HS #202: Turn Your Homeschool Challenges Into “Challenges” with Wendy Speake
Links and Resources:
Grab your free WEEKLY CHALLENGE CHART at WendySpeake.com/familyresources
Triggers: Exchanging Parents Angry Reactions for Gentle, Biblical Responses by Wendy Speake and Amber Lia
The 40 Day Sugar Fast by Wendy Speake
Wendy Speake: Turn Your Homeschool Challenges into “Challenges”
WENDY – Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions podcast, brought to you by Sonlight Curriculum and homeschooling.mom. I’m your host, Wendy Speake. Here on the show every week you’ll get to listen in on some great conversations with wonderful guests all designed to equip us as homeschooling moms. And then once a month, we’ll be opening up the Bible together, applying God’s Word to our long, blessed, but often challenging days. It is my hope as we gather together in this space, we will encourage one another with some practical, Biblical solutions. I’m so glad you’re here.
Before we start the show, I’d like to thank our sponsor, Sonlight Curriculum. Complete homeschool curriculum, you’re guaranteed to love. And now, enjoy the show.
Episode 202, Turn Your Challenges into Challenges
Hello, hello. Today we are going to be together, just the two of us, no guest interview. Just going to open some passages from the Bible and apply some insight to our homeschooling days. And specifically, our challenges during those days. Today it is my hope that I’ll be able to share vulnerably some of our past and present challenges in our home and in our homeschool. My challenges, their challenges, their challenges that have felt a whole lot like my challenges. I want to share it all with you in a way that encourages you to keep looking for creative ways to help your children, whatever the challenge is that they’re facing today.
I remember my very first year speaking at the Great Homeschool Conventions. This was back in 2016, perhaps. They provided a booth for me in their enormous exhibit hall, and I had brought a banner as I was encouraged to do, with a bold image of a woman screaming. Now this picture of the woman’s face, it was the same picture that’s on the cover of our book, Triggers. If you hop over to today’s show notes at homeschooling.mom, you’ll see that face. Or maybe you’re already familiar with the book and the face already.
Anyway, under the picture, on that huge banner, for everyone to see, were the words “Confessions of an angry homeschool mom.” That was the title of my very first talk that I ever gave to a homeschool community.
So, there I was hanging the banner, setting out a stack of books with that same stressed out exploding face, and I suddenly felt so embarrassed. It was only an hour before the exhibit hall was going to open on the Thursday night, and everyone else around me was setting up their booths with banners of smiling children and happy moms, and words that promised “Do this curriculum and you and your children will have the most incredible, peaceful, joyful time together as you read books aloud, and paint, and go on nature hikes.” And then there was me, and the banner with the yelling face.
Of course, all these years later, I know that the Lord has used Triggers and these opportunities to share Biblical lessons with moms that have the power to transform us from angry and reactionary to gentle and responsive. Those confessions were really invitations inviting listeners to a conversation. I was saying, “Here are the lessons I learned as I struggled, that I believe might help you in your struggles.” That face though, embarrassing as it was, grabbed the attention of women like you and me, walking through the crowd, because they knew that sometimes they looked like that too.
And they all, we all, don’t want to. We want a better way. I’m reminded of the verse where Jesus introduces Himself this way, in John chapter 14 verse 6. Jesus answered I am the way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Just those few words, I am the Way. Do you ever feel like there’s no way? There’s no way you can change your reactions with your kids. There’s no way that you can teach your child to come when he’s called. There’s no way to teach that one subject. There’s no way to deal with your stress or theirs, or deal with her sass, or his anger. There’s no way that you can change. There’s no way that they can change.
Well, I’m here to tell you, there is a way. Because Jesus said, I am the Way. If you are in a pattern of responding wrong each time they do wrong, there is a way to stop it. To knock it off. To do something better, say something better, say it in a better way. But the first thing we need to do before we attempt to do anything different… we need to go the right way. Stop going the wrong way. Start going the right way. Jesus said, I’m the right Way! So, we need to go to Him and follow Him. If we’re not acting like Him, when our kids do wrong, we need to turn around and start following His example, in all things.
