Three Things About Homeschool
. . . . . . .
I Wish I Knew
in the Beginning
In 10+ years of homeschooling, we've learned a lot about ourselves, each other, what works and what doesn't. Of course, every family embarking to home educate will have to discover these things for themselves. Finding your rhythm is key to success. Listen to your heart, love your kids well and find joy in the simple.
We never planned to homeschool. I was a public school teacher for years before we ever had kids of our own. My husband and I had fallen in love with travel and so when our boys eventually came along, we incorporated travel into our new family life. When they reached school age, the thought of being tied down to a traditional school schedule didn't sit well with us. That's when we found a charter school in our area with a great reputation that had a homeschool component. We loved the hybrid approach. It meant that a couple of days a week the boys would attend classes and a couple of days a week we would homeschool. It also meant that we had the flexibility to take our work with us and travel as often as we'd like.
The following tips were (unfortunately) learned the hard way. Homeschooling is not easy. Being a mom, cook, nurse, therapist, taxi driver, and so on is hard enough. Add educator on top of that and it's complete bananas. So whether you're a long-term homeschooling family or just getting by temporarily, I hope you can learn from our mistakes and find something useful to finding your own family's success.
1. Start on time, but keep it casual.
I have found it helpful to designate a start time. This is a good practice if you've got a kindergartner in the house or a high schooler. But keeping it fun and casual is paramount. When the boys were little we started our school day with smoothies and storytime. We'd cuddle up together on the couch, them with their cups with lids and me with a big cup of coffee. We had a basket we kept near the couch with books from the library, collections from home, poetry, nature and science books, art books, I-Spy books, graphic novels, and anything else they were interested in. There wasn't an agenda on what we would read or what content we would cover. Instead, the agenda was just to enjoy each other and start the school day easily and gently. Occasionally I'd insert a book that covered a history or science lesson they would encounter later in the day, but mostly it was just for enjoyment. We continued this practice for years, well into the late elementary years.
Now that I have teenagers, it turns out no one wants to cuddle on the couch with me anymore. So I've had to find new ways to set a marker for the start of the school day. They are mostly independent in their studies now, but setting that tone for how and when the school day begins is still helpful to us. I find that classical music playing in the background and something yummy baking in the oven are welcome markers. A simple question like, "What do you need to get done today and let me know if I can help," lets them know that the school day has begun.
2. The relationship is what matters most.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in the end result or the check-list, that we forget what's most important. I am so guilty of this. I love lists and I love completion. But my enthusiasm for these things should never override the fact that loving and nurturing this child in my care is what matters most. There will be bad days. And when they come, fighting to get through a math lesson or finish an essay at the expense of the relationship isn't worth it. I wish I had learned this earlier than I did. My advice? Take a break. Do something else together like go for a bike ride or bake cookies. Or maybe even spend some time apart. Practice emphatic listening and seek to understand. Children who feel loved and supported will be better able to do the hard work and complete what needs to be completed.
3. Remember the WHY.
If you've come into homeschooling with grand ideas of a Pinterest-worthy classroom, sparkling notebooks, art easels with little Michelangelos at work, and everyone eager to learn, then you might need to tone it down a bit. Maybe those wonderful places exist, but more often than not, they just don't. But it doesn't mean there aren't beautiful moments to be found. Being able to see my child finally understand a math concept or sound out a word for the first time have been priceless moments in our homeschool journey. If you've chosen to homeschool for a reason that makes the most sense for your family, then choose to remember that reason every day. Years ago I attended a homeschooling conference and something I heard a speaker say has stuck with me all these years. Write your "why" on a 3 x 5 card and stick it in a place you'll have easy access to. Pull that out and read it every time you think you're losing your way.
If today you find yourself homeschooling because of circumstances that you did not choose for yourself, the same is still true. You have to remember the why. This is temporary. This too shall pass. Be content with good enough. Give yourself a break. Give your kids a break. Celebrate the little victories.
What homeschooling tips have you found success in?
We are better together! So please share your wins with us!