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“If you can’t do your work here at home, maybe you need to go to public school.”
His little eyes filled with tears, his face crumpled, and my heart dropped. Why had I used such careless words?
Yes, my son was whining about schoolwork and dragging it out. It seemed the only thing he wanted to do was build legos. Sitting him down to have a little talk, I let my frustration out in an empty threat. And I saw a little part of him close up.
Opening up closed doors…
Did he need to do school? Yes. But my words weren’t motivating. They were threatening, and we should never threaten our children. Threats are not the same as consequences. Threat means “a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.”
I never wanted to do that to my precious son again.
Immediately I knew I was wrong, and I apologized. We talked a bit longer.
He wanted to be home. He wanted to do the right thing. But he was also still a little boy—one who wanted to play more than he wanted to work.
Yes, for a moment I saw a part of his heart close. But I’m thankful it didn’t stay that way.
3 Keys to Unlock Your Unique Child’s Heart
We don’t want our kids to close the door of their hearts. And we certainly don’t want them to lock us out. A heart like that is a lot like the locked door to our homes.
How do we get in when a door is locked? Although it is possible to smash through it, we are left with quite a broken, ugly mess. Instead we use keys. As Christian, homeschooling moms I think it is wise to use the keys that God provides us in order to unlock the hearts of our children. Because without the hearts of our children, educating them at home will always be a struggle.
Key 1: Relationship
We all intuitively know what relationship means, and what we believe a good relationship looks like. But the dictionary defines relationship as “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.” So we can think of it like this:
How can we connect with our children?
- Listen carefully.
- Talk to them, not at them. Have real conversations.
- Do not provoke them to anger.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
- Spend time with them.
- Love and respect them.
- Play. A lot.
- Laugh. A lot.
- Have your family things, your inside jokes. (Ours includes a special vacation song by Rhett & Link because something always goes wrong when we take a road trip. It’s weird. They were teens when they introduced us to it 😜)
- Read aloud together. Play games together. Go outside and have fun together.
- Study Scripture, pray, and go to church together.
- See your family as a team.
But there is one thing I want to emphasize:
Enter into their world.
We may not love Pokémon, Shopkins, Minecraft, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the latest video games—but they do. Our favorite things may not be Barbies, LEGOs (especially when we step on them), or American Girl—but they are our children’s favorite things.
We may think some of it is silly, but they don’t. We may not care about the next Marvel movie, but they will. (Ok, I will too.)
They love these things. Obsess about them at times. And they want to tell you about them, to share them with you.
So when they talk about these things, let’s listen. And even go a step further and enjoy these things with them. Because when we enter into their world we show them “I care about what you care about because I love you.”
And if we start this when they are young, our teens are more likely to want to talk to us. They are more likely to listen to us.
Give the gift of time.
You’ll notice all of these have something in common. They require time. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we have the opportunity to spend time with our children. Let’s be careful that the choices we make in how we will homeschool do not hinder this incredible benefit.
And these solid relationships are the foundation for the next key to your children’s hearts.
Key 2: Insight
Insight is “the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.” Obviously this starts with relationship. But insight goes a step further. It is intentional in a different kind of way—it seeks to understand not just who they are but why they think and behave the way they do. It seeks understanding.
But how do you understand someone else?
1. Build relationships.
Yes, it starts with the first key. You will never develop a deep understanding of your children if you don’t take the time to build your relationships. Talking, laughing, sharing, having fun, and working through the difficult times takes time, attention, and intentionality.
2. Be a student of your students.
Get to know your children. The word for know in the Bible usually refers to an experiential knowledge. That is why insight begins with relationship.
Consider the following questions:
- What things do they get excited about? How can I encourage those interests?
- What personality qualities do I see in my children?
- What are their unique talents and gifts?
- Are my kids struggling in some area?
- Is there a sin that seems to keep tripping them up?
3. Recognize everyone longs for security and significance.
These are core needs of everyone. Our pastor once defined foolishness as people’s quest to get these needs met apart from God. How does your child try to get these needs met? Are they choosing foolish ways? Are they choosing wise ones?
Where are they looking for the answers?
Ultimately, to gain insight, we need to go to the One who knows them better than anyone else. The One who created them. And that leads us to the third key to our children’s hearts, the one I call the Master Key.
Key 3: Prayer
In A Praying Life, Paul Miller says it perfectly,
Until you are convinced that you can’t change your child’s heart, you will not take prayer seriously.
Prayer is the master key to your children’s hearts, because the only one who can change hearts is God.
God promised the Israelites,
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26–27)
How did He do this? He sent the Messiah, His Son. And when we believe, we too are given a new heart. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts, guides, and teaches. All of us.
It is through prayer that we gain insight into our children. It is through prayer that we get to know both them and ourselves.
So let’s make prayer a priority when it comes to homeschooling our children.
The Heart of Homeschooling
My careless words, an empty threat, closed the heart of my son just a bit. But I’m thankful I already had these three keys with me. We had a strong relationship, one where we could ask for and give forgiveness, one where we were able to talk. God gave me insight into my son’s tender soul. My sweet son wanted to please me, but he was also still a child. He needed the security that came from knowing he would be home and nothing would change that.
And prayer. I had to stop right then and ask for God to forgive me and to ask him to. And I had to pray for wisdom in how to help him do what he needed to do, while still being sensitive to how God designed him.
These three keys—relationship, insight, and prayer—will help us to educate our children in a way I refer to as Heart-to-Heart Homeschooling.
Dr. Ruth Beechick says it like this,
Homeschooling is largely heart to heart. The methods and even the curriculum do not matter nearly as much as the relationship between child and parent.
It is so easy to get caught up in spending all our time thinking about the academic side of education. And I definitely have my personal favorites when it comes to curriculum, resources, and methods! But homeschooling is about so much more than the education of the mind.
So may I encourage you to begin by unlocking the hearts of your children, so you can teach them in the way that respects who they are?
We have the keys, so let’s use them.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.