Homeschooling is a huge undertaking, and it often requires a huge investment of time and energy. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable for the average family! Contrary to popular opinion, homeschoolers are not some breed of supermoms who do it all and do it all right! And, many families have found creative ways to make homeschooling work even with less than ideal circumstances. It’s all about knowing what your children need and how to best meet those needs with the resources you have!
Here’s a first few beginning thoughts and tips if you’re considering homeschooling! Asking the right questions are as important as having the answers:)
The why: Why am I doing this? What is my end goal? What kind of family do I want? What kind of kids/ adults do I want to see these kids become? What values does my family hold most important? How long do I see myself homeschooling? What’s our family dynamic and how do I work within that?
The How: How much time and energy do I have in my day to give to my kids, whether for educational, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs? How will I set up my homeschool routines? How much structure do I need versus flexibility? How will I balance our schedule and other outside obligations? How much outside support do I want or need?
The Tools: What tools do I already have at my disposal? What tools/materials supplies do I need to make my job easier? How much money do I have to budget towards our educational materials? Do they need to be consumable or reusable? How much DIY do I want to do versus pre-packaged materials? Do I want everything spelled out for me, or do I feel more confident paving my own way? Think about how you already manage your home and go from there.
My Core Homeschooling Values:
For young children (under 8). Let them play. They learn so much by playing, so as the teacher help facilitate the kind of play that stimulates their imagination and problem-solving abilities. Think of how much young kids (especially under 5) have learned just from playing, reading books, seeing the world, and having their many, many, questions answered! Let them create their own “busy”.
Include plenty of unscheduled, down time in your days and weeks. Let them be bored. Boredom is the fertile soil for imagination and creativity to grow!
Kids should NOT cry about school. If they cry because they don’t want to clean up their toys, let them cry and make them clean up their toys. But if they cry over a “school” assignment take a big step back and re-assess. The material could be way too hard. They could be over-tired. They may be over-worked. Or if they are just the weepy type, then still back up and deal with it as a parenting issue not a school issue. In the early years, their education should be a source of joy and wonder and a feeling of accomplishment!! Save the “school should be hard work” line for when they are older and more mature. (Older students, maybe 12 and up, may cry/struggle when working through more difficult material, this may not be preventable, but continue to support your student in whatever way is appropriate.)
Find the pocket: If students are working above their level, they will cry and be frustrated, but if students are working below their abilities, they won’t be challenged. Find the pocket where the material is hard enough to challenge them and peak their interest, but not so hard that they give up. (Think of if you are in a workout regimen- it has to be not too easy, but not too hard for optimal results!). This also includes time frames/workload. Watch your child. One math page may be too easy, three may be too much, but two might be just right. Your goal is not to exasperate them but to bring the best out of them
Know your child. As the parent, you’re the only person who can be considered the Expert on Your Kid. In order to teach them effectively, you need to know your student! Listen to your child. Figure out how his brain works. See what lights him up. Let him play on his strengths and help him with his weaknesses even if his progress is slow. If you’re going to give your child a custom-made education, then know who you’re customizing it too. And you have more than one child, you’ll see that each one ticks differently. Pray diligently for wisdom. See your kids though God’s eyes!!
Embrace the freedom. By homeschooling, you are no longer chained to the system but free to educate your child as you see fit. So don’t feel tied to do things the way a traditional school would do it. If there’s something way out of the box that you know would be awesome for your kids to do/learn, then do it! If you have opportunity to do something amazing that would cut into your school day, then cut into that school day. Ask yourself what kind of memories do you want to your kids to have of homeschooling? Take advantage of the freedom you have as a homeschooler to “skip school” and give them amazing learning experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have! This also is true with curriculum and what they study. If your 3rd grader just wants to study jellyfish for a year and is really into it, let them do it! If kids are engaged with their world, solving problems, excited about learning, then you’re on the right track!
Your curriculum is your servant, not your master. Curriculum is wonderful. It lets you see at a glance what it is your child should learn, what they should know how to do by the end of the year. It gives you activities, assignments, worksheets. But it is not your Master. You can skip a chapter if you think it needs skipping. You can do two weeks of lessons in one week, or one week of lessons over two weeks depending on your student. Let the curriculum serve you, help you, but it doesn’t get to boss you around! And if you really don’t like it at all, you can throw it to the curb. Or sell it on Ebay.
Read aloud to your kids!! That is the best way to nourish their minds and their spirits. Make it a priority. Reading long novels together is such great way to bond as a family and to open up really great conversations with your kids! If all else is not working, sit down and read to them. It’s the very best food for the soul and mind.
Be united with your husband. Be clear with him how he can best partner with you. Be aware of the emotional support you’ll need and work together to make sure you have it! A husband who has your back 100% is the best resource you have. Let him be involved in whatever way you agree to! And on a separate note, make time for your marriage. With parenting almost 24/7, make sure you invest time in your marriage. With homeschooling it’s easy to focus on the kids because they’re always there! The family is only as strong as the marriage. And homeschooling is the most successful in the context of a strong family.
Model what learning looks like. Your children are more likely to want to learn as they see your example. They are watching you solve problems and navigate issues in your own life. What do you do when you want to learn something? As you model that learning is truly a life-long pursuit, they will be more likely to follow. Read in front of them and tell them what you’re reading. Let them know what you’re interested in and what you want to learn. Dive into deep discussions with your kids when interesting topics come up! This is the scary part of homeschooling. The kids really are watching you!
Spiritual Focus: We’re not training robots or assembly-line workers. We’re caring for humans in the image of God with a divine Purpose on their lives. Bible may be a subject in your school, but it will also be the foundation of everything else you do. Every subject can be taught through the filter of God’s Word. As a homeschool parent, you will have so many hours to impart the Truth into their lives and build a strong foundation. We don’t know what God has for our kids’ futures or what mission he will give them. Our job is to best prepare them for whatever He asks them to do!
Make your homeschool your own. Everyone’s family is different and has a different flavor! Set up your school routines for what works best for you and your kids. Don’t compare your family to others! Be obedient to what God has called you to and stay focused on that. You get to grow along with your kids. Give yourself plenty of grace as you figure it out!
I’ve been homeschooling my four kids for over 15 years and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned along the way. If you have any other questions or concerns about homeschooling feel free to contact me, tara at behindoursmiles dot com!