“Character vs. Academics”
by Kristy Howard
Is Character More Important Than Academics in Homeschooling?
I’m a homeschooling mom with young children, and I think about this question a lot.
Okay, I worry about this question a lot.
I was thinking (worrying) about it again just last week, trying to reevaluate our priorities and goals as a homeschooling family.
Honestly, somewhere between the mixed-up flashcards and the tangled hair and bad attitudes, I can totally forget that we’re trying to accomplish something beyond just surviving another day.
Oh yeah. Life IS more than just lost work books and misplaced pencils, isn’t it?
So I found myself fretting again about whether or not I’m really giving my children the best education… and how much character training should trump academics… and whether it’s more important to settle bad attitudes or finish math and spelling lessons on Friday…
And somehow in the middle of my ponderings and self-doubt, I thought…
You know, I have never, ever, woken up on a Monday morning and worried about whether I should read my Bible or fix my kids’ breakfast that day.
Or whether or not I should take a bath or go to church on Sunday?
Um, how about both? 🙂
Asking, is character more important the academics? is the same as worrying about whether I should eat food every day, or read my Bible instead.
Of course I should eat… and bathe… and read my Bible and go to church! Why should there ever be a choice?
Like us, our children are created as complex beings, in the image of God with body, soul, and mind.
We would never dream of starving their physical bodies of food, and we should never doubt the importance of nourishing their minds and emotions either.
The beauty of homeschooling is that we never have to choose.
The culture and dynamics of our home life should intuitively recognize and nurture those physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual hungers within our kids.
Every day may not be a great math lesson day. But if my child is conquering life skills, learning to love and create and enjoy, then I’m pretty sure that no “part” of his inner person is going “hungry”.
So, yes… character training is an important part of parenting, just like staying in God’s Word is vital to my spiritual health.
Academic progress is a normal aspect of home education, just the same as health and energy are byproducts of my personal choices regarding food and nourishment.
And truly Biblical home education should cover all the bases. Maybe not perfectly, but certainly with grace, wisdom, and loving devotion.
Let me share a few practical ways that we as moms can nurture our children mind, soul, and body:
- Spend lots of time with your kids. This is especially important if “quality time” is one of your kids’ love languages.
- Learn to really listen. The “little things” children want to share are so important.
- Make room for creativity, messes, and imperfection in your life. My humble opinion is that children never thrive in a sterile environment. Let them create!
- Think outside the box. Make imparting life skills your goal, not just finishing a work book by the end of the year.
- Feed your children’s minds with living books. (Here is a list of over 80 of our favorites!) If your child struggles to read, read TO him until he can do it on his own.
- Create and reach for goals as a homeschool mom. Goals give us something to strive toward, so be intentional!
- Make learning and family time fun. Here are a few fun days for homeschoolers to celebrate during the month of February.
- Nourish your children’s bodies. Teaching children to enjoy healthy food is very much about choices and lifestyle habits.
- Learn how to supplement with herbs and vitamins. The condition of your children’s physical health will affect their mental and emotional well-being, so become a student of natural supplements! Here’s a simple guide to get you started.
- Embrace the beauty of rest and routines. Little ones need lots of down time (you need it too, mama!). Kids crave the security of predictable days and simple bedtime routines.
I don’t believe the Lord ever intended for training and raising children to be reduced to “either/or”.
His mandate to parents in the Old Testament pretty much encompasses every aspect of daily life:
“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates.” Deuteronomy 11:19-20
The next time you find yourself starting to fret about character versus academics, just remind yourself that there really is no contest.
It’s all life.
It all matters.
Every moment, every lesson, every attitude, is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to give grace, and to gently nudge your child a little closer to the desired destination: an abundant life of fruitfulness and faithfulness.
What do you think? Do you ever struggle with striking a balance between the “spiritual” and “academic” sides of parenting and homeschooling?
Kristy Howard is a pastor’s wife, second-generation homeschooling mom of five, and a passionate believer in friendship, coffee, and quiet time!
Kristy writes about motherhood, ministry and life at KristysCottage.com.