6 Ways We Can Equip Our Students to Finish the Race

Finish line on red running track with while lines. Shot with pro Canon DSLR.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
(1 Corinthians 9:24, NIV)

As parents who home educate our children, we must ask ourselves “how important is the prize that my child is running after?” Coaching our children to finish the year strong is a prize well worth our effort. Finishing a task well is just as important as getting off to a good start. It is not uncommon to be motivated and fired up when we start something new, but admit it, sometimes it is hard to stay focused and finish the task when things gets tough. The writer of Ecclesiastes knew this when he wrote, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” What can we do to finish our homeschooling year in a way that honors the Lord and our children?

A good example of someone who finished well is the Olympian athlete Eric Liddell. You may perhaps recall his story in the Academy Award winning movie, Chariots of Fire. Leading up to the 1924 Olympics, he was favored to win the gold medal in the 100 meter race. This event was scheduled to take place on a Sunday, and Liddell refused to participate because as a firm believer in Jesus Christ, he would not run on the Sabbath. He was criticized by many of his fellow countrymen for being close-minded and even unpatriotic. Nevertheless, he held on strongly to his conviction and set his eyes on the goal, honoring and serving the Lord with conviction. The following day he ran in the 400 meter race and to the surprise of everyone, he won the gold medal! He was determined to honor God, focused his energy, never wavered, and finished very well.

What are some practical things we can do to help our students stay focused and motivated to continue the race?

  1. Be an Encourager: First, there are preparations to be made, and by observing the apostle Paul, we can learn from his playbook. He was a wonderful encourager to those around him.  As parents, we are our children’s cheerleader, and we should encourage our children as much as possible. Paul says to the Ephesians that “ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:15-16) Do you pray often for your children, and do they know that you give thanks and pray for them?  You may wonder how to pray specifically for them as they are working hard to learn new concepts and to manage their time. In verse 17, as Paul speaks to the Ephesians he states, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”  Praying for our children to acquire wisdom should be our chief job as parents. With wisdom, our children will make better choices and reap the benefits.  This verse also mentions that with wisdom they will know Christ better, and that is fundamental to their spiritual growth.
  2. Create a Positive Learning Space: Being prepared spiritually is the foundation, and once you are ready, you must consider and prepare the learning environment. Your job is to create a positive learning space that allows your child to focus. For some children, completing  math homework near an open window, fish aquarium, or another sibling on the computer may be too distracting. Make sure you know your child’s temptation threshold. Some children are able to sit in the middle of the living room, with the TV on, and stay focused on the task at hand. Conversely, others may need complete silence, no movement in their peripheral vision, and nothing on the desk or table that could distract them. As you interact and observe your children, you will learn what is distracting to them and can make adjustments as needed.
  3. Provide the Necessary Resources: In addition to creating the proper learning environment for your child, make sure all the tools for studying are readily available. Paper, pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpener, stapler, as well as textbooks, should always be available. It is unproductive for your children to have constant interruptions when they have a need.  Having school supplies within reach is a must for your student. This will make study time more efficient in addition to  teaching your child to be prepared. When children are prepared and focused, they realize they can complete the task quickly and are more likely to be motivated to finish with a satisfied spirit.
  4. Step Away: Now that you have established a positive learning space and provided the necessary resources, monitor work. Consider doing your desk work, such as paying bills or writing lesson plans, in the same area as your children. Avoid the temptation to frequently ask if they are finished or need help.  Instead, discreetly observe as they work and give praise and encouragement when appropriate.
  5. Set a Schedule: Setting a schedule and sticking to it is highly recommended. Having boundaries gives children a sense of security, and raises their confidence and self-esteem. There can be flexibility within the routine.   For example, if the first activity on your morning schedule is exercise, there is no reason why you cannot vary what you do. One day take a walk, and the next day ride bicycles.  Yet every day, stay focused on doing some kind of exercise at the same time. Our bodies respond well to routine, and so do our children’s. As parents, we may be tempted to stray from daily schedules, but the importance of keeping them cannot be overstated. A well-balanced and consistent routine will promote a healthy attitude. The most important component of your child’s day is sleep. The Mayo Clinic suggests that school-age children should have 9 -11 hours of sleep per night. Quality sleep is vital to everyone, especially children, and those who get enough hours of quality sleep may have a better outlook and perform better the next day.
  6. Be Positive: Our children pick up on our emotions, so one of the best motivational tools that a parent can possess is energy and a good attitude. As parents, we may have a tendency to place our personal welfare on hold until our children are old enough to fend for themselves. In reality, this can be detrimental to our children. They need well-rested and energetic parents that fully interact with them. Consider your own routine and determine if you are getting enough quality sleep and exercise, and adjust your schedule accordingly. One of the most neglected, and perhaps the most vital activity, is taking time to nurture your soul before starting your daily routine. Spending as little as 15 minutes reading the Bible and praying can make a big difference in your day. Find a scripture that has meaning for you and memorize it, bringing it to mind as you go about your day. Plan date nights with your spouse and make sure you go. Don’t let minor distractions deter you from following through. If date nights are hard to manage, plan on spending quality time together at home after the children are tucked in bed. Hot tea and good conversation can be as satisfying as a dinner out. Tending to these self-care activities can make a positive difference in your outlook on life.

Finishing well has great rewards. Children will benefit, spiritually, academically and emotionally. Parents reap the reward of achievement, and everyone has the satisfaction of doing a job well. Once our children finish the race that has been set before them, they will gain a higher self-worth, they will be motivated to tackle tough tasks again, they will share their triumph with others, and most importantly, they will be able to confidently shout about this stage of their lives, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!” (2 Timothy 4:7)