I’ve been covering our relaxed homeschool methods for the past two weeks, and although I’ve already written about the littles and the middles, my teens give the best description of what relaxed homeschooling is actually all about.
Worried about your qualifications as a homeschool, or future homeschool, parent? Join me as I discuss the characteristics of great homeschool parents!
Two years ago when my daughter was seeking a scholarship for a local art school, I had a somewhat uncomfortable conversation. In the midst of the interview, the subject of homeschooling came up. The registrar looked at me quizzingly and asked, “Do you have an education degree?” I replied that I did not; they aren’t necessary for homeschooling in PA. She grew completely perplexed and replied, “But how do you teach things you don’t know?”
This question caught me rather off-guard for two reasons:
I had honestly never even thought about it, and
Does having a degree automatically mean you know how to do everything?
The registrar is not alone in asking this question. In fact, the idea of a parent not being qualified to teach his or her children has crossed the minds of many would-be homeschoolers and scared them away from ever going through with their dreams of homeschooling.
Realistically, however, most homeschool routines don’t even remotely resemble a typical school day, so the qualifications needed in a traditional classroom are somewhat different than those necessary in an at-home setting.
My hope here is to encourage those of you who are doubting your ability to homeschool by listing the characteristics of a successful homeschool parent because, as you will see, they are probably nothing at all like the typical idea of what an average teacher looks like.
1.Receive questions with open arms. Unlike traditional school teachers who must often stick to a script, homeschoolers have the freedom of drifting away from a discussion or lesson if more intriguing ponderings arise. Just today I was reading Madelinewith my younger children. A book that would normally take five minutes turned into a twenty minute discussion about Paris, old telephones, appendixes, scars, nuns, steamboats, and- my children’s favorite- retellings of their own experiences with hospital visits. A discussion like this would most likely not have happened within a school setting because of, among other things, time constraints, but at home we have the freedom to explore ideas with our kids as they arise. Questions are a blessing. Delight in inquisitiveness!
2.Encourage their children to learn how to discover answers for themselves. While it is, of course, necessary to help your children when the need arises, it is also so important to help children learn where and how to find resources for themselves. Although my children and I visit the library regularly, the other week I took them there for the main purpose of explaining the Dewey Decimal System to them and taking them on a tour of where to find specific types of books. Giving them opportunities to research online is also something that is necessary in this day and age. I know that many parents have mixed feelings about Google, but I consider it to be hugely beneficial to our learning endeavors.
3.Give their children plenty of time for exploring interests. Some of the most crucial and most important learning does not come from books, but from life. Learn to see the world through your children’s eyes, instead of through the schoolish lenses most of us possess, and you will find value in just about everything your children do. Keep in mind that the hobbies of your children now may well be training for their future. Kids who like to play school may become teachers, and those who insist on taking everything apart to see how it works are likely to be budding engineers. If your children are actively exploring life, there is no such thing as wasted time.
4.Have a plan for those occasions when they don’t know how to help with a certain subject. As the saying goes, the world is our oyster when it comes to information and resources in this day and age. The most common piece of advice for situations like this is to hire a tutor, but many one-income (and some two-income families!) simply cannot afford it. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options for getting help with those difficult areas. A short sampling would be:
The options are really endless. Just keep an open mind about how learning happens, and you’d be amazed where the help can come from!
5.Let their children have a say in what they’re learning about. Think about it. Can you concentrate on something you have no interest in and no need for? Me neither. My older children all give input on what their learning plan will consist of. My oldest daughter loves psychology and will be taking it for a third time next year (her senior year). This could never have happened at our public high school, as they only offer one half-year course on it. Why force her to take a Social Studies credit that she’s never going to need in real life? It just doesn’t make sense. I guarantee your kids will put more effort into work they consider to be useful and interesting.
6.Know when something isn’t working and be willing to change it. Sometimes a particular curriculum may look phenomenal to us parents, but when our children set out to doing it, they don’t feel the same way. If your child is struggling to the point of tears or complete apathy, it’s time to ditch the book and move on. This is one of those other areas that homeschoolers have the advantage. Since public schools have limited budgets and slews of students to purchase textbooks for, they don’t have the option of doing this. While I certainly do remember trudging through those dry textbooks in high school, I don’t remember one important thing out of any of them. I know sometimes it may seem like a waste to discontinue something you paid for, but it is so much more important that your children can learn well. Unused curriculum can easily be saved for younger siblings (maybe they’ll like it!), sold to other homeschoolers, or even given away for free to a family with a limited income.
