By Deanna Johnson Cauthen
Deanna Cauthen is as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times news magazines, publications of Hometown Newspapers.
I’ve recently completed my 25th year of homeschooling. During those years, I’ve graduated out three of my children and now I have one more left. It’s hard to believe, but my youngest child has just started her junior year of high school and my days as a homeschooling mom are quickly coming to an end.
If you do something long enough, you’re bound to learn a few of things. Such is true for the job of parenting. Over the years, I’ve learned that no matter how many pairs of socks I purchase, I will always have more unmatched than matched. I’ve learned that even though you tell them to use the bathroom before they leave the house, at least one child will “have to go” once you get in the car. I learned that though you tried to cut all of the pieces of cake exactly the same size, somebody will always complain that the other got more.
But I have also learned some very important practical truths. Here are five things I plan to do with the final days that I have left in my homeschooling career and I’d to encourage you to do the same.
- Don’t waste time stressing over things that don’t really matter.
One of the big issues of contention between me and my youngest daughter has been about the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of her room. Every time I passed her bedroom door and saw the messiness, I felt compelled to tell her to “clean up” and preach to her about the importance of having an organized, sanitized space. This, of course, was met only with resistance and resentment.
However, a couple of years ago, it dawned on me that I only have a few, short years left with this precious child before she’s off to college. Do I really want to spend this time fussing at her about clothes on the floor? Absolutely not. So I stopped. It was really that simple.
Now, I do still have some limits. I draw the line at moldy food and foul odors, but short of that, I’m okay. The funny thing is since I’ve backed off, she’s actually gotten better about keeping her room cleaner. Who can figure?
- Help them tap into their unique abilities.
Being a student of your child is a very deliberate act and will require you to pay close attention to them. It means listening not only to what they say, but watching what they do and how they do it. Your job, as a parent, will be to connect the dots and create an environment that will help cultivate their natural abilities.
I have four children and each of them is very different. My son, who is the oldest, has always had a love and gift for electronics and engineering. Even at a very young age, he intuitively understood the process. His room was filled with all manner of electronic devices that he would take apart, reconfigure, and put back together again.
My oldest daughter, Corinthia, loved books and reading. Today, she works as a library manager at a local university. Johanna, my middle daughter, is my sensitive child and has always identified with those who were hurting or less fortunate. She currently works as a nurse’s assistant at a retirement facility.
As parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of grades, SAT scores, and college choices. Those things have their place, but providing a rich, learning environment for our children and creating opportunities for them to explore their gifts, will yield the greater good.
- Give them something bigger than themselves to believe in.
One of biggest pleasures I have had, as a parent, has been to talk to my children about the practical applications of my faith.
Someone once asked me if I was trying to indoctrinate my children with my spiritual beliefs and I told them that was exactly what I was trying to do. I believe in an omnipotent God that is bigger than me and my problems. It’s been that belief that has helped me to keep my sanity when the chips were down and all hell broke loose in my life.
As a homeschooling parent, I’ve had more access to my kids than most parents do, but every parent has the opportunity to pass on their spiritual values to their children.
As these kids grow up and leave home, we will not be there to protect them from the harsh realities of this world, but having strong spiritual roots will help them navigate their way better.
All three of my adult children have had their own period of “falling away” from the faith, but over the years they have each shared about times in their lives when they needed their faith to help them through a difficult time and for that I am extremely grateful.
- Listen more and talk less.
Sometimes we’re so busy barking out orders and giving instructions that we miss important moments in our children’s lives. The scripture says, “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and should not get angry easily (James 1:19),” but too often, as parents, we do the exact opposite.
In her article, “How to Become a Good Listener”, Janet Dunn says, “Unfortunately, many of us are too preoccupied with ourselves when we listen. Instead of concentrating on what is being said, we are busy either deciding what to say in response or mentally rejecting the other person’s point of view.” When a parent stops and takes the time to really listen to a child, they will feel loved and accepted. Poor listening is an act of rejection, but good listening embraces others.
Good listening also allows us to have better teachable moments with our kids because we’re better informed. We’re not assuming things and speaking from a place of ignorance. It allows us to be more credible and have more impact.
- Make time to have fun.
Most of us are super busy and, in any given week, there is a myriad of important things to do, but make sure you take time to have fun.
We don’t get to do this as much now since Adrianna is in high school and has a heavy workload, but there are days when we will stop school and go shopping at the mall or go out to lunch. Sometimes we just grab a portable, canvas chair, go outside, sit on the front lawn, and take selfies.
It seems like yesterday when my, now-adult, children were all home and we sat around the dining room table eating, talking, and laughing. Of course, I still see and spend time with them, but it’s different. They have their own lives and sometimes it’s difficult to coordinate our schedules and spend time together.
We need to make the most of the time that we have with these kids. Don’t worry about the dishes or the laundry. They will eventually get done. If you have to err with your time, err on the side of making a fun memory.