The blog world is filled with everything “back-to-school” and as we just meandered through the middle of our school year a whole lot of school posts sprang to mind. Every time I started writing a school post this one jumped out. If I had to write it in a nutshell I would say: “Relax, don’t rush and have fun.” Not exactly the prevailing “get ahead attitude” but it works!!!
Here you go: Se7en things I wish I had known about homeschooling… in no particular order:
- Do what works for you: When we started homeschooling my first born it really helped to do all his workbooks in the morning before everyone else woke up – he was always up long before the rest of the world. To the outsider it would have looked like we never did school because he was often finished with bookwork before se7en in the morning!!! Now it works better for us to scatter bookwork through the day. For a while it worked to have everyone doing the same subjects at the same time and right now it works if everyone does what they can on their list and I sit with each child for a period of time going through their list and helping them with the things they need help with. It takes a while like this but everything gets covered properly.
- Keeping Up with the Schedule: Most of us have a “mental essential list” of what really needs to be done each day… reading and math are right up there. And if we get busy then other things fall away faster than saying”Jack Sprat”… Needless to say it is the fun stuff that falls away and school can get very dull for everyone very quickly!!! It occurs to me that I want my kids to get to the end of their “school education” with a certain amount of joy still in hand. I also think that art and art history and music and poetry are all part of the well rounded-ness that I am talking about. This year I have put those things first and then doing my “mental essential list” afterwards. Right now that is working for us. A “perceived as fun project” really helps get us from play mode and into school mode, without waiting for dragging learners… I always used to start with math and had many dragging feet. Let’s do watercolors however seems to draw them to the table quite quickly… and then we just stay there!!!
- Take Your Time: I have a couple of students that are in a big hurry to finish… finish breakfast, finish reading, finish their artwork, finish school, finish lunch… finish the day – tick it off and move on. I really want them to slow it down a bit and this year I am saying: “Take your time” a whole lot more than ever before. When they start to write a story: “Take your time, think about it” and especially with art projects I want my kids to know that “30 seconds” just isn’t going to produce the work they want to produce. I would rather have really good quality work than a heap of quantity and I am trying to instill that it takes time to produce something worthwhile.
- Don’t panic if you miss a day: In the past when we have missed a day or two it has been fine we just doubled up a day or two and we are back on track… But we went through a patch – and I blame the World Cup and all the fun we were having with friends that weren’t in school!!! – when a day or two was actually a week or two and for some students it became four weeks!!! Now previously when we have lagged I just start fresh on the nearest new week and carry on where we are at… but I realized that this would carry us over into next year (GASP!!!) and we have a huge expectation to finish school by Christmas and be done for the summer. I know I won’t want to take two or three weeks in the summer to finish up our school year and I certainly won’t have any students falling for that. So I decided to slowly but steadily chip at the back log and we are very close to back on track. I kept their daily school schedule going and then I started with one student at a time and sat with them and helped them get back on track first with their reading, then with their workbooks and finally with their journals. Once a student was back on track I started with the next one and slowly each student is back up to speed and it so much easier to maintain the daily schedule when you have been have been doing extra work catch up!!! I just have one student that is still whittling away at his backlog but he is very hard to pin down at the best of times… and I know most of us master skills by doing a tiny bit everyday – he seems to learn in fits and starts… So I take advantage of his good moments and work like crazy!!!
- Homeschooling is Not School At Home: One of the great advantages of homeschooling is that we can teach our kids according to their strengths and style… How often I forget that and try and teach everyone just the same – never fear my kids set me straight fast enough!!! A glance at their approach to mental math: one has to jump around the yard shouting the answers, one sits and drags it out as long as possible wailing and gnashing teeth and gets everything correct, another whizzes through it, writing any old answer down!!! They have their own style and I can accommodate that. When we started homeschooling I was always trying to fit the model of schooling that I had had… my kids have taught me to do our own thing!!! Sitting at a table all day doing busy work might work in a classroom full of kids but it doesn’t work at home. You can make school fun just by picking up their books and working outside. Sometimes doing all our work on a desert island (in bed) and no-one may step off for fear of sharks works…
- Socializing is not the Beginning and the End: When we started homeschooling I worried about this endlessly, I know homeschoolers are well rounded and all that BUT to many non-homeschoolers “socialization” is the big issue… We all know homeschool kids that lurch from one endless string of social events to another, almost to prove that their children are better socialized – whatever that means!!! Like most beginner homeschoolers I wanted people to think it wasn’t an issue, because for me it wasn’t!!! But I worried about what people would think, there is that great ongoing comparative study called parenting. I worried about joining a local support group – really not my thing!!! I worried at every “opportunity” my kids “missed” and while I always knew my kids would be fine and they would make their own friends in time and they have, I am finally at peace with it. They don’t need to join up with fifty other home schoolers for outings, we don’t need to join up up with all the local home schoolers for school concerts and prize giving and sports day because actually one of the many joys of homeschooling is that we don’t have to attend “school events.” And the thought of doing co-op school and preparing lessons and planning just can’t get into my brain!!! It turns out I am far more about homeschooling than even I thought I was. And for us that’s fine… we get all our socializing through daily living and that works for us!!!
- The High Standard of Homeschooling: Awareness for homeschooling has improved in the last while but there is still a really “high performance” associated with it. If you read homeschooling journals, magazines, websites… homeschool kids are always performing, in fact outperforming… they are in a “class of their own”… and I think a lot of homeschoolers apply a lot of pressure to themselves to “prove” or “justify” what they are doing is working. I am all for letting our kids follow their passions – and I have a couple of passionate students myself, but I am not pushing anyone in any direction and I am not trying to get anyone to finish school by the time they are ten either. I have a feeling that in the name of “homeschooling being a better education” a lot of kids are losing out on all the fun stuff… playing in the mud, picking the library books they want to read, playing the games they want to play. I think eventually my kids will get where they need to be and achieve their goals with encouragement in the direction they are going.
- Too Much Too Soon: The world may suffer from an attitude of too little too late, but not the average homeschool mom – trust me on this!!! Often times we get carried away with a new “thing” we want our kids to try or a game we played or a hobby we did as a kid that we really want our kids to try out… and they just aren’t ready for it. I often think we look at a homeschool catalogues and think – oh my goodness my child needs to get all these skills now… In reality they don’t, it takes time, plenty of it!!! I am not trying to educate my kids in a week – they will be schooling at my kitchen table for a number of years!!! I remember playing Monopoly with my best friend an entire summer when I was a kid… I think we were twelve, now I have friends who think if there se7en year old isn’t playing Monopoly they will never develop money skills. If your kid loves splooshing around with paints let them – they don’t have to produce “color-by-number” oil pastel Monet’s… Often my kids want to try things out and they aren’t quite there yet – I am all for it and encouraging them and will happily sew an extra seam or cut up an egg box for them. But I really think we can leave our kids to discover things over their entire childhood.
That’s it!!! Feel free to ask away in the comments, I bet there are lots of wise readers with solutions waiting there for you!!!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.