When my girls were young and heading out on a homeschool outing or to spend time with friends or their grandparents, I gave them the same simple directive every time: “Be good and have fun…in that order.”
I definitely wanted my children to have a good time when engaging in various activities; after all, enjoyment is one sign by which we can measure the success of an endeavor, and God blesses joy. However, I also knew it was my job to disciple my kids – to teach them that obedience to Christ by demonstrating His character qualities should be the engine that drove their behavioral trains. As much as “having fun” is valuable, “being good” comes first. The former should spring from the latter, not run helter-skelter ahead of it.
This principle can be also applied to our kids’ learning endeavors, whether that be via parent-led home education or some sort of conventional classroom schooling (in-person or virtual). While it is true that some parts of any curriculum aren’t actually necessary – and it’s our job as adults to keep silly busywork at bay and minimize the drudgery – the reality is that learning that which is truly important and valuable isn’t always fun. Some things a child or teen really must know in order to grow into a healthy, competent, mature young adult don’t come attached to a dog and pony show. At times with education, our kids must “be good” first – i.e., put forth real effort to obtain some knowledge or skill – and trust that the fun will manifest later. We do them a disservice if we lead them to believe that every learning activity must be “fun.”
One of my daughters struggled to learn to read and spell. She didn’t have a learning disability; she was simply what we might call a later bloomer. She didn’t always enjoy our spelling and reading lessons, but I knew the value of literacy, and it was my job to keep her motivated even when it was hard. Her diligence eventually paid off when things “clicked” in her brain. Now she devours hard classics for fun and is a gifted essayist and poet. She had to “be good” first – wrestling with the craziness of English phonics and spelling – before she could reach the fun of expressing herself with the turn of a phrase and getting lost in the pages of a beloved novel.
Whether you’re a continuous year-round homeschooler or have recently launched your kids into a new school year, aim to keep the idea of “being good and having fun…in that order” at the forefront of your mind so you can encourage and remind your kids. There’s nothing wrong with fun, but putting forth effort is necessary and important. Help your kids to desire “being good” with learning so they can have fun with its fruit later.
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