7.Drop everything they know about “school” and design a plan that works for their family.I want you to close your eyes and remember what your school days were like. Crowded hallways. Cramped desks. Bathroom passes. Ringing bells. Do you have a clear picture? Now, push that picture out of your head because homeschooling does not have to be like that. Observe your children. Take notice to how they do things and what they spend the most time on. Only you can decide what is right for your family. And I’m here to tell you that you may not get it right the first time. Or the second. Or the third. 🙂 All kidding aside, you will figure it out, and your children will thank you for it.
I was going to title this post “What Makes a Great Homeschool Teacher” but decided against it because, to many of us, homeschooling doesn’t feel like teaching. It feels like life. It feels like family. It feels like love. That is what it takes to make a great homeschool parent. Are you qualified?
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(If you’re interested in a more detailed example of our homeschooling days, click here.)
I can’t believe another week has gone by! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?? While last week my kids were enjoying the warm weather all week, as I write this post, I’m sitting in my dining room in a sweatshirt, next to a space heater, shivering. Gotta love this fickle weather.
Anyway…this week my kids got much more book work done than last week, but we also accomplished quite a few other things, as well.
On Monday, I accidentally stumbled upon a new snack idea for the kids. Since I have to make so many waffles for breakfast at one time, I usually put them in the oven instead of the toaster. I happened to get…umm…sidetracked and forgot they were in the oven, and if there’s anything my kids hate, it’s crunchy waffles. Desperate to save some time and avoid making something else, I came upon the idea of waffles and ice cream in a chip and dip platter. (Okay, two things- I know ice cream is a horrible breakfast idea, but, hey, it was Monday :P, and the reason I thought of using the ice cream was to make my hard waffles softer. Phew! I feel much better confessing, so now I can move on…)
The kids ended up really enjoying it, and I promise I will only use this idea for snacks from here on in!
On Tuesday, five of my kids had dentist appointments, so on the way home from there, I stopped by the local polling place to vote in the primary election. Since the 2-yr.-old threw up in the van (my kids always get sick after the dentist, do yours?), my oldest daughter sat with her and the 4-yr.-old while I took two of my other daughters in with me while I voted. This is an actual conversation with my 11-yr.-old as we walked through the parking lot:
Daughter: Mom, who are you going to vote for?
Me: Ted Cruz.
Daughter: Isn’t he an actor?
Me: (Cracking up) No, that’s Tom Cruise.
One hour later…
Older daughter: So who did you vote for?
Me: Tom…I mean Ted Cruz.
And now on to the fun stuff:
The younger children finished up Lentil this week by learning about acoustics by singing in the bathroom, testing taste buds by eating sour candy, singing Fifty Nifty United States, and learning how to use shading when drawing.
Here, my youngest decided to showcase her artistic prowess by decorating our bathroom wall.
The Big Kids:
We’ve still been reading through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together, although all three kids have started new books for their silent reading. The 8-yr.-old is reading Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House), the 10-yr.-old is reading Dork Diaries No. 10, and the 11-yr.-old is reading Horns and Wrinkles. They’ve spent most of this week preparing for a report they’re going to be writing tomorrow and next week. We’ve also been doing lots of fun activities which emphasize how books are categorized at the library. They really seem to enjoy these and are excited for the scavenger hunt we have planned tomorrow which goes along with this theme. Besides that, they’ve been doing all kinds of art projects on their own (as they always are).
My 14- and 16-yr.-olds spent quite a bit of time at the creek this week looking for snakes and other critters. My son actually went there for several hours almost every single day, and this experience has motivated him to become an amateur wildlife photographer.
My oldest daughter, who is turning 17 on Sunday, spent a lot of time with our oldest son, who is 22, this week. Although he is over five years older than her, they get along wonderfully, and they share many of the same friends. Tonight she went to an alternative gallery with some of her friends. She visits there several times a month and is planning on showing some of her work there in the near future. This was one of her favorite pieces she saw there today:
Book-wise, my son is still working through several WWII books, while the 17-yr.-old is still reading Dante’s Inferno and the 14-yr.-old has started The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. Believe it or not, neither of these books were assigned to them. They chose them on their own. 🙂
So that’s where we’re at in our homeschool right now. What have you been up to?
It’s been about two years since I’ve written a weekly review post, and there has been one major change since then- we no longer identify as unschoolers and have settled in as relaxed homeschoolers. While unschooling can and does work for many families, the lack of structure and direction created some chaos in our lives.
