As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Homeschooling: Sharing the Burden with Your Child

I think it goes without saying, but a primary goal of teaching is to facilitate learning

Makes sense, right? 

The goal is not to make learning "hard," nor is it to stump our students on a test or quiz! (As in "Ha! I gotcha!!") But you would not believe the number of times that I have seen that concept among homeschooling parents. Not the majority, for sure, but the fact is that that idea exists for some. Perhaps it is a throwback to our own education when we perceived the teacher as the enemy who was determined to make life miserable? 

Ahhh...but one of the glories of homeschooling is that we are a team! I want my students to succeed! 

Thus, another one of my rudimentary teaching tips is this:

Share the burden of learning with your child.

We've all been there. You make what you consider a reasonable assignment, but your child seems lost or has that glazed-over "I have no idea what you're talking about" look or is even overwhelmed. (This is different than being lazy or not wanting to rise to the challenge.) 

In my experience, pushing is counterproductive. The student may complete the assignment, but not really understand it. He may do the work, but the foundation will not be there for going on to the next level. She may lose her joy in the task. 

Instead, try sharing the burden of learning with the student

Don't force him to sink or swim, but come alongside and walk with him.

What does "sharing the burden" look like?

If your student is having trouble beginning to read an assigned book (and you know it is a living book and is on his reading level), read the first chapter aloud to incite his enthusiasm for the story.

She is writing a story and doesn't know how to begin. Sit down with her and brainstorm topics together. Help her with a plan or even a basic outline. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

A beginning writer may have a difficult time with the physical action of writing. It takes a great deal of concentration to get the words from the brain onto a page, all the while using correct grammar and spelling and organizing your thoughts. (That's a lot to think about for a young child!) Instead, allow the child to dictate his thoughts to you as you write them down. This allows him to think about the content without being distracted by the physical action of writing.

You are not providing your child with the easy way out! You are not encouraging him to be intellectually lazy! But when you see that he is genuinely struggling with an idea or skill, you are helping him to learn by sharing the burden with him. As you share the burden, he will learn, build confidence, and move on to the next level. (Just because you are taking dictation from an 8-year-old doesn't mean that you will be doing it through his high school years. You will be sensitive to his abilities and encourage him to take the next step.)

A Real Life Story:

Recently, Bekah was introduced to the concept of adding algebraic equations with both constants and variables. Although she is a good math student, this concept looked like Greek to her. I could see that she was overwhelmed with understanding the steps and also with remembering them from one day to the next. So I decided to share the burden of learning with her. When I told her that we would do those problems together until she understood them, I saw a visible look of relief on her face.

Each day, we would tackle those overwhelming equations together. After a few times, I'd ask her "What do we do next?" Another day, I'd hand her the pencil and she would take the lead with solving the equation while I followed along, helping only if necessary. She has made great progress, and any day now she'll be confidently working those problems alone.

Something that had once seemed overwhelming has become completely attainable.

And that is what can happen when we are willing to share the burden of learning with our homeschool students.

For other posts in this series...


  1. Yes, yes, yes, yes!

    This is so great, and I hope younger homeschooling Mom's take these tips to heart! It works!


  2. Such good tips, Cheryl. In my 21 years of homeschooling, I wanted my children to catch the LOVE OF LEARNING. If they can get that, it will take them through the rest of their lives. As parents and teachers we need to help them develop that inquisitive mind, help them learn how to research. Then they will never ever become bored.

    Good post!

  3. I wish I'd had more of this good advice when I started homeschooling back in the early 90's. I struggled with my decision to do that, thinking myself so unqualified, and it took a couple years to get my feet on the ground. All I had to go on was my public school experience which didn't work very well for me. God graciously connected me to a good homeschool group and some moms who were willing to share their experience and advice with me. Then things began to improve. Each child is uniquely created by God with varying gifts, strengths and purpose, someting completely ignored in a secular 'one size fits all' public education. Our job as moms is to recognize those gifts, nourish and encourage, as you've demonstrated in your examples above. You're teaching them 'problem solving' techniques!
    It has been a wonderful journey for us too as we look back and count the victories, and we'd do it all again. I miss the daily time with my kids as they've gone on to marry, move away and start their own families. I think it strengthened our faith, our relationship and even our marriage. Each daughter plans to homeschool her own children. and that is another victory.
    God bless you and your family as you continue on this journey of joy and 'redeeming the time'. I'm thankful God revealed that to us as well.

  4. Great ideas, Cheryl! I agree with Debbie... In the early 90's there was such an emphasis on "back to basics" and "character building assignments" that making kids trudge through tons of hard work was the thing to do. At one point in our first year of homeschooling our daughter was in tears over a long list of questions she had to answer in writing, "in complete sentences," about a chapter from Charlotte's Web. She proclaimed that she hated reading, and this was a kid that could read fluently by age four. We put down the questions and forgot about the one-chapter-per-day assignment, and just plain read that book aloud. I think that was my first command decision to make learning fun!

    I do have to admit, though, that I let Chris bear the burden of algebraic equations... I went next door for coffee at Nana's! You're a brave woman! ��

  5. I really like your emphasis and totally agree with you.You have a real gift to express it in words well from your years of experience.

  6. Cheryl, you are a wise teacher! How wonderful for your student! ♥

  7. Wonderful advice. Selfishly my favorite part of homeschooling our daughter for a few years was everything that I got to learn along side her!

  8. Wise advice on so many levels...

  9. I agree with what Vee said above. I so admire you and others that are homeschooling.

  10. This is spot-on, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing with us!


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