“I just want them to have the opportunities I never had.”
“I just don’t want them to miss out on good things.”
Have you heard these statements from others in your homeschool journey? Thought them yourself?
Family culture is a real thing created by every family, intentionally or unintentionally. The choices we make reflect the type of culture we want for our family.
The traditions we keep, the days we value, the activities we participate in. What dinnertime looks like, who cooks the meals, who does the chores. How conflict is resolved, how affection is demonstrated. All these tiny and tremendous things are indicators of family culture.
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Family Culture and Homeschooling
Homeschoolers have already made a HUGE choice when it comes to family culture. We have decided to take on the task of educating our children in academic things in addition to moral and and spiritual things. We made that choice for a variety of reasons. As such, our homeschools look different from one another. What cultures look like from homeschool home to homeschool home is decidedly different, too.
The odd dichotomy of homeschooling is the pressures we are trying to avoid are replaced by new and different pressures. The pressures can be in the form of gentle “You know what you should do…“ statements all the way to the outright questions of, “Is this what is best for the kids?”
I believe our homeschools should stand as a testament to the culture we are trying to create for our families. There shouldn’t be a conflict. Furthermore, it should not be overly influenced by the pressures of those outside the home. Those gentle and not-so-gentle prods from well-meaning friends and family that cause us to question our choices. We already second guess ourselves enough, don’t you think?
How do we create a culture for our family and homeschool?
Growing up, I had two very distinct family cultures. There was the culture with my biological parents and, later, the family culture created by my Dad and step-mom (bonus mom). Every choice they made created a culture that shaped who I am today. I honestly don’t think they put a lot of thought into creating that culture. Parents in the 80s seemed to be a bit more hands-off and less intentional than parents of the 2010s – at least in my home.
When my husband and I started our family, the culture looked very different from either of our upbringings. This was not an indictment of either of our sets of parents’ family culture – it was just a natural effect of bringing a man and a woman together. Bringing kids into the mix brought new ways into the mix, too. But as we made the decision to homeschool our kids, we had to have some conversations about what that looks like in our home. We had to decide what homeschool looked like for us – intentionally.
Our intentionality in this area of culture is one of the marks of all homeschooling journeys. So I sat down and thought about how we can intentionally create the culture we desire. Here’s what I came up with.
1. Determine Your Family Priorities
Our kids are observing the effects of our every decision, even the most mundane ones. Before they are school-age, kids know the division of labor between Mom and Dad, what it looks like when they are by themselves with Mom or Dad, and the priorities of Mom and Dad. They know the routines, daily and weekly; as well as the traditions. They are fully immersed in a culture you have created (intentionally or unintentionally).
Even if you have never sat down and identified your family priorities, you have already lived according to them. The choices you make about church and community involvement, sports and entertainment, even what dinnertime looks like are a reflection of your priorities.
As I have thought about our family culture, I have found it important to determine our family priorities. Questions I asked myself to determine these things included:
- How do we like to spend our time? What do we do well together?
- How do we accomplish tasks together? Who does the “work” around the house?
- What is the most important thing in our week? What are the unmissable things?
- When the kids are grown, what do I want them to remember about growing up? What are the important customs and traditions in our home?
Once I had a good idea of the answers to these questions, I started to realize the priorities we have as a family. These pointed to the type of family we are.
2. Evaluate your Priorities in Light of Reality
The real-deal dailies of life are what determine culture; not the things we wish we were doing with our families. If we are desiring to create a culture of kindness, we must demonstrate and teach kindness to our kids. Looking at the answers to the priorities questions, ask some more questions:
- Does how we spend our time reflect the things I would like to teach my kids?
- Does my family look like I want it to look?
- Is this reality or some dream of the perfect family?
- What needs to change in order to get into line with our family priorities?
3. Hone in on the Priorities
This is where the outside pressures of the world can start to creep in. Once you have determined your family priorities and evaluated your family’s adherence to those priorities, there is likely going to be some adjusting. And there are going to be some things – good things – which do not fit into your family’s priorities.
This is where the word “NO” is necessary. And it is SO hard! We want to give our kids the world! And we want them to be involved in all the good things. But our culture and the clock collide and there is simply not enough time to do everything.
That’s why you determined your family’s priorities at the outset. You already identified the most important things, now you just have to evaluate all other opportunities in light of those priorities.
Intentionally Creating Family Culture
As I said at the beginning of this discussion: we are already creating culture for our family. The process I just described to you will help to make your culture more intentional and more personal. The culture is there; but with this methodology, it can match your family priorities.
I love the idea of determining our family culture because I love the uniqueness of our family. Our kids are the only ones who will have our exact family experience. It gives me a grander view of the God Who created us and placed us in each other’s lives.
Though we have similar experiences as some other families, no other family will look just like ours. Though we have chosen homeschooling, our family looks so different from other homeschooling families. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?!