I’ve learned a lot from our stint with unschooling, however, and feel that while some book work is necessary, it is hardly the most important part of our homeschool. Having said that, I’ve decided that if I am going to resume these review posts, for the most part I will not be focusing too much on our seat work and will instead focus on the parts of our weeks that I truly consider to be either highlights or developments that made this week different from the last.
Since I know so many people are curious as to how homeschooling can work with ten kids in the house, I have written a post that better addresses the technicalities of our daily routine.
Now on with the show!
This week has been one of those weeks that we really let life take the lead and backed off a bit on doing much structured learning. Our week started with two of my children taking their state-mandated standardized tests. (One on Monday and one on Tuesday)
We are really blessed in that our state only requires standardized tests in grades 3, 5, and 8 and in that my children were able to do these online at home, but it did not take away the stress that both of my children felt from doing them. After having one child in tears and another loudly complaining that she hates “school.” I am dreading having to go through this again with two more of my children next year.
While I’d be perfectly happy if we never had to see another test like that again, it was so refreshing to watch my son outside playing with the water table during his breaks. It just absolutely reinforced my beliefs in the benefits of homeschooling, because how many school children get to do things like that during their testing time?
Earlier in the week, Sunday to be precise, I went out to get the newspaper and found a headline glaring at me, stating how unsafe our city’s schools are. Apparently our school district had almost 3,000 incidents of violence by students that had to be reported to the Department of Education in the 2014-2015 school year alone. Add to that the fact that during that school term, the police had to be called 500 times and students were arrested 300 times. And the cherry on top was the story of a third grader who wrapped his hands around another child’s neck during breakfast in the cafeteria, and it turned out that this was the child’s 14th discipline report in seven weeks. Again, all I can say is, hallelujah for homeschooling.
Wednesday I helped take my disabled brother to a doctor’s appointment, so we actually did not do anything school-related that day at all. It was a well-timed break, though, after the stressful testing days. The rest of our week has been mainly activities-based, which is how they like it. Since I break my kids down into three groups in our homeschooling routine, I’ll do the same here to give you a picture of what was accomplished this week.
The Littles- Ages 7, 6, 4 (and sometimes the 2-yr.-old)
We’ve been reading the book Lentil this week and did some accompanying activities from our FIAR curriculum, such as mapping, coloring the US flag, and learning some shading techniques for an art project. We also talked about uniqueness and jealousy and worked on some character trait issues.
The Big Kids- Ages 11, 10, and 8
We’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone together, and the kids have been reading books from the Encyclopedia Brown series because they work well with the research/reference unit study we’re doing right now. We’ve been practicing looking for information using library resources and actually took a field trip there today, so that they could choose books for their upcoming reports and better learn how to tell the difference in the placement of fiction and non-fiction books on the shelves.
As an aside, I’ve got to say that I was horrified when I found out today that a young boy was assaulted in the men’s room of our library. Our library. Add to that the fact that our mayor is being investigated by the FBI for bribery charges, and you’ve got a pretty clear picture of the state that our city is in right now.
The Teens- Ages 16, 16, and 14
My oldest daughter has been reading a modern English version of Dante’s Inferno, while my younger daughter just finished The Book Thief. My son isn’t much of a reader, so he’s just been reading through some non-fiction books about WWII from the library and taking some notes from them. The three of them actually did get the vast majority of their assigned work done this week since they mainly do it on their own (with exception to math, of course- sigh). Otherwise, my oldest daughter’s been painting quite a bit with her acrylics. She hopes to sell some of her work online in the future and has been working at perfecting her artistic style. My son has been out and about with his friends quite a bit, bike riding, playing basketball, and watching a volleyball game at the middle school. My younger daughter has been going through a phase where I pretty much have to force her to come out of her room and get some fresh air. She does go for walks with her sister and me, and we’ve been lamenting the fact that the cherry blossoms have already turned green! Sniff.
The Oldest- Age 22
Okay, I know he’s technically the 11th kid I’ve mentioned and the title of the post is “A Tale of TEN Homeschoolers,” and I know that he isn’t homeschooled (he’s actually in college), BUT I felt like I had to include him because he’s still one of my children, and, with all the editing and proofreading I do for his college papers, sometimes I feel like he IS my 11th homeschooler.
He has been having some issues recently with conflicting responsibilities because he has a huge workload right now for school, and he also has some classes he needs to take for the army (he’s in reserves) because he’s supposed to be going to Germany this summer for some training thing. (I don’t know the technical term). Hopefully, he’ll be able to figure something out that will satisfy both needs.
And that’s about it. I’m looking forward to a beautiful weekend and can’t wait to see what next week will bring!