If you’re going the wrong way right now, in how you’re reacting to your child’s sin or their learning struggles, it’s time to do that. It’s time to turn around. And go the right way. The Jesus way. This idea of stopping one way or one behavior and turning around is the image of repentance. Repentance isn’t nearly as much about feeling bad or about doing wrong or hoping tomorrow that you’re gonna do better. Repentance is about using the muscle of your will. And stopping it and inviting God to do a work and change you. But doing also some muscular work yourself and stopping the wrong behavior and turning around and refusing to go that old direction anymore. Repenting isn’t just confession or feeling lousy or quoting Bible verses like, well God’s mercies are new every morning. Because without true repentance, without making some radical changes, you are going to wake up to God’s new mercies and do the same thing. Say the same things. Respond in the same way that you did yesterday. Repentance means turning around in your behavior and going the right way. Behaving in a new way, in a Jesus way.
That’s a new way, with new words that look and sound a whole lot more like Him. And a whole lot less like us. Now maybe you’re saying to yourself, okay Wendy, you took that out of context. Jesus is talking there about the way back to the Father. That’s why He’s calling Himself the Way. He’s the way back to the Father. We’ve been separated from Him because of our sin. There’s nothing we can do to make our way to Heaven, to make ourselves right with God. Only Jesus could bring us back. Because of Him we have hope, we eternal life with Him. That’s the way that Jesus was talking about. And I will tell you you’re right. Absolutely in context, that is exactly right. That’s the context.
But there’s also this. We oftentimes stop at our… I don’t know… we stopped with being saved and we stop just before we meet Him here. Okay, Lord, You’ve taken care of my eternal life, but you promised two lives. You promised me that you came, that we might have life and have it abundantly. Okay, so that’s my eternal life. Where’s my abundant life? When they struggle, I struggle. I want Your Help.
So, so often, we’re great at saying I need a Savior, and He comes, and He ushers us in the way of eternal life. But then we stop calling out to our Savior for the help we need for this abundant life with our kids, in our home, in our homeschools.
He’s not just the Way to Heaven. We don’t just say, You saved me, I’m good to go. We need to say, You are my Savior still. You are my Savior and You are able to help me, save me, save us, with our struggles, with our challenges today. Marriage, homeschooling, a child’s diagnosis, multiple physical mental behavioral issues with multiple kids, your own depression, or constant physical pain. Your addiction. Someone else’s addiction. Or your struggle as a single mom who’s working and homeschooling. Or the ordinary everyday struggles of getting kids to the table for dinner without having to yell or threaten. For some reason, we believe that God saved us from our sin, but He can’t help us with these other things. So, we keep doing the best we can, going at it alone, our own way, hoping, if we don’t give up, we’ll get through this. But Jesus said, Come to me, I’m the Way.
What do you say that we repent? That we stop pushing through in our own might and come to the Savior, the One who was able to save us, as though He is able to save us still. He is so kind that way. Never leaving us, never forsaking us, never throwing His Hands in the air, saying, Whoop, I already did my job here is accomplished. I’ll be with her forever. But she’s gonna have to… she’s gonna have to do the rest of this life on earth on her own. He didn’t throw His Hands in the air and He doesn’t give up on us. And He doesn’t give up on His ability to be our Strength when we’re plum tuckered out. Yes, He’s kind that way.
