September is Back to School Month all over the world… except in South African schools where most students are three quarters of the way through their school year and most parents are in the gasp, “Can you just get me to the end of this year stage.” I thought I would write a pick me up school series for the month of September.
It feels like we have been homeschooling forever, because in fact we have. And yet, because I am a firm believer in trying new things, it never gets lame. I do see the end in sight as our younger kids race through our Sonlight bookshelves, but we still have a fair number of years to go and lots to learn. I feel like we are in the sweet spot of homeschooling, I am more than half way through our homeschooling journey with less than nine years to go. Two of our kids have graduated from school and we have six more kids to go.
The greatest thing about homeschooling over many years is that experience is a great teacher. I no longer panic about extra-murals, or if my children are learning enough. I no longer worry that if they don’t do maths for a week or a month or even six months, will they be able to get a job when they finish school, or not? There is plenty of living maths and they will get round to it when they need it. The things I do worry about are if they are getting enough sleep and if they are driving carefully, especially with other drivers on the road. I worry that they are spending enough time hanging out with their friends… because friends are important for your soul, and I worry that they will eventually launch out of their teenage fog into great and hard working adults, whatever work they end up doing.
Se7en Lessons I Have Learned About Homeschooling So Far.
- Experience Tells Me That our Kids Don’t Think of School Time as Quality Time: You may think you are spending one on one time with your kids, and the entire morning at the kitchen table with them every single day, but something I recently discovered is that my kids don’t consider school time as time with me. So at the end of our school day when I am thinking, shew… time to do my own thing, they are thinking… time to spend some time with their mother person. I do get round this by being very careful about what I call school… for example we think of hiking as time spent exploring and beach cleanups and part of a life lived on the beach, whereas I could put those on the curriculum as a school activity, like P.E. or Nature Study. Similarly, when everyone reads after lunch, I make sure to call it free reading and I make sure that I am reading my own book myself then. If this were called school reading, while everyone was tumbled on the couch… then it would only count as school time. Instead it counts as hanging out together time.
- Experience Tells Me That You Probably Already Have All the Materials You Actually Need: Really you can stop looking around for exciting new curricula, and new things to try… if you have homeschooled for even the shortest time then you already know some things work and somethings don’t… Embrace the things that work and let the rest go. Just let it go. If you have a resource that you plan to use for school, but you didn’t use it last year, or even the year before that… chances are that you aren’t going to suddenly use it now… or even ever. Yes, we occasionally buy a couple of new things to inspire us and motivate us to try new things… but I am not on a constant and stressful hunt to find a better language arts program, or a superior maths program. The program you have is most likely quite sufficient, remember the reason you bought it and then enjoy it.
- Experience Tells Me That Not Everything has to be Written in A Journal for it to Count: A whole lot of school can happen around the table and chatting. It doesn’t have to be “officially memorised” or ticked off on a chart or even turned into a presentation. Learning is learning, however it happens: A day spent playing games, or listening to a fantastic audible book, playing on the beach whatever the weather and sorting the recycling are ALL valid learning and our kids are totally getting it. We really can just go for a hike, we don’t need to create the most magnificent nature notebooks, though that is fun, but hiking and exploring in the great outdoors is enough. We might not call it school, but we certainly are learning.
- Experience Tells Me That Free Time is Prime Time: We want our kids to follow their passions, to chase their dreams and then we schedule every moment of everyday and they literally don’t have time to dream. Our kids need time to dream, time to do all sorts of crazy stuff, time to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Time to play and think through things… time to read their library books and time to just be. If you are the classic fill every moment parent, then make sure you block off hours and hours of free time into your kids schedules. They need it, you need it… make it happen.
- Experience Tells Me Not to Worry About Comparing My Kids to Their School Going Contemporaries: Kids at school are taught differently to kids at home. I cannot look at an eight old school going child and think argh… my eight year old homeschool child has not got pages of filled-in workbooks and numerous poster projects or prepared endless oral presentations. Homeschool children learn differently, and have other very different skills. The fact is your homeschooled child is out of “the system” and they are learning intentionally or unintentionally to have very different thinking strategies. Experience tells me that the child who refuses to write a sentence at age eight will happily write a novel in their free time at age twelve. The child that refuses to read every single school reader, and has them all read to them instead… eventually will sit down and read the Hobbit, and never stop reading again. Experience tells me that essential skills will get learned and when, for instance, your child discovers that they need to write a letter of motivation to take part in a course they are dying to do, they will almost certainly rise to the occasion and do better than you ever thought they would.
- Experience Tells Me Not to Worry About Perfect Homeschools on Instagram: Comparison is indeed the thief of joy. And other folks’ toys are always prettier than your own. Their classrooms look magical… and you don’t even have a dedicated classroom. Trust me your school on the couch is perfect, the art materials that your children got from their last last last birthday are still working perfectly, and the artworks your kids made themselves are just as magnificent as any number of magical posters that you could have ordered off the web. Really your school is just fine, other schools might look fantastic and they may inspire you, but that doesn’t mean that your school isn’t perfect for you. You have to do what is right for your family, and your kids will turn out fine… really. If you can only manage one extra mural, or one activity then that’s all you can manage then that is fine, let the rest go. This is your school, with your kids and your resources… do the best you can and keep in mind the reason you chose to homeschool in the first place.
- Experience Tells Me That You Don’t Have to Worry About How Your Kids Finish School: The joy of homeschooling is that it caters for each and every child in their own unique way. You cannot necessarily know, when your child is in grade 1, or grade 10 for that matter, what their particular passion is; or what sort of career they are going to pursue. The child that has known all their life may also change their mind at the last minute. It is our job to keep opportunities open to them and give them the necessary time, space and skills to follow their dreams… let them job shadow, let them read, let them meet people, give them opportunities to work in the field they are interested in, and they will decide if they need to go to university or college, or if they can study online, or dive straight into working, or even a combination of those. Our job is really to inspire them to learn, to get excited about things that they are excited about. Entrance requirements for the future they want to pursue are more important than getting a “one-size-fits-all” school leaver’s certificate. There are many ways to finish school and many different ways to achieve the entrance requirements for whatever steps they plan to take next. As long as we are supportive and encouraging they will eventually get there.
Look out for plenty of Homeschooling posts during September they are coming your way, week by week…