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Who is Homeschooling Whom?

Becoming a student of the child

By Judith Jolma

*Photo by Kathleen Ray

The Oxpecker is a pesky fellow. Like flies, they flit in flocks about the face of the wildebeest and zebra on the African Safari. With their tangerine beaks, they peck at the ears and perch themselves on the backs of large animals bumming an undignified ride from majestic creatures. What a nuisance!

Annoyed, the wildebeest stomps its foot. The birds flutter a foot or two then land and peck again. The zebra swishes its tail. The rhino twitches its muscles. But the oxpecker with its yellow-ringed eyes and gray plums never leaves. It’s a good thing they don’t. The mighty creatures of the Safari could not survive without the oxpecker diligently pecking at blood-sucking flies and ticks — parasites — that would otherwise kill their hosts. We know this as a symbiotic relationship. The bird and the beast require each other to live and thrive. They must learn to exist in cooperation with one another.

There are less obnoxious examples of symbiotic relationships, such as the clownfish and anemones, the greater honeyguides and humans, or the adult and the child.

As parent-teachers of our children, we feel the weight of our calling upon us. We must care for and teach these helpless (sometimes obnoxious) little people everything. We must know how God designed the child before we can serve him. But consider something less obvious about the child. Did you know that the child has a ministry? A calling? A job was given to him by his creator. This apostolate of the child is to convert YOU -- the parent.

Jesus told us “Unless you convert and become like this little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” What a mystery! Jesus did not tell us exactly what it is about the little child that we are supposed to imitate. He left that for us to discover by spending time with children and in humility allowing them to teach us, to change us, to remove from us sin’s parasites that would destroy us. The two main obstacles that prevent adults access to the lessons of the child are anger and pride.

Who is homeschooling whom? To unpack this mystery, we must become students of the child. We must approach the child with humility and reverence, recognizing a symbiotic relationship in which we serve the child in helping him grow into maturity, and he serves us in converting us back into children. When we brush them aside, believing we are the sole instructors in the home, we frustrate the apostolate of the child.

“To enter into the secret of childhood requires of us, as adults, both a willing spirit and a particular discipline.” Gianna Gobbi wrote in her book Listening to God with Children. “Above all, this discipline comes as a result of patient observation of the child in addition to a careful preparation of ourselves. So that we can understand what we observe and know best how to respond to the child’s self-revelation.”

In Sophia Homeschool’s webinar series “Three Pillars of Education,” Laura Accettullo contemplates

the question: How do we shed our adult notions to be open to the apostolate of the child? “If we allow them,” she says, “These children can be agents sent on a mission from God to teach us how to truly love God. The Lord says to us through that difficult child, ‘I don't want to hurt you. I want to heal you.”

The difficult child makes us a better parent- a more companionate parent. After all, we are in this struggle for virtue with the child. We fail at times so we can have compassion for the child. We can look at the child with humility and honestly ask, “What is the change in me that is called for? How am I being an obstacle to this child?”

Following a lifetime of working with children, Mrs. Accettullo has observed six virtues that children subconsciously model for us - virtues that have the power to convert us if we are open to the child’s ministry.

  1. Children live in the moment -- happily content in the eternal now.

  2. Children are humble and truthful. The road back to authenticity about ourselves is the child who sees through our pretense.

  3. Children are merciful and endlessly forgiving. They are fully focused on relationships not behavior.

  4. They are trusting. They believe whatever their parents say about them and they want to obey.

  5. Children are joyful.

  6. Children are grateful. The natural prayer of the youngest child is praise and thanksgiving.

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future,” Dr. Maria Montessori once said. “Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.”


By Judith Jolma, Founder of Sophia Homeschool.

Sophia Homeschool teaches parents how to homeschool. Learn more about our training at

Learn how to create a homeschool method and environment based on your family's needs so you can thrive. My Foundations of Homeschooling Masterclass teaches parents to work with their budget, schedule, learning style, teaching style, and resources so each member of the family has his or her needs met— including yours! Learn to create a peaceful and joyful learning environment that lasts a lifetime. Identify learning differences and adapt your educational plan accordingly. Unlock the mysteries of teaching multiple grades at once. By knowing what your needs are, you will save thousands of dollars, time, and energy on methods that do not work. We will end homework battles and restore your relationship with your child.

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