When our children were younger, we knew we had just one opportunity to raise them. There are no second childhoods. I wouldn’t get a redo. And neither will you. That reality weighed on me, much as it does for most parents. We all face doubts, fears, and anxiety on this parenting/homeschool journey. After all, we want to get it right!
I had hopes of raising the perfect family, and I believed if we had a good plan and followed it to the letter, all would be fine. Or so I thought. It didn’t take long for us to realize that there was no five-step plan to parenting or homeschooling. As we entered the teen years, I could see our lives changing. It started changing gradually with little things, like our kids not being as quick to help, or finish schoolwork, or look me in the eyes. I can remember exactly where I was standing and what my child was doing when I realized that what had always worked in parenting while they were young would not work during this season of life. Perhaps you can share a similar moment. I knew we were in for the challenge of our lives as we continued to endeavor to build a close family. We didn’t just want to just survive these years, but we actually wanted to thrive as we built them brick by brick.
I suspect that your desire is to build a strong, close family too. That’s why learning to navigate these years is critical for this goal. Laying a strong foundation based on relationships that govern the decisions parents and children will adhere to is the first step. Once that foundation is in place, you can comfortably build on it throughout the years.
One of our foundational bricks was setting goals. I’m not talking about academic or behavior goals; those are important, but it’s more than that. We started with relational goals. Why was this important? Because if the relationship is solid, you can add other necessary elements to parenting and homeschooling. God designed you and your child for relationships: first with God, then others. Doing school work, getting into college, and keeping the house clean are all paramount. But focusing on the relationship is a foundational piece of the parenting puzzle.
Before the first foundational brick is laid, parents must discuss what is fundamental for your family. Write those things down. Pray over them. Then decide how you want to communicate them to your children. We’ve found that when you share your goals and dreams for your family with the kids it, inspires them. They feel that they’re a part of a bigger plan. Children are often excluded from the decision-making process. You can change this. The older they are, the more they can be included in the conversation.
We begin by asking a series of questions. You too can ask your family some casual, yet important, questions to begin the conversation:
- How do we see our family in ten years?
- What are the goals for our family, and how can we reach them together?
- What are your family values?
- Are we willing to eliminate things that keep us from accomplishing our goals?
- How can we learn to be servants and live lives that glorify God and not ourselves?
- How can we help each other establish and reach our personal and family goals?
- What would we do if we could do the impossible?
Establishing the foundation where everyone sees that their thoughts matter will go a long way in getting everyone to work together at building close relationships. Their enthusiasm increases and their reluctance decreases.
After homeschooling five children, I’ve learned that laying the relational foundation sets the stage for harmony and togetherness, something we should strive for in our homes.