Speaking of kindness, Romans chapter 2, verse 4 tells us plainly that it is His kindness toward us that leads us to repentance. He doesn’t bully us. He doesn’t shame us. He doesn’t speak down to us. He doesn’t threaten us. He presses in with the abiding nearness of His kind Holy Spirit. He talks to our spirit, gently, gently leading us to repentance. Gently giving consequences. Gently pruning back the sin areas of our lives. He is so good and so kind, and I have to wonder if the kindness of the Lord leads me to repentance. Might the kindness of a mom have the power to read her own children to repentance as well? Would we have more success helping our kids with their challenges if we stopped jumping into the ring and challenging them? But instead, taught them to honor and obey, to stop doing wrong and start doing right, with kindness, with gentleness, the way that the Lord has been so kind and gentle with us.
Jesus is The Way; therefore, kindness is the way. Kindness is the way to repentance, to transformation, to change in our homes, and in our homeschools, and in our hearts, and in their hearts. I’m guessing that a few of you listening have signed up for the new Disney Plus streaming movie and TV service. All Disney, all the time, right? You have access to it all. Well, they have a new Star Wars episodic called the Mandalorian, and they did this, I know, because they understand my family. My boys are old enough now they’ve outgrown all of the Disney movies. They’ve not, however, outgrown Star Wars or Marvel, so all of those movies are there as well. But they’re also creating new shows to keep our kids who are addicted to those storylines coming back for more. And the new show that they launched Disney Plus with was called… is called… The Mandalorian.
A Mandalorian is a type of warrior and they have a saying among the Mandalorians that’s simple. It says, “This is the way”. When they know what the right thing is to do, even if they don’t want to do it because it’s a sacrifice, it’s dangerous, other people don’t support them, they simply say with resolve, “This is the way.”
That’s a phrase I’ve been thinking about recently in our home. There are challenges, some of them are new and some of them are old and sometimes I’m still tempted to yell or shame, berate. But then I remember that that’s not the way. That’s not the way to coerce kids to obey, to grow in kindness, to grow in character. It’s not going to lead them to repentance, or change. It’s not gonna help them do better in their math or their reading or their writing. But kindness is the way. Kindness has the power to do all that and so much more because Jesus is the Way. And Jesus was so kind. And continues to be. His Holy Spirit continues to be so kind.
I’d like to take just a moment to thank another one of today’s sponsors. Medi-Share, and affordable and Biblical healthcare alternative. Find out more at mychristiancare.org for their ongoing support of homeschooling families just like ours. And now back to the show.
Okay, all of this was really just an introduction to today’s topic of challenges. We all have them, we all have challenges. Every person on the planet has challenges. Some are obvious, some are private and hidden. But as homeschool moms, we have some challenges that are different. Our children’s learning challenges. We don’t simply send them off to somebody to help them. Like, we’re the person helping them.
Sibling challenges during the homeschool days that other families get to take a break from. Math challenges. Staying in their seat and finishing their work challenges. Attitude challenges. Or perhaps your challenges are that your kid is so stinkin’ smart that he’s never challenged, and it’s become a challenge. You can’t keep him engaged. All he wants to do is play video games because at least there, he can level up and feel like he accomplished something today, rather than just doing a stack of worksheets.
I remember that very first Great Homeschool Convention, when I was setting up my banner, the banner with the yelling face, and feeling embarrassed about it. It did not help that in the booth, right next to me, was a precious woman who’s sign said something like, “Are you struggling to homeschool your exceptionally bright child? I know it can be so challenging.”
Oh, my word, I wanted to kick her in the shins, I did, I did, and it sounds so mean, but I’m just being honest here. Talk about pouring salt on an open wound, my struggles had everything to do with getting my kids to read and write, no more than that. I was struggling to get them to come when they were called, however, what I’ve learned over the years is that it doesn’t matter what the challenge is. A challenge is a challenge is a challenge. If your child has a challenge, a learning challenge, because of dyslexia, or a learning challenge because they don’t have respect for teachers, for you. Or maybe the challenge an inability to be challenged academically. Whatever the challenge, you are the mom to help them. This is not an invitation for us to be triggered. This is an opportunity for us to do what we signed up for in the first place, to parent them. To teach them. To come alongside of them in their individual, unique challenging challenges and help them. Give them tools, give them empathy, give them prayers. Give them consequences, give them incentives, give them our attention. Give them the help that they need to overcome their challenges, remembering that those challenges do not belong to us. We are God’s moms for the job. We are the ones who get to partner with Him to help them overcome their challenges. What a privilege that is.
