by Janelle Knutson
It can be quite a challenge trying to home educate older children with little ones around. I don’t know how many times I went to bed feeling like a homeschool mom failure as I contemplated the school work that was neglected and the huge amount of time that the little ones dominated that day. I remember spending hours poring over homeschool blogs for practical tips on how to homeschool with little ones around only to be discouraged when implementing those ideas didn’t bring about the desired results.
It is still hard for me to find a balance between caring for my young children and educating their older siblings but, amidst the dirty diapers and unfinished school work, I have learned a valuable lesson about home education. You see, homeschooling is not merely about finishing curriculum and keeping little ones quiet. Homeschooling is about training the hearts and minds of our children for God’s purposes and sometimes, that is best accomplished within the chaos that the little ones create.
For years I viewed my young children’s interruptions as distracting me from what I felt was the more important task of teaching my older children at home. My goal for homeschooling was solely academic excellence. Once I began viewing homeschooling as a training ground for preparing my children’s hearts and minds for God’s purposes, I was able to see all those interruptions by my younger children as opportunities for teaching and training my older children to become more like Christ.
Don’t Give Up
So before you give up on homeschooling because your little ones are wreaking havoc on your home, try asking God to show you how He wants to turn everything into opportunities for accomplishing His homeschooling plan for the day. This can be a challenge when you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. The best place to start is by repenting of any wrong feelings, thoughts or actions towards your young children and then asking God to give you eyes to see your little ones as He sees them. Next, start praying that God would show you how to use interruptions as tools to aid in the spiritual and mental growth of your older children.
Having to take a break from studies because a little one needs attention can become an opportunity for teaching a valuable lesson in putting others first. Having to deal with constant interruptions provides your older child practice in patience. Loud noises from younger siblings offers good training in staying focused when distractions are present. As a parent you can demonstrate how to have compassion for others when you take the time to care for a toddler who gets hurt or a baby who needs to be held. And when your older child gets frustrated by all the interruptions and wants to lash out at her younger sibling, take time to talk about self-control and being slow to anger.
Keep in mind that your older children aren’t going to catch all of these heart shaping lessons on their own. Make sure to take some time to communicate these lessons to your older children as frustrating situations arise. Remind them, that while it might be difficult to love their younger siblings in their own strength, that the Lord will give them the patience, compassion and love they need if they ask for His help.
I can recall a time when I was busy teaching a lesson to my older daughter when a younger child interrupted our studies. Frustration and anger quickly rose up within me as I rudely dismissed my little one’s needs and continued on with our lesson. It wasn’t long before that same child became more adamant about gaining my full attention and it was impossible to continue with the assignment. Because God had already been working on my own heart, I soon realized that my attitude toward my young child was not pleasing to the Lord.
I used this distraction as an opportunity for teaching and training my older daughter as I openly acknowledge to God and my daughter that I had sinned in my attitude and words toward her sibling. I took the time to pray out loud in front of my children, repenting of my sin, receiving God’s forgiveness and asking God to give me His heart for my little one. That distraction became a powerful training time as my older daughter witnessed the process of repentance and forgiveness and was then able to recognize her own sinful attitude towards her younger sibling and repeat the process of repentance and restoration that was just modeled before her. God had taken an annoyance and used it to train my daughter’s heart (and my own) for His purposes!
Not only can our young children be used by God to transform the hearts of our older children but they can also aid in training their minds. We often forget that the best training for our minds is the study and application of the Bible. What better way to teach our school age kids how to apply scripture than through daily putting into practice God’s Word as they interact with their younger siblings. Scripture memorization is good, but having God’s Word transform our daily lives is even more important. As you homeschool your older children, look for opportunities to put the scripture they know into practice as they interact and react to their younger siblings. Knowing spelling rules and math facts is important for our children to learn, but understanding how to apply God’s Word and watching the Lord transform their hearts and minds is even more significant.
We must remember that the success of our homeschool day should not be based on how much curriculum we complete or how quiet the little ones were during school time. Rather, the success of our homeschool day should be determined by whether or not we accomplished what God had planned for our family that day, which may include some valuable lessons brought to us by the cries of a baby and the demands of a toddler.
Janelle Knutson is a wife and homeschooling mother to seven children ranging in age from infant to adult. She is the owner of Janelle Knutson Consulting, a homeschool consulting business dedicated to encouraging and equipping homeschool parents. She has written articles for various homeschool websites and magazines, including The Old Schoolhouse magazine. She enjoys speaking at homeschool events, MOPS groups, and women’s events when she isn’t busy caring for her family. You can find her blogging at JanelleKnutson.com.
Janelle will be a speaker at the 34th Annual CHEA Convention July 13-15, 2017
This article originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse digital magazine July/August 2014