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The #1 Key to a Successful Homeschool

My mom’s got a saying that she learned from her father: “first, first, and then first.” The refrain has become multi-generational, as our kids quote it on occasion also. It reminds us of

priorities when we enlist in any new endeavor, big or small. In homeschooling, when I think of “first, first, and then first,” I'm reminded that relationship comes before task; that before we get into the nuts and bolts of education, we get to be grounded in mutual trust and respect. When I taught in the classroom, I learned this lesson while student teaching. If there was no classroom management (which boils down to mutual trust and respect), there was no education. As a new teacher I remember experimenting with pleading: “Please behave, kids” (hands clasped in front of me feigning prayer), dictatorship: “This class will stop talking immediately” (evil eye, hands on hips, voice raised), and ignoring (pretending they were actually listening). These all had the same effect. The kids sensed I was not grounded and not in a position of respect for myself, the room, or them, and therefore could not be trusted to teach them. How does this relate to homeschooling? We don’t have a room of 30 kids we’re trying to manage, so that stuff isn’t the point, right? Actually, yes it is. The most common comment I received from people who learned we were homeschooling was, “Oh, I could never do that! I don’t have the (fill in an adjective like patience, knowledge, stamina, etc).” Believe me, I never “arrived” with any of those adjectives either. But more than any of those fill-in-the-blank qualities, homeschooling successfully required relationship. It meant my kids could trust I would love them no matter what. That I wouldn’t let their performance or their behavior determine my peace and joy. That I respected their interests, their time, and who they were. When our kids know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we love them, we are in their corner, and that we always want their best, they learn to trust our leadership. When they trust our leadership, they build respect. In any healthy relationship, this goes both ways. Of course, at age 5 or 9 or 12 or 14, our kids may not display the mature level of trust and respect that we might picture. So we get to model it for them by giving it to them and by apologizing when we mess up. What does all that look like? Here are ten ways to help build a relationship with your kids that will lead to more successful homeschooling.