated it to principle status).
My mind went blank.
Yes, my mind, which usually has so many thoughts and feelings whizzing around in it, went completely blank. Inertia was not something I was familiar with, so I plucked a situation which had happened just the day before. Because, really, this lesson can be applied to any situation, anywhere, anytime. World War I? Yup. Henry VIII chopping off one of his wive’s heads? Absolutely! Greenhouse gases..? Oh yes.
The day before, someone had stolen a chocolate off Thomas’ birthday cake. When quizzed about it, the children all had blank vacant expressions (which were vaguely imbecilic in nature, now I come to think of it…). Nobody a taken the chocolate. Except somebody had.
Now, I’m a very easy going parent. Thomas, now an adult, believes my easygoingness to be my biggest strength and also my biggest weakness as a parent. However, I have one parenting absolute. There will be no lies told in my house. Ever. Stealing the chocolate was no big deal (!) but lying about it was huge.
I sat the children down. One by one, I questioned them, alone, so that the perpetrator could tell us without his or her siblings knowing about it. No-one owned up. All three were punished (I believe toys were taken away for good). But I hadn’t finished. So, again, Gary and I took them aside one by one, giving them amble opportunity to own up without losing face. Each denial from all three brought about more toys being taken away.
Two or Three Decisions Later
About an hour and a half later, Gary and I were certain we knew who the thief was. We explained to the three children that we were giving them one more opportunity to own up. If they did not them we would be emptying the contents of their desks into the skip (bear in mind they had already lost a lot of their toys). Again, they all denied the charge. So into the skip everything on their desk went. This was particularly painful for the child we knew was lying, and particularly unfair on the children who were telling the truth. They were all crying at this point.
Sometimes parenting is darn hard, and this was one of those times. I was almost crying at this stage, willing the child in question to just back down so we didn’t need to continue. This time, we explained that we would be throwing away each of their bags along with the contents if no-one owned up. One child, inconsolable at this point, begged the sibling who had taken the chocolate to just tell truth. We took them aside, one by one, silently praying that this would be the last time. It was. The child in question lost their bag plus contents, their siblings did not.
As an Aside…
Truth is the most important thing to me because to lie is to not be real. Truth is vital because it allows me to protect those I love the most. When this child eventually told the truth, we hugged them and poured so much love onto them. A lesson was learnt that day. And it wasn’t that sin requires punishment, it was that truth will always be celebrated, however ugly it is. To this day, I completely and utterly trust my children to tell me the absolute truth. I don’t trust them to always do what is right or to never sin (that would be naive), but I do trust that they will own their mistakes and be open about them. Because of this we have such close relationships because we know the reality of each of us, and we love the real versions rather than the pretend versions.
Anyway, back to the car. I walked them through the day before, illustrating nicely that the decision to take the chocolate led to lies, which led to toys being confiscated, which led to…well, you get the picture.
How to Make Homeschool Decisions:
Turning ‘The Principle of Five Decision Before‘ on its Head
Claire, what on earth has this got to do with how to make homeschool decisions? Ahem. Good question! I want you to take this principle and reverse it. Instead of having the consequence and looking back to see how the previous decisions led to this, decide on the consequence and make sure that the decisions you make from here-on-in lead to that consequence. Simple, no?
A friend asked me a few weeks ago whether we had trouble getting our children to actually do their homeschool work. My answer was a resounding no! I honestly have never needed to cajole or persuade or nag any of my guys to work at their schooling. I am convinced it is because one of the goals of my homeschool was to teach the children to enjoy hard work. Not getting into Oxford university or having the most number of qualifications with the best grades. No, I wanted them to appreciate the benefits of working hard. Because working hard, and doing your best at all times means that everything else will naturally fall into place.
So right from the start, we have done homeschool every day, not just when we feel like it. The children don’t complain about learning because this is what they have done for most of their life.
You Are in Control
Turning this Five Decisions Before principle on its head is effectively being proactive instead of reactive. It is directing your homeschool based on the desired result. And it’s understanding that what you do now in your homeschool has a high potential for affecting your homeschool in the future.
What are your absolutes regarding your homeschool? Make a note of them and start brainstorming all the ways you can structure your days to help achieve those absolutes. Because that’s the key to how to make homeschool decisions. Let your absolutes be the sign post for those next five decisions, and sit back and reap the desired results ❤️