I have been thinking that half way through our eighth year of homeschooling what would I do if I had to start over?
- Worry Less and Play More: I really think children don’t play enough anymore, and the first thing I would do if I was starting over would be to let my children play a whole lot more than already do!!! As homeschoolers we love to worry about wether our kids are learning enough and if they are learning “everything” they need to learn. If you have a goal for your kids to grow up as functioning adults able to do research and learn what they need to get along then it gives you perspective. If you have created a learning environment with heaps of play and opportunities for curious minds then your children will learn despite some days or weeks falling apart. And if you life takes a terrible turn and all you do is the bare minimum of school like reading and math for a while your children will continue to learn. My kids learn an enormous amount while playing… they have never read a book on architecture but they can all build a fort and they have spent months of their lives building tree houses. Often times I will leave my five and se7en year old to play all morning if they have found something that really grabs them. If they spend an entire morning hammering nails into blocks of wood it isn’t time wasted it is time spent mastering.
- Start later: I get a lot of moms asking me when to start home-schooling, and how to get going… really our little ones are learning by doing life along side of us. There is no need for workbooks for little people… a pile of paper and some crayons will satisfy any toddler and trust me you had better have a good scrap paper supplier because once they discover the power of drawing there is no stopping them!!! And if you are really concerned about starting school early then you are probably already opening up their world and reading to them… carry on because that’s the best thing about homeschooling – more of the same – read, read, read!!! Also really small people don’t need to spend hours mastering flash cards and working through math manipulatives… even if they just have pretend t-parties all day they will be learning to match up cups and saucers and about a million other mathematical concepts. You can sit them in front of a workbook to learn but you will most likely drive yourself mad and they will most likely learn the same concepts playing with duplo!!!
- Make it easier: When you are looking for school materials choose something that will work for you. Don’t continue relentlessly with a product that you hate just because you have heard that “all homeschoolers are using it.” If you have to spend hours in preparation or if the work is too tricky for little hands and you end up doing 90% of it, then keep looking. There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. Because of that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find materials that you like and then stick with them. If you have a product that works for you then don’t start something new… if its working don’t change it. We use Sonlight, it comes in a box, it is scheduled… I don’t have to know the schedule for weeks ahead I can open up on the day and just do school. I never have to scrounge around for resources and I never have to waste time preparing lessons. It really works for us!!!
- Take More Time: One thing kids should have is time, they are not headed for college next week or even next year. Give them the time to just be – it’s during those times that everything that has been learnt seems to consolidate. When you start the first year you don’t have to do everything that your homeschool friend is doing, you don’t have to do everything that any book says and you don’t have to do everything that your chosen curriculum suggests. One of the joys of homeschooling is that it is your school!!! I know when I was in Kindergarden I never did science or math… we messed around with paint and playdo and rode bikes. I do science with my little guys because it is fun – but I certainly don’t expect them to know every detail by rote… and I have no desire to hear them list every animal in the animal kingdom or every bone in the human body…
- Leave kids to their own devises more: My kids do so much on their own that they would never do if I was doing activities with them. Leaving the recycling out for them to create has proven over and over again to be so much fun and my egg carton efforts are nothing compared to theirs!!! My kids have put on major productions (dare I say “dramas”) about books they have read and will spend weeks putting on a play… I could get involved and direct them but left to their own devices they can do so much better than I can!!!
- Work Smarter not Harder: I know they have to get through their math and workbooks everyday but it really doesn’t have to take all day. There was a while when our workbooks took nearly all day and that was simply because I wasn’t organized enough… I was doing too much other stuff and getting distracted. As soon as I got myself organized and I knew and communicated what we was expected from a school day we were able to get our work done much more easily. Now my kids have a list to get through and they each have their own style of getting through it. I spend time with each of them checking through their list and a couple of things might slip but if you are consistent in your supervision you will find the gaps and be able to fill them.
- Totally Ditch Extra-Murals: I would definitely get out doors more and have more long lazy afternoons, at the beach, lazy walks, just sitting outdoors, even trips to the library and times with friends. But extra-murals are one of those areas where we are very quick to fill up our calendars and they leave us with no time for the things we really want to be doing. Unless your child is a true protege they don’t have to start competitive sports before they reach primary school. Trust me on this they won’t be left behind. If you have a kidlet with a soccer obsession then get the kit and let them dash around the yard with a ball – seriously it will be more fun for them than trailing to training three nights a week and then matches on Saturdays. If you have a child with a wild passion by all means nurture it but there is no need at all to push it – those kids push themselves and trust me us parents are just there for the ride…
- End the School Day: I have to make sure that our school day is finished and my kids clearly know… they have had a clear “You are done for today.” The thing about homeschooling is it is a lifestyle of learning but my kids need to know they are done and they are free… It is very easy to think gosh its really early lets do one more thing. That’s fine if one more thing is “nothing.” Often enough my kids have worked hard to get through their list really fast so they can get outdoors and it just isn’t fair to call them back to do something else… I store up those extra bits and pieces that I think of and make sure I put them on their lists for another day.
So if I had to start homeschooling over I would definitely:
and the Se7en + 1th Thing
So with hindsight these are things I would change is if we were to start homeschooling over and I am sure you have things you would change about your homeschooling too. The best thing is we can adapt and change as we go. Homeschooling isn’t static and as a family or student changes it’s needs so can the school.