Next year will be our 10th year homeschooling. Amazing how one moment you are the total newbie to this homeschooling thing and the next minute you are at a homeschooling workshop and you are the one with the most experience. How did that happen?
So in the interest of being helpful here are a few thoughts I have gleaned over the years:
- Homeschool is not school at home; it is a life style.
This was the biggest surprise about homeschooling. I don’t remember what I expected homeschooling to be, but I know I was thinking it would be more along the lines of everyone sitting down and doing school work for several hours a day and that would be it. Lo and behold this is not what happened. We do school work for several hours a day, but it might be done at the dinning room table or the living room floor or even outside. Sure, we have time where we do school work, but we also take the opportunity to learn when learning presents itself. Yes, we are that family counting apples in the grocery store.The other aspect of homeschooling that is vastly unlike school is how and why we handle learn metrics. We do not do grades. We work to mastery. If you get something wrong you fix it. We don’t really have “Grade” levels either. If you are spelling at level three and doing math at level seven all is well. You are never ahead or behind you are where you are supposed to be.
- If something isn’t working don’t be afraid to switch mid stream.
There is no shame in stopping something that doesn’t work. I have seen people struggle for next to forever with something that isn’t working for them or their child. (that could be me) No matter how much you paid for the program, how wonderful the illustrations are, how much your best friend loves it, how well it worked for your older child – if it isn’t working don’t keep slaving away at it. Beware of sunk cost fallacies playing on your decision making process and find something that works better. This is every bit as important to keep in mind if you are talking about one book, a program, a teaching philosophy or even the decision to homeschool.
- Focus the most energy on the things most important.
You only have so many hours in a day and you only have so much energy to spend. Pick your battles. There will be times – maybe even whole years where life impacts schooling. New babies, family crisis, moving, illness all can impact the day to day schooling. During those times pare back to what is essential to your family and let the rest go for a time.
- Each child is unique – their education should be too.
Work with your child’s strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. Let them explore the things they love but also make sure they have the skills to follow where their passions lead. Don’t allow your educational philosophy to conflict with your child’s learning style. This is really hard to keep in mind when you very attached to an abstract idea of what the “best” education. The best education is the one where your child is learning and excited to learn.
- Do not expect what you do not inspect
My kids have a tendency to not do something if they think I won’t look at it. Anything you have asked them to take the time to do should be something that you are will to take the time to go over with them.
- Don’t let your expectations drown your child’s enthusiasm
It surprises me sometimes how things I think are exciting aren’t to my kids and how sometimes they delve into something that I wouldn’t have expected. Sometimes I have also found that if I am overly excited about something it builds it up too much and my children’s natural excitement isn’t allowed to grow. There have been times where my expectation for good or bad has irrevocably colored my children’s experience. I am very mindful at this point to hold my tongue as much as possible and not try to set them up too much ahead of time.
- Chores and life skills are as important as school work
We are raising humans. They need to know a wide variety of life skills not just facts and figures. Take the time to teach budgeting, menu planning, auto-repair, sewing and all those things that a responsible human needs to know.
- Down time, self directed studies and play are critical
Model a life of constant learning and expect your children to be learning things that interest them too. Children need time to learn on their own, to process what they have learned and to just play.
- Less really is more
There are so many good opportunities, so many things we want our children to see and learn and do it is easy to take on too much. It is much more difficult to pull away from something than it is to have never taken it on. The advantage of not taking on too much is to more fully and deeply discover what is left. You have to leave time for peace and quite, there has to be down time or nothing works well. It is very much possible to overflow our small cup of hours with the deluge of good things that surround us.
- There is nothing more important than the relationship.
There is no subject, no devotion, no class, no activity that is worth more than the relationship the parent and child have. No matter how important something is, if it is constantly causing your child distress or causing you to be embattled with your child it is just not worth it.