We often think of 'teacher' as a vocation, and 'learning' as a specific activity that happens at a specific time. But kids are always taking in the world around them and trying to make sense of it. In a way, our children have many teachers, and it's our job as parents to make sure that what our children internalize and apply is consistent with truth, morality, ethics, and Godliness. Just look at the circle of people that interact with our children regularly:
- Family and adult friends
- Our children's friends
- Pastor, deacons, trustees
- Sunday School teachers, Youth Group leaders
Are they your partners, acting as support and encouragement? If they disagree about some of your beliefs or parental choices, do they still treat you with respect?
It is important that your 'inner circle' be positive, considerate, constructive, and that conflicts are handled in a mature manner. Our children learn about choosing friends and maintaining healthy relationships from our circle of friends and others we bring into our lives. Kids learn how to stand up to bullies and deal with emotional manipulation when they see us stand against it. They notice if we give in to peer pressure and if we are hanging with 'the wrong crowd'. There's nothing wrong and everything beneficial about surrounding our children with good influences that are caring and conscientious.
When our kids are exposed to controversial subjects, do we cover their eyes and ears, or teach them ways to sift through information, and incorporate truth into their lives?
Sometimes as parents we try too hard to protect our children from anything harsh, painful, doubtful, or contentious. If we don't allow them to experience tough situations and discuss unpleasant subjects, we are robbing them of the ability to exercise discernment and build emotional and mental endurance. We don't need to shock them with the cold realities of life, but we should give them the tools they will need to become mature, independent, and strong adults.
Do we as parents model appropriate reactions to frustration, temptation, conflict, and tragedy? Are others in positions of authority and influence 'practice what they preach'?
Whether one is a boxed curriculum homeschooler or an unschooler, we are our child's first teachers. No book or DVD will teach our kids what we don't practice. We don't respect authority with the attitude of "Do as I say but not as I do", and neither will our children. We should be examples of the behaviors we hope to bring forward in them - honesty, work ethic, discipline, compassion, courage, generosity, self control . . . all those principles we value will only be held dear by our kids if they see that we also strive to meet them, even as we hold them up to high expectations.
Home education brings us amazing opportunities along with unique challenges. Every once in awhile we need to stop looking at curriculum as the source of knowledge, and take a look at what we are really teaching our kids.