Written by Simple Homeschool contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.
Eleven years ago our family started this home education journey with the birth of our oldest child. We never did try a public or private school option. Homeschooling is all we know.
Our family’s experience is limited to elementary aged education. So I’m certainly no expert on the subject of homeschooling, but I have learned a few lessons of my own along the way. Perhaps these are even more important than what my children have learned.
We’re all learning together and that’s one of the amazing benefits of home education.
These “lessons learned,” and still being learned, have come out of my insecurities and the question, “Am I doing this right?”
I hope what I’ve learned will be an encouragement if you’re just starting out or like me, have been at this a few years.
1. Follow your own time line.
Each family is unique and individuals even more so. My family’s journey in homeschooling will not be the same as yours. Even if our overall philosophies are similar the daily practice could look very different.
Likewise, your children will learn things at a their own pace and their individual interests may vary greatly. If you’re using a curriculum, don’t let it box you in. If your grade two student is interested in Japan but the curriculum says to study pioneer America you may miss out on a fantastic learning opportunity.
Freedom to be, grow, and learn according on our own schedule. This is why we homeschool.
Photo by Renee Tougas
Don’t feel the need to fit into anyone else’s learning timeline.
Yes, the school district might be teaching polynomials in grade 1 (unlikely) but in most cases that doesn’t mean you need to. Your homeschool co-op friends might take the whole summer off for gardening and beach bumming, but you might prefer to take breaks at Christmas or in February.
Even things like assessments and evaluations (if you go that route) can often be planned according to your family’s schedule. We do our year end portfolio review in August because that works better for our family’s year round schooling/learning perspective.
Don’t be afraid to do things on your own time line.
2. The goal is relationship, not socialization.
If you have friends and family who are unfamiliar with homeschooling you may have heard this most annoying of questions, “But what about socialization?”
The goal of growing up is not to become socialized (what does that mean anyway?) but to have healthy relationships with people. People of all ages, not just your peer group.
I rarely get this question anymore, in fact I don’t remember the last time someone asked me this. That must be because they are usually too busy chatting with my children who are not afraid to strike up conversations with people (regardless of age) about books they are reading, an interesting hike we did, the insect they are studying, and so on.
Photo by Renee Tougas
Speaking as a mother with a very social nine-year-old, family can and should be the predominant influence in a young child’s life. Yes there are many avenues for homeschoolers to play and meet other children: soccer, church, scouts, 4-H. Be involved for the fun of it and to be active as a family together, but don’t feel pressured to socialize your children.
There is a time and place for lots of community and peer relationships once children have a firm foundation in family relationships and values.
3. Be inspired or let it go.
Over the past years I have tried out various learning tools only to stop doing them after a couple months.
A few examples are reading instruction programs, spelling curriculums and classical artist study timelines. There was nothing wrong with the material itself, in fact it all came highly recommended by other homeschooling families. But it just didn’t work for us because when it came right down to it we didn’t find it inspiring.
Photo by Renee Tougas
Everyone wants to be inspired. I want to be inspired about my daily activities with the children and they want to be inspired about what they are learning.
I have found that if I am enthused about a math activity, a book, a visit to a local museum then my children catch my enthusiasm. If I cannot be enthusiastic and motivated about what we are doing how can I expect my children to embrace that activity or learning task?
Likewise my children’s interest to study topics I wouldn’t necessarily choose has broadened my own learning. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
Just can’t get into that book you are reading together? Drop it. Find your math practice to be a bore day after day? Find an alternative that works for your family instead.
Keeping interests alive and curiosity intact is more important than completing a curriculum or slogging through a program that isn’t working for you family.
Of course I’ve learned a few more things than just these three. But I’ve been reflecting on these lately, and they’re definitely near the top of my list of “things I want to share with new homeschoolers.”
What lessons learned would you share with a beginner homeschooler?