Even if you choose to homeschool your children, “teacher” is not your primary role. Your role, your vocation, is that of parent. Teaching your children comes under the umbrella of parenting. If your parent-child relationship is suffering, homeschooling will generally not go well.
Children learn best when they feel that they are safe and loved. While there certainly can be behavioral issues and learning challenges in spite of a loving environment, having a healthy relationship with your children can only improve the environment in your home and the homeschooling experience.
Gary Chapman, Ph.D. has written a series of books on the five love languages, things people (including children) need to feel secure and loved. One of those books is dedicated to the love languages of children. Those five love languages are:
- Physical Touch – all children need physical touch such as hugs to feel loved.
- Words of Affirmation – words of praise and encouragement. These often focus on a specific effort but can and should also express appreciation for who the child is.
- Quality Time – time spent one-on-one with each child doing something together, preferably something the child enjoys.
- Gifts – all children like gifts, but some need them more than others. These do not need to be expensive items and can include things children need such as clothes, but the act of giving is a tangible sign of love.
- Acts of Service – things done for our children. As parents, we always serve our children, but sometimes we push too hard for children to do everything themselves. When our children ask us for help, we should help them. It helps demonstrate what service looks like. This doesn’t mean we have to do it all, but we can do it with them.
To be clear, all children need all of these, but most children need some love languages more than others. With young children, it can be impossible to know what their preferred love language is. As they get older, it may become clearer what they crave and need most in their lives.
Children will often show others love in the same way that they prefer to receive love. A child who craves physical touch will give hugs or cling on to people. Another might use kind words and praise. Others might want to play games or spend time hanging out with people. Still others might give gifts or do things for other people. You might also be able to get a clue into what a child’s preferred love language is by what they complain about. Do they perhaps say, “You never spend time with me” or “You never give me anything.” That’s a strong indication of what they need.
It can be hard to help our children feel loved if they have a love language that is different from yours. Perhaps you are not a hugger, but you have a child who needs physical touch. You could be an introvert who craves solitude but have an extroverted child who wants to spend lots of time talking to you. You might be a minimalist but have a child who only feels loved when you give them physical gifts. It can also be hard to show your children love if you grew up in a family where love was not demonstrated in a positive way. It is important to love your child in the way that they need even if it is a sacrifice for you. This does not mean that your needs don’t matter, but as the parent, you need to model what it is to love others and that means that you sometimes need to get out of your comfort zone for the sake of your child.
Your child will learn what it means to love others through you. They will also learn about God’s love through you. If you don’t show your child love and help them feel loved, it will be very difficult for them ever to know what it is to have God love them.
What does all of this have to do with homeschooling? Of course, in homeschooling we want our children to learn academics. They need to learn how to read and write and do math. It is important to set reasonable expectations and to work with our children to achieve them. However, if we want them to respond positively to these lessons, they need to feel that we love them and want the best for them. If they do not feel loved, yet we make demands on them day in and day out, resentment and rebelliousness will be the result. You will be engaged in a battle with your child that you cannot win, and every day of homeschooling will be miserable.
Homeschooling is challenging enough under the best of circumstances. You do not want to be in the situation where homeschooling becomes such a battle that all of your interactions with your child become negative. By the same token, if you are going through a difficult season of homeschooling (we all have them), be sure to increase the amount of love you are giving your child. Give them a hug (physical touch), have fun with the child (quality time), praise the things that they do well (words of affirmation), give them small tokens of your appreciation (gifts), and do kind things for them (acts of service).
Your relationship with your child is meant to last a lifetime. Homeschooling only lasts a season, even for those of us who homeschool through high school. Build a solid relationship based on love. The academic education comes second.
For more ideas on how to show your child love, check out The Five Love Languages for Children.