-by Mimi Rothschild

Children are all different. This is one of the reasons that homeschooling is such a blessing for so many families.

Teaching your children at home allows you to respond to the different needs, the varied interests, and the strengths and weaknesses of each child. But there are some things that we can expect of children at a given age. Our four year old child needs to change to a new activity about every ten minutes. This doesn’t mean that he has attention problems or that he is not focusing on learning. It means that he is four years old.

Our teenager may have trouble imagining the likely consequences of an action or understanding the feelings of other people, whether in history books or in real life. That doesn’t mean that she is on her way to becoming a sociopath.

It means that she is a teenager, and the natural reorganization of the brain that takes place at this time has left her less logical in her outlook that she was before or will be in the future.

This doesn’t mean that our children know naturally how to behave in all situations, and whatever they naturally do is correct. ”Train up a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 teaches us, “and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This tells us that we have to teach our children how to behave appropriately. This is as much part of their essential learning as reading and writing.

How can we tell whether a child is behaving appropriately for his age, or behaving badly? If we have the child in a setting that is appropriate for his age, he should be able to behave in ways adults consider correct for that situation. So our young elementary age children should be able to follow the dinner table manners we’ve taught them at home well enough to enjoy meal in a fast food restaurant without raising any eyebrows. They should be welcome in movies, and able to play cooperatively with other children on a park playground.

But we shouldn’t expect them to behave the way adults do at a concert. They may need time to be able to listen appreciatively to sermons in church. They may find it difficult to sit quietly through adult conversation at a formal dinner party. They may not be ready for these experiences, and it may not be realistic for us to expect to be able to take them with us to these events.

When we make it clear that being able to go to “big church” instead of children’s church or to attend a performance of the symphony is a privilege that comes with growing up and learning how to behave, our children will work toward that goal. When we have realistic expectations for their behavior, they will be able to meet those expectations and become confident in social situations. Our children will continue, as 2 Peter 3:18 puts it, to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Their behavior will glorify God and be a credit to our families.

This is certainly a goal worth striving for.

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Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of Learning By Grace, Inc. the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.