As we near the end of this short episode, I want to say that simply remembering to respond like Christ is the main take-away, always. He is the homeschool solution. Be like Christ, right? Be kind. Be like Jesus. He is the Way. Kindness is the way. Remembering that we’re here to help them with their struggles and not join them in the struggles and struggle with them. He is the Way, that is the way.
But because we love to be practical here on the Homeschool Solutions show, I wanted to offer just one practical solution to help your kids with whatever their challenge is presently. Just recently, I was talking with a family therapist friend about reward charts. I had told her that one of my teenage sons still needs them. He wants so much to be successful but he simply can’t remember to make his bed, pick up his Legos and his wet towel from the floor, let alone go back and make sure that he finished his assignments for the day. He wants to, but he can’t stay on top of all those things. But if I were to give him, when I give him a reward chart, you can’t see me right now, I’m using air quotations, “Reward chart”, it helps him tremendously. So does an incentive, written at the top of the page, he knows it’s coming, that incentive is the same every week. Those things that he needs reminders on are the same every week. He needs consistency, so it helps him… The family therapist friend of mind, she sat there nodding, though I thought that she was going to chastise me, honestly, I did, for basically using a sticker chart with a teenager.
But she didn’t. She said, “Wendy, I think all kids could use a clearly defined list of expectations with a clearly defined incentive. And for some kids, they need a clearly defined consequence if they’re not going to do it. There is nothing wrong with a rewards chart, a sticker chart, a marble jar, I mean those things sound like they’re for toddlers, but if your teenager is still struggling to… maybe, remember what he needed to learn to do as a toddler. Okay. A reward chart could help that. But maybe they just need help remembering what they need to do as a teenager too.
First of all, this is one of the main reasons why she said that she encourages families to use reward charts. She said many of us tend to keep throwing new responsibilities and expectations on our kids all day long. And I think that for me, on homeschool days, I do it so much. I’m like, Oh, you breezed through that, okay, do this. Oh, that, okay. Oh, you know what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna do some laundry. Oh, you know what. And I just keep dumping more and more stuff, because I’m always ready for the next thing, or I’m always overwhelmed by so much more that we need to do that I just start, you know, throwing more things.
But she said that when they know a clearly outlined and expectation of what their responsibilities are, what the expectations are, then they get to have that feeling like they won. Like they achieved something. Like they completed a task. And that’s good for them. Yes, there’s always more trash to take out, more dishes to clean, more dog poop to pick up, right? And we can still ask them for their help. Tell them that they need to. But when here’s a chart that they’ve completed, there’s just a sense of having accomplished what was expected of you.
And maybe that reward is an allowance, or a movie night as a family, or some other activity to do together. To reward them at the end of a work week, and don’t they have work weeks? Don’t we have work weeks?
So, the second reason why she thinks this is helpful, and I totally agree, is that this is what we have as adults. We know when our bills are due. And if we don’t know, we kinda make ourselves a list of when we need to do things. We know when the trash has to be taken up. We know what’s expected at work, if we’re going to be bringing home a paycheck. We gotta get our job done. And our kids are going to have to be able to keep track of their responsibilities and know what their incentives are as well. So yeah, she said, all our kids should have reward charts. And that was such a relief for me to hear this, because I thought, goodness, my kid can’t do this without a reward chart. And she said, I bet if you go ahead and give it to the two kids that don’t struggle, to remember to pick up their towel, and you say, what are their challenges? That you are gonna see such growth when you can detail what your expectations are and give them something they’re working towards.
