How to be the Best Homeschool Parent and Teacher (Drawing Boundaries)
“Mom, really? Why do I have to do this anyway?”
I remember the first time my oldest refused to do schoolwork. I was livid, thinking, “I’m the teacher! Why are you questioning me?” But the truth is that this scene is totally normal and to be expected in every homeschooling room around the world.
Homeschooling is an amazing journey, but also incredibly challenging because of the nature of your relationship with your children. You’re Mom and Dad, but now you’re also their teacher, guide, grader, recess monitor and lunch server! Balancing all of these roles can be hard, and setting boundaries even harder. If you’re wondering how to be the best homeschool parent and teacher, read on, brave homeschooler. Because boundaries are essential to successful and joyful homeschooling!
1. Take time for yourself.
When I first started homeschooling I was all homeschool, 100% of the time. Sure, I still made dinner and kept up with church and life commitments, but my thoughts and focus were on homeschooling all of the time. I burned out pretty quickly. One of the key aspects of becoming the best homeschool teacher and parent is to remember who you are first: You! You don’t check your needs, personality and goals at the door of homeschooling. Take time for yourself each and every day to find your center, to work on your goals and dreams, and to nurture your needs. Trust me, you’ll be more peaceful, engaged and patient when you do.
2. Remember your role.
I find myself saying to my teenagers quite often, “I’m being your mom, this is my job!” Your first job in the relationship of mom / teacher to child /student is parent. So, put your parent heart first. If your child is struggling, see them with eyes of compassion. If your student is angry, help provide coping options to calm down. Oftentimes, as our children’s teacher, we forget to approach them with the same heart we do as a parent. Teach from your parent heart and you’ll be more kind, more patient, and more fun each day!
3. Remind them of their roles.
So, you’re a parent first, and that makes them your child first. This means that you have authority over them and can exercise it in their best interest. So, do it. But you’re also their teacher, which means they should give you the respect they would give any other adult. Require it. During the first few weeks of homeschooling, don’t allow complaining, whining or back-talk. This will set a tone of respect and cooperation for the rest of the year. When my child is giving me a hard time and asking, “Do I really have to do this?” I often respond, “As your teacher, yes, I’m saying you have to do this because it’s important.” Remind them you are the teacher, they are the students, and your goal is to help them learn. Then, explain the “Why” in any and every situation. This will disarm frustrations because it gives your learner a window into what makes the activity or task important outside of homeschooling.
4. Have confidence.
My youngest can smell insecurity and weakness! If she thinks she can get one over on an adult, she instantly tries — and often succeeds. Be confident and strong in your choices. You may not have a teaching degree and years of experience, but you’ve been teaching your child for years. Who taught him how to talk, walk, and use a spoon? Who taught her how to calm down when frustrated, or love those who are unkind to her? You did! You’ve got what it takes to teach because you’re already your child’s first teacher. You know your child best. Have confidence in your abilities, your goals and your dreams for your family. Confidence often leads to joy, and joyful homeschooling is contagious.
5. Pick your battles.
In homeschooling, as in parenting, there will be many opportunities to fight. We are big humans trying to raise little humans, after all! But you don’t have to accept the invitation to every fight. There’s nothing worse than a strong-willed child and a homeschooling parent who doesn’t know how to pick battles. It’s like oil and water. So, when your angel starts to dig in their heels, stop. Don’t go farther, coax, yell or huff. Stop and ask yourself, “Is this a battle I want to fight?” If the answer is “No,” let it go. The more times you share power with your child, allowing them to have input into the situation and finding a compromise, the more connection and cooperation you will nurture in your relationship.
6. Be a team.
This is the most important part of being the best homeschool parent and teacher. See yourselves as a team and act like it! Successful teams don’t yell and scream at one another when the going gets tough. They have a team meeting, identify what’s not working, practice harder on those skills, and then face game day again connected and ready to go. When homeschooling gets hard, be your child’s coach. Encourage, don’t nag. Praise the good first, then tackle the areas of growth that are needed. Remind your child that you’re their biggest fan and want nothing more than to see them succeed, with your help. And like all good teams do, celebrate victories! Who says you can’t fill up a water bottle with Gatorade and let your child dump it all over your head when they get that first “A” on the math test? That’s what a good coach would allow, right?
Homeschool boundaries don’t have to be family battles. Just remember who you are: a family. You’re on the same side. Play your positions and praise one another often. Put the heart of a family, love, encouragement, respect, and togetherness at the core of what you do and you’ll not only be successful homeschoolers, you’ll be a stronger and more connected family.