Homeschooling With a HoneypotApril 6, 2023
Have you ever sat through a somewhat dry Sunday morning sermon or one you’ve heard before? You know, the one where your mind wandered off to that cute little stinker making faces over the back of the church pew, or to the lady towing her sheepish husband and children to the front row ten minutes late. Then, from that moment on all you could remember of the entire three-point sermon was the opening joke, a pretty hazy middle, and the concluding prayer. C’mon, admit it. It’s happened to the best of us, hasn’t it? Someone tried to communicate something important to us and we didn’t bother to retain it for whatever reason.
Now, do you also remember other instances when someone told a touching story or a relatable life example that really affected you? Oh, the strange magic of those words and ideas which so deeply affected us. For lack of a better term, let’s call them “Oh WOW!” moments since some insignificant little company run by a Mouse already stole “Pixie Dust”. Though we’ve never seen a Black Friday deal on “Oh WOW!”, I’ve seen it in my own life many times. Maybe you have too. Hopefully, these articles do that for you. But I know that all of us would love it if someone sold “Oh WOW!” moments in little cans with easy-open tabs alongside other homeschooling supplies for only $9.99. You know we’d all be throwing elbows in the aisle trying to buy it by the pallet load.
The Honeypot Principle
One of those moments was when I finally realized all those spelling and grammar rules I’d struggled with were actually keys that unlocked entire worlds of history, mystery, and adventure for me. Or the times when someone explained ideas that led me to overcome various challenges in order to become a U.S. Marine, a storyteller, a mentor, and a leader. Another of those “Oh WOW!” moments came when I learned the context of ancient Jewish teaching tradition related to Psalms 19. The verse says, “Thy judgments are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” So what does that verse have to do with teaching or homeschooling, you ask?
Well, for thousands of years old Jewish rabbis managed to teach countless generations of young Hebrew boys not only to memorize entire books from the Scriptures but their application as well. Now I don’t know about you, but teaching little boys to memorize and apply that much information seems impossible – because, of all God’s creations, our Creator really showed His sense of humor when He made little boys. They simply can’t sit still or be quiet for two seconds. Instead, they fidget, giggle, wiggle, drool, poke their neighbor, and make funny faces and funny sounds. So, how did those old Rabbis manage such a feat? Let’s call it the Honeypot Principle.
You see those Rabbis kept a honeypot with them when they first started teaching those young boys. Whenever one of their distracted and wiggly young students would stand in front of them and recite the Scriptures, the rabbis wiped honey on their student’s writing slate for them to eat so that the words written there were literally sweet. Obviously, those little boys wanted more, so they stopped wiggling so much and worked harder at their Torah Scripture lessons to gain more of the honey. Over time, that honey and what they were learning became so synonymous with each other that simply reciting the Scripture became as sweet as honey to them, and they wanted more of this sweet addiction. Because of this, they kept returning to the honeypot of Scripture to gain more and more wisdom and understanding. Maybe I’m more easily wowed than I thought, but it’s mind-blowing, right? C’mon. Who hasn’t found themselves humming, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go dowwwwn, the medicine go dowwwwn,” from the great philosopher, Mary Poppins?
Homeschooling and the Honeypot
Alright, some of you might not want to admit that. I already know some of you think we need to teach our children the same hard way some of us were taught. Righhhht . . . so, did you learn everything you should have when you were a child or did you miss a lot of things? And why are you expecting your own children to be any different? Remember the working definition of insanity is to keep doing something that you know won’t work, right? It’s kind of like how I keep hoping I’ll find something other than junk mail and bills in the mailbox.
There is a definite place for toughness and endurance and we are lacking a tremendous amount of it in the current generation. There’s a time and way of presenting it though, and as you can see by the current results, as a society, we’re pretty much bombing it. I can say that it is still possible to do right without either us or our children losing their minds. In fact, I know a few families, including my own, who are raising their children with reputations for good character, hard work, and critical thinking that are missing in our culture. I can guarantee that none of it was accomplished in a day, or because we stood there with the proverbial whip.
In my family, employing the “honeypot principle” helped get my children through various learning challenges, including my absence while I was away training or deployed with the military. We worked to find things that drew them to learn, such as regulating their school hours and even chores by their effort and accomplishment rather than by the clock. The honeypot for their extra effort was extra play time or doing something “cool” with mom and dad like making chocolate chip cookies or donuts, building forts in the woods, getting their own farm animals, or playing “dark tag” in the house. (And yes, I used to fit under the cupboards, in the sink, off the side of the stairwell and I even held up a couch with a couple of gigglers “hiding” in its cushions. No judging please until you’ve tried it.)
As our children moved to bigger chores, we moved to bigger motivators matching their effort and age. You wouldn’t believe how fast our children split wood, put up a cattle fence, or mucked stalls with us when they earned all-you-could-eat ice cream or pizza at the end of the job. Sometimes we took certain chores off their list for the day; watched movies on the wall, went on french fry dates, or went to the library. Pretty much insert dark tag between most of that list, and you get the idea. Even with all of these enticements though, we kept slipping in things for them to learn, such as remembering how to get somewhere, how to pay for things, or how to use their school lessons to create or build things. It wasn’t just all fun – well . . . ok, maybe a little.
The thing is, your children need their wise old parents to wipe a little honey from that honeypot on their writing slate so they can discover how much fun learning can really be. Try it and you might be surprised at the “Oh WOW!” that happens. Until next time, God bless, and go find yourself a honeypot.
More About the Author:
Gabriel is a former homeschooled missionary kid and homeschooling father who adores his wife, children, and grandchildren. He is currently rebuilding a 130-year-old homestead, writing a historical fiction book on character for young people, and mentoring young men. He is a former U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondent, Army National Guard Photographer, and U.S. Army Deputy Public Affairs representative and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He lived in Central America during Junior High and served on military short and long-term assignments across the U.S. and in half a dozen countries, including Iraq during his military career. Besides his deep faith and his family, his passion is writing and developing young men into capable steward leaders.