Getting to Know You

June 3–7, 2013   |   Vol. 116, Programs 6–10

As a homeschooler, you pour yourself into educating your children. But, at the end of the day, do you really know and understand the kids who you’re teaching? On this week’s Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith shares his tips for ditching the papers and books and getting to know your children on a personal level!

“Just taking a few minutes out of your day to spend time with your son or daughter could mean the world to a child’s love-hungry heart!”—Mike Smith

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How can you get to know your kids better outside your homeschool classroom? Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and even blistered! Host Mike Smith shares fun and practical ideas on today’s Home School Heartbeat .

Mike Smith: For many of us, the school year is ending, and it’s time to transition into the vacation mode! After spending so much energy making sure that learning happens, we may have forgotten by now that our children have hopes and dreams that don’t make it into their essays and book reports.

There’s nothing like a shared activity to strengthen family bonds. So, dust off that tennis racket, brush the cobwebs off that rake, and begin discovering your children’s thoughts and aspirations in a totally school-free setting!

Summer is a great time to get in shape, so make a point to exercise together! If you know how to play tennis, teach your children at the local rec center. Or, if your son or daughter finds competition motivating, train for a 5K run together. If your children like to soak in the scenery, find a guidebook to local biking or hiking trails.

Another idea is to introduce your children to various hobbies. You might take the children fishing or teach them how to make a family recipe. Maybe you would have fun letting the children help you plan and plant a vegetable garden.

Field trips are another great summer activity. Pick a day to explore local museums or historic sites. Afterwards, ask the children what they enjoyed most about your day. Listen closely’their answers might not be what you expected!

Until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Shared activities are a great place to start on the road to getting to know your children better. But if you really want to dig deeper, set aside time to sit down with your children and discover what their interests are—both academic and otherwise.

The first step is to just listen to what your children have to say. Then, brainstorm practical ways for them to pursue the things they’re passionate about. If your daughter enjoyed physics this last year, she could enroll in a community college course or a homeschool co-op to pursue that interest further. If your son hates classical guitar but loves singing, why not let him take voice lessons instead?

If you have high schoolers, it’s especially important to start zeroing in on their strengths so that they can discover if they love a subject or a vocation as much as they think they will. If your son is considering medicine as a potential career, see if he can volunteer at a local hospital so he’ll get a taste of what medicine is really like. Even if your daughter’s enthusiasm lies in an unlikely direction, such as studying cloud formations, find ways to help her develop this hobby. Who knows? One day she could be a meteorologist!

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: All children want “alone time” with Mom and Dad. When Dad is working full-time and Mom is the homemaker and teacher for several children, it’s hard to see where to squeeze in one-on-one bonding time. But maybe that’s because we approach things from the wrong perspective. Time together doesn’t have to be a manicure appointment or a weekend fishing trip. In the end, it’s not what you do that matters so much as how intentional you are about being together with each of your children.

For a child, even the chance to run errands with Mom or Dad is a significant event if it’s just the two of you. The outing becomes extra special if you have a moment to stop for coffee or ice cream, or browse together at a bookstore. You might be surprised at the deep conversations you can have even on the way home from the grocery store.

Life goes to warp speed as children grow up. By experiencing and discussing life together now, while your children are young, you’ll have a stronger foundation for your relationship once your children get older.

No matter what stage of homeschooling you find yourself in, it’s always the right time to invest in the lives of your children. Just taking a few minutes out of your day to spend time with your son or daughter could mean the world to a child’s love-hungry heart!

Next time, we’ll talk about how to cultivate an environment that promotes good conversations. And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: So how do you provide a relaxed atmosphere where you can draw breath from the day’s busyness, and where your children can just chat with you? One idea is to set aside a part of each afternoon to pause and reflect together on the day.

Turn on some soothing music, pull out the cookies, put the kettle on, and let the conversation begin! You might discuss the day’s little events, a poem your daughter found intriguing, or the rising price of fuel. Regardless, it’s critical to give your children a space to make their voices heard on subjects they consider interesting or significant. Take the time to listen to your child’s complete thought before you jump in with corrections or questions! Once children have learned to articulate ideas in a non-threatening environment, they’ll have the confidence to express themselves in more difficult situations.

Traditions such as afternoon coffee or Sunday brunch can anchor your family relationships. When your children encounter surprising news, discover a new life goal, or run across an interesting passage of literature, they’ll know that they have a reliable audience waiting for them along with the milk and the cookies. And when bigger life issues come up, your children are more likely to feel comfortable broaching those topics with you if they have a familiar, non-threatening environment in which to do so.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and getting to know your children won’t happen overnight. When you do get to the place where they’re willing to share their interests with you, you might be surprised. If you aren’t thrilled that your son wants to attend culinary school or your daughter wants to become an artist, suggest other options, but don’t let your preferences come first.

It’s helpful to remember that our interests and our children’s interests are not synonymous. Dad may love construction, but Johnny may prefer journalism. As parents, we provide guidance and constructive criticism—but in the end we have to trust that God will guide them in the way they should go.

Also, each child discovers his or her talents at a different time. Anne may have known since age 3 that she wants to be a nurse, but George might not have a clue at age 16. This doesn’t mean he’s a failure. While you don’t want to promote laziness or complacency, encourage your children to pursue something they feel called to do, not simply the first opportunity that comes around.

Trusting God with your children’s futures can be incredibly difficult. But that’s part of a parent’s job description. Just remember, your example of faith is the best way to help your children trust God with their own lives. And that’s a lesson that is often learned most effectively outside the classroom!

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.


Mike Smith

Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vicki, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas where he played basketball, majoring in business administration. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego.

In 1972, he was admitted to the bar in California and also has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He is licensed in Virginia, California, and Washington, D.C.

Mike and his family began homeschooling because their 5-year-old flunked kindergarten. This was quite a disappointment to Mike in light of the fact that he was preparing this child to be president of the United States by starting his education as early as possible.

His family’s life changed drastically when he heard a radio program in 1981 which introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. When they started homeschooling, they began homeschooling one year at a time to meet the academic and social needs of their children. After spending lots of time around people like Mike Farris, he became convinced that he had been called to use his gifts and talents in the legal profession to assist homeschoolers who were being prosecuted because they didn’t hold a teacher’s certificate or satisfy the school district that they could competently teach their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

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