So local schools begin in January and overseas friends were getting back into their school rhythm after their winter break my inbox literally exploded with “Help we are headed back to school and I can’t cope emails.” I have to say it was the first time ever that I noticed one question get asked over and over again – without pause the emails just rolled in. I couldn’t reply to all of them… I was overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed is exactly how many of our readers were feeling, some of you are homeschooling for the first time and some of you are beginning a school year for the tenth time… Either way the sudden change in routine from chilled out summer days, or snuggly winter days, to back into the steadier routine of school is enough to make anybody a little daunted.
Se7en + 1 Words of Encouragement
- You Totally Can Do It:
- Enjoy Your Kids and Let Them Know It:
- It Takes Time:
- Commit to it:
- Just Start: You do not have to have all your ducks in a row to start school. Honestly I haven’t even ordered books for this year yet… we have enough to go on. There are plenty of things on our shelves right now that our kids can work through and call school… nothing like a couple of Usborne books and a pile of DK books from the library and we really are good to study a couple of topics. We have a few books from our previous year that we didn’t quite finish and it is more than enough. Basically I make sure that we are reading a fabulous book together as a family, something historical, or something geographical, or something scientific for everyone and we are pretty much good to go. While we use the local library I let my kids roam free and they naturally gravitate to the books that intrigue them. Passions are always a good place to start.
- Find What Works for You: Before we began homeschooling, I spent a year researching a number of curriculums, local and overseas – I tackled it as a research project, as one does. I attended every single talk, event, webinar, determined to find the curriculum that was best for us. Apparently there is no perfect curriculum, but you should be able to find bits and pieces that are perfect for you. You have to find what you are comfortable with. Sonlight for us is the golden globe award of homeschooling… the fab thing is that you can teach multiple kids at once. A lot of people say it is pricey – nothing compared to school fees and for us we only have to buy new books for our first kid each year and the a couple of workbooks for the rest – for us it is actually economical – even when we add in the cost of shipping. The fact that it all comes in one box with a file and schedule sheets… I don’t have to source my own material and I don’t have to wait for a book to be “in” the library… just unpack the box and start… the price of the time that I would spend away from actually teaching my kids is just not worth being able to open a schedule and go.
- What About the Three R’s: Keep in mind that homeschooling is not school at home, you have taken the leap to drastically change how your children learn. For so many folk there picture of school is entirely: math and grammar and spelling… well I don’t bother with spelling – the better they read they better they spell… concentrate on reading to them. Grammar, well the more good language they hear the better they understand the grammar – read good books to them… and math – play a couple of boardgames or cards and they will out strip their peers without batting an eye. What about learning to write and doing all those other totally vital skills… they will get them, just let them live along side you. Trust me when your kids need to know something, nothing on earth will stop them from finding out about it. That being said we have powered our way through tons of math and grammar over the years, but that is not the centre stage of our school and is just a small part of all the learning we have done.
- Your Kids Will Learn Despite You:
There is little exciting and more daunting than a fresh pile of schoolbooks. The thing is you are on a long journey with your children, they are not going to University within the week… slow and steady will win the race. The bigger challenge is to remember that creating memories and relationships is far more important in the scheme of life. Work on those memories and your slow and steady chip at the school pile will eventually pay off.
One of the huge differences between mom friends that are homeschooling and those that are not: The “nots” are kind of relieved that school is back and they can “get back to their lives…” but I was a little alarmed at the number of homeschool moms who were really dreading the whole “back to school” thing. Honestly, if you aren’t enjoying your homeschool journey, you have the power to change it.
Stop and take stock of what is working and what isn’t… really just stop worrying about all the things that you “should” be doing and do the stuff you know you and your kids need to do to have a fabulous school experience. I can assure you that an extra workbook or sitting at the table for one more “really good educational experience” isn’t going to make your school a better place – having a challenge to get outdoors every single day, whatever the weather may well be the sort of adventure that you and your kids will enjoy together. And will do incredible things for everyone’s mental health and suddenly school will be something to look forward to.
I know when you follow our blog it all looks so easy. I can hear you saying that… yeah right her perfect kids just slid back into school mode on Monday and never looked back. Not exactly. But consider this: 11 years (for hood #1) + 9 years (for hood#2)+ 7 years + 5years+4years + 2 years + 1year… adds up to a collective 39 years of schooling. I have been around the homeschooling block, I have found my way so to speak and it is a journey. My younger children do not remember a time when we didn’t spend a portion of the year in school… the look forward to it eagerly. There is a far bigger chance of a morning snack if we are in school, someone is always declaring baking their lesson of the day.
You will find your way, but it takes time. I must be honest there were years when my intentions for back to school compared to the reality of back to school have been so far apart as to only be described as a galactic fail. That doesn’t mean that we were failing, just that our expectations were a little ambitious, if not ridiculous. Now the further we go in our homeschool journey the less and less our school looks like school at home and more it looks like we are just living and learning is just part of our lifestyle. The transition from not schooling to school is in fact barely visible.
Some folks like to say, “we will see how it goes” for me it just works better to know there is no alternative. For us homeschooling is a commitment, there is no alternative (just the thought of getting eight kids to countless schools in the morning and packing lunch for them everyday has me recoiling in terror). Homeschooling has to work and I have to persist at it. This is not some educational experiment to see how things turn out. We are committed to making this work. There are plenty of days when I have wanted to throw in the towel before breakfast time, let alone lunchtime… but that has a whole lot to do with my attitude, rather than our schooling!!!
And the se7en + 1th …
You really don’t need special equipment or books… you can just begin… and some of my kids would be labeled hideously at school, some of them have taken years to learn to read proficiently and others have learnt as toddlers. All children are different and learn at their own rate. Some of them are exceptionally good at some topics and well not so good at others. The joy of homeschooling is you can cater for individual kids. Everything takes time, lots of it and it is hard to see any results in the day to day, especially when you feel like you are stuck in the mire of frantic domestic chores and getting things done. Just keep at it and over the months and years your kids will learn.
I am all about getting off to a good start, but your entire school year does not depend on the first day of school or even the first week. There have been years when our first day of school consisted entirely of baking cupcakes and reading a pile of picture books… those tend to be good years.
All this talk about back to school and our kids declared this week as back to school round here. Now our school ended somewhat abruptly at the end of last year and we pretty much went from one day we were doing school to the next day – not. Our books were exactly as we had left them. I never got round to packing away work that was completed, I never got round to a whole lot of preparation for school that I normally do. On Monday morning my kids were ready, enthusiastic and they plonked themselves at the table eager to learn. I hadn’t really planned anything, I hadn’t prepared lists of things for each child to do, no schedules, and no lists to tick. We simply carried on where we left off. This year our first day of school meant plotting and planning our calendar and a walk on the beach… off to a good start, I think so!!!