Making the decision to homeschool will be one of the most important decisions of your life. It can also be a confusing, stressful time as you try to figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to do. The term “homeschool” often conveys images of a perfectly dressed mother pointing at a chalkboard as her perfect children are eagerly taking notes on Mother’s fascinating lecture. I’m here to tell you today that, err…it’s not like that. Here are ten things to consider before (or while already) homeschooling.
1. You do not have to recreate school at home. Speaking from experience, this is a mistake that many parents make. The vast majority of us are products of a public school system. This brings memories of desks, raised hands, strict schedules, and homework. These things are not necessary in homeschool. Once upon a time, my poor children had to raise their hands and sit quietly at their school desks completing worksheet after worksheet. I’ve known fellow homeschoolers who doled out homework to their children (um…isn’t it all home work??) and others who became so strict with their schedules that they missed out on other life opportunities. If you feel yourself being pulled in this direction, ask yourself this question- Why try to recreate something that obviously isn’t working?
2. Books are not the only way to learn. This meshes very well with #1 because when you think of school, you think of textbooks, right? What if I told you that not all children will learn well this way? Like adults, kids are unique individuals, all with their own learning styles. Pay attention to how your child does things. It’s a great way to pick up clues on how to best approach educating your child. The better you tailor your curriculum to your child, the better they will learn.
3. The television is not your enemy. I know so many parents out there are completely against screen time, but don’t sell this resource- yes, resource- short. Educational television, such as PBS, History Channel, Animal Planet, etc. has a plethora of programming that your kids will learn from and enjoy. Don’t have cable? That’s okay. Netflix is what my family uses for the vast majority of our TV time, and the variety of movies and documentaries you have access to is astounding. We’ve watched so many fabulous movies to supplement things that the kids were interested in. This is an excellent resource to use to bring to life books you may have been reading.
4. As with television, computers can also be very valuable. Let’s face it- most of us parents haven’t grown up completely immersed in electronics like our kids have, and change can be difficult. I know; I was there. At first, I was dead-set against my children having access to their own devices, until I gave it a shot and watched what actually happened. My kids use these devices to write stories, write blog posts, make YouTube videos, look up science experiments, research just about anything, and connect with their friends. Lastly, gaming is a big thing with our older kids. Games such as Minecraft teach so many things, including geometry, logic, science, map skills, and so many more that I’m probably missing. The question of whether or not to impose time limits on these devices is your choice. Just don’t completely rule this method of learning out without doing some research.
5. Learning to read is not a race. Children are being pushed to read at younger and younger ages these days. Wait for them. Some children are ready to read at four, while others may not be interested until several years later. Look for cues, and when you do start teaching them, take your time and let them take the lead. At first, I was so concerned with trying to keep up with what kids in public school are doing that I made it a very stressful time, and I was completely taking the fun out of reading. Don’t do that. Reading can be a wondrous place where the imagination soars, or it can be a tedious chore that brings no delight. Their experience while learning to read can be a giant determining factor in how your children feel about reading. Thankfully, I learned from my mistakes and use a much more hands-free approach now.
6. Your kids will not always cooperate. They’re human. These are the perfect days to shake things up a bit and do something different. Don’t get discouraged; we all have our bad days, don’t we? And if you have more than one? Well, that just multiplies it, but, again, relax. The beautiful thing about homeschooling is the freedom to be flexible in our days. Use that freedom liberally!
7. Don’t play the comparison game. This can apply to children in public school or to other homeschooling families. Things always look better from the outside. The grass is always greener, right? Keep in mind that every family is different with its own set of challenges and circumstances that we can’t see. Yes, there are families that do portray their lives as if everything is a piece of cake. You can do two things when it comes to families like this. Look to them for inspiration and ideas, or, if they are making you feel inadequate, look the other way. This is why I had to stop watching the Duggars because, while I love that family, I was feeling more and more inadequate with every new episode, so I said no more and gave myself a respite.
8. Your house will get messy, and your laundry will pile up. It’s a given, especially if you have more than one child. Having your kids home around the clock can be awesome, but they are also children and will make messes. This is why it’s so important to delegate chores to your children. This is a great way to teach a sense of responsibility, along with a healthy dose of life skills. Children who are raised with responsibilities while they are young will grow to be responsible adults.
9. Let your kids be kids. Children learn through play, and it is a great way for them to learn life skills. Children today are expected to grow up too quickly. By the age of five, many children are expected to sit still, listen quietly, and complete worksheet upon worksheet for hours every day. Take it easy. They’re just kids. I once read that you can learn all of elementary math in about 18 months time. That’s it. 18 months. This is why I, myself, do not start formal math with my kids anymore until they are in 3rd grade. It’s just not necessary. They’ll learn majority of these skills through life, anyway. As for playing? Other than being educational in itself, it has another benefit that I cherish. It preserves innocence. My 12-year-old still enjoys playing house and school with her younger siblings, and it brings me such joy when I realize that if she were in school, that childish innocence would have been long gone.
10. Let your children take the lead. They are naturally bright, inquisitive, and determined. Don’t undermine that by requiring only topics that they have no passion for. Ask them for suggestions, or, if you’re brave enough, just sit back and watch where they’ll head on their own. Kids who haven’t been trained to believe all learning has to come in a school-like fashion are resourceful and confident because they know how to learn without limits.
Homeschooling is such a wonderful blessing, and, just like each of us, it will look different in every home. But the one thing we have in common is our dedication and love for our children. Those are the two most important ingredients to a successful homeschool.