So, here is my idea. I’ve created a simple reward chart template. I use it for our family, but I’ve put it at wendyspeake.com, and if you head on over there, you can download it as well. I’ve also put it over on the show note page at homeschooling.mom, where these podcasts are listed. So, today’s show notes will include a link there to grab this template. But the application is for us and I don’t want to miss it. It’s so much more than a specific piece of paper or air quotations, right? Goodness, use whatever piece of paper you want, call it whatever you want, but take some time to pinpoint what their challenges are. And then turn those challenges into a “challenge”. You see I’m using the air quotes again. Use positive words like, I know you can do this. I can’t wait to see you succeed at this week’s challenge. And then come up with some incentive that will motivate that specific kiddo. One kid might be working on bedtime routines, staying in bed, picking up toys. Big brother might be working on math facts without tears. Putting away their schoolwork at the end of each day. Reading for 30 minutes on their own or preferring his little sister rather than always fighting for his own way.
Like I said, when you pinpoint their challenges, then you can turn those negatives into a positive challenge. Pinpoint their challenges, then turn those negatives into a positive challenge.
Now, here’s my challenge to you. Remember, that Jesus is the Way and Jesus was kind and one of the juiciest most wonderful pieces of fruit, His fruit, of His Spirit, in our lives, is kindness. Kindness. This is the way. Don’t let their challenges challenge you or undo your kindness. You are the mom to help them overcome these challenges, and I’m the mom to help Asher, and Brody, and Caleb with their challenges. And we have a few. We do. Oh goodness, we do.
I’ll link to that reward chart in the show notes of today’s episode. You’ll be able to find it at homeschooling. Mom along with all our past shows too. Speaking of which, did you catch episode number 194, with Sally Clarkson? She’s my favorite. I hope that you took a moment. Goodness, it’s just so fun to hear her talk about why she chose to homeschool, and what’s most important to them in cultivating character and a sense of destiny in their kids. It’s just such a delight to talk with her and I hope that you took a moment to listen.
Also, the interview with Jamie C. Martin about what it’s like to be an introverted homeschooling mom. That’s a real thing. And she had some great practical pieces of advice for us. So did Monica Swanson in episode 198. All about homeschooling boys. I just mentioned the names of my three boys. That is what we are doing over here, we are homeschooling boys. If you’ve missed any of these, you’ll find them on the landing page at homeschooling.mom. So, check it out.
All right let me wrap this up with a prayer, and then send you on your way.
Dear Lord, thank You for being the Way. The way back to the Father when we’ve gone our own way. Our way to Heaven. But You’re also the Way we are to go in every hard, challenging situation. You’re not only our Savior where eternity is concerned, You’re willing to come in and save us in our daily struggles. Thank You, Jesus. We are so grateful. Thank You for being present and thank You for being kind. Thank You that you continue to stay present, and that You continue to stay kind. Help us to be kind with our kids when they struggle. And might our kindness work like Yours and lead our children to repentance and maturity. In Jesus’s kind, kind Name, Amen.
All right. This is the way. Have a wonderful day.
What a privilege to have these conversations with you each week. You are so busy; I don’t take it lightly that you tune in with me here for a weekly shot of encouragement. As a reminder, you can subscribe to the Homeschool Solutions podcast through Apple or Google Play. And your positive reviews always help other homeschooling families find us online.
As we say goodbye, I’d like to say thank you to Great Homeschool Conventions. Every year they host multiple conventions in various regions throughout the US. You can find a location near you at greathomeschoolconventions.com. With dozens of incredible speakers, hundreds of curriculum exhibits, you will be blessed, refreshed, helped, and encouraged.
I’ll be in Texas, South Carolina, Ohio, and of course, my home state, California, this year. I hope to see some of you there. Until next week, visit homeschooling.mom for blog posts to encourage and support you along the way. And remember, Galatians 6 verse 9. Let’s not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we do not give up. That’s a promise that I’m taking to the bank every day.
Again, this is Wendy Speake and I’ll see you next week.
Thanks to our sponsors: